Main Dish: Lasagna - Holiday Meal Planning

Last week, we shared a main dish for Christmas dinner that would have all the carnivores salivating. Beef Tenderloin, as traditional and tasty as it is, is nothing compared to the feast we Italians have. Or at least my Italian family. Traditionally, we have homemade raviolis that we prepare in an assembly line style a few weeks prior to Christmas. If your family isn't as large as mine or you can't get enough volunteers to whip up over a hundred raviolis, we have the easy version for you. Lasagna! Think about it. Lasagna is basically just one big ravioli only you're not restricted to just meat or cheese! You have them both. If there are vegetarians in your life, skip the meat and stick with the cheese. It's just as delicious and a bit creamier. 

Lasagna is one of those comfort foods that instantly takes me back home. Whether I'm ordering it in a restaurant or eating my own made at home, it has a comforting and nostalgic feeling that makes me want to be a kid again. Kind of like Christmas which is why these two pair together perfectly. One dish of Lasagna can serve several people and it prepares well in advance. So not only does this main dish work for a large crowd, it has the potential to be a very easy task the day of. I don't trust anyone who doesn't love a good lasagna. Make this on Christmas Day and everyone will love it. 

1 package Lasagna Noodles
2 - 14 oz. cans of Petite Diced Tomatoes
2 - 8 oz. cans of Tomato Sauce (or 2 cups of Passata) 
1 tbsp. Dried Basil
1 tsp. Dried Parsley
1 tsp. Dried Oregano
2 Garlic Cloves, minced
2 cups Ricotta Cheese
8 oz. Frozen Spinach
1 lb. Ground Beef
Mozzarella Cheese

1. Prepare your sauce. In a saucepan, mix together petite diced tomatoes, tomato sauce, basil, parsley, oregano, and garlic cloves. Let simmer for 30 - 45 minutes. 

2. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Drop the pasta and cook until a little firmer than al dente. The noodles need to be a little undercooked because they'll continue cooking in the oven.

3. Prepare your fillings. In a skillet, brown your beef. Season simply with salt and pepper and break up really small. Once finished browning, remove to a plate lined with paper towels to drain the grease. In a bowl, mix together the ricotta and spinach. Set aside.

4. Assemble your lasagna. In a baking dish or lasagna pan, spread a thin layer of the sauce at the bottom. Layer your cooked noodles to completely cover the bottom. Add to the noodles another thin layer of sauce and follow with a layer of the spinach and cheese mixture. Add another layer of noodles, a layer of sauce followed by half of the meat mixture. Repeat with the cheese and meat one more time. Add your final layer of noodles, Cover with the remaining sauce. Sprinkle the mozzarella all over the top

Lasagna 6.0.jpg

5. Wrap the dish in tin foil, tenting at the top so it doesn't stick to the cheese. Bake covered for 15 minutes. Remove the tin foil and finish baking for an additional 20-25 minutes until the cheese is melted and started to get golden. Remove from the oven and let set 10-15 minutes before cutting into and serving. 

**Note: if you are pre-assembling your lasagna, wrap it up right after assembling all of the ingredients with plastic wrap followed by tin foil. Refrain from adding the final scoops of sauce and mozzarella to the top to keep the noodles from getting soggy. Refrigerate for up to 3 days, freeze up to 2 weeks in advance. De-thaw in the refrigerator 36-48 hours in advance of cooking. 

What are you serving on Christmas day?