Grandpa’s lasagna

For this, you will need:

  • A pound of meat.
  • Various bell peppers, mushrooms, couple slices of onions, zucchini, fresh spinach.
  • A tub of cottage cheese.
  • A good-sized chunk of mozzarella.
  • A can or jar of spaghetti sauce.
  • Oven-ready lasagna pasta.
  • Italian-type spices: Garlic, oregano, peppers, cilantro, and the like.

Look at the pasta box. Whatever it tells you to set the oven, go ahead and set it.

I started making lasagna long ago, and the recipe, or as “recipe” as my recipes ever get, has evolved over time. The biggest changes have been the way I mash up the cheeses and the wonderful change in life when oven-ready pasta came out. That’s actually one of the good changes that came about with getting this old. See, one of the big chores was always boiling the lasagna pasta and trying to keep it intact, and now it’s so easy, and I don’t taste any difference.

First, start browning the meat in some olive oil. I used to use hamburger. Now I use turkey burger. It’s easier on the heart, and when you’ve had a heart attack, you pay attention to that stuff. The family doesn’t seem to notice a difference. But if you want to cut up a pound of chicken breast to put in, Grandpa ain’t stopping you.

Start slicing up the onion and throwing it in. Same with the other vegetables.

Now, you might wonder about the spinach. Here’s the deal, kids. Fresh spinach is so good for you, and when it cooks up, it gets tiny. And it doesn’t really have any distinctive taste in the food. So go ahead and throw in a handful. You won’t really taste it, and you’ll be getting all that good iron, vitamins A and K, and other minerals.

As that’s cooking, go ahead now and start seasoning it. Garlic and oregano are the ones I really pay attention to here, but others too. Except tarragon. Maybe it’s just me and I’m sensitive to tarragon. But I’ve destroyed two Italian dishes before by putting tarragon in them, and the second one, I went light, and I still thought it came out bad. So I just skip tarragon. You won’t see it in any of my cooking stories except to whine about it, like just now.

Anyway.

While that stuff in the skillet is cooking up, and maybe adding a little water to keep it tender, I start throwing the mozzarella, shredded, and the cottage cheese together, mashing them up with whatever mashing device I have handy. It’s important to shred the mozzarella, or to buy it shredded, because that stuff in brick form is hard to mix up. But you get a good workout trying. You’re looking for a consistency that’s like a paste. And I will often throw in some garlic powder into the mix.

As your meat and vegetables are getting cooked up, you can add your spaghetti sauce to it. Now, maybe some food company will come along someday and offer Grandpa a check to mention their name, and I would no doubt do that, but until then, I just get store-brand or generic spaghetti sauce off the shelf that’s flavored, usually “garlic and herb” or something like that.

Are you going to give me grief about all this garlic? It’s good for you. And we haven’t even talked about garlic bread yet.

Anyway.

The sauce might be too thin at first. You want to cook it down. You’re going to want it on the thick side. Go ahead and taste it as it cooks. Add spices as your taste buds dictate.

When the sauce is thick enough and tasty enough, grab a lasagna pan and put a thin layer of sauce on the bottom. If you have parmesan, you might sprinkle it on now.

Then take that oven-ready lasagna and put it wall to wall over that meat sauce. You’ll want to move with dispatch now, because if you just walk away from those oven-ready planks, they’ll start to curl up.

Now grab that paste and put half of it on the pasta.

Now take half the remaining meat and glop it over the cheese paste.

Go ahead and sprinkle parmesan again if you got it.

More oven-ready pasta. Wall to wall.

Now remaining cheese paste.

Next the last of the meat sauce.

Got parmesan still? Hit it one more time.

Now, BONUS. If you have mozzarella left, and if you have some pepperoni, put the mozzarella and then the pepperoni on top of that for a pizza-topping dish. The kids love it. In fact, the adults don’t seem to mind either.

Pop it in the oven for however long that lasagna box tells you. When you take it out, let it cool for a while before slicing.

The kids LOVE this dish. Hope you do too!

— Grandpa

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