Ahhh lasagna! A family dinner time classic! I mean who doesn't love it? What I love about lasagna is the fully satisfying feeling you get after eating it. You get bits of gooey melted cheese, chunky beefy flavour, the thick tomato sauce with pieces of basil to further heighten the flavour...the list goes on! Another great thing? It can feed crowds of any size, and if you're feeding a small crowd you can always save the leftovers for lunch or dinner the next day. When I made this particular lasagna, I have to admit I was kinda nervous while making it because I hadn't done it in so long! But with this no-fail recipe (with a few minor adjustments of course hehe!) I was able to have the perfect lasagna. Everybody was asking for seconds, need I say more?

Adapted from the "Classic Lasagna recipe" from the Canadian Living Magazine (January 2012). By: Amanda Barnier and The Test Kitchen.

Serves 12

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F

Baking time: about 1 hour

Ingredients:
  • 2 pkgs of fresh whole wheat lasagna noodles (or sub: 12 lasagna noodles) - note: you may not use all of the fresh noodles depending on which brand you get.
  • 1 container of extra smooth ricotta cheese (475 g)
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 good pinch of black ground pepper
  • 2-3 cups blended four Italian cheese mix, pre-shredded (or sub: mozzarella)

Ingredients for Tomato meat Sauce:

  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 onions, diced
  • 1 celery rib, diced
  • 1 carrot, diced
  • 6 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1-1/4 lb lean ground beef
  • 1/3 cup tomato paste (the herbed variety, if available)
  • 2 cans (28 oz) diced tomatoes (use the no salt variety)
  • 1 cup red wine
  • 2 bay leaves (I like to use fresh if available)
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 1/2 tsp ground black pepper
  • 2 tbsp fresh basil, chopped

Tomato Meat Sauce:

1. In a large heavy bottom pot, heat the oil over medium heat. Cook the onions, celery, carrot and garlic until soft, stirring occasionally. Cook for about 5 minutes.

2. Add the beef; breaking it up with the back of wooden spoon, until it has nicely browned and most of the liquid has evaporated. This should take another 5 minutes or so. 

3. Stir in tomato paste. Then add in the tomatoes, wine, bay leaves, oregano and pepper. Put the pot on simmer, stirring occasionally, until the sauce has slightly thickened. This should take about 40 minutes. Stir in the fresh basil. Discard the bay leaves. (You can make the sauce of ahead of course: Just let the sauce cool for 30 minutes; refrigerate in airtight container for up to 3 days.)

4. Meanwhile, in large pot of boiling salted water, cook the noodles for 2 minutes less than the package directions for al dente (with a bite). Drain and arrange noodles in single layer on clean kitchen towels. Note: only do this step if you're using the dry noodles not the fresh.

5. In a small bowl, stir together the ricotta cheese, eggs and fresh pepper.

6. In 13- x 9-inch baking dish, spread 1-1/2 cups of the meat sauce. Arrange noodles over top; sprinkle with half of the shredded cheese. Top with 2-1/2 cups of the meat sauce, noodles, ricotta mixture, noodles, 2-1/2 cups of the meat sauce, noodles, then remaining meat sauce and shredded cheese. Sprinkle with fresh Parmesan cheese. Note: you can make this ahead and just cover/seal with saran wrap and place it into the fridge for up to a couple days.


7. Cover the prepared lasagna baking dish with foil and place it into the oven. Bake in the 375F  oven for about 40-45 minutes. Uncover and bake until cheese is golden, about another 15 minutes. Loosely cover with foil and let it cool for 5-10 minutes before serving. Serve warm with a fresh green salad with oil dressing. Yum!

Substitutes: If you don't like beef you can also use lean ground chicken or turkey or even pork!

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