Gran’s Lasagna

9 05 2010

I know everyone has one of these dishes. It’s easy to prepare, doesn’t make too much of a mess, it’s easy to serve, and everyone loves it. My answer to this is “Gran’s” lasagna. I’ve prepared it to take to neighbors following a funeral, taken it to potluck dinners, made it in response to a request for a special dinner and, most importantly, it has become a Christmas Eve tradition.

I took the photos and wrote most of the script for this last year, when my 30something daughter who lives in the San Francisco Bay area was unable to come to Texas for the Christmas holidays. As well as her sadness for not having time spent with family and friends, she was really disappointed that she wouldn’t share the usual Christmas Eve dinner and wanted me to send her the recipe for “Gran’s” lasagna so she could share it with her friends. The following photo essay was my response to her.

The base to the original recipe came from the box of lasagna noodles years and years ago. I made it for a dinner with my mother-in-law, sister-in-law, ex-husband and 5 or 6 hungry children. Later that year when my mother-in-law was coming up with the menu for the Christmas Eve birthday dinner/celebration for one of my nephews, she asked me for the recipe. Since then it has been known as Gran’s Lasagna, much to my consternation.

I almost always make a double recipe. It takes no extra effort and the leftovers are as good, if not better, than the original. The pan I use is 18″ x 14″ and about 3″ deep. The recipe shown here uses ground beef, but it can be made with just about any ground meat (even meatballs cut in half) or meatless with mushrooms and other veggies. As you can see, I make it as easy for myself as possible. I used sauce and chopped garlic from a jar and pre-shredded cheese from a bag. You, of course, can peel and crush your own garlic, make your own sauce and shred your own cheese. (A complete shopping list can be found at the end of the post.) More power to you!


I do chop my own onions. My theory with sauteed onions is “the more the better,” so I use about 3 medium onions chopped and saute them with a generous portion of garlic in about 2 Ts. of olive oil.


When the onions are translucent, I remove about 1/2 of the onion/garlic mix, set it aside and add about a pound of sliced mushrooms to the mix and lightly saute them. You will need to add some more olive oil.


After mushrooms are lightly sauteed, I put them aside and then put the lean ground beef and the remaining sauteed onion and garlic in the pan to brown. You may have noticed that big pan next to the pan. It’s filled with water and on high heat to boil.


This “recipe” lends itself to improvisation.  This time, I looked in the fridge and found 3/4 of a green pepper which I chopped and added because it looks and tastes good.


When the meat has been thoroughly browned, add the mushroom mix back in it and stir them together.


Add sauce. For this doubled recipe, I put in 1 jar of tomato basil sauce.


Season as you desire. I added freshly ground pepper and sea salt (with garlic) and some dried basil.


Mix it all together, lower the heat, put on a lid and let it simmer while you prepare the cheese mixture and noodles, stirring occasionally.


Now that the meat sauce is simmering, the water should be boiling. Add the pasta. In this case, two boxes. Don’t just dump the box of dried noodles in the pan. Place them in the boiling water one at a time, arranging them so they are exposed to the boiling water. Try not to break the noodles. You will have leftovers, but intact noodles are easier to work with.


While the noodles are cooking, prepare the cheese filling. For one large container of ricotta cheese, use one slightly beaten egg, garlic powder (yes, MORE garlic) and dried basil (or oregano, but I prefer basil).


Almost ready.


The noodles are ready when they are pliable. Do not overcook.


Drain the noodles and rinse with cold water.


After a light coating of vegetable oil on pan, cover bottom with plain sauce.


Put a layer of noodles over the plain sauce and then add 1/2 of meat sauce.


Add another layer of noodles and then all of the cheese mixture.


Another layer of noodles and the remaining meat sauce. We didn’t measure quite equal halves, so I added some plain sauce so it would cover this layer. IMPROVISE!


Cover the 2nd meat layer with noodles and then plain sauce.


Cover with a generous amount of shredded mozzarella cheese.


Clean as you go.


Bake the lasagna in 350 oven for probably an hour, until cheesy top is bubbly and NOT burned.


It’s difficult to get a photo of this lasagna plated, since as soon as it hits a plate someone grabs the plate and starts eating. But here’s a shot from Christmas Past just as serving began. That year, I used two smaller pans because I had used pork sausage in one half and the other half was vegetarian. As I mentioned above, this recipe is a perfect way to show off your own style and creativity. Buon appetito!

hot and ready

Shopping List:

olive oil to saute vegetables
2 – 3 medium onions, chopped
crushed garlic to taste
1 pound sliced mushrooms
2 – 3 pounds lean ground beef
1 bell pepper, chopped
3 jars tomato basil pasta sauce
2 boxes lasagna noodles
1 large egg
1 large container ricotta cheese
garlic powder
dried basil or oregano




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