Dear World,

As of yesterday, I’ve been very good. I made the bed, vacuumed, did dishes, walked to the supermarket and produce store (40 minutes one way), did not give in to sweets (not even double-stuffed oreos) walked back loaded with my healthy groceries, and went to the Y to swim laps. Then, it was time to make lasagna.

Making lasagna is easy. It doesn’t require any particular skill or special equipment. People hype it up and make it sound so impressive, but really, it’s not hard. However, there are many steps to making a lasagna, some of which you can do a day or two in advance, although it does taste so good when everything is nice and fresh. If you want to anticipate, you can make the met sauce the day before.

For the meat sauce, you’ll need:

  • 1 pound ground meat (I used beef, but chicken and turkey are as delicious – for veggie lasagna, substitute with spinach)
  • 1 can petite diced tomatoes
  • 1 can (15 oz) tomato sauce
  • basil (dried is ok, fresh is excellent)
  • 4 garlic cloves
  • chopped onion (about 1 cup)
  • paprika
  • cayenne (powdered)
  • salt & pepper

Grease a large skillet with 2 tbsp olive oil, and saute the onion for 30 seconds. Brown the beef, then transfer to a medium saucepan, along with the diced tomatoes and tomato sauce. Mash in the garlic, and add some salt, pepper, basil, paprika and cayenne to taste. Simmer for 5-10 minutes, and cover pot with lid. If you are preparing this in advance, refrigerate, and heat up when you’re ready to use it.

 

 

 

 

 

Another thing you can do a couple hours in advance is boiling the lasagna. Yesterday was my first time using oven-ready/no-boil pasta, and it turned out great! I’d recommend it. And I’ll let you on a secret: supermarket brand whole wheat pasta tends to be 100% whole wheat, as opposed to “whole grain” brand name pasta!

Next, the bechamel sauce. I insist that this part is not hard, but it requires your UNDIVIDED ATTENTION. Turn your back on it just for a hot second, and you’ll create a white volcano. Also, I would not recommend doing this in advance, because it tastes SO MUCH BETTER when it’s fresh!

For the Bechamel Sauce, you’ll need:

  • 5 tbsp butter
  • 4 tbsp all-purpose white flour
  • 4 cups milk (whole milk is usually better for cooking)
  • 2 bay leaves
  • two pinches of white pepper (if you don’t have any, it’s worth the investment)
  • salt (to taste)
  • 2 cloves of garlic

In a medium saucepan, melt the butter on medium heat. (by the way, if you’re baking the lasagna in the oven, this is a good time to preheat your oven to 375˚F). Add the flour, and cook until golden brown (4-7 minutes), whisking at least every 10 seconds. While you’re doing this, heat the milk in another pot until it’s not (NOT boiling). When the roux (that’s the butter-flour base) is golden brown, start adding the milk one cup at the time, whisking continuously (this will be your workout for the night). The sauce is ready when it’s thickened enough that an inserted spoon comes out completely coated.

And now, for the fun part: assembly time! I lightly greased my crock pot with vegetable oil. If you’re baking yours in the oven, line the bottom & sides of a baking dish (big enough for lasagna pasta to fit) with aluminum foil, and preheat your oven to 375˚ F. Layer of pasta, layer of meat sauce, layer of bechamel, layer of pasta, layer of meat…you get where this is going. I usually work it out so that the top layer is covered with pasta and lightly with bechamel. If you care for parmesan, you can dust the top layer with that as well (fresh grated is even better).

For baking in the oven: cover the pan tightly with aluminum foil and cook for 1 hour. For crock potting: cook for 3-4 hours, or until a fork goes straight through the pasta.

 

 

It’s really that easy! 

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