Recipe courtesy of Sarah Copeland

Make-Ahead Lasagna

Lasagna is the kind of food that can keep a man happy for many nights in a row. The very best thing about it is that you can prepare the whole thing a day before, and store it in the fridge overnight to bake up fresh right before dinner. Bring it out for cold rainy nights and serve up leftovers that get better for days. This one is light and lively, and won't derail you from your pact to help each other stay fit and trim. The secret is in the sauce {marinara}, simple and homemade by you with just 30 minutes of simmering on the stovetop. There's something mystical about homemade sauce. It's the subtle natural sweetness of stewed tomatoes that shine, especially when they aren't overloaded with too many spices or sugar. If you're in a rush, let yourself off the hook with a jar of your favorite store-bought sauce, but check the ingredients first since too sweet a sauce {sugar should be low down on the list} can overpower the savory satisfaction of the whole meal.
  • Yield: Serves 8 to 10 (or 2, with leftovers)
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Ingredients

Marinara: 

1/4 cup/60 ml extra-virgin olive oil

4 garlic cloves, smashed

Two 32-oz cans whole, peeled San Marzano tomatoes, with juice

2 bay leaves

Pinch of dried thyme or basil {optional}

2 or 3 sprigs of fresh basil

1 tsp sea salt

Freshly ground black pepper

Lasagna:

Iodized salt

8 oz/225 g dried lasagna noodles

1 lb/455 g ground grass-fed beef

One 16-oz/455 g container organic, whole-milk cottage cheese

2 large eggs, beaten

1/2 cup/60 g freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

Freshly ground black pepper

8 oz/225 g fresh mozzarella cheese

8 oz/225 g shredded mozzarella cheese

Directions

  1. Make the marinara: Heat the oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant, 3 minutes. Add the tomatoes, crushing through your fingers as you pour them in the pan. Add the bay leaves, dried thyme, and basil and cook until the sauce thickens, about 30 minutes, crushing the tomatoes further with a wooden spoon to help them break down. Season with the salt and pepper. Pull out and discard the bay leaves and basil. You should have about 4 cups/960 ml of sauce. Reserve 2 1/2 cups/600 ml of sauce for the lasagna, and freeze the remaining 1 1/2 cups/360 ml of sauce for your next pasta dinner. 
  2. Make the lasagna: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F/180 degrees C/gas 4. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Cook the lasagna noodles until al dente, about 12 minutes. Drain. 
  3. Heat a large skillet over medium heat and add the beef. Cook, stirring occasionally, until browned through. Transfer to a bowl with a slotted spoon, leaving excess fat behind. 
  4. In a medium bowl, mix together the cottage cheese, eggs, and 1/4 cup/30 g of the Parmigiano-Reggiano, and season with a pinch of salt and a few grinds of black pepper. 
  5. Slice the fresh mozzarella as thin as possible with a sharp knife, season lightly with salt, and drain on paper towels/absorbent papers. 
  6. Lightly brush a 9-by-13-in/23-by-33-cm ovenproof pan with olive oil. Line the bottom with drained noodles. Add a third of the sauce, and half the cottage cheese mixture. Sprinkle on half of the meat and top with a layer of shredded mozzarella. Repeat with remaining noodles, another third of the sauce, and the rest of the cottage cheese mixture and meat. Finish with any remaining sauce and finally the slices of fresh mozzarella, sprinkling on the remaining Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese. 
  7. Cover with aluminum foil and bake for 20 minutes. Remove the foil and continue baking until the cheese bubbles and the lasagna is warmed through, 20 minutes more. Remove from the oven and let cool about 15 minutes before slicing. Serve immediately.

Cook’s Note

P.S. You can use no-boil lasagna noodles to save yourself a step. Keep the lasagna covered for the first 30 minutes of cooking so the steam can soften and cook the noodles. Make it Meatless: This lasagna is light and delicious with sliced zucchini/courgette instead of the meat. Slice 1 large zucchini/courgette into long, thick slices. Salt them well and drain between layers of paper towels/absorbent papers to release the moisture for at least 30 minutes. Layer into the lasagna along with the cheese mixture and top with regular (not fresh or buffalo, since it will make the zucchini/courgette version too wet) mozzarella. Bake as instructed in the regular recipe.

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