There are some meals that just scream comfort – we’ve all been eating them since we were children, and they’re just a like a big warm hug when we eat them. Spaghetti with meat sauce. Lasagna. Beef chili. They are classics – classics, that make a big mess when you cook them! They often require a lot of ingredients, several pots and pans, and sometimes it can feel like too much effort to make these hearty but soul-warming dishes. So, if you often think of making these classics and you just feel too lazy to go through the effort, I’m with you! But, fear not – I have the solution: Dinner on the Double!
Dinner on the double is a simple concept: make these messy, multi-ingredient meals, doubled! My recipe for Lasagna is not only delicious, but it makes 2, full size lasagna’s; one for the night you make it, and the other to freeze for another time. What’s more? Each lasagna has 8 servings, meaning this recipe will feed either 16 people, or a family of 4 for 4 nights total! So, while there may be a few steps and a messy kitchen at the end, you’ll be comforted at the end of a cooking day knowing you’ve got 4 meals for your family all ready to go. Pop some garlic bread in the oven, assemble a salad kit from the bag (no judgement, I grew up eating them and I think they serve their purpose), and you’ll have 4 easy dinner nights in your future! And of course, after you finish making this (or during, or both), a pour a nice glass of wine.
When I’m making big-batch recipes with a lot of ingredients and steps, one of the best tips I have is to split the process over two days. When it comes to Lasagna or Spaghetti, the sauce is always better the next day anyway; but, by making the sauce one day, and assembling the Lasagna the next, it doesn’t seem like such a big job. Often in the winter when it’s a cold and dreary weekend, we’ll have a “freezer cooking marathon,” and we’ll stock our freezer with all sorts of premade meals for the months ahead – and, Lasagna is ALWAYS on the list! And, if you’re a parent (which thank goodness we aren’t), your kids will love eating this hearty and tasty meal. Bon appetit!
2 lbs lean ground beef
2 large yellow onions, diced
6 stalks celery, diced with leaves
2 tbsp dried oregano
1 tbsp dried basil
2 bay leaves
6 cloves fresh garlic, minced
1 1/2 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp red chili flakes (optional)
2 tbsp tomato paste
2, 28 oz cans crushed San Marzano Tomatoes
1-4 tbsp sugar, to taste
Salt & Pepper
1 lb lasagna noodles – I know it’s an extra step, but I really prefer the ones you have to boil
2, 32 oz containers Ricotta Cheese
4 extra large eggs
1.5 cups fresh parsley, chopped
32 oz grated mozzarella cheese
2.5 cups grated parmesan cheese
Heat a large dutch oven over medium to medium high heat. When the pan is hot, add the ground beef. Add 2 tsp of kosher salt and cook the beef until it’s browned and cooked through. Remove the beef from the pan and add 2 tbsp olive oil. Add the onions and the celery to the pan, and cook 5-7 minutes until translucent but still crisp. Add the garlic and tomato paste and cook for 1-2 minutes to cook out the raw flavor of the tomato paste. Add the bay leaves, chili flakes, oregano and basil and cook for a minute or two to release the oils. Carefully add the tomatoes and give the mixture a big stir. Add the sugar, 1 tbsp at a time just until the tanginess of the tomatoes is gone. Check for seasonings and adjust as necessary. Cook the sauce on a low simmer for 30-45 minutes to let the flavors develop. Remove the bay leaves.
If you’re making this a 2-day effort, once the sauce is cooked, cool and refrigerate overnight.
When ready to assemble the lasagna, bring the sauce to room temperature and bring a separate large pot to a boil with lots of salt. Cook the lasagna noodles according to the box directions. As mentioned above, I really prefer the boil noodles. I think the “no-boil” ones take too much moisture from the lasagna and leave it dry. When cooked completely, drain and lay the lasagna noodles on sheets of parchment paper so they don’t stick while they cool.
Meanwhile, in a large bowl, mix together the ricotta, eggs, chopped parsley and 2 cups of the parmesan cheese. set aside.
Spray two large lasagna pans heavily with cooking spray. If you’re planning to freeze one or both, I recommend the disposable aluminum ones. Scoop a small amount of sauce into the bottom of each pan and spread to just coat the bottom. Next, add a flat layer of noodles, usually 3-4 depending on the size of the dish. For EACH lasagna, you’ll need 3 layers of sauce, 3 layers of noodles and 2 layers of ricotta mixture. It may be helpful to divide the sauce and ricotta into two parts before you start so you can portion evenly.
On top of the first layer of noodles, spoon and spread a layer of ricotta cheese. Top with another layer of sauce, then noodles, then ricotta for each lasagna, spreading each layer evenly across the lasagna. Top the final layer of ricotta with the remaining sauce and spread to coat. Cover the top layer of each lasagna with half the mozzarella cheese and half the remaining parmesan.
Cover each lasagna tightly with foil. If you’re planning to freeze one or both, they should last for 2-3 months in the freezer. Remember, lasagna should be cooked from room temperature. A frozen lasagna will take approximately 2 days to thaw in the fridge, or about 8-10 hours on the counter.
When ready to serve, preheat an oven to 400F. Place the lasagna on a baking sheet in case it bubbles over. Cook the lasagna (from room temperature) for 45 minutes covered, then remove the foil and cook for another 15 minutes until the lasagna is bubbling an heated through. If you like browned/crispy cheese, feel free to turn the broiler on for the last 3-5 minutes, but watch it closely so it doesn’t burn!
When the lasagna is cooked, remove from the oven and let it sit uncovered for 10 minutes. This will allow the lasagna to cool slightly and it won’t be as runny when you cut into it. Slice into big squares and serve immediately with garlic bread, salad and of course – WINE! I hope you enjoy this recipe as much as we do! Enjoy!