Hey, y’all! Today I figured we would tackle something a little more difficult than breakfast, and it is also a dish that many people don’t even like taking the time to prepare in a sticks & bricks. Yup, I am talking about lasagna.
Now hang on just a second. It doesn’t have to take all day to make a decent sauce, and now you don’t even have to boil and try to handle the warm, wet lasagna noodles. So grab an adult beverage, find a comfy seat, and read along for a little bit. This won’t take long.
The Sauce; or is it Gravy?
We are going to clear this up right now, as people have different ideas of what to call that slightly sweet red stuff that Americans really enjoy putting on pasta. If the sauce is meat-based, meaning it was made starting out by using some form of meat (or other animal products, like bones) then it is gravy. If not, it is sauce. Pretty simple, right? Now that we have that out of the way, we are going to make a meat sauce. Don’t get confused. You will be just fine.
I don’t want to scare anyone off, so we will not be making a sauce from scratch. If you are experienced in making your own, go right ahead. I will not begrudge you that, but for most people they want a quicker version to put together for the family meal.
Since I mentioned that, I have to make some assumptions here. For the most part, the people that we have met while living full time in an RV are couples. Therefore, a lot of my recipes will make enough for two people and usually some leftovers for at least another meal or so. If you are living with two teenagers, you will obviously want to triple the recipes to make sure you have enough to feed the hungry horde.
OK. For the sauce, I use one jar of the store-bought stuff. Keep it simple; or get the garlic one; or go all out and go for the veggie supreme. I don’t really care. That is completely up to your tastes and what your family likes. Personally, I like one with mushrooms (I used to buy a big name brand one, but found a local sauce that is just as good and is only 99 cents per jar), and then I add whatever else I want to along the way. You could also add a jar of diced tomatoes (or even crushed) to make the sauce chunkier and add a bit of volume. Another option is adding a small jar or two of canned tomatoes and diced peppers. You know, the little ones that start with an “R.”
Add the sauce to a pot, however big you might need. I travel with a one-quart and a three-quart. I rarely need anything larger than that. I then throw in three cloves of garlic, sliced paper thin (You have seen Goodfellas, right?), or you can mince it (use the pre-minced type and toss in three teaspoons if you aren’t big on the prep work), a teaspoon of freshly ground black pepper*, a pinch of white pepper, a tablespoon of oregano, teaspoon of parsley, teaspoon of crushed red pepper, and a pinch of Himalayan pink salt** (Yeah, you can use table salt, but it isn’t good for you and tastes like crap compared to pink salt).
Start here. Let it heat up a bit at a simmer and then taste it. If you don’t like it, change it. Add more garlic (you can never have too much garlic). Add some thyme, sage, basil, or cilantro to get a more “green,” or “fresh,” flavor out of it. Add some cayenne and turn it into a diavolo sauce. Keep tasting it as it slowly cooks down and make it yours. Let this simmer the whole time you are making everything else. Make sure the burner is as low as it can go to keep everything warm but not high enough to burn anything. Stir it occasionally as you are working on the other ingredients. Don’t stress over it. Making sauce is supposed to be relaxing and enjoyable as the aromas of all the ingredients fill the RV. Imagine the look on your spouse’s face when they come home from work, open the door, and climb the steps into your rig.
While the sauce simmers and all the ingredients are marrying together, make the meat mixture. I like to use a pound of hot Italian pork sausage, but it is up to you. You can use straight hamburger, venison burger, half burger half sausage: mild, hot, Italian, sage, whatever. What do YOU like? Whatever it is, brown it up in some extra virgin olive oil (EVOO) or whatever oil you have on hand. When it is cooked (I like to leave mine just a little pink in the middle because it will finish cooking in the sauce), place it in a colander over a mixing bowl or some other container so you can throw out the grease instead of washing it into your grey tank. Forget about it and move on to the cheese blend.
(At this point you should preheat the oven to 375. If it is a convection oven, I would recommend 385-390, but you should know how your oven works at this point, right?)
Hint: You can also use the same ratios to make meatballs. Want the recipe? Send me an email or contact me on Facebook.
Just like everything else, people have their own tastes in cheese. If you haven’t figured this out yet, I am trying to get you to make what YOU like, and I am just giving you a rough path to follow. Start with a 15oz container of Ricotta, 1 cup grated or shredded Parmesan, 1 cup shredded Asiago (totally not needed, but I like the tang from it), 1tsp Himalayan pink salt, and 1tsp black pepper. Mix gently in a non-reactive bowl by hand. If you want to make things easier on yourself, get a box of nitrile gloves to keep in the kitchen. This greatly reduces the number of times you need to wash your hands while preparing a meal, and makes it seem like less work.
At this point, add the meat mixture to the sauce and give it another good stir. Or don’t. You can use the meat mix as a separate layer if you want.
Construction and Cook Time
Get yourself a pan that will fit in your oven. I have a small convection/microwave, so I found a pan in a local Goodwill that is 9-1/2” square. Cover the bottom with sauce so the noodles don’t stick. Then cover the sauce with noodles. I use No-Boil noodles. You can get them wavy or flat, it is your choice. Then more sauce (then meat) and a layer of the cheese mixture. Then noodles, then sauce (then meat), then cheese. You get the idea. Repeat until the pan is full, then top with some more shredded Parmesan. Cover it with foil and place the pan in the oven and set the timer for 25 minutes. After that remove the foil and cook for another 5 minutes to brown the top. Remove from the oven and let sit for 15 minutes or so to firm up a bit before cutting into gigantic squares (or whatever size pieces you want). While it is resting, you can bake up some garlic bread. No, seriously, this isn’t that hard either.
When serving, I like to sprinkle a little more Parmesan***, or whatever hard cheese I have laying around, over the top and add some greenery: basil, oregano, parsley, cilantro. Any of that will do. It doesn’t take much to make something look a little prettier. We eat with our eyes first, don’tchaknow.
1 jar spaghetti sauce
3 cloves garlic- sliced paper thin or minced
1tsp freshly ground black pepper
Pinch of white pepper
1tsp crushed red pepper
Pinch of Himalayan pink salt
(Anything else you want to add to the sauce)
1 pound sausage/burger (your choice as far the mix goes)
1Tbsp Extra virgin olive oil (or more if you feel like you need it)
15 ounces ricotta
1 cup grated or shredded Parmesan
1 cup shredded asiago (or whatever cheese you like)
1tsp Himalayan pink salt
1tsp freshly ground black pepper
Garlic Bread Recipe:
1 cup butter
1Tbsp minced garlic
1Tbsp garlic powder
1/4 cup grated Parmesan
1/2tsp black pepper (Yes, freshly ground!!)
In a sauce pan, melt the butter and then add the minced garlic. When the garlic turns aromatic, add the rest of the ingredients. Sauté over low heat for 5 minutes. Use a spoon or something to ladle the melted goodness over sliced French bread, or whatever bread you like to use. Stick them in the oven at around 400 degrees for 10 minutes or until toasty. Serve with the lasagna immediately. (Even white bread done in a toaster will work. Just add the garlic butter afterward and toss in the oven for 3 minutes to warm everything up together.)
* Please stop using store-bought, pre-ground black pepper. It is mostly filler and contains little flavor and almost zero positive properties. Buy whole peppercorns (I like using a 4 peppercorn blend) and a cheap coffee grinder. Only use the grinder for your pepper. It takes an extra minute and a half to grind your own. Do it. Also, buy a hand grinder for your tabletop.
**Stop using that iodized, bleached crap. Get some medium grind salt and a tabletop hand grinder for that as well. You will use less salt and get more flavor from it, as well as the benefits of all the minerals that pink salt provides. Buy it in bulk and save a lot of money.
*** If you have that powdered “parmesan” that comes in a plastic can in your fridge, throw it out. Did you know that a lot of that is wood pulp? Yup. Look it up. Spend an extra few bucks and buy real cheese. Trust me, it’s worth it.