Beef & Sausage Lasagna

November was supposed to be a quiet month for me. October was crazy but November was completely open. It was supposed to be a chance for me to relax and recharge before the Christmas holiday season kicked into gear.

As hard as I tried to keep the month open, my plan didn’t really work out. I’m not even completely sure how the month got so busy, or what, exactly, we did. We had a houseguest for a couple days, that we didn’t previously plan, but I think that other than that, it was just very busy with some long days (including weekends) at work, a week of sick kiddos, and struggling to keep up with housework. As the month ended, I ended up feeling more exhausted than refreshed.

beef-sausage-lasaga

The crazy month is why this recipe has taken a bit longer than I wanted to post. This lasagna is a go-to recipe for me, particularly for cooler weather and large-scale entertaining. While it is a good bit of work (it probably takes an hour or so to put together), it has 3 qualities that make it a favorite.

1) It can be made in advance and refrigerated or frozen.
2) It makes a huge dish and can easily serve 8-12 people. Or, it makes a lot of leftovers for weekday lunches or busy weeks when leftovers are all that we have for dinner.
3) Everyone loves it.

Unlike a lot of other lasagnas, it’s light on the cheese and full of meat. Also a little different from other recipes, I added a few extra layers – for a total of 4 layers of noodles – as we like a nice, thick slice.

This recipe has been heavily adapted from my mom’s old Good Housekeeping cookbook, Step by Step.

Make Ahead: This recipe can be made in advance, wrapped tightly in plastic wrap, and frozen for at least a couple of months. Lasagna should be allowed to defrost completely (about 2 days in the fridge) before baking according the the instructions below. If lasagna isn’t completely thawed, keep covered and bake until lasagna is hot throughout, before removing foil and cooking uncovered for the last 15 minutes.

beef-sausage-lasaga

Beef & Sausage Lasagna

Makes one large (9×13) lasagna

Serves 10

Ingredients:

  • 1-16 oz. package lasagna noodles
  • 1/2 lb. lean ground beef
  • 1/2 lb. spicy Italian sausage, casings removed
  • 1/2 lb. mild Italian sausage, casings removed
  • 1 medium onion, small dice
  • 1 Tbs. minced or crushed garlic
  • 1 28-oz. can crushed tomatoes
  • 2 Tbs. tomato paste
  • 1 tsp. kosher salt
  • 1 tsp. granulated sugar
  • 1 Tbs. Italian seasoning
  • 2 Tbs. dried basil
  • 1-15 oz. container part-skim ricotta cheese
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/4 c. fresh Italian parsley
  • 2 c. (8 oz.) shredded part-skim mozzarella
  • 1/4 c. grated Parmesan cheese

Preheat oven to 375F.

Make the Meat Sauce: In a large skillet over medium heat, brown ground beef and both sausages, using a wooden spoon to break up any large chunks. Add onion and garlic, and continue to cook until translucent. Discard any excess fat, and add crushed tomatoes, tomato paste, kosher salt, sugar, Italian seasoning, and basil. Stir to combine. Bring to a boil and lower heat, simmering for 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, cook noodles according to package. When done, use tongs to remove noodles from water and lay noodles flat on a clean dishtowel on the counter. Allow to cool until you’re able to handle them with your hands.

Make the Ricotta Layer: In a medium bowl, combine ricotta, egg and parsley.

Assemble the Lasagna: On a clean countertop, line up meat sauce, lasagna noodles on the towel, ricotta, a small bowl filled with the shredded mozzarella, and a large (9×13 at least) baking dish. It will make assembly easier and cleaner if everything is in one single work area.

First, spread a couple of spoonfuls of the sauce (I like to avoid the meat chunks for the bottom later) across the bottom of the baking dish, so that lasagna noodles don’t stick. Next, add a layer of lasagna noodles, followed by one-third of the ricotta, about 1/2 c. of the mozzarella, and about a quarter of the meat sauce. Do this two more times, so that you have 3 complete layers.

Add the final layer of lasagna noodles. If you have extra ricotta, you can add it here. Otherwise, top with remaining meat sauce, remaining mozzarella, and the grated Parmesan cheese. Feel free to add a little extra of either or both cheeses, if lasagna is not sufficiently covered.

Bake in preheated oven covered with aluminum foil for 30 minutes. Remove foil and bake for another 15 minutes, until sauce is bubbly and cheese is melted and starting to brown. Remove from oven and allow to stand for 15 minutes before serving.

Serve hot with a side salad and your favorite fresh bread or garlic bread.

beef-sausage-lasagna-from-books-n-cooks

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Pasta with Walnuts, Parsley & Parmesan

Attempting food photography with a little one. -Pasta with Walnuts, Parsley & Parmesan, on Books n' Cooks
Attempting food photography with a little one. -Pasta with Walnuts, Parsley & Parmesan, on Books n’ Cooks

My husband pretty much requires meat at dinner. Doesn’t matter if it’s red meat or chicken, but he’ll rarely feel full or satisfied without one or the other. Occasionally, I’ll test the waters with a veggie-based pasta or a seafood-based dish, but those options are rarely winners with him. This pasta dish is one of the few exceptions.

Whole wheat pasta makes this dish filling. Walnuts provide crunch; Parmesan provides some saltiness. And fresh parsley (or freeze-dried parsley in a pinch) is a burst of freshness. And I love that the ingredients are always in my pantry and the dish can be finished in roughly 20 minutes. Yes, this dish is definitely a winner.

The photo isn’t the prettiest – it came out darker than I had hoped, but I think the baby’s hand is a cute touch. 🙂

 

Pasta with Walnuts, Parsley & Parmesan

Adapted from The Food You Love by Ellie Krieger

Serves 4

Ingredients:

  • 2/3 c. walnuts, chopped
  • 2-3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/3 c. extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 lb. whole wheat spaghetti
  • 1/2 c. fresh parsley, chopped (I’ve also used freeze-dried parsley if I don’t have any fresh parsley in the house)
  • 1/3 c . low-sodium chicken broth*
  • 1/3 c. extra-virgin olive oil
  • Kosher salt
  • Freshly ground pepper
  • 3/4 c. shredded Parmesan cheese
*Make it vegetarian by using vegetable stock. 

Bring a large pot to a boil over medium heat, to cook the pasta in. When boiling, add the pasta and cook until desired doneness (for my hubby us, cooked throughout instead of al dante). Drain and return pasta to the pot it was cooked in. Hopefully by the time it’s done, the next steps are  done and you’ll be ready to assemble the dish.

Meanwhile, in a small skillet over medium-low heat, toast walnuts until fragrant, about 5 minutes. Move to a bowl and set aside. In the same skillet, saute garlic in olive oil until garlic is browned, about 5 minutes. Turn off heat (or if it’s going to be a little while until your pasta is done, reduce heat to lowest setting to keep oil warm).

Toss cooked pasta, chicken broth, garlic & olive oil, walnuts, parsley, and a little salt and pepper. Toss with 1/2 c. Parmesan cheese.

Portion out and top with remaining Parmesan.

Orecchiette with Sausage and Broccoli Rabe

Pasta with Sausage & Broccoli Rabe

I’m always on the look out for easy, quick dinners that don’t make a huge mess in the kitchen. Bonus points if veggies are incorporated right in. After being up a couple times a night (Sophie’s almost 9 months old and still not sleeping through the night) and working all day, dinner needs to be as low-fuss as possible.

This recipe, or the version I had originally pinned from Shape Magazine (the link is apparently no longer good), fit that bill. One pot meal and a veggie made this pasta dish a weeknight reality. I updated the recipe to add a bit more flavor and freshness – a little extra red pepper flakes and some fresh basil. I also decided against using chicken stock to cook the pasta. Even with the low-sodium broth, I found it a bit salty and just… off. When I needed to add extra liquid, I used plain water, and that seemed to help.

Orecchiette with Sausage and Broccoli Rabe

Adapted from Yummly

Serves 4

Ingredients: 

  • 1 Tbs. olive oil
  • 1 lb. spicy Italian sausage
  • 12 oz. broccoli rabe, trimmed and chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 4-5 c. water
  • kosher salt
  • 1/2 tsp. red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 c. grated Parmesan cheese, plus more for serving
  • 1/2 c. freshly chopped basil

Orecchiette with Sausage and Broccoli Rabe 4Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add sausage, crumbling it into pieces until completely cooked. Transfer to a plate, leaving behind as much of the oil and juices as possible. Add broccoli rabe and garlic to skillet. Sautee until beginning to wilt. Transfer to plate, again leaving behind as much of the oil and juices as possible.

Pour 4 c. water into skillet. As it heats, scrape bottom of the pan with a wooded spoon to loosen burnt bits. When boiling, add pasta. Cook 7-9 minutes, until not quite tender. Add sausage and broccoli rabe  back to pan and continue cooking until pasta is ready and sausage and broccoli rabe are hot. If needed, add additional water (I had to).

Remove from heat. There should be little water left in the pan – just enough to be a sauce. Season with salt, red pepper flakes and toss with 1/2 c. grated Parmesan.

Serve with additional Parmesan cheese, if desired.

Tomato Marscapone Pasta

Last month I attempted macarons. I was so excited, I thought they were going to come out – the temperamental cookies had “feet” and everything! However, I was never able to get the darn things off the baking sheet. I was sooo disappointed.

After my failed macaron attempt, I had a container of marscapone cheese in the fridge (the cookies were supposed to have a marscapone-raspberry filling). I rarely cook with marscapone and was struggling to find a recipeto use it up. Lucky for me, the perfect recipe popped up – tomato marscapone pasta. I love that it’s quick and easy (30-45 minutes end-to-end, mostly inactive time, depending on whether you follow the cooking times below… I’ve definitely cut the simmering time short at least once before), but even more, the sauce was impressive. The marscapone adds a slightly creamy texture to the sweet tomato sauce, making a simple meal something special. Thanks to The Jey of Cooking for a great new recipe!

Tomato Marscapone Pasta

Adapted from JaimeOliver.com via The Jey of Cooking

Serves 4-6

Ingredients:

  • 2 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 tsp. minced garlic
  • 1 large shallot or 1 small onion, small dice
  • 1/4 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1-28 oz. can crushed tomatoes
  • 8 large basil leaves, finely chopped
  • 1/4 c. red wine
  • 4 oz. mascarpone cheese
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • 1 lb. of pasta, cooked

Instructions

  1. In a medium saucepan over medium heat, heat olive oil. When hot, add garlic, shallots/onions, and red pepper flakes. Cook for about 5 minutes, until onions are soft.
  2. Add tomatoes and basil. Lower heat and allow to simmer for 20 minutes.
  3. Stir in red wine and simmer for another 20 minutes. Now is a good time to start cooking your pasta.
  4. Just before pasta is ready, stir marscapone into tomato sauce and season with salt and pepper. Lower heat to low and leave on the hot burner until pasta is ready. Drain pasta and stir in tomato-marscapone sauce.

Serve hot with a grated Parmesan cheese, a side salad, and some fresh bread.

Marinara Sauce

The past couple weeks have been pretty rough. Too much work, too little sleep. Too many errands and chores, too little relaxation. So this past weekend, I promised myself that I would do what I wanted to do. I refused to do any work; I refused to do chores or errands. It was all about me.

The weekend ended up being packed. I went for a walk with a friend. I made strawberry muffins for Stampin’ Up, and at Stampin’ Up, I made Christmas cards (Christmas in August). I went out to dinner and drinks and to see Wicked in the city. And then, since I’ve been craving warm, cozy meals (hopefully thinking that the heat would finally break), I spent the day making marinara sauce, two batches of veggie lasagna, ziti with spinach and spicy Italian sausage, and homemade focaccia bread. (Stay tuned for recipes this week). This was lunch, dinner and dessert for the week as well as breakfast and lunch for the “Bakery.”

The below marinara sauce was the base for the weekend’s cooking. It’s taken me a while to perfect it. I loved my mom’s marinara sauce, but her recipe wasn’t very helpful when I first started cooking – a list of ingredients to add “to taste.” I ended up taking her recipe and a couple of others, building and adapting until I found a combination I was happy with. Now, I’ve made the sauce so many times that I really can go by taste, without a recipe, but I wrote the proportions down, just for you. The recipe is easily multiplied and freezes well.

Marinara Sauce

By Books n’ Cooks

Ingredients:

  • 2 Tbs. extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 onion, small dice
  • 2 tsp. minced garlic
  • 1 28-oz. can crushed tomatoes
  • 14 oz. water
  • 1 6-oz. cans tomato paste
  • 1/2 Tbs. kosher salt
  • 1/2 tsp. pepper
  • 1 Tbs. dried basil
  • 1 tsp. dried oregano
  • 1 tsp. fennel seeds
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 Tbs. sugar

* May add dried parsley, red pepper flakes, additional herbs and seasonings according to preference.

In a medium-large sauce pan over medium heat, heat olive oil. Add onions and garlic, stirring and sauteing until translucent. Add crushed tomatoes, water (I fill the empty tomato can halfway with water, swirl to get remaining tomato bits), and tomato paste. Stir and let heat for a few minutes. Add remaining ingredients. When sauce is warm, taste and add additional herbs if needed. (I love the basil and fennel and typically have a heavy hand with those.)

When heated and starting to bubble, lower heat and let simmer for 2 hours. Pull out bay leaf before serving.