Sunday, January 4, 2015

Recipe: Aylmer Lazy Overnight Lean Lasagna

Today is my last day of winter holidays -- and my last day of being spoiled by all of my mother's home cooking! This afternoon we made an ideal dinner for a chilly, foggy west coast evening: lasagna. This particular lasagna recipe is one I've enjoyed probably a hundred times in my life and still remains better than the few restaurant, M&M Meat Shop, or grocery store preprepared versions I've tasted.

The original Aylmer recipe, on a tattered card that's acquired over twenty years of food grime, has the title "Lazy Overnight Lean Lasagna", which may have been selected for its alliteration rather than its accuracy. In my books "lazy" only applies to meals that can be prepared in ten minutes or less -- lasagna definitely does not qualify. In the interest of laziness, my family has scratched the "overnight" part as well (though I'm sure that's our loss; I bet this lasagna would be even better if the flavours were allowed to marinate overnight before baking). And "lean"...well, using extra lean ground beef balances out all of that cheese, right?

Here's the recipe, only slightly modified from the Aylmer version. (Of note, we often substitute other pasta (e.g. spaghetti) for the lasagna noodle layers, as it's invariably cheaper and generally on-hand in the pantry.)

pre baking
  • 6 cloves garlic (finely chopped)
  • 500 g extra lean ground beef
  • 1 jar pasta sauce (e.g. Ragu)
  • 1 medium onion (finely chopped) (or 2 green onions, chopped)
  • 2 cups cottage cheese
  • 1 tsp dried basil
  • 1/2 tsp dried thyme
  • 1/2 tsp dried oregano
  • 11 lasagna noodles (or 275 g of any dried pasta)
  • 2 cups grated cheddar cheese
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese (we use powdered)
  1. Cook the noodles/pasta as per the package directions.
  2. In a deep frying pan, brown the garlic in a bit of olive oil. Set aside on a plate.
  3. In the same frying pan, brown the ground beef. Drain the oil. Mix in the fried garlic and jar of pasta sauce.
  4. In a bowl, mix together the cottage cheese, onion, basil, thyme, and oregano.
  5. Into the bottom of a baking pan (we use an oval roasting pan), spoon half of the tomato beef mixture.
  6. Top with one third of the noodles/pasta, then half of the cottage cheese mixture, then half of the cheddar cheese.
  7. Repeat step 6.
  8. Top with the remaining third of the noodles/pasta, then the remaining half of the tomato beef mixture. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese.
  9. Optional (we omit): Cover and chill for several hours or overnight.
  10. Bake, uncovered, at 350 degrees F for 40 minutes. Let stand at least 10 minutes before serving.
The result is a delicious mix of tastes and textures, with a good amount of sauce (in spite of which, the lasagna cuts fairly neatly once it has cooled, for easy storage of leftovers for freezing or packed lunches). Perhaps because I've always thought of this recipe as representing how lasagna should taste, it'll most likely always remain my favourite version of lasagna (not to say that I would ever say no to trying any other!).

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