Lasagna is a pain to make. Great, but a pain. It’s expensive to make and if something goes wrong, you have 13 x 9 pan of crap-ola. This recipe is not only economical, it’s sized for 2 people.
When the family gets together, we wind up talking about food at some point; eating or cooking it. As country cooks, we prepare meals as though we are feeding the Trojan army. Unfortunately, if you are only a 1 or 2 person household, that can be unhandy and expensive, especially if the leftovers don’t reheat well or can’t be frozen.
Here is an economical recipe for lasagna that bakes in a LOAF pan. Most lasagna noodles are a loaf pan wide/long. Also, most lasagna noodles don’t have to be pre-boiled for assembly, making this a great recipe for a week night. The first part of the recipe is for the sauce. If you don’t want to make your own sauce, any jar sauce of your choice will do. I won’t tell a soul, and most folks wouldn’t know the difference anyway.
Connie’s Vegetarian Lasagna
Pasta Sauce: Makes enough for lasagna plus leftovers for another pasta dish
1 – 28 ounce can Cento brand whole San Marzano tomatoes (this does make a difference in the pasta sauce recipe. San Marzano tomatoes have a very distinctive taste that is brighter than a traditional tomato. This makes for a light sauce with a lot of flavor.)
1 – 15 ounce can tomato sauce
4 ounces of red wine ( be sure the wine has “opened up”. This means uncorking the bottle and letting it sit at room temperature for at least an hour. It will make a difference in how your sauce tastes, because allowing the red wine to breath changes the flavor of the wine and thus, your sauce.
1 shallot – minced
¼ bell pepper (any color but green)
6 mushrooms – diced
2 cloves garlic – minced
2 tablespoons fresh oregano (or one tablespoon dried)
1 tablespoon dried basil
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon pepper
1 tablespoon sugar
Mince shallot and garlic. Dice mushrooms and bell pepper. Heat olive oil in a 12 inch skillet and sauté the shallot until tender, 1-2 minutes. Add bell pepper and mushrooms. Sauté until the mushrooms are tender.
Open the cans of tomatoes. Pour the liquid from the Cento tomatoes into the skillet and hand crush the tomatoes into the sauce. Use a food service glove if you don’t want to yuck up your hands, or you can dice them on a cutting board, but using your hand to crush them is the easiest way. Discard the tough part at the top of the tomato where the stem attaches to the vine. This won’t get tender during cooking and no one wants to bite into the stem part. Add the tomato sauce, red wine and the rest of the seasonings. Bring to a simmer over low heat and gently bubble for about an hour. 45 minutes into the cooking process check the seasonings and add more salt, pepper or sugar as needed to suit your taste.
This is a great basic sauce. It is thick enough for any pasta, but loose enough to hydrate dried pasta in lasagna.
To assemble a lasagna:
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Spray a loaf pan with non-stick cooking spray and set aside.
2 cups pasta sauce (see Connie’s recipe above. Use more or less as your taste suits)
5-6 “Culinary Tours” Lasagna sheets (no need to pre-boil these). If you can’t find this pasta, any no-boil pasta will work.
4 ounces of cottage cheese – drained
4 ounces of shredded mozzarella cheese
2 ounces of shredded parmesan cheese
Heat the pasta sauce (if it has been refrigerated or frozen. Place a thin layer of sauce on the bottom of a loaf pan which has been treated with non-stick cooking spray.
Arrange a layer of noodles on the bottom of the pan (the lasagna sheets break apart easily so you can fit the noodles to the pan.)
Add a layer of sauce and a layer of cheese. Repeat the layering noodles, sauce and cheese, in that order, 2 more times. Cover the loaf pan with aluminum foil and bake at 375 degrees for 45 minutes. Remove the foil and bake an additional 10-15 minutes to brown the cheese. Remove the lasagna from the oven and let sit at room temperature for 15 minutes before slicing and serving.
Note: you can use meat in the sauce if you want, but adding meat also increases the volume of the sauce, so you may only get 2 layers in the loaf pan, depending on how large the chunks of meat are in the sauce.