What does it take to call your recipe “World’s Best”? When you can stand there and ask yourself, “How can I make this better?”, and you can honestly say, without any prejudice or biased conjecture towards yourself and your cooking, “I simply cannot.” Period.
When others try your dish or recipe and say, “This is simply the best I’ve ever had.” No doubt about it. And when your world-travelor hubby gets wind of you even whispering, “I wonder if…”, and says, “Don’t you dare change a single thing!”, I do believe it’s finally ok to call it – – “World’s Best”.
And I don’t take that expression lightly. Not at ALL lightly. As a matter of fact, sometimes I take a bit of offense to it and think, yeah right, and how arrogant for someone to even say.
So this is actually very difficult for me. I’ve only said it one time before, for my Chicken Noodle Soup, and if I’m VERY lucky, maybe someday, I only hope to be able to say it one last time for something else.
So I hope I have honestly earned this title and don’t ever come across as being arrogant. Trust me and whole-heartedly believe me when I say, me and Joe Arrogance don’t dance well together. 😉
So with all of that hullabaloo said, I hope to prove to you that at the least, you, your family and unsuspecting guests will absolutely love my interpretation of Classic Lasagna!
There is one small trick though, that I cannot take credit for. VERY funny story, actually! I was over at a friend’s house for dinner once who was notoriously known for NOT being able to cook. I mean, like at all. She actually burned water. True. She didn’t know if it was hot enough and boiled it down until there was no more water left and the pan burned. Yep. So when I was invited to dinner….let’s just say I had a backup plan of where to eat on the way home and had the bathroom mapped as soon as I got there.
I asked gently if she could use a hand in the kitchen, because when I got there, things weren’t even close to being ready. Like hours away.
I was thankful actually, because I figured after a few cocktails, I wouldn’t be able to taste it as much.
Anyways, she was making lasagna. She had the meat mixture done and had bags of shredded cheese opened and ready to go.
I watched as she grabbed the box of hard dry lasagna noodles and proceeded to put them straight into the casserole dish. Snapping off corners to fit the oval dish. Uncooked.
The look on my face had to have been an obvious one of shock and horror. Priceless, I’m imagining.
So I said, as softly and politely as I could, “Uhm, don’t you want to cook those a bit first?” She just laughed and said with extreme excitement, “AHA!!! I actually know something you don’t know!”
(My skeptical mind couldn’t wait to hear this one.)
She then proceeded to tell me that you don’t have to cook them first. You just bake the casserole for 15 minutes longer. Really?, I thought, with a we’ll see about that look on my face. 😉
Ooooookay. Seriously, THIS I had to see for myself. I was semi-convinced and somewhat trusting by this point after my third glass of wine. And you know what? She was exactly right.
I have never bothered with precooking them ever since. It really works!
Maybe she tried this method because of not knowing how to boil water? We’ll probably never know. 😉
But this is by far the best method I’ve ever come across. And we’re talking the regular noodles. Not the “no-bake” kind. (Guess they heard of her idea, too, and tried to cash in. 😉 )
Nope, the regular, old-fashioned, stiff as a board lasagna noodles. It also does something else. It sets the lasagna by absorbing extra juices so that you can get gorgeous slices and the noodles stay al-dente and never over-cooked.
Cue bonus jackpot sign with lights flashing!
So with a little help, this truly has morphed over the years into the most delicious lasagna that I, my friends, and hubby have ever, ever tasted. And I do hope that you find this just as delicious! Have a most interesting and curious day! 😀 😉
*Don’t let the long list scare you off! It’s just everyday pantry stuff of spices, herbs and tomatoes! 😀
WORLD’S BEST CLASSIC LASAGNA
Makes one helluva panful! (A “13 1/2 x 9 1/2″ x 2 1/2” lasagna pan) *If using a regular 13 x 9 pan, place on a foil-lined cookie sheet in case it bubbles over a little.
For Meat Sauce:
1 1/2 lbs. ground beef
1 lb. mild Italian ground sausage
1 medium or half of a large green bell pepper, diced
1 medium-sized Vidalia onion, diced
2 tsp. whole fennel seeds
1/2 tsp. each (dried):
1/4 tsp. each:
dried thyme, crushed before adding
1 (8 oz.) cont. fresh Baby Bella (Crimini) sliced mushrooms
1 (14.5 oz.) can Hunt’s Stewed Tomatoes, hand-crushed when adding
1 (15 oz.) can Hunt’s Tomato Sauce
1 (8 oz.) can Hunt’s Tomato Sauce
1 (6 oz.) can Hunt’s Tomato Paste
1 tsp. oregano
1 tsp. garlic powder
1/4 tsp. each (dried):
1/8 tsp. dried thyme, crushed
1/8 tsp. Herbs de Provence
1/2 Tbl. sugar
1/4 cup water
1/2 Tbl. red wine
1 bay leaf
For Ricotta Cheese mixture:
1 extra-large egg, beaten
1 lb. (16 oz.) ricotta cheese
1/3 cup finely grated fresh parmesan cheese
3 oz. cream cheese, warmed in microwave until creamy
1/4 tsp. salt
1 tsp. dried parsley
Rest of Ingredients:
15 lasagna noodles, uncooked
2 (1 lb.) bags Kraft Touch of Philly Shredded Mozzarella Cheese (8 cups total) or Sargento’s Shredded Mozzarella & Provolone Blend cheese
garlic salt, crushed dried basil and oregano to top
In large deep frying pan, crumble in ground beef and sausage, stirring to mix. Evenly sprinkle over top next 11 ingredients. (Up to, but not including, fresh mushrooms.) Stir to mix and sauté until meats are done. Break up meats and mix in seasonings as it cooks. When meats are done add mushrooms and sauté 5 minutes longer. When all done, drain grease well in colander and return mixture to pan.
Stir in well rest of Meat Sauce ingredients. Bring to a simmer and low-simmer for 10 minutes, stirring as needed. Remove bay leaf and set aside.
In medium bowl, beat egg with a fork then add rest of cheese mixture ingredients stirring in warmed cream cheese last mixing in well.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
In sprayed casserole dish, spoon about 1/4 – 1/3 cup sauce onto bottom of pan.
Layer in pan as follows:
5 lasagna noodles (4 going lengthwise and the other going the other way to fill bottom snapping off corners as needed to fit pan)(they don’t have to overlap)
1/3 of meat sauce
1/2 of ricotta mixture (add by 1/2 Tbl. dollops)
2 cups (half of one bag) shredded mozzarella
5 more noodles
1/3 of meat sauce
1/2 of ricotta mixture
2 more cups shredded mozzarella
last 5 noodles
last 1/3 of meat sauce
entire second bag of mozzarella (4 cups)
Sprinkle top with about 1/2 tsp. each crushed basil, crushed oregano, and fairly heavily sprinkle with garlic salt.
Cover top with foil and bake for 1 hour and 15 minutes. Remove foil and bake for 5-10 minutes longer or until cheese is to desired doneness and brownness.
*I always bake mine on a foil-lined baking sheet in case it would run over, but it never does. But it’s a good idea to do this anyway. Better safe than sorry!
Let rest before serving.