Recipe Meaty cheesy lasagne

medtran49

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This is a knock-off of a lasagna made years ago by an Italian-American chain of restaurants called Macaroni Grill. I decided to give it a try one time when Craig had been away for a while on an overseas business trip. He LOVED it! I don't make it often because it's such a production, but it's well worth the time and trouble.

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5 cans diced tomatoes (preferably fired roasted)
1-1/2 cups 1/4-inch diced onions
3-4 large garlic cloves, finely chopped
3/4 cup fruity red wine
1 cup or more unsalted chicken broth
1-1/2 Tbsp dried basil
2 tsp red pepper flakes, more if you like a spicy sauce
2 good sized pinches of sugar or to taste (depending on how acid tomatoes are)
salt and pepper to taste
olive oil

3 boxes oven ready lasagna noodles (I use Barilla) or use cooked and slightly cooled regular lasagna noodles

32 ounces whole milk ricotta, divided
3 tsp dried basil
1 egg, beaten
1/3 cup large-grate parmagiano reggiano
pinch of nutmeg
salt and pepper

4-5 cups grated whole milk mozzarella
1/2 pound or so medium thickness sliced provolone (10 slices)
2/3 cup large-grate parmagiano reggiano

1 pound lean ground beef
1/2 cup 1/4-inch diced onions
2 garlic cloves, finely minced
2 tsp dried basil
salt and pepper to taste
olive oil

1 pound Italian sausage, I use half hot and half mild

6 ounces sliced pepperoni

Two 9-inch square pans
Foil

I make 2 pans and freeze 1 since there are only 2 of us. You can make this in a 13x9 or slightly bigger baking pan. Cooking time may be a bit longer. I would still make the foil cuff unless you are using a 3" deep pan though.

Make sauce by placing a tablespoon or so of oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add onions, turn heat to medium and saute until onions are almost done. Add garlic and cook for another minute or 2. Add basil and red pepper flakes, stir. Deglaze pan with red wine. Add tomatoes, washing out bottom of cans with a small amount of water. Add chicken broth. Add sugar and salt and pepper. Bring to a simmer and let cook for an hour or so, stirring occasionally. Taste and adjust seasonings. Set aside to cool some. I usually make this the day before and refrigerate overnight.

For ground meat filling, place about a tablespoon of olive oil in a medium skillet over medium-high heat. Add onions and cook over medium heat until almost done, add garlic and cook for another minute or so. Add ground beef, turn heat up to medium high and brown ground beef, breaking up into small pieces. Add basil, salt and pepper shortly after you add the ground beef. Drain off almost all fat but leave some in so your meat doesn't taste "dry." Set aside to cool.

If your sausage is in casings, remove from casings. Brown in a medium skillet over medium high heat, breaking up into small pieces. Drain excess fat. Set aside to cool.

On a microwave safe plate or the turntable of your microwave, place a double layer of paper towels. Lay out pepperoni slices in a single layer. Cover with another layer of paper towels then lay out another single layer of pepperoni slices. Repeat if necessary. Microwave for 1-1/2 minutes. This will get the excess grease out of the pepperoni slices.

Place all but a generous cup or so of ricotta into a mixing bowl. Add egg, basil, nutmeg, parm, salt and pepper. Taste and adjust seasonings. (I make a ricotta pound cake with what is left, absolutely delicious. You can, of course, use all the ricotta if you want)

If your pans are not 3" tall, you will need to make a foil cuff. Using the foil, make a cuff around your pans by laying a long piece across a pan, gently fitting it into the corners, then repeat with another layer of foil crossways from the first. Fold the foil edges down to make a cuff and squeeze together at 4 corners. Repeat with other pan. Doing this also gives you an easy clean up, plus you have a start on wrapping for the freezer if you are freezing one.

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I dip the oven ready noodles into very hot warm for a minute or 2 before placing into pan as I feel it gives a better result. Just heat some water in a large skillet and dip as you go. Just do them as you use them. They will stick together if left to sit for any length of time out of the water and if you leave them in the water they will get mushy.

I put the pans side by side and make the lasagnas assembly line style.

Put a small amount of red sauce on the bottom of each pan. Lay a couple of noodles in the bottom of a pan. You will have to use about 1/8 of another piece lengthwise for each noodle. As you build the lasagna, change directions on how you are placing the noddles.

Put about 1/3 to 1/2 cup of sauce on each noodle and spread with the back of a large spoon or an offset spatula. Evenly sprinkle half of the ground beef mixture on top. Sprinkle 1/3 to 1/2 cup mozzarella on top of the ground beef.

Add another layer of noodles and sauce as before. Place 4 slices of provolone on top, using pieces of the fifth slice to fill in the holes. Place a single layer of pepperoni on top.

Add a layer of noodles. Evenly spread half of ricotta mixture on top.

Add a layer of noodles and sauce as previous. Evenly sprinkle half of Italian sausage on top.

Add a layer of noodles and sauce. Sprinkle half of remaining mozzarella and 1/3 cup parm on top.

You should have some sauce left over, which can be heated and added to each serving as the diner desires. I like a relatively dry lasagna, my husband likes a wet one so he adds sauce, I don't.

Cover lightly with foil. Bake at 375 for 1 hour. If you are serving immediately, remove foil and bake for another 30 minutes. I try to make these the day before to let the flavors meld. If you do that, take the pan out of the refrigerator and let warm up for 30 minutes or so, then bake covered for about 30 minutes, removing foil and baking another 15-20 minutes uncovered. OR, slice and microwave until hot.

If you are freezing a pan, cool, refrigerate overnight, then use foil to lift out of pan, wrap well in foil, then place in a plastic bag and freeze. Let thaw before re-warming, whether in the oven or the microwave.
 
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