A few days ago I posted a real quick Macaroni & Cheese recipe, Quick Baked Macaroni And Cheese. Today we are going to use this same approach for Lasagna.
Now I know for the Lasagna purists out there, this is almost something to cause you to ban Help! I Have A Fire In My Kitchen from ever being mentioned again. After all, a good Lasagna, made correctly is often a work of art. But remember, no one has to know how quickly you put this together, nor do they have to know that you did not sweat your guts out in a hot kitchen. And for all you singles out there, it makes a GREAT impression on your date you are cooking for. (Just put away the beeper and cell phone and pay attention to the date at the dinner table!)
O.k. this one we will call the Quick Baked Lasagna, and believe it or not it takes less time then the Quick Baked Macaroni And Cheese!
The first thing you must remember is not to be daunted by the word, lasagna. Whenever that name comes up, coming from New York City as I do, I think of fancy Italian restaurants who make a specialty and a living out of really incredible lasagna dishes. So rule one here - if they can do it, you also can do it!
Let us approach this as a back-to-basics dish. Some of the basic ingredients for Lasagna would be the noodles, the sauce, the cheese. Keep this in mind. This is what is going to serve as the basic staple in almost any lasagna recipe.
When you purchase the pasta - the lasagna noodles - you are looking for a decent brand. They can be regular or spinach. They should though be wide and flat (the edges can have ripples if you like it that way, makes it all a bit prettier too.) But since this is NOT a gourmet recipe, no need to go overboard. Of course, you can use fresh pasta, which will increase the price of this dish exponentially, though the taste is well worth it. Remember though, with fresh pasta, you MUST cut down the exposure to the direct heat, otherwise the pasta itself will burn mighty quickly. (I say that with great, heartrending experience - and a totally lost opportunity for a great romantic dinner!)
- One normal sized box of Lasagna pasta to your taste and likes. There are so many brands out there, your local supermarket probably packs quite a few variations. In our case, if you have no preference, the old "eeny meeny minnie mo" will work.
- A decent jar of tomato sauce. (Of course you can make your own, but remember this is a quick recipe!) Thick sauce. You can even find them with some spices added, e.g. with garlic or basil or both.
- Cheese again to your taste. Parmesan is often used but you can mix and combine. The cheese should be grated or you will have to grate it at home.
- 1-2 Small jars of Sour Cream
- Lets get a bit healthy and add either some Spinach Leaves or Broccoli (or both!) Remember if you get the broccoli fresh or frozen you will have to steam boil it at home for 15 minutes.
- Like Mushrooms? Hell you are in the supermarket right? Go for a few fresh mushrooms to your taste. NO! Don't be lazy! Forget the canned mushrooms. Sheesh! YUCK! Fresh Fresh Fresh!
- 1 Tablespoon Oregano (Preferably fresh and then crushed - but a spice jar will do)
- 1 Tablespoon Basil (Preferably fresh and then crushed - but a spice jar will do)
- Add any type of cheese, spice or veggie you like.
- Olive oil
- A tempered oven-safe dish
- If you are steaming the broccoli a pot and a vegetable steamer.
- If you are grating the cheese a cheese grater or hand grater.
- Cover the bottom of the dish with Olive oil
- If you are steaming the broccoli do it now.
- Take the lasagna noodles and lay out a layer on the bottom of the dish. If they are too long don't worry just break them into pieces you need. Try as well to line the side of the dish. One layer of the lasagna is fine.
- Open a sour cream and pour it on the bottom on top of the first layer. Now add a layer of your tomato/lasagna sauce. Now some spinach leaves and or broccoli. Spinach leaves can be laid out and they will cook. Broccoli should be cut up after it is steamed and sprinkle it in.
- If you decided on the Fresh mushrooms, just cut them into fourths or so, and sprinkle them in.
- Now sprinkle half the the tablespoon of Oregano and/or Basil.
- Now put a layer of cheese. Not a lot. Just sprinkle some here and there.
- If there is a room for another layer of the lasagna, go back to steps 3-7 and repeat.
- Now the final layer of lasagna - and cover that with cheese. You want that cheese to melt into those noodles.
- Cover the dish with Aluminum Foil.
- Into a 350º Fahrenheit oven the dish goes for 45 minutes.
- Set the table - NICELY. Ugh! No plastic. Yikes! What are you doing, going on a picnic?
- Two long colored candles will help. Sheesh...do I have to teach you guys everything??
- Go shower and get dressed for you date and warn the kids that if they show themselves it will be under pain of no allowance for a year. (That should work)
- Take a peek under the foil. It will probably need another 10-15 minutes.
- If you are serving white wine, make sure it is in the fridge and chilled.
- All done? Put the oven on warm (around 50º). Leave the foil on and pray your date is not allergic to cheese!
- Brush your teeth, comb your hair, take a deep breath and go pick up your date.
This can be as simple or as complicated as you desire it to be. Remember always the three basic staples. Cheese, lasagna noodles and good rich tomato sauce. The rest is up to you. This can be swift or if you allow yourself, can have you messing with tons of great ingredients for an hour or so. So take this one to town or do it down and dirty. Oh. I almost forgot. Good luck on your date! (And remember to set the table with napkins.)