The Best Lasagna Recipe – Lasagna 21
Lasagna recipe, usually not that easy
Lasagna is one recipe that is never in the category of quick and easy. While I don’t mind working in the kitchen and ironically a fan of everything easy, I have to admit that this lasagna recipe asks for more time than usual. Having said that, time is not the main thing that makes this the best you would ever find. Let me tell you why.
What makes this best lasagna recipe indeed the best?
First, fresh vegetables;
second, lean meat;
third, abundance of cheese;
and last, but definitely not the least: the subtle invasion of the aroma of fresh sweet basil leaves!
All of these would make you forget the time and effort you invest in cooking this. From the moment you take the tray out of the oven and the seething aroma invades your nostrils to seeing the mouth-watering strands of mozzarella cheese while you transfer your share onto your plate…
…then today, just today, really just today, no one is on any diet.
How did this vegetable and meat lasagna recipe come about?
I called this recipe Lasagna 21 because of the number of ingredients. However, the counting did not include cooking and olive oils; but included salt and pepper.
So, shall I say 23 or 19?
Do not be discouraged by the number of ingredients. Their combination makes the taste unique and it would make you want to eat more. That is why junking your diet is only for today! No leftovers for tomorrow! No, no, none!
Alright, alright, in case there are left-overs for whatever reason you have. You can keep this in the fridge for 4-5 days, reheat and eat. Let me know if you get to the 3rd, 4th or 5th day. Otherwise, I know why you are silent. 😊
This lasagna recipe was a result of my experimentation and I had repeated this more than once. Who was on a diet? Ah!
I wanted to make sure that the first attempt was not “by chance.” That day, I picked up some basil leaves from the garden (sounds big, but I am referring to a number of pots on the hallway between the door and the gate to the outside world), and I particularly felt some cravings for cheese, so I said to myself “let’s do this.” (Do you want to know how many selves I have? No? Okay.) My love for fresh vegetables was a given, and my desire to hide in the kitchen when I want to be creative gave me the time then. And oooohh-oh-ooh, the result of my devotion; the best layers of vegetable and meat mouth-watering goodness anyone could have ever done. This lasagna recipe is yours, my dear friends.
Something Old, Something New
Something old was added to this recipe as compared to other versions that most of us know: sliced eggplants.
What? Is this a lasagna recipe, or moussaka? One of my kids asked!
Moussaka has its own origin. To put it briefly, it is lasagna in most respects, except for the pasta leaves, which are replaced by sliced fried eggplants. I put them both here (yes, the fried sliced eggplants and the pasta leaves) next to each other. That then, explains the additional amount of time in preparing this. But can you already imagine how marvelous this concoction would produce? Ohhhhh!
I previously shared a recipe for meat and mushroom lasagna. By comparison, that becomes an easier version as it calls for meat, mushroom and the basic other ingredients. If I crave for lasagna that is quick and easy, this is my quick and easy version. Isn’t that a great way of seeing things? Whoever said preparing lasagna was ever easy.
- 12 + 1 lasagna noodles
- 4 large eggplants cut into ¼-inch slices, soaked in water, drained or dried with paper towel
- About half a cup cooking oil half a cup? More or less, probably less
- ½ kg ground beef
- 3 tbsps minced garlic
- 1½ cup chopped onion
- 1 ½ cup fresh tomatoes chopped very finely (I used a mini-chopper)
- 2 medium zucchini cut into 1/2-inch cubes
- 1 medium carrot diced finely
- 1 small yellow bell pepper diced finely
- 1 small green bell pepper diced finely
- 1 ½ cups fresh mushroom sliced
- A bunch, about a cup of fresh basil leaves, chopped
- ½ cup tomato paste
- Salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste
- 1 tsp ground sweet paprika
- 1 ½ cups each of shredded mozzarella and cheddar cheese
- 50 g butter
- 3 tbsps all-purpose flour
- 2 cups fresh milk
- 1 large egg
- 2 tbsps olive oil
- Heat the oven to 350°F. Get a baking pan ready. I used 13 X 9” for this recipe.
- Eggplant. Brush eggplant slices with cooking oil and grill on a pan till light brown on both sides. Keep aside.
- Pasta/Lasagna leaves. Cook lasagna noodles according to package directions – this mostly means cook them in boiling water for 10-12 minutes. Add a teaspoon of salt and about 2 tbsps oil to prevent them from sticking to each other. You may want to cook them by batch and lay them flat on aluminum foil until needed.
- Beef. Sautee ground beef in half a tbsp of minced garlic and 2 tbsps of onions (steal from the same bunch you would use for the vegetables). Keep aside.
- Vegetables and sauce. Sautee garlic and onion in 2 tbsps cooking oil, stirring until translucent. This takes about 5 minutes.
- Add carrots and zucchini then cook stirring for another 2 minutes. Add bell peppers, mushrooms and tomatoes and cook covered (stirring occasionally) for about 5 minutes. Add basil leaves, salt, black pepper and ground sweet paprika. Lower the heat and cook for another 5 minutes. Mix with beef.
- Spread about 4 tbsps of the beef-vegetable mixture onto your baking dish; as thin as possible; this replaces brushing the pan with oil. Layer with lasagna leaves, fried eggplant, beef-vegetable mixture then top with cheddar and mozzarella cheese. Repeat the same layer twice.
- Topping. Over low heat, melt butter in a saucepan (I used the same pot for the sauce). Add flour and stir until mixed. Add milk slowly and mix until smooth and a bit thick. Add scrambled egg and mix again. Pour over lasagna.
- Bake uncovered for 30 minutes. Then turn broil on (350°F). With the oven door ajar, cook lasagna until the topping turns golden, about 3 minutes. Brush with olive oil.