Lasagna a la Mr. P
If you are new to my humble little blog, I am a teacher, and as such, being a state employee (and mind you, I absolutely LOVE my job!!!), I am paid once a month. With that said, I must budget very carefully. My budget is not overflowing, on the contrary, it is pretty tight. Therefore, if anything - despite planning ahead - big happens, such as renewing car license registration, renewing auto insurance, etc., the remaining disposable income after bills shrinks exponentially. Yikes! With that, I am sometimes bound to creating what I call Pantry Budget Meals. They are not the most exciting, and certainly not the most mundane. They require basic pantry items most of us have stocked in our pantrys for those rainy day meals. I grew up on those. Remember when I blogged about my mom's mini pizzas? Stuff on Fritos? Those were all pantry meals bred out of budget necessity, from way, way back to the old days. This has been on my mind for some time, now, and I have decided to dedicate several recipes to a new series, Pantry Budget Meals. I am starting with what I call "Lasagna a la Mr. P". That's me! This simple, simple lasagna is made up of pantry and freezer items we normally stock up on, and, a fairly new pantry item time-pressed people will really appreciate. It is nothing really new, but it is a time saver and makes the construction of the lasagna far easier. Stay tuned!
Here is my starting line up:
1 pound ground beef
1 large yellow or red onion
3 - 4 cloves garlic, finely chopped or grated
fresh or dried oregano and thyme leaves (fresh, finely chopped), teaspoon of each
1 tablespoon Italian seasoning
1 tablespoon smoked paprika
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes (I like a little heat)
salt and pepper
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil (evoo)
1 box oven ready (no boil) lasagna noodles*
1 28oz can crushed or tomato pure' (I Love Cento!)
1 tablespoon tomato paste
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar (I Love Cento!)
Mozzarella cheese, grated
(I also had much of a mozzarella round leftover so I used it as well)
Preheat the oven to 375-degrees.
In a high-sided sauce pan, add the evoo over medium-high heat. When the oil begins to ripple, add the ground beef, salt and pepper and cook about five minutes, breaking up the meat and allowing it to caramelize (brown). Add the onion and garlic and mix well. Allow to cook, stirring occasionally for about five minutes more. Add the crushed tomatoes, tomato paste and fresh herbs and incorporate well. *It really does not matter if you add the dried Italian seasoning first. The fresh herbs are strong and will balance the flavors already present; the dried herbs are stronger and will finish off the meal aromatically and with great condensed flavor. All good! Bring the mixture to a boil and add the red wine vinegar. Stir vigorously to incorporate and reduce the heat to low. Partially cover for twenty minutes. Afterward, let simmer on low for another fifteen minutes. Actually, the longer you allow the flavors to marry, the better, so IF you have an hour or so to kill, let it simmer low and slow!
IF NOT, let's assemble. Using a 9" by 11" baking pan, spray thoroughly with the non-stick spray. Using a ladle, add a good cup or so of the sauce to the bottom of the pan. Place a layer of the stiff lasagna noodles over the pan. If you have to break it a little, a tip: use a knife or food mover and break at that edge. It is not always a pretty break, but it helps. Recap: layer of sauce, noodles, now, another layer of sauce. Top it generously with grated mozzarella cheese. Place another layer of noodles. Top that with a genrous helping of the sauce. Top that with much more cheese. I placed partial discs of ball mozzarella, looking like half circles, and topped that with a little leftover parmesan cheese.
Showing you the strata, or, layers. Keep going!
Ready for the oven! I have not sprinkled on the parmesan yet, in this photo.
Bake for twenty minutes covered with foil, ten minutes uncovered.
Piping hot, fresh out of the oven! You in???
The great thing is, we made this meal with items we have on hand, most all of them, in our pantry, garden, and refrigerator, freezer! There is absolutely No requirement that you use the exact ingredients I did. To be honest, all of the ingredients, except the fresh herbs, which came from my potted patio garden, were on sale at the grocery store. Each of them! My local grocer happens to carry Cento products, which I love, and I purchase them on sale and stock up! I urge you to do the same. Stock up on sale items you often use for budget-friendly meals, whether out of necessity or not. To just have them at the ready is perfect for those days when you just cannot get out to the store. Use what you have on hand! It is less expensive, overall, and your family will appreciate your cooking from them. Cooking for your family and friends shows just how much you love them.
Thank You, gentle readers, for your generous time! I truly appreciate ALL of you who take the time to view and read my recipes. Immensely grateful!!!