Preparation / Directions:
***(There will be a couple of ounces left in the 28-ounce can. Save it. You will use it in assembling the lasagna.) This is the lasagna we have made and sold for a decade. Several things set this version apart from the dozens of other lasagna recipes. Its sauce is strongly seasoned with oregano. It calls for a thick filling of bechamel instead of ricotta cheese. It uses feta cheese to step up the flavor of the dish. And it takes advantage of fresh lasagna noodles, which can go into the dish with no precooking. Our sales of this product are the best proof that the formula works.
PREPARE-AHEAD/SERVING NOTES: Make a day ahead and bake when needed, or do as we do and freeze. Take the lasagna straight from the freezer to the oven and adjust the cooking time accordingly. Caution: Be sure to let the lasagna sit 20 minutes before serving.
ESSENTIAL GEAR: Shallow baking pan (9 by 13 inches) To make sauce, cook ground beef in a sauté‚pan over medium heat until pink is gone and meat is crumbly. Remove from heat and pour meat through a colander to drain off all fat. Reserve meat. (Be certain it is well-crumbled. If it is not, break it up using a potato masher or large wooden spoon.) In the same saucepan, heat olive oil and add onions, oregano, garlic, basil, salt, black pepper, and red pepper flakes. Cook over medium heat until onions are translucent. Add wine, bring to a boil, and cook until alcohol has evaporated--- about 10 minutes. Stir in tomatoes. Add spinach and reserved meat. Continue simmering for a few minutes. Remove from heat and reserve.
Mix together mozzarella and feta cheeses and set aside. To make bechamel, heat milk, cream, white pepper, thyme, nutmeg, and basil in a small saucepan until it nears a boil. Turn off heat. Melt butter in a medium-size sauté‚pan. When foam from butter recedes, remove from heat, add flour, and mix well. Return to medium-low heat and, stirring frequently, simmer for 2 to 3 minutes to cook, but not brown, the flour. Gradually stir in hot milk and cream mixture. Raise heat to medium-high and continue stinnng until mixture is smooth and thick--about 5 minutes. Add Parmesan and Romano cheeses and whisk until smooth. This should be the texture of wallpaper paste, not of the white sauce more often associated with bechamel. To make topping, mix together bread crumbs, Parmesan, and parsley. Reserve.
TO ASSEMBLE AND BAKE: Preheat oven to 400F. Spread 2 tablespoons of the tomato juices left in the can of tomatoes on the bottom of a shallow baking dish (9 by 13 inches). Lay in one layer of the uncooked lasagna noodles. Spoon on 3 cups of the meat sauce. Spread 1 cup of bechamel across the sauce in two diagonals (no need to spread evenly at this point). Top with 2 cups of cheese mixture. Lay on another layer of lasagna noodles and repeat, using the same amounts of sauce (be sure to get every dab of the meat sauce - there is no extra to spare), bechamel, and cheese. Top with last layer of noodles, and with fingertips, press lightly to distribute bechamel smoothly in the layers. Using a long metal spatula, "frost" top layer of noodles with remaining bechamel. Be sure to completely cover noodles so that they do not dry out in baking.
Sprinkle evenly with reserved bread crumb mixture. Bake lasagna at 400F for about 60 minutes or until sauce bubbles around the edge and top is nicely browned. If top browns too quickly, cover with aluminum during last 10 minutes of cooking. If baking the lasagna straight from the freezer,add about 20 minutes to cooking time. Once out of the oven, let lasagna set up for about 20 minutes before serving. (This is critical for ease of serving.)