I have finally packed my schedule with enough to call myself busy. We take advantage of every kid activity we can find each week, and I do a few things just for myself, too.
I’m glad to provide that enrichment to both of our lives, but it means that for a couple days every week, I just don’t have time to make a proper dinner for us.
I tried crockpot meals, but they always miss the mark for me, and there’s only so many times I’m willing to feed my family macaroni and cheese.
My strategy this week (a particularly hectic one) was to make a huge lasagna and eat the leftovers on those days I only have 15 minutes to whip up dinner. This recipe is my classic meat lasagna — enough for a crowd or leftovers for days.
For the bechamel:
4 tablespoons butter
4 tablespoons all-purpose flour
¼ cup heavy cream
1 cup milk
4 ounces grated Parmesan
8 garlic cloves — minced
½ teaspoon nutmeg
For the tomato sauce:
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 whole white onion
1 green bell pepper
4 garlic cloves
1 14.5-ounce can diced tomatoes
1 8-ounce can tomato sauce
2 tablespoons dried Italian herb mix
Salt and pepper to taste
2 boxes lasagna noodles
1 pound mild Italian sausage
1 whole bunch fresh spinach
1 15-ounce container ricotta cheese
2 pounds shredded Italian cheese blend
1 cup fresh basil — chopped fine
Start with your tomato sauce. Roughly chop the vegetables and saute in olive oil until translucent. Season with salt.
Pour in the diced tomatoes and tomato sauce, then bring to a simmer.
Add in the dried herbs and continue cooking for 30 minutes, stirring often. If the sauce gets too dry, add a bit of water to loosen it.
While the sauce is cooking, brown the sausage, drain and set aside to cool.
Also while the sauce is cooking, finely chop the spinach and basil and transfer to a mixing bowl.
Add in the ricotta and stir until combined. Taste and season with a little pepper then set aside until assembly.
After 30 minutes, turn off the heat and allow the sauce to cool a bit. If you have an immersion blender, use that to blend the sauce in the pan until smooth. If you are using a blender, wait until the sauce is no longer steaming.
Taste and season with salt, then hold until ready for assembly.
In a large saucepan, melt your butter, add in your minced garlic, and cook for a few minutes.
Add in the flour and cook on medium low heat, whisking constantly, for 5 minutes.
Pour in the cream and milk and whisk to combine.
Cook until the sauce has thickened slightly.
Whisk in the Parmesan and turn off the heat as soon as the cheese has melted.
Whisk in the nutmeg and set aside.
Don’t cook the noodles until you’re ready for assembly. They need to be warm while you work.
Boil both boxes of noodles together in a very large pot. A stock pot works well for this, but if you don’t have a pot that big, you can get away with boiling the noodles in two batches if you manage your time well. You’ll just have to pull the noodles out with tongs instead of draining the whole pot, using the same water for both batches.
Cook the noodles al dente, strain, toss in a little olive oil to prevent sticking, then transfer to your assembly space.
Spread a thin layer of tomato sauce over the bottom of your baking dish before adding your first layer of noodles. I used a roasting pan as my baking dish.
Layer the fillings and noodles in whatever pattern you choose. One layer is meat, tomato sauce and shredded cheese, one layer is bechamel, and one is ricotta and spinach mix. Be sure that you save enough tomato sauce and shredded cheese to top the whole dish when you’re done.
Cover in foil and bake for 40 minutes at 350 degrees.