Thursday, July 28, 2011

National Lasagna Day - 2011

By Diane Forrest

Today is National Lasagna Day, and I have to admit that as soon as I started writing this I began to channel Garfield, that lovable cat!  One of my favorite scenes in the movie "Garfield, a Tale of Two Kitties" (yes I watched it!) was when he was served a plate of liver or something but wanted his beloved lasagna instead.  Since the setting was in England at an old castle, this was not a dish that was recognized by the other animals in resident.  So, with the help of the animals, Garfield proceeds to make up a batch of lasagna, even the noodles, from scratch!  Once it was made, and everyone had a taste, they of course loved it and sang its praises.

How could you not love lasagna?  It is a wonderful Italian dish made with meat or sausage, layers of pasta, cheese and tomato sauce.  You may substitute the meat for vegetables for a vegetarian lasagna.  It's pretty much a slice of heaven.  My research shows that actually, Lasagna had Greek origins.  The main theory is that it comes from the Greek word laganon, a flat sheet of pasta dough cut into strips.  Later, the Romans used the Greek word "lasanum", meaning "cooking pot".  Then the Italians used the word to refer to the dish in which lasagna is made. Later the name of the food took on the name of the serving dish.

Baking lasagna these days is easier than you may think.  You can buy readymade spaghetti sauce and lasagna noodles that don't have to be boiled.    While I love lasagna, I have to admit I only made it once.  It was a long time ago, and I had to boil the noodles and make the sauce from scratch, so I'm guessing that is the reason why I only fixed it once. Here is an easy recipe that won't have you spending all day in the kitchen.

  • 1 pound lean ground beef
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 (4.5 ounce) can mushrooms, drained
  • 1 (28 ounce) jar spaghetti sauce
  • 1 (16 ounce) package cottage cheese
  • 1 pint part-skim ricotta cheese
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 (16 ounce) package lasagna noodles
  • 8 ounces shredded mozzarella cheese

  • In a large skillet, cook and stir ground beef until brown. Add mushrooms and onions; saute until onions are transparent. Stir in pasta sauce, and heat through.
  • In a medium size bowl, combine cottage cheese, ricotta cheese, grated Parmesan cheese, and eggs.
  • Spread a thin layer of the meat sauce in the bottom of a 13x9 inch pan. Layer with uncooked lasagna noodles, cheese mixture, mozzarella cheese, and meat sauce. Continue layering until all ingredients are used, reserving 1/2 cup mozzarella. Cover pan with aluminum foil.
  • Bake in a preheated 350 degree F (175 degree C) oven for 45 minutes. Uncover, and top with remaining half cup of mozzarella cheese. Bake for an additional 15 minutes. Remove from oven, and let stand 10 to 15 minutes before serving.

Celebrate Lasagna Day by fixing up your own dish.  If you don't have the time to make your own, today is a good reason to go to your favorite Italian restaurant or just go to your grocery store's freezer section and get some Stouffer's.  They make pretty tasty lasagna, but the downside is there is no leftovers for the next day! “Buon appetito!”

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