My mother has been making her own meat sauce from scratch since I was a child. It was perfectly sweet, acidic, meaty and garlicky. Every time I would sit down and eat elbow macaroni, I would wonder, "How much sauce does this woman have frozen? How does she always have sauce that takes more than 2 hours to make on hand?" Eventually, I actually paid attention and realized, "Cheater Sauce." She would dress up store bought sauce with additional ingredients but she also had a secret.
I'm about to spill the beans.......
MIX PREGO AND RAGU TOGETHER!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
What? What? It's that simple?
These 2 sauces on there own are not so yummy. One is too tomatoey, acidic and the other is too sweet. Once mixed together though....."OH, SWEET HARMONY"
Ok, I'm am being a little dramatic here. They do need a lil' more dressing up than that but damn, you will be a happy camper knowing that there is no need for chopping, simmering, mixing, chopping, simmering...etc...
Lasagna is definitely one of those times, in which homemade sauce is NEVER needed (no matter how fancy.) This is my version of Cheater Lasagna. Feel free to mess with your own ingredients and measurements. Until today, I had never paid much attention to how much I used of anything so these are "guesstimates" at best. Taste, taste, and taste some more...if it needs sugar, add sugar. If it needs garlic, add garlic....You get my drift??!!
1.5-2 lbs. ground beef
1 Large (67oz) Prego
1 Large (67oz) Ragu
2 Carrots, left whole or cut into 2 large chunks
1 Celery stalk, left whole or cut into 2 large chunks
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 Ricotta cheese (15oz)
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 t dried parsley
1.5 t dried oregano
6 cups mozzarella cheese, shredded
In a large skillet, heat 1 T evoo over Medium high heat until shimmering. Add beef and brown. Drain off the excess moisture. Set aside.
In a large stockpot, heat 1 T evoo over medium heat and add minced garlic until fragrant, approx. 30 seconds. Add both containers of sauce, prego and ragu. Drop the carrot and celery in and allow to come to a simmer. Reduce heat and simmer for as long as you want. I usually go at least an hour. Prior to mixing with meat be sure to remove carrots and celery stalk. You can skip the carrot and celery step all together and simply add sugar. Add a Tablespoon at a time until you reach your desired sweetness.
Empty container of Ricotta in a medium sized mixing bowl. Add minced garlic, parsley and oregano. Break Egg and mix thoroughly. Place in refrigerator until ready to assemble lasagna.
**forgot the egg--sorry**
Pour half the sauce mixture into the meat. (I do this because the amount of beef I have usually varies and I like the correct sauce to beef ratio- You can always add additional sauce to the lasagna but it is more difficult to brown more meat because you made it too saucy- does that make sense??)
In large lasagna pan or a deep 13x9 pan or what ever pan you feel like using, add JUST sauce (no meat) to the bottum of the pan. I feel when you add the meat as well it tends to stick. Layer the noodles, then the Ricotta, then shredded mozzerella, then meat sauce, then noodle. Repeat 2 or 3 more times pending on your pan. (I usually only get 2 more times)
**Repeat above steps 2 or 3 more times**
You will end with noodle on top. Add just the sauce at this point and then top with mozzerella and I added basil.
**half way through, remove foil**
IMPORTANT NOTES: This will make more sauce than you will actually use in most cases so just freeze or serve with some sauce on the side for those whom like it extra saucy! Be sure to use enough sauce. I always use more than I think I should when assembling and it turns out great. The amount of cheese depends on you. I suggest to go over board rather than under board.