If you’re back in school, back to work, back in stressland of any sort, you might be craving some sort of soul-fortifying food hug right about now. One of my personal favorite food hugs is a big ol’ pan of lasagna–and not a thin, dainty one, either. It’s got to be tall and stacked through with vegetables, meats, and a ton of cheese. Lasagna is such a childhood classic for many of us who grew up with moms who liked to cook both ground beef and casseroles, yet it’s still adaptable to current tastes, or to current needs to clean out the pantry. It’s also just a beautiful, big pan of goodness, a culinary specimen of theology and geometry. If you like to build things that taste good and heal your soul, you’ll like this.
Theology: It all starts with a simple, unobstructed sizzle of the heavenly flavors of onions, mushrooms, and garlic.
Geometry: if you see some or all of these Greek-ish items in your pantry or fridge, Greek lasagna might be in store for you! Let’s use some to build the sauce.
Theology: after the simmer, all the various earth and animal parts come together to make one big world.
Theology: everything is everything.
Theology: this is a picture of cheese heaven.
Geometry: get to know the properties of space of your baking dish.
Theology: extra cheese is good for the soul.
Geometry: make feta dots on a smooth plane.
Theology: everything is even more everything.
Geometry: small shapes, big shapes. Let’s bake it!
And let’s eat it.
- 2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
- 1 medium onion, diced
- 4 ounces button mushrooms, sliced
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- salt and pepper to taste
- 1 pound ground beef
- 1 pound Italian sausage, casings removed
- 24 ounces pureed tomatoes (or tomato sauce)
- 14 ounces quartered artichoke hearts, drained
- ½ cup pitted kalamata olives, chopped
- ⅓ cup roasted red pepper strips, well-drained
- ½ teaspoon dried oregano
- ½ teaspoon dried basil
- ½ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
- 1 teaspoon dried thyme
- 1 cup chicken or beef stock, or water
- 1 to 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
- 30 ounces ricotta cheese
- 2 eggs, beaten
- ¼ teaspoon ground white pepper (black is fine here)
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
- 8 ounces no-boil lasagna noodles
- 9 thin slices mozzarella
- 9 thin slices provolone
- ⅓ cup feta cheese crumbles
- Preheat the oven to 350. In a large, deep skillet, heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the onions and saute about 8 minutes, until softening. Add the mushrooms and garlic and saute another 5 minutes, until everything is soft and juicy. Season with salt and pepper and remove to a bowl.
- Heat the remaining tablespoon of olive oil in the same skillet over medium heat. Add the sausage and beef, stirring to crumble the sausage well. Cook until no traces of pink remain; drain any fat and discard.
- Add the onion mixture, tomatoes, artichokes, olives, roasted red peppers, oregano, basil, crushed red pepper flakes, and thyme to the beef and sausage in the skillet. Stir well and pour in the stock or water. Heat to a simmer, cover, and cook on low heat for about 15 minutes. Taste and adjust seasoning with balsamic vinegar and salt.
- In a medium bowl, combine ricotta, eggs, white pepper, 1 teaspoon salt, and Parmesan.
- Build the lasagna: In a deep 9 x 13" baking dish, spread 1 cup of tomato sauce. Layer with one-third of the noodles (break them as necessary to fit), ½ the ricotta, 6 slices of cheese (all mozz, all provolone, or a combination), ⅓ of the feta crumbles, and finally, 2 cups of tomato sauce. Repeat this layer one more time.
- For the final layer, position the last of the noodles, then the last of the sauce, then the last slices of mozzarella and provolone. Cover tightly with foil, place dish on a baking sheet (in case there's spillover), and bake for 1 hour. Remove the foil and sprinkle the last of the feta over the top. Bake uncovered for another 10 to 15 minutes. Let stand 10 minutes before serving.