Friday, April 4, 2014

Lasagna al Forno

"Al Forno" simply means baked in an oven.  I did, indeed, make lasagna "al forno" recently.  This recipe is what can be referred to as a "quick and easy" lasagna.  There is nothing fancy about it.  It does not have all of the ingredients I use in my lasagna supreme.  It is not spicy or robust.  It is flavorful, but not hearty. Steven is still not able to eat spicy foods after his surgery.  I wanted to make something he would enjoy but was not spicy.  This was perfect.  This would also be a good recipe for seniors who typically do not like spicy food.

We stared with one 15 oz. container of ricotta cheese, 2 cups of shredded mozzarella and 1 cup of parmesan.  I used shaved parmesan.  Use any style you like.

We thoroughly mixed the cheeses together using a rubber spatula.  Oh, and added two eggs.

I added a little olive oil to the pan before I browned the ground beef for some added flavor.  A couple tablespoons is enough.

And we have a pan of lightly browned ground beef.  I do not like for the ground beef to be overcooked when I make lasagna.  I do not want it crispy.  I brown it on medium heat until it is just browned and then I remove it.  It will cook more while it is in the oven.

The recipe calls for 2 - 28 oz. jars of marinara sauce.  This time around I used store bought marinara sauce. This is usually anathema at Crest Avenue.  We make all of our tomato sauces and marinara.  But, this one time we were out of homemade, so we used Newman's Own.

Two 28 oz. jars of sauce is four cups, or one quart of sauce.

Now we are start assembling.  First thing to do is to spray a 9"x13" glass baking dish with Pam cooking spray.

Lay down one cup of the sauce on the bottom of the pan.

Add your first layer of noodles.  Again, this is the quick and easy lasagna so we are using the no-bake noodles from Barilla.  Don't worry if they are a cracked or broken.  It will all work out in the end.  Of all the things we have to worry about these days, a few broken lasagna noodles are way down the list.

Then add one third cup of the cheese mixture atop each noodle.

Spread this out over each noodle.

Then add one half cup of shredded mozzarella.

Then add one third of the meat.

Continue with the cheese mixture, mozzarella, sauce and meat until you have built three layers.

Most lasagna recipes call for one pound of ground beef or one pound total of beef and pork.  I use one and a half pounds.  That way I have enough beef for a final layer of meat on top.

The baking dish will need to be covered with aluminum foil for baking.  Spray the inside of the foil with Pam cooking spray so that it will not stick to the top layer.  I think you can buy foil with a non-stick coating but why spend the extra money when you can do it like this.

Tightly cover and place in a 375 degree oven for 50 - 60 minutes.  After this time, remove the foil and place the lasagna back in the oven for 5 minutes to thoroughly melt and slightly brown the top layer of cheese.

You see here when we removed the foil there was no mess of mozzarella sticking.

And there you have it.  A beautiful lasagna that anyone would be proud to serve.  As I said, this is not a heavily seasoned lasagna, so I like to serve it with a tray of seasonings.  I find a light sprinkle of onion salt is divine.  If you have any of the exotic pinks salts and or peppers, those would also be nice to add a little flavor.  Those who like theirs a little less spicy can enjoy this dish without adding these spices.  A good all-around dish that everyone can enjoy.

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