One of the few pleasures in life is comfort food and let me tell you, there are many things that you’ll want to have in your freezer that is ready and waiting to receive comfort. Normally, when you think of frozen foods you get this mental image of some overpriced Stouffer’s meat lasagna ready-made meals. Well, I’ve thought well ahead of that and have a better idea that will give those cold nights more hearty warmth with a real home cooking appeal.
Why Lasagna is the perfect comfort food?
If you’ve grown up in a home where lasagna was the typical dish that was served on select nights, you’ll know that it’s always going to return you back to the days of warm and fuzzy memories. If you’ve ever made lasagna for yourself, it’s also a wonder how our mothers would spend so much time preparing this decadent multi-layered dish of gooey goodness. And believe me when I say that lasagna is not that hard to prepare…
Provided you have some essential kitchen accessories, it’s a cinch to make this dish ahead of time and even freeze it so you can enjoy that fresh flavor nearly at any time of the year. Now, this recipe is not your average lasagna but it contains all of the classic ingredients that I like but there are some important tips I want to let you know about if you want to make some slight modifications along the way.
The real reason is that those intricate layers it what sells this recipe right from the start so you really don’t want to undercut the ingredients at all costs. Then again, avoid making the mistake that a lot of newbie home cooks make by substituting the sauce with off-the-shelf sauces. This just doesn’t cut it in my opinion and makes your lasagna taste like the ones you buy at the store.
I would like to think that a little bit of time taken to make your sauce fresh will give you more reason to have that comforting flavor explode in your mouth. Then again, anything fresh that goes into your recipe always has a habit of doing just that. Just hear me out and see why the ingredients I’m listing here are just as classic when it comes to making lasagna taste as good as you might have remembered.
What makes lasagna so iconic?
Aside from the sauce, you want just the right amount of zing and spice to help make the flavors pop. I’m using shallots and red pepper flakes to add a specific amount of bite that seems to balance the garlic. What really adds a whole layer of flavor is adding shredded carrot to give a more authentic flavor to brighten the sauce and smooth out the tart of your organic tomatoes. The real trick is simmering the sauce to let it thicken up just right.
The next step is cooking your meat which I have to stress is important to drain your fats once these are cooked. Let your meat settle for a bit before going to the next step of adding this to your sauce. As this is added, the flavors have just enough time to marinate but not totally overcook, especially with adding your parsley to the meat and sauce mixture. I have to stress again that your cheese mixture is the second component that marries the meat mixture.
Without saying, ricotta and mozzarella cheese are pretty traditional but you can try substituting these for the low-fat versions if you’re worried about extra calories. Lasagna is the poster child for weight gain if you’re not too careful on how much or how often you eat it. But once you’ve layered everything together, it simply turns any humdrum night into a feast for the senses.
Once you’re done you can immediately cook your lasagna right away and eat it. A little tip I would like to add is freezing your uncooked lasagna in a plastic container. You’ll have better results if you vacuum-seal this to keep freezer burn from ruining all of those flavors you love so much. This way you can defrost this anytime to enjoy fresher flavors that taste as they did when you made this ahead of time.
Meat Lasagna | Freezing Comfort Food
I just realized the time is here for frozen food. But please don’t misunderstand me. I’m not talking about hitting up the freezer aisle at the supermarket. I would rather eat a bowlful of glass. I’m referring to cooking a lovely meal at home and freezing it to enjoy at a later date.
Perhaps you already freeze homemade meals on a regular basis in order to have food on hand for those cold nights when you’re under the weather. If you do, I am remarkably impressed.
I am not adept at picking up new skills and, therefore, I am taking action now. I am 38 weeks pregnant and I like food a whole lot. I do not intend to starve after the birth of my little bun. She could be here at any time and I hope to have some food on hand for our little family to feast upon as she dazzles and perplexes us.
The first thought I had in this respect was, of course, comfort food. And, what could be more appropriate than lasagna? I can think of no better option because it’s wholesome, delicious, and freezes like a dream. I have a favorite recipe from the New Basics Cookbook, which I use on all sorts of occasions to comfort sick friends and others going through difficult times. It is a handy thing to have in your repertoire.
Of course, I don’t really stick to the recipe. I have my own spin, which I’ll share with you today. I think you’ll like it a lot. I also think that it might come in handy for you. It’s a good idea to be prepared. After all, they are predicting a harsh winter. Will Amazon Fresh be able to drive through the snow if you can’t? I wonder.
I’m not taking my chances. I’m too hungry for that.
- 13 × 9 baking dish
- 4 Tblsp. olive oil
- 1 lb Lean ground beef
- 1 Shallot or spanish onion, diced
- 2 Cloves garlic, thinly sliced
- 1 Tsp. Red pepper flakes
- 1 Tblsp Fresh thyme, chopped
- 1 Carrot, finely shredded
- 1 Can Organic diced tomatoes 28 oz.
- 4 Tblsp. Chopped parsley
- 3 and 1/2 Cup Ricotta cheese
- 1 Cup Chopped cooked spinach, well drained
- 1/4 Cup Freshly grated Parmesan cheese
- 1 Tblsp Dried oregano
- 3/4 Tsp Nutmeg
- Freshly ground pepper, sea salt to taste
- 3 Cups Grated mozzarella cheese
- 8 Lasagna noodles, cooked al dente
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
- Heat 2 tblsp. of oil in a sauce pan. Add the shallots and red pepper flakes and cook until the shallots are translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the carrot, thyme, and garlic. Cook for an additional 2 minutes. Add the tomatoes and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and cook for about 25 minutes over low heat. Season with salt.
- Heat the remaining oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add the beef, crumbling it into the skillet. Cook, stirring occasionally, until it is browned. Drain, and set aside.
- Add the beef and half of the parsley to the tomato sauce and cook over medium heat for 5 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat.
- In a mixing bowl, combine the ricotta, spinach, remaining parsley, oregano, nutmeg, parmesan, and black pepper. Stir well.
- Using a 13 x9 baking dish, pour 1 and 1/2 cups of tomato sauce across the bottom. Arrange 4 noodles on top of the sauce. Add half the ricotta and sprinkle with 1 cup mozzarella over top. Repeat layer. Top the remaining layer with just 1 cup of sauce and the remaining cup of mozzarella. Wrap the top in foil. Bake for 45 minutes. Remove foil. Bake for an additional 18 minutes at same temperature. At the very end with just approximately 2 minutes to go, turn the boiler onto high. Bake for an additional 2 minutes in order to brown the cheese on top.
- Let sit for 10 minutes before serving. Enjoy it right away or freeze it for a special occasion….