I’ve never been a huge fan of lasagna. I think that this dates back to a mild trauma when I was thirteen and announced that henceforth I would be a vegetarian, or at least until I changed my mind and wanted a hamburger one day (which did actually end up happening). My mother’s reaction to this news was to completely ignore me and continue sneaking meat into meals anyway. She made her “special lasagna” frequently during this period, and it was a solid two years before she admitted that the “mushrooms” had, in fact, been…well, not mushrooms. (I was apparently not the most observant teenager.)
But apart from my mother’s egregious conduct, I feel like lasagna should be more amazing than it usually is. I mean, it’s layered pasta, cheese, and sauce. How could that not be absolutely perfect, every time? Except far too often I find lasagna has too much of one thing, and not enough of another. I want my lasagna to be red sauce-y, and cheesy, and otherwise uncomplicated by unnecessary additions like, say, peppers (BLECH).
For our girls’ weekend in Tahoe, each of us was assigned a meal to prepare. This was Alisa’s mom’s friend Sherry’s dish, and it was the best lasagna I have ever, ever, ever tasted (sorry, mom). The secret ingredient? A touch of cheddar cheese. I’m aware that that doesn’t sound like a good idea, but this lasagna was transcendent. So you’re going to have to trust me.
SHERRY’S MOST PERFECTEST LASAGNA
What You Need:
- 1 lb 80% lean ground beef
- 1 sweet yellow onion, diced
- 2 tbsp tomato paste
- 1 tbsp each dried oregano, dried basil, dried thyme, and dried rosemary
- 1 tsp dried dill
- 2 cans tomato sauce
- 1 can diced tomatoes
- 1 tbsp sugar
- 1 sprig fresh rosemary, finely chopped
- 4 sprigs fresh thyme, leaves removed from stems and finely chopped
- 1 8oz container button mushrooms
- One package no-bake lasagna noodles
- 2 cups freshly grated mozzarella, 1 cup freshly grated jack cheese, and a small handful of freshly grated cheddar (or more if you like your lasagna super-cheesy; just keep the proportions the same)
- Fresh basil
- Salt & pepper
- Olive oil (or the oil of your choice)
Note: The sauce can be made in advance and left in the refrigerator overnight, and it’ll taste even better – but make sure you bring the sauce back to room temperature before building your lasagna (or adjust your cooking time slightly upwards).
What You Do:
To Make The Sauce
1. In a large, heavy-bottomed pan, heat 2 tbsp of the oil of your choice, and saute the onions until just translucent, seasoning with salt and pepper.
2. Add the ground beef to the onions, season with salt and pepper, and cook, stirring frequently, until cooked through. Drain out any excess fat from the pan.
3. Add the tomato paste to the pan with the beef and onions. Cook 2 minutes, stirring frequently.
4. Add the dried oregano, dried basil, dried thyme, dried rosemary, and dried dill to the pan. Cook, stirring frequently, another 2 minutes.
5. Add the tomato sauce, diced tomatoes, and sugar. Stir well, then let simmer on low for about 45 minutes.
6. Add the rosemary and thyme to the sauce. Cook, stirring occasionally, 10 more minutes, then let the sauce cool to room temperature.
To Build The Lasagna
1. Slice 1 8 oz container of button mushrooms. Saute in the oil of your choice until soft, then lightly salt.
2. In a large bowl, combine the freshly grated cheeses.
3. Grease a 9×13″ casserole pan, then use a ladle to cover the bottom of the pan with a thin layer of sauce.
4. Layer on three lasagna noodles, then a layer of sauce, then sprinkle over a layer of the cheese mix. Repeat until all of the sauce and noodles are used.
5. Finish with a layer of sauce, and sprinkle over the sautéed mushrooms, and one final layer of cheese.
6. Cover with foil (spray the foil lightly with oil so that the cheese doesn’t stick to it), and bake at 375F for 45 minutes. Remove foil and cook an additional 15-20 minutes.
7. Remove from oven and let sit for a minimum of 20 minutes. Top with fresh basil to serve.