We've all had bad experiences with lasagna; the bland lasagna at the cafeteria, the undercooked lasagna at a pot luck, the lasagna that was overloaded with too many ingredients. We all wished that we could snap our fingers and turn the not-so-homey lasagna into something amazing.
It doesn't take much to make a great lasagna. You can actually make a great lasagna with just a simple meat sauce (ground beef, onions, tomato sauce), cooked lasagna pasta, cottage cheese, and mozzarella cheese. That's how Mom used to make her lasagnas and we loved it! Simply remarkable.
When it was my turn to make lasagna, I wanted to change it up a bit. It began with the sauce: I sautéed onions with a bit of olive oil and salt. Then I browned the ground beef until it was just about to be fully cooked. I added two cans of seasoned tomato sauce and then stirred everything together. Some calabrese salami was mixed in as well. Once the sauce simmered for five minutes, I gave the sauce a taste and adjusted the seasonings with soy sauce, Cool Runnings all purpose seasoning, sugar, and black pepper.
I moved the pot of meat sauce to a different element and allowed it to simmer away while I finished the other components. A pot of salted water was brought to a boil. The lasagna was added to the boiling salted water and the heat was turned down to a simmer.
As the pasta cooked, I made a mornay sauce (which is just a béchamel sauce with cheese). Starting with some butter and flour, I made a blonde roux before I stirred in the milk. The béchamel sauce was lightly seasoned with some chicken powder (the radioactive-coloured one). After I was happy with the taste of the sauce, I turned off the heat and added two handfuls of shredded marble cheese. I adjusted the super thick mornay sauce with a bit more milk. The mornay sauce was set aside.
I tasted the pasta and drained the lasagna noodles as I was adjusting the béchamel sauce. All the components were all ready to be assembled together.
Using a large casserole pan, I put a couple of ladlefuls of meat sauce on the bottom. This prevented the pasta from sticking and burning to the bottom. I topped that with three sheets of lasagna noodles. I had to trim them to fit them to the pan. No biggie. On top of the pasta, I poured a lot of meat sauce and then added dollops of ricotta cheese. Another layer of trimmed pasta, another layer of meat sauce, another layer of ricotta cheese, another layer of trimmed lasagna. I pressed the pasta down a bit and tried to keep the layers even. The process was repeated until the casserole pan was almost full (I think there were about 6 layers). The mornay sauce was poured on top of the last pasta layer and then topped with shredded marbled cheese. I popped the casserole pan in our 400F preheated convection toaster oven to become golden.
While that was in the oven, I finished the rest of the pasta and trimmings by using a smaller casserole pan. This time, Richard wanted me to layer the mornay sauce inside the lasagna instead of just putting it on top. We didn't know how people usually used their mornay/béchamel sauce, so we added a layer of mornay sauce along with the layers of meat sauce, ricotta cheese, and lasagna. We didn't add meat sauce below the mornay sauce though. Were we supposed to? It's fine, it'll be like mac and cheese got caught in a lasagna. The final layers were pasta, mornay sauce, meat sauce, then shredded cheese. The assembled lasagna was allowed to cool off and then wrapped up and placed in the fridge to bake at a later time.
Here are the other photos I took that night... Enjoy!