This article is about homemade Italian Cuisine (for people that are on the go). I will teach you how to make Lasagna in under one hour. This can be handy for mom's or dad's cooking for their family on a hectic day or even for kids, teenagers, or adults just looking to learn something new (and a quick method overall).
Things You Will Need
-lasagna noodles (pasta) - Barilla is a good brand to use
-a large, deep aluminum cooking tray (the kind used in catering, serving) but get one with oven handles
-two oven mittens
-plastic utensils (forks, spoons, knives) or if you want to be environmentally conscious (silverware). This is for tasting the sauce and testing the herbs and spices to your liking.
-2 medium sized cooking pots (large if cooking for a bigger group)
-George Foreman grill
-ground beef (lean)
-100% pure tomato sauce (I use Hunt's brand)
-tomato paste (I use Hunt's brand)
-The obvious: Gas or electric stove, gas or electric oven (electric will take a little longer, allow for that)
-Oregano (ground) - Store bought
-Basil (ground) - Store bought
-Garlic Powder - Store bought
-Garlic salt - Store bought
-Non-Iodized Salt - Store bought
-Black Pepper - From anywhere that sells it (organic brands for all the above work just fine)
-A brand of spices and herbs I like is the McCormick brand
-Ricotta Cheese (low moisture whole milk) - not the spread
-olive oil or canola oil
-parmesan cheese (grated or ground) - you may also use a parmesan/romano mix or romano by itself
-low moisture mozzarella cheese (preferably whole milk)
Step 1Use one of the pots to preheat the water for the noodles until boiling (put oil of choice into the water before heating). This is to avoid the lasagna noodles sticking together while cooking. When cooking with pots and pans, turn the handle inwards towards the stove, so that kids do not pull on the handles and scald themselves.
Step 2In the other pot, two cans of tomato sauce and one can of tomato paste (if using lower ounce cans of each, you may need more to measure accurately). Set sauce to a simmer. The goal is to slowly cook the sauce and time it to when the noodles will be done, by cooking the sauce on a low heat.
Step 3Put 1/4 cup of water into the pot with the large amount of sauce and tomato paste. This thins it a little. Then put a little canola or olive oil (which ever you prefer) into the pot with the sauce.
Step 4With the sauce, start off with a pinch of oregano and basil. Add it into pot. Then add a very conservative amount of garlic salt. One thing that helps is if you hold the canister sideways and tap it, letting a little spice and/or herb come out rather than pouring it with the chance of using too much. If you use too much of anything, it could ruin your sauce.
Step 5Add a very small amount of garlic powder. This could be the sauce killer, so be careful. Try using the tapping method mentioned in step 4. Make sure you use the sides with the small holes and not the side of the canister that is for pouring large amounts of herbs and spices.
Step 6Use a little bit of black pepper in sauce. Start stirring the sauce slowly, while pasta water is still boiling (no pasta should be in other pot yet).
Step 7Plug in George Foreman grill. Take ground beef and compact it like it's a hamburger. You'll need to decide how much meat you want in your sauce. If you are a vegetarian, you may just want to keep working on the sauce.
Step 8Cook meat patties on George Foreman grill. Keep an eye on the sauce. You do not want it to burn or taste charred. If the sauce is cooking too fast, temporarily turn off the specific stove top that you are using for the sauce.
Step 9Add a little bit of Non-Iodized salt into the sauce. Keep stirring (even if the stove section is off). Use Non-Iodized because the Iodized will give the sauce a weird aftertaste.
Step 10Keep an eye on the boiling water, you don't want it to overflow. If it is boiling to much, turn the heat down. Remember not to put oil in the pot while on the stove top, or over a hot electric stove section or flame. The oil should already be in the water pot and the sauce.
Step 11After the water pot comes to a hot, steamy boil pour all the pasta lasagna noodles into the water pot. Do this slowly, as you do not want the water to bounce on the stove or worse: burn you.
Step 12Keep an eye on the ground beef patties and flip them over so they don't burn on one side.
Step 13Double check heat on sauce, you may need to put it back on a simmer if it is getting too cool.
Step 14Keep checking your spices, make sure it is starting to taste how you like it. Set all used spices to the side, until you need more (if you want more).
Step 15Add some basil. This, again, is up to your liking for your amount. Then add some parmesan, or romano cheese to the sauce. Keep an eye on the noodles and keep stirring them. You may need to turn down the boiling water to keep the noodles from over cooking. This would ruin the lasagna.
Step 16Try the sauce and see if you like it. You may need more of a specific spice or herb, or even more tomato sauce. Keep the tomato paste to a minimum unless your sauce is too thin.
Step 17Turn off George Foreman grill when meat is cooked just like a hamburger.
Step 18Slowly break the meat up within your fingers over the pot with the sauce. Break it up into as small of pieces as you can, as this will serve as the meat in the meat sauce. The reason you used the George Foreman grill was to cook the meat fast and now you are adding it to the sauce. If you cooked too much meat and don't want to use it all, then enjoy a hamburger for your lunch the next afternoon!
Step 19Turn off pot with noodles. you will still have too cook them, so you don't want to over boil them. If you over boil the noodles, they will be too soft to take out of the pot. When taking out of the pot, it is easier to use a hamburger spatula so you can get the whole noodle and place it in the aluminum oven catering tray.
Now start taking the noodles out one by one. The trick is to crisscross the layers noodles, this way they do not slide in the oven. After the first layer is down (of noodles), spread a little bit of sauce on each one. Then add the Ricotta cheese (very thin layers) on each noodle, unless you like a lot of cheese, then use more to your liking.
Step 21After the first layer, add the second the same way. But first! Put the second layer of noodles the opposite crisscrossing way of the first layer. This crisscrossing pattern will go on all the way up towards the top. You can stop putting noodles when the lasagna gets about 2 inches below the top of the aluminum tray. If you have a larger tray for a larger group, then you may need more crisscrossing of the layers to put it closer to the top of your larger tray. Again, stop about 2 inches before the top. This gives the noodles room to expand while being cooked.
Step 22Start preheating oven (electric may need to preheat a little longer). Preheat less if you want final product a little undercooked. On a gas oven, preheat about 300 degrees (cooks fast). Once you have crisscrossed all the layers up to the 2 inch (below the top of the tray margin), slice some mozzarella cheese and put it all over the top layer of the crisscrossed lasagna. If you are a dairy loving person, you may like to put more mozzarella cheese! At this point, the lasagna should look something like this picture (or a little different depending on size).
Place lasagna in oven.
Step 24I cooked my lasagna for about 35-minutes in my old, powerful gas stove. You'll need to assess your stove the best, since you'll be the only one there.
Step 25After cooking, take out of oven and let lasagna cool down slightly.
Step 26After lasagna is ready, cut length by width in parallel lines. Turn the tray if necessary. Do all the length ones first, then cut the width one (both in even lines). Get a spatula and your nice, hot lasagna is done and ready to be served! Note: The lasagna needs to be cut at this point. What you see in the picture is the product before it has been sliced in length to width lines. Then each slice can be served with a spatula.
Consider this method of cooking lasagna the abridged method. It was designed by me to cook a fast, but yet tasty meal for the working mom's and dad's. It can also be used by anyone else looking to get a quick bite to eat, but wanting something other than fast food. Yes, it may take more than an hour on your first try, but the ultimate goal is to make this meal in under one hour to save yourself time out of your busy work day and eat a good family meal. Oh and yes, I am half Sicilian by the way. It's kind of bred into me to like experimenting with Italian food.
Tips & Warnings
Always be careful when using flammable items. Do not let little children near open flames, pots, pans, and stove in general. When cooking with pots and pans, turn the handle inwards towards the stove, so that kids do not pull on the handles and scald themselves. Do not pour oil into pot after pot is already on stove. If you forgot to pour oil in pot, before the pot boils or the sauce cooks, take the pot briefly to the sink (don't spill) and put a little oil in each one. If you have room next to your stove to do this, you might want to adjust the oil levels on a kitchen counter. Never pour any oil over a hot flame on a gas stove especially.
The best part of cooking Italian food is that there is always room for error and also room to adjust. Hey, actually you can pretty much experiment with all kinds of Italian food any way you want!
This method of cooking lasagna is to provide a basis to go on. Go with what works for you the best. Even if you create your own method, the main point is that meal should be quick, easy, and most of all good!