I live in a great area for delicious Italian food. Just about on every corner you will find a family owned Italian pizza place or full menu Italian restaurant. My first attempts at preparing lasagna were with the dry noodles that had to be boiled first. Not the most fun experience, lol! Then I tried the no boil noodles. Not very memorable to say the least.
Recently while at my favorite market, I came across these packages of fresh, oven ready lasagna sheets. I could not pass them up as they were priced very reasonable. I had in mind a few different sauces I wanted to test out as well.
So, first you want to decide on a sauce recipe for your lasagna. If you have the time, I suggest preparing your sauce one to two days ahead. The flavors will improve as it sits. Then pick your baking dish. I would suggest a deep dish pan for best results. This is only if you want to add several layers to your lasagna. Other pans that work well are loaf pans. This way you could make a few smaller portioned lasagna. It makes it much easier to freeze for a later time and easier to defrost as well. In my experience in lasagna making, it’s best to have extra sauce and extra cheese. Nobody want a dry lasagna and you could always serve the extra sauce on the side or ladle some over the top when ready to serve.
Light Version of Bechamel
Fire Roasted Mexican Meat Sauce
1 small sweet onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 poblano, diced
1 serrano or jalapeño, minced
3 tablespoons flour
3 oz. tomato paste
14 oz. can fire roasted tomatoes
3 cups water
3 teaspoons chicken bouillon granules
2 teaspoons chili powder
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
1 teaspoon crushed oregano
1 teaspoon pepper
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
Pinch of cinnamon
Pinch of clove
salt to taste
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1 pound lean ground beef
1. Add 2 tablespoons olive oil to a large pot and heat to medium. Add the onions, garlic, poblano and serrano pepper. Season lightly with salt and pepper and saute for 6 to 8 minutes.
2. Add the flour, tomato paste and fire roasted tomatoes. Stir well to combine and cook for 2 minutes. Add all of of the remaining ingredients in the order listed. Using a wooden spoon, break down the beef and it cooks. Cook at a simmer for 30 to 40 minutes. Adjust seasonings to taste. Yields about 6 cups.
Spinach Artichoke Filling
Sometimes I think it’s easier building smaller pans of lasagna. This way you can share with friends, a dish to pass or for storing in the freezer.
Fire Roasted Mexican Meat Sauce Lasagna~Lasagna with a Mexican Twist
You Will Need
1 recipe for Mexican Meat Sauce
5 to 6 oven ready lasagna sheets (5X10)
1 cup chihuahua or mozzarella cheese, shredded
1 cup pepperjack, shredded
1/2 cup cotija or parmesan cheese, grated
1 tablespoon flour
1 teaspoon crushed oregano
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1/3 cup finely chopped parsley or cilantro
8X8 pan, but a small, deep, disposable lasagna pan would work better.
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. In a bowl, combine all the cheese, oregano, red pepper flakes and flour. Toss to combine and set aside.
2. To the pan, you will add the ingredients in this order to begin. 1. sauce, 2. pasta, 3. cheese. If using the parsley or cilantro, spinkle a little on top of each cheese layer.
3. Then another layer of pasta, sauce and cheese. Repeat 2 more times, ending with cheese on top. You want to add thin layers of meat sauce and cheese so the lasagna does not end up too tall for pan. This is why I say a deep dish disposable pan would work best.
4. Cover with foil, place on baking sheet lined with foil and bake on middle rack for 1 hour. Uncover and bake for 10 more minutes, the last minute under the broiler. Remove from oven and let set and cool slightly for 20 to 30 minutes before serving. Yields 4 to 6 servings.
Tips~ Whichever pan you use, you will probably have to cut the sheets to fit. I happened to have a vintage Pyrex pan that was exactly the right size for pasta sheets and only had room for 4 sheets.
And if you have a few leftover pasta sheets and ingredients why not try some…
Lasagna Roll Ups
I had leftovermexican meat sauce, so I took 2 pasta sheets and filled each sheet with a layer of sauce to cover surface. Add cheese and gently roll up like a cigar. Place in a baking dish lined with sauce and cover with more sauce and cheese. Cover and bake at 350 degrees for 1 hour. Broil for a minute to brown the top. Yields 2 servings.
Tomato Red Pepper Sauce
1 medium sweet onion, diced
4 to 6 cloves garlic, minced
1 large red bell pepper, diced
red pepper flakes
1 1/2 teaspoons crushed oregano
1 1/2 teaspoons sweet basil
2 cans whole tomatoes (28 oz)
1/2 cup parmesan or cotija cheese, finely grated
1. Add 3 tablespoons olive oil to large pot and heat to medium. Add the onions, garlic and bell pepper. Season lightly with salt and pepper and saute for 6 to 8 minutes.
2. Add 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes(or to taste), oregano and sweet basil. Saute for 1 minutes. Add the whole tomatoes with juice. Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer and cook for 20 to 25 minutes.
3. Using a hand held mixer or the blender, blend all of the ingredients until there are no more chunks. Continue cooking for another 20 minutes, adding more salt to taste and other seasonings if you like. Add the cheese, if using the last few minutes. Yields about 8 cups of sauce.
Spinach and Artichoke Lasagna with Béchamel Sauce
For Bechamel Sauce
- 8 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 8 tablespoons all purpose flour
- 8 cups 2% milk at room temperature
- 1/4 cup chicken base this is optional, but adds a little more flavor
- 1/2 teaspon white pepper
- 1/3 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
- Salt to taste
- Olive Oil
- 1 sweet onion diced
- 4 cloves of garlic minced
- 1 jalapeno minced
- 16 oz frozen spinach defrost and squeeze out excess water
- 14 oz can artichokes drain and chop small
- Juice of 1 lemon
- 1/2 tsp smoked paprika
- 1/2 tsp pepper
- 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes optional
- salt to taste
You Also Need
- 6-8 Lasagna sheets 5X10 in size
- 4 cups shredded cheese mozzarella, parmesan and or cotija mixed
- 1 tsp oregano crushed
- 1 tsp red pepper flakes
- 1 Tbs flour all purpose
For Bechamel Sauce
- Add the butter to a large pot and heat to medium. As soon as the butter melts, whisk in the flour until smooth. Continue to whisk, so it does not burn, for 3 to 4 minutes.
- Gradually whisk in the milk. Add the chicken base, pepper and nutmeg. Continue cooking on medium/low until sauce becomes thick and creamy. Do not let it boil. Taste for salt. Yields 8 cups.
- Add 2 tablespoons olive oil to skillet and heat to medium. Add the onions, garlic and pickled jalapeño. Season lightly with salt and pepper and saute for 6 to 8 minutes.
- Add all of the remaining ingredients in the order listed. Cook until excess liquid reduces. Taste for salt. Yields about 4 cups.
Assemble and Bake
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
- Depending on the size of pan you will be using, you may have to cut the sheets to fit pan. In a bowl, combine all the cheese, oregano, red pepper flakes and flour. Toss to combine and set aside.
- To start, layer some sauce on the bottom. Add pasta sheets to fit. Add a thin layer of spinach mix and a layer of cheese mixture. Repeat the layers until you fill the pan, more or less or until you run out of ingredients, ha ha! You should always end with cheese as the top layer.
- Cover with foil and place pan on baking sheet lined with more foil. Bake for 1 hour. Uncover and bake for 10 more minutes, under the broiler for the last minute to brown the top. Remove from oven and let rest for 30 minutes before slicing. Yields 8 servings.