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My Mom’s Sausage and Cheese Lasagna

It will come as no surprise to anyone who reads this blog or who knows me that I did the majority of the dinner cooking when I was at my parent’s house over the Christmas and New Year’s holidays.  In some ways I didn’t mind.  It gave me a chance to flex my culinary muscles, which doesn’t usually happen cooking for just one person, as I normally do.  I also got to make those big batch kind of meals that feed the small army of folks who grew up in my household but which would mean I’d be stuck eating leftovers for weeks.

So, in addition to the Christmas dinner of Roast Beef with Yorkshire Pudding and Horseradish Sauce, a batch of Spaghetti and Meatballs, and roasted chicken, all of which provided great leftovers for several days, I also whipped up a batch of my mother’s Sausage and Cheese Lasagna.  Last year, I wrote about how I wanted to see if this dish would stand up to some of the newer ones I’d come across as part of my Recipe Box Project.  Mom’s won.  It has that right flavor balance of robust tanginess from the tomato sauce, ooey-gooey comfort from the cheeses, heft from the pasta, and hearty meatiness from the sausages, with just a little bit of kick from the red pepper in the spicy sausage to keep the dish from being bland or boring.  It’s even better to eat on the second day.

This is a well-used card

This year, when my brother mentioned that he should get the recipe so that they can make it when they are back home, I said, “Well, it’s in the recipe card file.”  He replied, “Yeah, but that would mean I’d have to write it down.”  I countered, “It’s on my blog.”  He responded, “It’s just easier if you write it out for me.”  Actually, what he really meant to say is, “It’s easier if you not only write it out for me step, by step [as you can see from the card there’s just the ingredients listed, no instructions as to what to do with them], but also to make it, freeze it, and find a way to ship it to them ready-made.”  This is the same reaction I get to many of the recipes that my family wants from me (not to rat out my sisters and any particular cookie recipe or anything).

It was satisfying to see that he, my sister-in-law, my tiny nephew, and my dad all enjoyed eating the lasagna that I made.  Devouring it might be a bit more accurate.  Two-thirds of the pan was gone by the time dinner was over, with everyone, even the little guy, going back for seconds.  This recipe is easily adaptable, too, which makes it work well as a family meal.  Just throw together a green salad and some garlic bread to make it a classic Italo-American dinner.  So, here you are little bro, I’ve written out the instructions for you as I made this last week, but I’m not flying out there to make this for you whenever you want to eat it.

Hey!  How did that spinach note get in there?

Sausage and Cheese Lasagna*

Prep Time: 1.5 hours before the oven time, plus 30 minutes to bake Serving Size: Depends upon how hungry everyone is, 6-8 people For the sauce: 2 Tbsp Olive Oil 1 medium Yellow Onion, chopped finely 2 large cloves of Garlic, minced 1 lb. Hot Italian Sausage, casings removed and crumbled 1 lb. Sweet Italian Sausage, casings removed and crumbled 2 Tbsp dried Parsley 1 Tbsp dried Basil Leaves 1 28-oz. can chopped Tomatoes 1 8-oz. can Tomato Sauce 1 6-oz. can Tomato Paste

Warm up olive oil over medium-low heat in a large pan or Dutch oven.  Add onion and cook for three minutes, until the onions are soft.  Add in the garlic and cook for two minutes more, taking care that the onions and garlic don’t burn or turn dark.  Put the sausages in the pot and let them cook until you cannot see any pink parts.  This will take about 10 minutes.  While the sausages are cooking, you can mash them into smaller pieces with a wooden spoon.

Add the dried parsley and basil to the sausage mixture and stir to incorporate thoroughly. Pour in the chopped tomatoes with their juice and the tomato sauce.  Fill the tomato sauce can with water and swirl around to get the last of the sauce out of the pan.  Pour that liquid into the can with the chopped tomatoes and pour that into the pot.  Add the tomato paste. Fill the tomato paste can with water to scrape out the last bits and pour into the pot with the rest of the ingredients.

Bring pot to a medium simmer and turn the heat to low.  Let ingredients simmer for at least one hour.  Turn off heat and let sit while preparing the cheese layer and assembling the lasagna.

Meat Sauce for Lasagna

For the cheese layer: 1 15-oz. container Ricotta Cheese (can use part-skim if you like) 2 large Egg Yolks (save whites for another use) 2 Tbsp dried Parsley 1/2 tsp. Salt 1/4 tsp. ground Black Pepper 1 10-oz. box frozen Spinach, thawed and drained (if using) – optional

Combine first five ingredients in a small bowl and set aside until ready to assemble lasagna prior to baking it.  If you are using the spinach, add it at the end.

Cheese Mixture for Lasagna

To assemble: 10 oz. dried Lasagna Noodles, cooked according to package instructions (you might not use the whole box, so you should cook them in batches) 3/4 cup mixed Italian Cheeses (Fontina, Asiago, Parmesan) – optional 10 oz. box Frozen Spinach, thawed and drained (if using) – optional 1 lb. Mozzarella Cheese, grated (can be part-skim)

Heat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.  Put two tablespoons of sauce in a 9x13x2-inch pan and spread it around to coat the bottom.  Place a row of pasta on the bottom of the pan. Spoon over several ladles of sauce and a third of the cheese mixture.  Sprinkle 1/4 cup of the mixed cheeses on top of that.  If using the spinach, put globs of it (or spread it out, your choice) on top of the cheese layer.  Repeat two more times.  Finish by sprinkling the mozzarella on top of everything.

Ready for the Oven

Place in oven and cook for 20 minutes until heated through and the cheese on top is all melted and gooey.  Increase heat to 375 degrees Fahrenheit and cook for 10 minutes more to make the cheese golden.  Remove from the oven and let it sit for 5-10 minutes before cutting into squares.  Serve immediately.

Ready to serve and eat

Buon appetito!

*Kitchen Witch Tip: You could use a whole wheat pasta, but here I stuck to a regular one.  I liked the mix of the Italian cheese in addition to the ricotta, but that isn’t in the original recipe.  I omitted the spinach (which I think was an extra item my mom snuck in there anyway).   I also, for this batch, took out the sugar, salt, and pepper from the sauce, as listed on the card, as I thought it had enough flavor as it was.  Leave these things up to yours and your family’s tastes, however, to start your own lasagna tradition.

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