Mama Mitsi’s Meat & Cheese Lasagna

Fun fact, most people who try to guess my nationality when they meet me (eye roll so hard), end up guessing Italian. I can see why they would assume that, I’m fair skinned with dark features and I look like I’ve been bred on a diet of pasta and cannolis. BUT I’m not, sadly. I used to wish I was Italian – I was heavily influenced by the TV show “Sopranos” as a young one. I even visited Italy and hatched many a plan to run away into the Tuscan mountains and hide from border security/immigration for the rest of my life. Then I remembered my family and friends (and most importantly my cat, Percy) and I reluctantly returned to Canada.

Since this time, I’ve been brainstorming how to get back to Italy and stay for good. Short of becoming a millionaire or taking out a crippling student loan to weasel my way back in, I couldn’t think of a feasible way to live La Dolce Vita forever. Then it struck me, “do what you can, where you are”! I realized, while stuck in Canada, I can perfect my Italian cooking and use it as a weapon to secure my unsuspecting future husband/immigration sponsor. Fool proof plan – amiright?!

If we can just neglect the fact that I used oven ready (aka no-boil) lasagna noodles from a box – not made fresh, and pre-made, jarred Tomato & Basil sauce, and focus on the taste – that would be great. First step, perfect the assembly, second step, work on all the other bits – like making my own sauce. If anyone has an Italian grandmother they would be willing to loan out to me on the weekends, I would greatly appreciate it.

What you need:

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For the red sauce –

1/2 large red onion chopped

4 x-large cloves garlic, minced

6 medium white mushrooms, diced

1lb ground sirloin

1 jar + 1 cup (for the final layer) of Newman’s Own Tomato & Basil pasta sauce

1/2 tbsp italian seasoning

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For the ricotta mix –

1kg ricotta (not necessary to use this much – this size happened to be on sale/best price – you could easily use anywhere from 2 or 3 cups, just make the layers a bit thinner!)

1 tbsp parmesan & herb seasoning

1 cup parmesan shreds

2 large eggs

1/2 cup (firmly packed) basil, chiffonade

For assembling rest of lasagna –

Italiano cheese shreds

oven ready lasagna sheets

1/2 cup parmesan shreds

1/2 cup Newman’s own Sweet Basil & Tomato sauce

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What to do:

Sautee chopped onions in a large saucepan w/ 1tbsp of olive oil, over medium heat.

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Once translucent, almost golden brown – add 1/2 of the minced garlic, sautée for 1 minute.

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Add ground sirloin & diced mushrooms – cook until done about 7-10 mins (starting to turn golden brown). At this point, I put salt & pepper in – to taste.

Add 1 jar tomato sauce (save extra 1/2 cup for final layer/topping of lasagna), herbs & remaining 1/2 minced garlic to pan, cook over medium heat 5-10 minutes, turn to low and simmer while getting the other ingredients ready.

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Add ricotta, parmesan cheese, parmesan & herb seasoning, 2 eggs and basil chiffonade into a large mixing bowl. Add salt & pepper and mix thoroughly, refrigerate until ready to use.

When I am ready to assemble the lasagna, then I turn the oven on (to 375F).

Layers of lasagna are as follows:

  1. red sauce

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2. noodles

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3. ricotta mixture

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4. Italiano cheese shreds (thin layer)

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5. red sauce

6. noodles

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7. repeat until final layer which will be noodles covered in remaining 1/2 cup red sauce & sprinkled with both Italiano cheese shreds & 1/2 cup parmesan

Once all assembled, cover with tin foil and bake for 30 minutes. I like to place the lasagna dish on a baking tray just in case any sauce/cheese boils over. Remove from oven, take off tin foil and bake for another 15 minutes, uncovered (so cheese gets nice and brown and gooey).

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Remove from oven and allow to cool before serving. Buon Appetito!

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