I enjoy cooking, and have been blessed to have several people teach me how to do it. I’m forever indebted to Doris Fields, who showed me how to use spices (especially fresh ones she grew herself!) and how to just put different things together to make something based on what was on-hand.
My sister, Kellie, makes a fantastic lasagna, and it bears little resemblance to this. I’ve been accused of putting spinach in just about everything, and that is true of this non-recipe for lasagna. If you have fresh spices, use them. If not, dry will do.
Every time I make homemade sauce, it’s different, whether it’s because I use fresh tomatoes, add rosemary because I have some, or forget to use sausage. This week I made some lasagna and have gotten more compliments than ever, so I’m jotting down what I did so maybe I can repeat it!
Wait, what? You don’t have a freezer full of deer meat? Use ground beef or turkey, but it won’t be nearly as good.
2 packages deer burger (1-1.5 lbs each)
1 package deer breakfast sausage (1-1.5 lbs, “medium” spicy)
3 Peruvian sweet onions (probably about 2.5-3 cups, chopped)
Vegetables: I used a large package of sliced mushrooms and a container of fresh baby spinach, which I chopped.
5+ cloves of garlic. Add to your taste. I used at least 8.
4 28 oz. cans of tomatoes: I used 2 crushed and 2 petite diced.
3 beef bouillon cubes
Parsley, sage, oregano leaves (you can use ground but use less), basil, black pepper, cayenne pepper.
Oven-ready lasagna noodles (get 2 boxes to be safe; whoever invented these is a genius)
Mozzarella (a big bag – we’re talking lots of cheese!)
Parmesan or Italian cheese blend (fresh, not the stuff in the can)
- In a large skillet, sauté meat and onions together. Season with salt, pepper, and garlic powder. (I keep a mix on-hand – “Paula Deen’s House seasoning,” which is 1 cup salt, ¼ cup black pepper and ¼ cup garlic powder.) Drain into colander set over a bowl. Separate/remove as much fat as you can, but reserve the cooking liquid for the sauce.
- In a separate, large stock pot, sauté your choice of vegetables in a bit of olive oil on medium heat. If you use mushrooms, cook off the liquid before adding the other veggies. You can use grated zucchini, artichokes, carrots if you like sweeter sauce – and you can always run them through the food processor if you need to hide the veggies from the haters. When the veggies are tender, turn down the heat and add the garlic – either chopped or put through a press. You don’t want to burn your garlic, just sauté it for a minute or two to get it started cooking.
- Add the cooked meat and cans of tomatoes to the veggies. Add the reserved cooking liquid from the meat and the bouillon cubes. (Remember that the canned tomatoes and bouillon will add a lot of salt, so let everything cook together a while before adding any more salt.)
- Bring sauce to a boil and add spices. I don’t measure, but estimate I used 2-3 tablespoons of dried parsley, 1.5-2 tsp. of oregano leaves, 1 tsp. basil, ½ tsp. sage, and both peppers to taste. Simmer the sauce for a while so it can thicken, and then taste it. Adjust spices as needed.
- In a 9×13 (sprayed with Pam), put a small amount of sauce, and then layer lasagna noodles, sauce, cheese, noodles, sauce, cheese. I use mozzarella, plus an Italian blend, and/or Parmesan.
- WARNING: this makes a bunch of sauce, especially if you are adding more stuff to it as you go along! In the amounts listed above, without extra veggies, I made two 9×13 pans and still had some sauce leftover.
- Another trick, esp. if you don’t have breakfast sausage, is to cook a few slices of bacon until it’s crispy, remove the bacon, and cook the veggies in the bacon grease instead of olive oil. You can add the bacon to the sauce … if you haven’t eaten it while you’re cooking.