Layers of good stuff…The Lasagna

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I was introduced to Lasagna many many years ago in Malta. I cannot remember the flavors since I was a kid but I remember it was so good and unlike anything I have ever tasted before. That is very true though at that time since Lasagna is not even an Egyptian dish  and it is  unknown in many of the Egyptian houses. It is so funny now when I look back in time and the only lasagna I was eating in Egypt was made by Pizza Hut!  However, in the Egyptian cuisine, there is a similar dish in concept that is known as the Macaroni béchamel. I will add the recipe for it very soon since in my opinion it is even tastier if you compare it with the meat lasagna. When it comes to the vegetable lasagna though, I like it way more than the meat one, something about it is very entertaining. You know sometimes you might eat something that is so tasty but it gets boring in flavors halfway . That is the repetitive flavors effect, for the vegetable lasagna, I think it is entertaining as each bite might have a different taste of its own.

Ingredients

3 tablespoons olive oil
1.5 lb ground beef
1 large minced onion
2 cloves garlic
3 tablespoons tomato paste
1 can tomato sauce or any marinara sauce
1/2 teaspoon white sugar
1/3 cup water
2 teaspoons dried basil
8 lasagna noodle
1 cup ricotta cheese
4 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
1 egg
1/3 teaspoon mint
1 cup mozzarella cheese shredded
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
salt and pepper to taste for meat sauce and for the ricotta mixture

In a medium pan, add some olive oil then add the onions. Stir until is has a yellowish color. Then add the ground beef and garlic over medium heat until well browned.  Do not add the salt and pepper in the beginning so the juices will not run. Add salt and pepper near the end.

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Now, stir in the tomato paste, the tomato sauce and water with the beef on medium heat. Season with the sugar, basil and salt/pepper if needed. Simmer, covered, for about 20 mins on low heat stirring occasionally. P.S. I like to add a little bit of the sugar on any tomato sauce as it tones down the tomato acidity.

In a mixing bowl, combine ricotta cheese with mint, 1 egg, parsley and 1/4 cup parmesan. Again salt and pepper to taste. I like to add a little bit of that mint as it has a very nice taste combination with the ricotta.

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Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Add a little bit of olive oil in it. Add the 8 lasagna noodles to the boiling water for about 10 minutes max. Drain the noodles. 

Spread a little of the meat sauce at the bottom of the pan. Put half of the noodles in the bottom of the baking dish over the meat sauce. Spread some of the cottage cheese mixture on the top as below. Sprinkle half of the mozzarella over the cottage cheese mixture. Pour  the meat sauce on top. Repeat layering in same order. I would say 3 layers is more than enough. Sprinkle the remaining parmesan and mozzarella on top.

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Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Bake it in the center of the oven for 30 minutes until the top is golden brown like below. Let it stand for 10 minutes before serving.

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