I always feel overwhelmed looking through Mexican or Asian restaurants’ menu items. So many choices yet I don’t have the slightest idea what they are. Mostly, I order the same thing over and over. Only after many, many visits to mentioned restaurants did I realize that majority of those dishes use the same ingredients but offer different presentation. You know, like taco and burrito – exact the same ingredients but in taco, tortilla is folded and in burrito, it is wrapped. To be clear, I love me some Mexican food; but folding my tortilla in different ways, changing the name and making it a menu item is not exactly my idea of offering a variety of dishes. Asian menu gives me anxiety, but it hasn’t stopped me from eating Asian. 🙂 Their secret is to add one ingredient to the dish and make it a new menu item. You can either have spicy beef or sesame beef (just add sesame seeds to the spicy beef). My trick is to find that one extra ingredient to make a difference or that one tortilla folded in a special way that will make my day. Then I won’t have to worry about the rest of the menu.
So, what about lasagna? Have you noticed that most classic Italian dishes consist of pasta, tomato-y sauce and ground beef? The trick is in the pasta. Oh the varieties! And who doesn’t love Italian, right? I worked with an Italian girl while I lived in Germany and she told me how to make Sicilian lasagna. Silvana swore this recipe is her Sicilian grandmother’s secret recipe. Not so secret anymore. Is it authentic? I haven’t got a clue! But I know this: it is the best lasagna I ever had! The surprise is in the middle layer: spinach, hard boiled eggs and Italian genoa salami. You read that right. Those three ingredients put this lasagna above any other. Oh, and cheese of course, because a good cheese makes all the difference. You can still make your favorite lasagna and just add this layer. I follow my daughter’s basic lasagna recipe that I love. When did she become so good at cooking that I take her recipes? It wasn’t that long ago she prepared “scrambled eggs on a toast” without cooking the eggs first because the recipe didn’t instruct her to cook them (giggle). True story!
1 pound ground Beef
1 (15 oz.) container Ricotta Cheese
½ cup Parmigiano Reggiano or Pecorino Romano Cheese, grated
3 cups shredded Mozarella, divided
3 Eggs, hard boiled
1 Egg, beaten
3 cups Spinach, chopped
1 cup Cottage Cheese
1 cup chopped Genoa Salami
1 Garlic clove, minced
1 (24 oz.) jar Spaghetti Sauce (or homemade sauce)
¼ cup fresh Parsley, chopped
1 cup Water
1 tablespoon Olive Oil
15 Lasagna Noodles, uncooked
Salt and pepper
Brown the meat in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Hard boil 3 large eggs. Don’t know how? Place eggs in a heavy-bottomed saucepan and cover them with cold water making sure the tops of eggs are covered by at least an inch of water. Add 1 teaspoon of salt to the water. If your eggs crack, salt will prevent them from leaking out. Bring to a boil and cook for 7-10 minutes. Run cold water over boiled eggs until they’re completely cool. Why do this? Because it makes peeling eggs a breeze.
Meanwhile, mix 1 ½ cups mozzarella, ricotta, ¼ cup parmigiano reggiano, egg and parsley until blended.
Drain meat and return to skillet. Stir in spaghetti sauce. Add water to the empty sauce jar; cover with lid and shake well. Add to the meat mixture. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
Heat Olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add minced garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add chopped spinach and heat through until just wilted. Set aside.
Heat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
Spread 1 cup meat sauce onto bottom of 13×9-inch baking sheet. Top with layers of 3 lasagna noodles. Don’t worry if they don’t cover the entire sheet. Top the noodles with 1/3 of the ricotta cheese mixture and 1 cup meat sauce. Repeat the same layer once again. For the third layer, top the noodles with cottage cheese, spread with spinach, salami and sliced eggs. Add one more meat layer. Cover the top noodle layer with remaining meat sauce and cheeses (1 ½ cup mozzarella and ¼ cup parmigiano reggiano). Cover with foil sprayed with cooking spray.
Bake 1 hour or until heated through, removing foil after 45 minutes. Before cutting, let stand 15 minutes. There you have it. Thank you Silvana!
Jas is a cheesecake addict and the author of Balkan Comfort Food cookbook available on Amazon. You can download a free excerpt of the book when you subscribe to All that's Jas newsletter updates. To learn more about Jas visit her About page.
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