Triple-Cheese Lasagna with Summer Tomato Sauce
Me: “What is this stuff in the freezer?”
Dan: “How should I know?”
Me: “You must have made it. If I had made it, it would have a label.”
Dan: “Oh. Maybe it’s sauce. Yeah, it must be a sauce. Look, there is some fat congealing on it.”
My guy is a kitchen whirlwind, particularly if I’ve been away for a few days. He takes pride in following his heart rather than a recipe. His successes are tremendous. His failures often end up in the freezer where, he says, he is saving them until he can “turn them into something else.”
Three of those four statements speak to Dan’s creativity, energy and enthusiasm. The fourth statement is, in my opinion, ridiculous. If it wasn’t good the first time, why would you want to turn it into something else?
The “sauce” in the freezer had been there since late summer and our best guess was that it was tomato-based. The congealed fat — a lovely mental image, I’m sorry — suggested a meat sauce but Dan really couldn’t remember.
Adding to the confusion, the plastic container was tinted very dark blue — it wasn’t one from our usual supply. But I didn’t know that. I just figured the sauce we were dealing with was really dark.
Operating on the assumption of “tomato-based, possibly with meat,” we pulled it out to thaw and stocked up on cheeses: cottage, mozzarella and parmesan. Once the sauce was in the pot, we poked it and stirred it and hunted for clues.
Definitely tomatoes, but watery compared to others that we had put down. Big hunks of onion. No meat, but pieces of garlic as big as my thumbnail. Possibly some red pepper. The fat, we guessed, might have come from the addition of olive oil.
“I must have stewed those tomatoes,” said Dan, sounding surprised.
But guess what? We successfully turned his freezer project into something else, meaning I got to eat my words as well as one of the best lasagnas to come out of this kitchen.
Actually, two lasagnas — one for tonight and another (properly labelled) which we froze for later.
Kitchen Castoff Used
Dan’s “mystery sauce” — stewed tomatoes with onion, garlic, red peppers and olive oil
This is how we did it
Recipe adapted from Anne Lindsay’s Triple-Cheese Lasagna from the cookbook Smart Cooking
For the sauce
- Stewed summer tomatoes (or a 24-oz can of tomatoes)
- 1 tsp dried basil
- 1 tsp dried oregano
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 tsp sugar
- Extra tomato sauce, if necessary
To make stewed tomatoes (which is what we think Dan did): Bring a large pot of water to a boil, put in fresh tomatoes for one minute then immediately transfer to cold water. Peel and quarter the tomatoes, then place in large saucepan with chopped onions, garlic pieces and red pepper. Let simmer for about 20 – 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.
To make the sauce: To the stewed or canned tomatoes, add basil, oregano, salt and sugar. Let cook, stirring, for about 20 minutes or so. If the sauce is too watery or chunky, blend some of it into a puree. If the sauce gets too thick, you can add some extra tomato sauce.
For the lasagna
- Lasagna noodles, enough to create three layers
- 2 cups (500 ml) cottage cheese
- 3/4 cup grated parmesan cheese + 3 tbsps for topping
- 2 cups (500 ml) grated mozzarella cheese
- 1 egg, lightly beaten
- 1 tbsp oregano
- Salt and pepper to taste
In a large pot of boiling water, cook the lasagna noodles for about 10 minutes. They don’t need to be fully cooked but you need to be able to work with them. Rinse under cold water.
Combine the cottage cheese and parmesan with the egg, oregano, salt and pepper.
In the lasagna dish (a 9 x 13 rectangular pan, or two smaller pans), put a thin layer of sauce, then a layer of noodles. Spread half the cottage cheese mixture, then half of the mozzarella, then top with another layer of sauce. Repeat with the noodles, cottage cheese, mozzarella and more sauce. Top with the final layer of noodles, more sauce and the reserved parmesan.
Bake in a 350 degree oven for 45 minutes. Let stand about 15 minutes before serving.
Curious about my “Kitchen Castoffs” concept? Here’s the explainer describing my 100-day project.
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