October 02, 2010

Jeffrey's Latest Invention

Zesty Five-Cheese Lasagna
I've cooked a lot of lasagna over the years, using a variety of recipes, but last night I decided to finally try my hand at creating an original lasagna recipe.  In doing so, I borrowed some elements of various other lasagna recipes I've made and encountered over the years and combined those with a few tricks of my own.  We are quite pleased with the result.

The first trick to this recipe is something I learned from Indian cooking:  to intensify the effect of spices, cook them for a bit before adding any liquid.  In this case, I add the spices after cooking the meat, onions and garlic and draining off any grease.  Next, I add the tomato paste and cook that for a bit before adding the tomato sauce and whole tomatoes.  This serves to sharpen the effect of the tomato paste, allowing the tomato flavor to hold its own with the sausage/beef mix, the spices and the cheeses.

The other trick is one I carried over from our spaghetti sauce recipe (http://jeffreyandjulicook.blogspot.com/2010/09/spaghetti-time.html).  I added a little bit of cheddar cheese to the sauce before assembling the lasagna.  This serves to thicken the sauce a tiny bit while also adding a bit of flavor.  The result is a heartier sauce.

Give it a try and let us know what you think.

Zesty Five-Cheese Lasagna

yield = 12 servings

1     pound lasagna noodles
1     pound ground beef
1     pound Italian sausage
1     large onion, minced
1     tablespoon garlic, minced
3     teaspoons dried basil
1 1/2 teaspoons dried oregano
1/2   teaspoon fennel seed
1/2   teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1/2   teaspoon black pepper, freshly ground
1/8   teaspoon dried thyme
1     6 oz. can tomato paste
1    15 oz. can tomato sauce
1    28 oz. can whole tomatoes
1/2  teaspoon salt
2     tablespoons sharp cheddar, grated
15   oz. ricotta cheese
8     oz. provolone cheese (about 10 slices)
1    pound mozzarella cheese, shredded
1/2  cup Parmesan cheese, grated

Fill a large stock pot 2/3 full with water and bring to boil.  Add the lasagna noodles and cook as directed; drain, plunge the pasta into cold water, drain again and set it aside.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Brown the ground beef and Italian sausage in a large Dutch oven over medium-low heat.   When the meat is nearly done, add the onions and garlic and cook, stirring often, for about 10 minutes.  Drain grease from the meat and onion mixture, then add the basil, oregano, fennel seed, black pepper, red pepper flakes and thyme. Cook, stirring often, until fragrant, about three minutes.  Add the tomato paste, stir in and cook, stirring occasionally, for 3 minutes.  Add the tomato sauce, whole tomatoes and salt; bring to a boil and let simmer 20 minutes, stirring often and using the edge of the spoon to break up the tomatoes.   Add cheddar cheese and stir in until it is melted and incorporated into the sauce.  Slice the provolone cheese into strips.

Prepare a 9 x 13 casserole dish with non-stick spray.  Dip three of the lasagna noodles into the meat sauce to wet them, and arrange them as a layer in the dish.  Cover with a bit of the meat sauce.  Add some strips of provolone, interspersing them with dollops of the ricotta, then top with a bit of Parmesan and some mozzarella.  Add three more layers of noodles, sauce and cheeses, then top with a final layer of lasagna noodles, the rest of the meat sauce and some mozzarella and Parmesan. 

Cover with foil and cook 30 minutes.  Remove foil and cook another 30 minutes or until top is browned and sauce is bubbling up along the edges of the dish.  Remove from the oven and allow to cool 10 minutes before serving.


  1. THIS LOOK DELICIOUS! Where was MY zesty five-cheese lasagna when I was living at home?! :)

  2. I hadn't come up with the recipe yet. But remind me next time you're going to be here and I'll make up a batch.