Sunday, June 5, 2016

3 Secrets to Homemade Lasagna for Fast-Paced Family Life

Years ago, we had lasagna only on the very rare occasion during which I had enough time to spend half a day cooking. All day if I didn't have any homemade sauce on hand. However, my family loves lasagna. They'll drag themselves away from video games and clear their busy schedules to eat it hot. They'll eat the leftovers. They don't even complain about what could be better about it. They just eat it.
3 secrets to easy, quick lasagna | Navigating Hectivity by Micki Bare
Layering: 10 minutes
Baking: 30 minutes
Less than an hour to lasagna perfection!

Here are my secrets to quick, it-still-tastes-like-homemade lasagna.

1. Sauce from a jar. I know, it's just not the same as the stuff you spend all day stirring until it reduces by half, resulting in a silky, thick liquid that could cure many of the world's ailments. However, if you can read labels, you can find a simple marinara containing only the 3 to 5 ingredients — the ones you would use to make it homemade, if you had the time. 

2. Pre-prep the meat. Had they a choice, my boys would want a sauce drenched in greasy browned ground beef. I use ground turkey, which I season when I brown it on a day I have a few minutes to spare in the kitchen. Then I put it in a container and refrigerate until it's time to make lasagna. 

On lasagna day, I shred mozzarella cheese, open a tub of ricotta, combine the sauce with the already cooked ground turkey and then open a box of lasagna noodles. Then it's as easy as layer and bake, which brings me to my last secret.

3. Oven-ready pasta. Up until this past year, I was not a fan of oven-ready lasagna. I assumed it would make my lasagna dish pasty and gross. But my lack of time to cook along with repeated requests for "normal food" like my lasagna prompted me to take a risk. 
Easy Lasagna Your Family Will Love | Navigating Heactivity by Micki Bare
My quick easy lasagna an hour after I
put it in front of my family.

There are two versions. I first tried the type that looks like normal lasagna noodles and takes an hour to bake. It turned out great. Everyone loved it. 

The next time I went to the store to pick up some oven-ready lasagna noodles, the store did not have the ones I'd used with success. What I did find was a flat, shorter version of oven-ready lasagna, so I threw caution out of my grocery cart and bought it. The flat, stubby noodles required four layers instead of three, but only needed 30 minutes of baking time. If my family liked it, I was going to switch. They loved it. My baking time for my quick lasagna was reduced in half.

That's it. These three secrets changed my outlook on lasagna. Now, the dish is no longer a holiday only menu item I dread. Rather, it's in the regular rotation on our household dinner schedule. The best part? Family meals during which all the boys end up at the dinner table at the same time have increased dramatically. I can honestly report that I have fallen in love with lasagna all over again. 

My Italian New Yorker grandmother, Granny, who worked full time throughout her adult life, would be proud.

Micki Bare, mother of three, wife, daughter & writer is the author of Thurston T. Turtle children's books. 
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Copyright 2016 Michele Bare

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