Don’t fear lasagna!

The sloppy gooiness! Comfort food at its best!

When I was a kid, I watched my mom make lasagna. I thought the job looked difficult. Then, when I ate my first wife’s lasagna, observing its many layers, I thought it must be hard to put together. I couldn’t imagine being skilled enough as a cook not to screw it up.

Since retiring, I’ve now made lasagna at least twenty times. I learned how wrong I was in my assessment of it. It turns out that it’s as easy to make as it is delicious!

In retirement, I have the things I needed to be able to get into cooking and gain confidence to learn new things: time and being alone.

Being alone? Yup. I need no one walking in and out to distract me, or to make suggestions or question me. And that Julie of mine—she has a habit of entering the kitchen and stirring stuff. “What are you doing?” “I’m just stirring it.” “I just stirred it! Get out of here!” I love her so.

As for time, I like to allow for an ample amount. I want to be relaxed. Enjoy the process. And if I screw up something, not be rushed to correct it.

I now have a good idea how long most things take to do, stuff like chopping an onion, sautéing a pound of ground beef, and cutting the fat off chicken. For new recipes, I read through the steps and consider the cooking time. Often, they tell you how long it will take to put together—I find all of my recipes online—and then I add enough time to give me confidence. And, it is important to note whether you want to serve the item right away, or whether it needs time to cool or, as with meat, to rest before cutting.

Back to lasagna. The recipe in the next photo is not mine, though I do vary it. That begs the question: how much do you have to change a recipe to be able to claim it as your own?

Here is how I vary the recipe:

  • Cottage cheese comes in a 28 oz. container. I don’t buy two, to get to 32 oz.
  • To make up for that, I use the entire bag of grated mozzarella cheese, which contains 4 cups.
  • I use the entire box of lasagna, regardless how many pieces it contains. Typically, there are 12 noodles.
  • I no longer spread a bit of sauce in the bottom. I cover the bottom with a thin layer of water.

Tip 1: I use oven-ready noodles. I can’t recommend them enough. Once—only once—did I use noodles that had to first be boiled. What a mess they were to work with.

Tip 2: I often put it together ahead of time, so I have time to work on other parts of the meal. To allow for it having cooled in the fridge, I put it into the oven for the final five minutes the oven is preheating.

It takes me about 40 minutes to ready this lasagna for baking.

When mixing the mozzarella with the cottage cheese, I throw in about 2/3 of the bag, or nearly 3 cups. Mix well! When you think you mixed it enough, don’t stop. You want to make sure you get the eggs thoroughly blended. The same goes for making meatloaf, or any recipe where you have lots of ingredients.

This is how I allow for my box of lasagna having more than nine noodles:

Don’t worry about gaps and overlaps. You never notice them when eating.
Don’t fuss with covering every inch. As it bakes, everything will even out.
I eyeball how much cheese and sauce for each layer. If one layer is thicker or thinner, you won’t notice—or care!—when eating.
I switch the noodle pattern as I go.
The side pieces having been broken for length. I save every bit for the top.
Don’t forget the water! It is essential in keeping everything moist.
Be sure to cover it for the first 45 minutes.
My daughter and granddaughter are huge fans.
As are my grandson and the wide-mouthed Julie.

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