Do you remember a few posts ago I mentioned I was going to tell you all about the meal that, if asked, "What is Nicole's all-time favorite food, ever?", every one of my family would have the exact same answer. Seriously. I used to get cases of the main ingredient for Christmas or my birthday from my Grandma as a teenager, and I wasn't disappointed. I was excited. What was the super awesome, best meal ever??
Noodles & sauce
What is noodles and sauce, you ask? Its noodles, of any shape, size, or form, and plain jane tomato sauce.
It was my version of mac-n-cheese I guess, which as "The World's Pickiest Eater", couldn't possibly pass my lips. Oh, was I ever picky. No chunks, of anything, ever. No onion, mushroom, fresh tomato or chunks of tomato, on anything, ever. Very, VERY few vegetable. Salad, sometimes, but only with iceberg, cheese, croutons, and Western dressing. I was in my 20's before I ever tried ranch dressing, or Caesar dressing, and I JUST got myself to try blue cheese dressing this year. Some of my bad habits linger, I'm afraid, but very, very little. There are things I just got in my head somehow that I didn't like, and so I assume that is the case. It was that way for the poor avacado until last year. Now I'm making up for it by eating my weight in guacamole every possibly chance I get. Seriously. HOW did I live without guacamole for nearly 28 years???
So my noodles & sauce habit was that of legend. I still get teased about it when I make the trek back to Minnesota. 4-5 times a week, at minimum, I'd make this. Back when the 'low-carb diet' wasn't really done, and I thought I was doing pretty good with it because it was relatively low in fat and calories. Back when my aunt Terri told me that someday eating like that would most definitely catch up with me and my skinny, teenage, I'm-never-going-to-be-THAT-kind-of-old-person self laughed at her. Now, 13 years and four kids later, I'm not laughing anymore, but my love for all that is pasta cannot die.
I ate enough noodles & sauce that I became somewhat of an expert on the subtle differences in the many different brands of tomato sauce. Contadina is my favorite for plain old noodles & sauce. I've progressed in my tastes to at least toss some mozzarella on it, but that's about it. I still love it, but I've also learned to love many, many, many other kinds of pasta as well! This is my recipe for lasagna. You can use your favorite spaghetti sauce for this to make it quick and easy, and to tide you over until I post MY homemade, giant-batch, Costco-sized sauce recipe that I make for our family. It makes enough to feed a small army, which I need for my crew.
1 box lasagna noodles
8ish cups spaghetti sauce
15 oz ricotta cheese
8 oz cottage cheese
4 oz parmigiano reggiano
8 oz whole milk mozzarella
16 oz divided in half Italian cheese blend (I used a four cheese blend with mozzarella, romano, parmesan, and one other kind I can't think of off-hand.)
1/2 tsp basil
2 tsp parsley
Start by par boiling the noodles. You only want these JUST on this side of flexible, not even half-way done. There's nothing worse than mushy noodles, and lasagna is an easy one to get over-cooked noodles. While they are par-boiling (set a timer! Don't foget!), mix all the cheese together (except 8 oz of the Italian cheese blend, save that for the very top of the lasagna) well with the eggs, the basil, and the parsley.
When the noodles and par-boiled and drained, place 1 1/2 cups of sauce in the bottom of the 10 x 13 pan. Place a single layer of noodles, slightly overlapped at the edges, in the pan. Put 1/2 of the cheese mixture on the top of them and spread it out evenly. Cover with about 2 cups of sauce and gently spread out.
Repeat the process with noodle, the remaining cheese mix, sauce, then do noodle, sauce, and top it with the remaining 8 oz of Italian cheese blend.
Cover with non-stick foil (make SURE its non-stick, or that you spray it very, very, VERY well with non-stick spray, I've had lasagna disasters before where the entire top layer of cheese comes off with the foil!), and bake in a 325 degree oven for 1 - 1.5 hours. The amount of time it needs to bake will vary depending on if your sauce is hot or not when you put it together. Take the foil off for the last 15 minutes of bake time. Serve with caesar salad and garlic bread.