Yea, yea, it’s the only one I ever created, but doesn’t it win by default??
Many years ago, a group of us traveled to Rhode Island to our friend Jorge’s parents house. They are both excellent cooks and although they made many dishes that night, what stood out most was the lasagna. I didn’t grow up eating lasagna (unless you count a vegetable-only matzah lasagna once a year) and it’s certainly not a meal I had made at home. This one, however, opened my eyes to just how delicious this classic can be. I don’t quite know how they did it, but the unique provolone and meaty layers were outstanding.
We all spent the night and as we were heading out the next morning, Jorge’s mom graciously handed us a tupperware with two large pieces of her homemade lasagna. My good friend Kim and I walked out the door, and after a moment or two, realized the rest of the group was still inside. We sat on the front steps to wait. After what felt like an eternity (I’m guessing it was a good 2 1/2 minutes), we decided to take one little taste of the leftovers to remember its deliciousness.
We opened the top of the container, grabbed two forks (okay, it was our hands…Where we we supposed to grab two forks from, the bushes??) and had a taste. It was still heavenly, even cold from the fridge.
I closed the container, we took one look at each other and I opened it again. The two of us shamelessly tore through until it was almost completely cleared out. How long have we been out on this stoop for?
Kim and I walked back into the house to ‘return’ the empty tupperware to Jorge’s mom. Fortunately, she knew what we were really coming in to do and she filled us up with more lasagna. This time we waited until we got home to eat the rest.
As you may deduct, the point of this story is that I wanted to recreate this dish myself. So I called my friend Jorge, texted his parents and contacted his sister to track it down. Unfortunately, they were all out of town for a family event and for whatever reason, none of them travel with this recipe on them at all times. (Can you believe that?!)
I was left with no choice, but to create my first ever lasagna and figure it out on my own. I didn’t think I could go wrong as long as I included all the main characters; noodles, sauce, cheese, meat and per Hubby’s request, no vegetables. The outcome? Layers of soft noodles, a hearty scratch-made meat sauce, sweet and spicy chicken sausage, creamy ricotta, sharp provolone and gooey mozzarella cheeses melded together to form this unified meal. I ended up making another batch of meat sauce and had it simmering on the stove until the lasagna was ready. It doesn’t need it, but was great on the side, especially for keeping leftovers from drying out. Let me know what you think!
1 box no-boil lasagna noodles
1 (15 oz.) container part skim ricotta cheese
Thinly sliced provolone cheese (About 12 pieces)
1/4 cup parmesan cheese
1/2 cup mozzarella cheese
1/2 tablespoon dried parsley
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1/2 cup onion
1 lb ground beef
1 (12 oz.) can crushed tomatoes
1/4 teaspoon oregano
3 fully cooked sweet Italian chicken sausage links
2 fully cooked spicy Italian chicken sausage links
Pinch of sugar
Salt and pepper to taste
Garlic salt to taste
Crushed red pepper to taste
Coat a large pan with olive oil (about a few tablespoons worth) and sautee onions and garlic over medium high heat.
Add ground beef and cook until no longer pink–I use a potato masher to break up the meat–and season with salt and pepper.
Once beef is cooked, place a collendar over a bowl and drain grease.
Return beef to pan, pour in crushed tomatoes and stir together.
Bring to a boil and add oregano, garlic salt, red pepper flakes and a pinch of sugar. Simmer for a few minutes.
Coat the bottom of a baking dish with a small amount of meat sauce.
Place a layer of dry lasagna noodles on top. You may have to break some pieces to allow them to fit.
Spoon on another layer of sauce, reserving enough for a third layer, and cover with more noodles.
Mix together ricotta cheese, egg, parmesan, mozzarella and parsley.
Spread ricotta mixture over noodles, leaving about 1/4 cup in the bowl.
Add a layer of quartered chicken sausage.
Cover with noodles, spread with remaining ricotta and 6 slices of provolone.
Next, you guessed it, more noodles…
Then, the remaining meat sauce.
Top it off with a layer of provolone.
Cover with foil and bake for 45 minutes. Uncover and keep it in the oven for another 15 minutes. Serve with extra sauce, if desired.
Eat and enjoy hot at the table or cold on someone’s front stoop!
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