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Ultimate Old School Meat and Mushroom Lasagna

This is the real deal… no eggplant, no tofu or fancy-shmancy gourmet ingredients.. just old fashioned lasagna so hearty it’s hard to be hungry enough for seconds!  I vary the recipe each time depending on whether I want it more cheesy, meaty etc…. you can also increase the ricotta to give it more density. . . or increase the meat and cheese ingredients if you have a super deep pan and want more layers.

Meat and Mushroom Lasagna – The Recipe

Ingredients:

  • 1 lb lasagna noodles
  • Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • 1 Onion, diced
  • 6 Garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 1/2 lbs ground beef
  • 1 lb ground hot or mild Italian sausage (I use Boulder sausage company for this)
  • 1.5 lb sliced crimini  mushrooms
  • 1 TB fennel seeds
  • 1/2 TB red pepper flakes
  • 1.25 tsp brown sugar
  • 1/2 TB dried oregano (make sure it hasn’t been in your cabinet more than 12 months)
  • 1 (6 oz) can tomato paste
  • Salt/Pepper
  • 2 lb ricotta cheese **
  • 3/4 cup fresh grated Parmigiano-Reggiano **
  • 3/4 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh basil
  • 2 eggs, slightly beaten
  • 2 lbs shredded mozzarella cheese (or more if you like it cheesy)
  • 5 cups Marinara Sauce (see below) – or use jarred for speed but it’s not as good
  • Additional Parmigiano-Reggiano for serving

*Variation:  Sometimes I add a layer of spinach one of the ricotta layers.

Method:

Noodles: Fill a large pasta pot with water and place over high heat. Add sea salt and bring to a boil. Cook the lasagna noodles for only 8 minutes; they should still be somewhat firm, as they will continue to cook when you bake the lasagna. Drain the noodles in a colander and rinse them quickly under cool water to stop the cooking process. Drizzle some olive oil so the sheets don’t stick together, the set aside.  Now, if you want to cheat – you can use those no-cook noodles – they aren’t as good, but they do work.

Meat Mixture: Heat a large skillet over medium heat and drizzle with {about 3 TB} of olive oil. Saute the onion, garlic and bay leaf for a couple of minutes, until the onions are translucent and smell sweet. Add the ground beef and pork, stirring to break it up, and cook until the meat is throroughly browned and very broken-up, about 10-15 minutes.  I chop the sausage into small cubes prior to cooking so that it breaks easier in the pan. Drain off the excess fat. Combine the fennel seeds, red pepper flakes, brown sugar and dried oregano in a spice mill or a coffee grinder, blend until powdery, and sprinkle on the browned meat. Stir in the tomato paste until well blended; season with salt & pepper. Take the pan off the heat.  In a separate pan take a small amount of butter, olive oil and splash of wine (white is preferred), saute mushrooms until they begin to release fluid.  Set aside.

Ricotta Mixture: In a large bowl, combine the ricotta and Parmigiano cheeses. Fold in the parsley, basil and eggs, season with salt and pepper, and mix well.

** Tip:  Depending on your size and depth of lasagna pan – you may want to increase this ricotta mixture.  It’s important that each layer has an even distribution of filling or cheese in order to ensure every bite is rich and flavorful.  Sometimes I add a 3rd container of ricotta and increase the herbs by another 1/4 cup and add an egg.

Preheat the oven to 350.

The Layering:

Start by ladling enough sauce into the dish to cover the bottom to prevent the lasagna from sticking.

Layer 1 — the noodles: slightly overlap 4 lasagna noodles lenghtwise so they completely cover the bottom with no gaps. Take 2 lasagna noodles and line the short ends of the pan, they will act as a wall to give the lasagna support when you cut it.

Layer 2 — the meat: spread half the meat mixture on top of the noodles with a spatula.  Add all the mushrooms to fill the gaps in the meat layer.

Layer 3 — the cheese: spread half the ricotta cheese mixture over the meat, smooth out with a spatula, and then sprinkle at least one (possibly two) fistfuls of the shredded mozzarella evenly over the ricotta mixture so it completely covers the ricotta.

Layer 4 — the sauce: top with a full ladle of tomato sauce, about 1+ cup; smooth it out with a spatula. Repeat layers 1 through 4. Finish with a final layer of noodles, tomato sauce and the remaining mozarella. Then grate more parmesan cheese on top of the layer of mozarella.  Season with pepper.  Prior to placing in the oven, tap the pan lightly on the counter to force out any air bubbles and to compress the layers.

Bake for 1 1/2 hours, until golden and bubbling. If cheese browns too quickly tent it with aluminum foil while cooking but don’t seal.  Allow the lasagna to sit for 20 minutes. Pass the extra tomato sauce and grated Parmigiano around the table when serving.  Don’t forget a great glass of red wine!!

MARINARA SAUCE (If you want to make it from scratch….:)

Makes 5 cups

Time: 1 hour

  • Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 (28 oz) cans of whole tomatoes
  • 5 fresh basil leaves, cut in fine ribbons
  • 2 TB chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 2 bay leaves
  • pinch of red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 tsp of sugar
  • salt/pepper

In a large pot over medium heat, heat {about 3 TB} of olive oil until hot. Add the onion and garlic and saute for 5 minutes, or until the onions begin to appear translucent. Hand-crush the tomatoes and add them, along with their liquid, to the pot. Toss in the herbs, red pepper flakes and sugar; season with salt & pepper. Lower the heat and simmer for 45 minutes, uncovered. Stir occasionally. Remove bay leaves before serving.

 

 

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