This is the perfect pasta dish to make on Saturday–that’s game day for college football. The flavors enhance and blend, so the leftovers will be perfect for Sunday’s NFL games, the next afternoon. The whole tradition of baking lasagna was an essential part of my college life. Thirty years later, it’s time to share the joy. The recipe has endured all these years, and even my lasagna-snob husband prefers this one over all the others!
Mo’s lasagna is a great exercise in teamwork. Two people (in our case, college room mates) can work together and enjoy great conversation, some good wine, and actually accomplish something constructive for the men in our lives. Other than our fellow Middleville graduate Randy Schantz, we mostly enjoyed this lasagna ourselves. Even if we had several meals of leftovers, we never got tired of the traditional Corson lasagna, a recipe Mo learned back at home.
The first thing is to plan on a good two hour event. If you don’t like football, you could actually make this during the game. But if you’re like me, plan to start about an hour and a half before the game, and let the lasagna bake for the first part of the game. The smell will drive everyone crazy and the lasagna should be ready by the half-time show.
Recently, Mo wrote that she has incorporated the no-bake lasagna noodles into her recipe. As a busy mom and professional pharmacist, I can see where it’s a savings in time and hassle. I tried it with my own family, and we tend to prefer the regular lasagna noodles. Just be aware than you can us both and save what’s best-liked in your home. You’ll need a 9X12 baking pan or a large lasagna pan. The recipe works well with a metal pan or a glass dish, just be sure you have enough height in the pan to accomodate the ingredients. I’ve seen some skimpy lasagna pans and they don’t work with these measurements.
The first step is to boil the noodles according to package directions. We always used the entire package and sometimes had to “paste together” a torn noodle and use it in one of the bottom layers, where they don’t get noticed.
While your water boils, take approximately 2.5 pounds of good ground beef and brown it in a large cast-iron skillet. My butcher’s ground beef is so great, there’s never any grease to pour off…but in college we often got by with a lesser grade of meat. So if you have grease, be sure to pour it off and save yourself from future heart problems!! You can add 1/4-1/2 cup of finely diced shallots or green onions, or even use a teaspoon or two of onion powder (less tasty!) Add 2-3 cloves of garlic that’s crushed and diced. Oregano powder is essential, and you can also use fresh oregano if available. We always made the extra effort to get fresh parsley…it looks better and tastes wonderful. You can start with 1 teaspoon of the oregano and 1-3 Tablespoons of parsley, dried. For the fresh ingredients, use them to your own taste. As a general guideline, you can use about three times the fresh herbs over dried.
Add one large 24 oz can of tomato sauce, the more flavorful the better. Organic is good, and we used to use Hunts in the old days. Add two small cans of tomato paste, or one large 12 oz can. Simmer this sauce for 20 minutes, or until the flavors are blended. You can add more tomato sauce if you need it.
While your sauce is simmering, you can measure out a large container of ricotta cheese with a large egg beaten and stirred in, grate about one pound or more of Mozzarella, and locate a large container of Parmasean Cheese. Having lived in Italy for 5 years, I tend to grate my own parmasean cheese, but it’s not a requirement. You’ll need approximately 2 cups of parmasean as well.
When your noodles are cooked, you can lay them out on wax paper in preparation for assembly. Now here’s the fun part, and it works well with TWO cooks who never spoil the broth. Spread a thin layer of the sauce on the bottom of your pan. Carefully line the bottom of the pan with 3-4 lasagna noodles. You can make a recipe card to remember the order, but after the initial layer of meat sauce, it goes:
Ricotta 1/2 of the container
Mozzarella 1/3 of the cheese
Parmasean 1/3 of the cheese
Mozzarella (the rest)
Parmasean (the rest)
Remember to skip the ricotta in the last layer, and please don’t mix up the cheeses. If it’s Mo’s Spartan Lasagna, you don’t mix the cheeses! I guess if you’re a University of Michigan fan, and want to make Bo’s Lasagna, then you can go ahead and try that, but don’t serve it to Michigan State fans!
Finally, cover your pan with aluminum foil and bake at 350 degrees for 45-55 minutes. For the last 10-15 minutes, remove the foil and the lasagna is complete when your top layer is lightly browned and bubbly.
Lasagna does well if you let it sit for 5-10 minutes after baking. You’ll also want some garlic bread or french bread to go with this dish, and an attractive leafy salad with tomatoes and cucumbers (and your other favorite vegetables) is a terrific side dish. And that’s it. The lasagna does great when served the next day, so feel free to make it Friday night, or serve in on Sunday. But once it comes out of the oven, it’s very hard to resist.
This recipe is very accomodating and please feel free to add your own special touches. I hope you enjoy it as much as we do in Michigan. It’s been a favorite that I’ve known and loved for over 30 years.
In closing, I’d like to dedicate this piece to my good friend and college room mate, Maureen Corson, now of Maryland. Also would like to thank her parents, Chuck and Dorothy, and her sister Annette (Brutus) who still reside in my high school hometown of Middleville, Michigan. The Corson girls were like sisters, and Ma & Pa Corson are the best parents in the world. Thanks everyone!