Most of us have had lasagna at some time in our lives, and some of us have even attempted to make it.
To mark Lasagna Day on July 29, some cooks have offered up some original recipes, tips and tricks to make this Italian favourite with a unique East Coast twist.
Kendra Mills is the marketing director of the PEI Potato Board, the industry association for the P.E.I. potato growers.
Mills says the secret to making the best lasagna is “thinking outside of pasta and including potatoes as the layers.”
Sub out the noodles, she says, and instead “try russets or yellow P.E.I. potatoes, as they will hold up the best during cooking.”
Mills also recommends scrubbing the potato skins and leaving them on for extra flavour and nutrition.
But skip the red potatoes, she says, “as they will break down more in the lasagna.”
P.E.I. Potato Lasagna
Prep time: 25 minutes
- 1 lb (500 g) ground beef
- 6 cups (1.5 L) P.E.I. potatoes (peeled and thinly sliced)
- 1 medium onion (chopped)
- 1/2 green pepper (chopped)
- 1.5 cups (375 ml) mushrooms (sliced)
- 2 cloves garlic (minced)
- 3 cups (750 ml) pasta sauce
- 1 tsp (5 ml) oregano (dried)
- 1/2 cup (125 ml) low-fat mozzarella cheese (shredded)
- 3 tbsp (45 ml) parmesan cheese (grated)
- Preheat oven to 375°F (190°C). Brown ground beef with onion, mushrooms, green pepper, and garlic.
- Add pasta sauce and oregano and cook until heated through. Arrange half the potato slices in a greased, 9X13-inch or 3L baking dish. Spread with half the beef mixture, and sprinkle with half the parmesan cheese.
- Layer the remaining potato slices and cover with the rest of the beef mixture.
- Bake covered, until potatoes are tender, approximately 65 minutes. Sprinkle with remaining cheeses and bake uncovered for five more minutes. Let stand for five minutes before serving.Variations: Add grated carrots or chopped broccoli florets to the beef sauce.
From traditional to unusual
Bonita Hussey, a home chef, co-owner, and director of Bonita’s Kitchen in Spaniard’s Bay, N.L., has three affordable and interesting lasagna meals.
“Making homemade meals at home can be fun and tasty. Don’t waste food, turn it into another meal, a different meal, and your family will love it,” she says.
Hussey makes her homemade lasagna with homemade lasagna noodles, which she says “makes this lasagna so tasty and affordable.”
Her secret ingredient? Shredded carrots!
“Having the noodles and ground beef cooked before layering the meal helps speed up cooking time,” says Hussey.
She also does a twist on the usual with a leftover-inspired meatloaf lasagna that’s baked in small, cast iron pans or a pan of choice.
“This recipe is a spin on leftover meatloaf turned into a new meal to save on waste and make it interesting and very tasty,” she says.
She says this recipe is also designed for personal-sized meatloaf lasagna dishes.
Hussey’s lasagna roll-ups are a spin on a cabbage roll recipe. Instead of using cabbage leaves, use lasagna noodles.
“(It’s) a very affordable meal and makes good leftovers,” she adds.
Like her homemade lasagna, Hussey also uses her favourite secret ingredient – shredded carrots.
“Carrots give the recipe a wonderful taste and texture and are also very good for you,” says Hussey.
Bonita’s Homemade Lasagna
Serves: One family
Prep time: 1 hour
- 6 sheets lasagna noodles (freshly made or of choice)
- 1 can or bottle of pasta or tomato sauce
- 5 to 6 cups lean ground beef
- 1 onion (small or medium chopped)
- 1 container cottage cheese
- 2 to 3 cups shredded cheese
- Pepper (pinches as needed)
- Sea salt (pinches for boiling pasta)
- 1 cup crushed tomatoes
- 1 tsp Italian seasoning
- 1 cup grated carrot
- 1 egg (large)
- 2 cloves garlic (crushed or powder)
- 2 cups flour (sifted, extra if needed)
- 2 eggs (large)
- 1/2 tsp sea salt
- 1/2 cup cold water (more if needed)
- Olive oil (pinch)
Method for dough:
- In a large bowl, sift together flour and sea salt, then add eggs and one teaspoon of cold water. Start to mix together with a spoon.
- Use your hand and fold dough towards you and knead at the same time. You may need to add more flour or water while kneading.
- Continue kneading for five to 10 minutes. Wrap in plastic and set aside to rest for 15 to 20 minutes.
- Remove dough from plastic wrap and cut in three pieces. Roll out each piece into a rectangle sheet, cutting away the sides.
- Boil a pot of water. When water comes to a boil, add a pinch of sea salt and olive oil, then add the three sheets of lasagna noodles or one at a time. Let boil for five to six minutes.
- Remove from hot water set aside.
Method for Homemade Lasagna:
- In a large frying pan, add lean ground beef, sea salt, and pepper. Start to fry until it starts to cook.
- Add chopped onions, Italian seasoning and garlic. Continue frying until part brown, then add carrots, one cup crushed tomatoes and tomato sauce.
- Remove from heat.
- Mix together cottage cheese and egg.
- Lightly oil a large glass baking dish or lasagna pan, then add a layer of pasta or tomato sauce, and one or two sheets of lasagna noodles.
- Then add another layer of sauce, small layer cottage cheese, cooked ground beef mixture and layer of shredded cheese. Top with another one or two sheets of lasagna and repeat process in same order. Finish with one or two sheets of lasagna topped with cottage cheese and shredded cheese.
- Bake in a pre-heated 350º oven for 30 minutes or until cheese is golden brown.
- Remove from heat. Let rest for a few minutes, then cut and serve.
- 2 slices cooked meatloaf
- 1 cup pasta sauce
- 1 cup cottage cheese
- 4 pieces lasagna noodles
- 2 slices or shredded mozzarella cheese
- 1/2 tsp black or white pepper
- 1/2 tsp sea salt
- 1 tsp oregano seasoning
- 2 slices tomato
- Olive oil (drizzle as needed)
- Cut cooked meatloaf in slices and place on a plate.
- Start a saucepan boiling half full of water, with a pinch of sea salt and drizzle of olive oil.
- Break lasagna noodles in half. You will need two full noodles per person. Boil until fork tender or partly cooked.
- You will need personal sized dishes to make and bake your lasagna in. (Hussey uses cast iron small frying pans).
- To make your personal-size lasagna dishes, drizzle a drop of olive oil in pan, then a half piece of cooked lasagna noodles, top with pasta sauce just to cover noodle. Then, add a slice of cooked meatloaf, top with cottage cheese, a pinch of sea salt, pepper and oregano. Repeat process, ending with a fresh slice of tomato and oregano seasoning.
- Bake in a pre-heated of 350º for 20 to 30 minutes.
Prep time: 20 minutes
- 12 lasagna Noodles
- 1 or 1 1/2 pounds lean ground beef
- 2 cups steamed rice
- 1 onion (medium)
- 1 or 2 jars pasta sauce
- 1 tsp pepper
- 1 1/2 tsp sea salt
- 1 tsp onion powder
- 1 cup carrot (shredded)
- 1 cup cheese (shredded)
- 1/2 cup parmesan cheese
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 1 Garlic clove (pressed)
- 2 sticks green onion (chopped)
- 1/2 cup cherry tomatoes (wedged)
- Cook lasagna in a boiler of hot water with 1/2 tsp sea salt. Follow the cooking time on box with one minute less.
- Peel and chop onion in small pieces, add olive oil to frying pan then fry lean ground beef on medium heat.
- Add onion, 1/2 tsp sea salt, pepper, pressed garlic and onion powder. Continue frying until cooked.
- In a boiler of hot water with 1/2 tsp sea salt, add rice and cook until fluffy. One cup of uncooked rice with make two or three cups of cooked rice.
- Peel and grate one carrot.
- In a large bowl, add cooked ground beef and onion, steamed rice, shredded carrot and one cup of pasta sauce. Toss together.
- Take one cooked lasagna at a time and add to one side 1/2 cup mixture, slowly roll outward until done. Add to casserole pan and cover in pasta sauce. Continue rolling pasta with meat mixture, placing them side by side in casserole pan.
- Top with pasta sauce, shredded cheese and parmesan cheese (more if needed), tomatoes, and green onion.
- Pre-heat oven to 375ºF and cook for 40 minutes to one hour. Cover pan with foil wrap for the first half-hour, then uncover for the remainder of time until golden brown.
- Serve with more pasta sauce.
Shivani Dhamija founded her Halifax, N.S.-based business Shivani’s Kitchen in 2014. Her premium, hand-made Indian spice blends, frozen meals, and ready-to-use Indian sauces are on the shelves of many retail stores throughout Atlantic Canada and the United States.
Dhamija says her secret to making the best lasagna is that she has invested in a proper lasagna pan.
“I hope you are adding your lasagna sauce to the pan first before you add your lasagna,” she adds.
She has a few other tips and tricks.
“If you have kids like mine who don’t want to have vegetables, you can add veggies to your lasagna, but don’t add them raw, as they usually create a soupy lasagna. So, cook them, and then add them to your lasagna layering,” she says.
Vegetarian Lasagna with Shivani’s Tikka Sauce
- 2 packets of Shivani’s Tikka Sauce
- 1 tbs vegetable oil
- 1 large zucchini (cut into quarter moon slices of 1 cm)
- 50 gm of diced onions
- 25 gm of diced garlic
- 50 gm of cabbage
- 50 gm of broccoli
- 50 gm of cauliflower
- 50 gm of carrots
- 50 ml water
- 40 g grated mozzarella
- 6 lasagna sheets
Béchamel sauce :
- 30 g butter
- 30 g flour
- 400 ml milk
- Preheat the oven to 180°C.
- Heat the oil in a medium-sized pan, add onions and garlic along with a good pinch of salt. Give the pan a stir and cook for five minutes. Add all the vegetables and cook, covered, over medium heat for another five minutes, stirring every now and then.
- Add in Shivani’s Tikka Sauce and 50 ml water.
- Bring to a simmer and cook for another five minutes or until the veggies are soft. Add another splash of water if it is too thick.
- To make the béchamel, heat the butter in a small pan, add the flour and stir constantly for two to three minutes at moderate heat.
- Add the milk, stirring until it has been completely absorbed. Bring to a simmer and cook for one minute. Take off the heat and season with salt and black pepper to taste.
- Build your lasagna in a small baking dish. Start with around one-third of the veggie mix and sauce. Cover with lasagna sheets, add veggies again, then spoon over about one-quarter of the béchamel. Repeat another one or two times (depending on the size of your dish). Finish by covering the top sheets with béchamel and, finally, cheese.
- Place in the oven and bake for 25 minutes – cover with foil.
- Remove your dish from the oven and remove the foil. Place back in oven until cheese is golden.