Grabbing the Gusto

Deirdre Reid – Freelance Writer & Home Cook

Lasagna ready to serve - inspiration for menu ideas and recipes for lasagna, broccoli, swordfish, butternut squash, and green beans

Menu ideas and recipes for lasagna, broccoli, swordfish, butternut squash, and green beans


The highlight of the week: lasagna. Lasagna never lets you down.* I’ve been tweaking this recipe over the years: ground beef and Italian sausage, basil pesto ricotta mix, marinara, and mozzarella, provolone, and parmesan cheese.

*I changed my mind. Sometimes, if you have high expectations (like in a restaurant), lasagna can let you down, but this lasagna won’t.

  • 12 whole wheat or regular lasagna noodles
  • 1/2 pound ground beef (or you could use a bit more)
  • 1/2 pound ground Italian sausage (ditto)
  • 4 ounces (or more) chopped mushrooms
  • 1/2 yellow onion, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon each dried parsley, oregano, and thyme
  • 3 big cloves garlic, minced (1 tablespoon at least)
  • 1 28-ounce can crushed tomatoes or marinara sauce*
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 15- or 16-ounce container ricotta cheese
  • 1/2 cup basil pesto
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground pepper
  • 3-1/2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 1/2 cup shredded provolone cheese (if you add more, adjust the mozz)
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • Garlic salt

Preheat oven to 350. Coat a 9 x 13 baking dish with olive oil.

Drizzle olive oil into a large pan. Add beef, sausage, mushrooms, onion, and dried herbs and cook over medium, breaking up the meat with a spoon. Cook until the meat is no longer pink and the veggies are softened. Add garlic and cook until aromatic, about 30 seconds to 1 minute. Stir in crushed tomatoes (or marinara) and salt. Simmer for 20 minutes. Remove from the heat.

Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to boil. Cook lasagna, stirring occasionally until soft and pliable but not yet al dente, a few minutes short of the time suggested on the box. Drain and rinse with cold water. Separate so they don’t stick together.

Beat egg in a medium bowl. Add ricotta, pesto, and pepper and stir until combined.

Spread a thin layer of meat sauce on the bottom of the baking dish. Throw any large chunks back into the pan of sauce.

Layer three lasagna noodles across the length of baking dish. Cut one noodle so it fits crosswise at the end of the other three. Top the noodles with half the meat sauce. Sprinkle with 1 heaping cup of the mozzarella.

Top with a layer of noodles (same as before), all the ricotta, and 1 heaping cup of mozzarella.

Do one more layer of noodles. Spread the remaining meat sauce over them. Cover with foil. Bake until the lasagna is wicked hot all the way through, about 35 minutes. Remove foil, sprinkle with the remaining mozzarella, Parmesan, and garlic salt (to taste). Bake until the mozzarella on top is just melted but not browned (unless you love it that way), about 15 minutes. Let lasagna cool 10 to 15 minutes before serving.

Lasagna ready to serve - inspiration for menu ideas and recipes for lasagna, broccoli, swordfish, butternut squash, and green beans

*If I remember, I thaw some frozen marinara sauce—a good thing to always have in the freezer. Here’s my recipe. Actually, it’s Mario Batali’s. He may be a pig but he’s an excellent chef. This recipe makes about 4 cups.

Marinara sauce

  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 yellow onion, 1/4-inch dice (about 1 cup)
  • 1 tablespoon dried thyme
  • 2 teaspoons dried basil
  • 2 teaspoons dried oregano
  • 1/2 medium carrot, finely grated or minced, no more than 1/4 cup
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced (about 1 tablespoon)
  • 2 (28-ounce) cans peeled whole tomatoes, crushed by hand or puréed with an immersion blender, reserve the juices
  • Kosher salt

In a saucepan, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onion and cook until soft and light golden brown, about 8 to 10 minutes. Add the thyme and carrot, and cook 5 minutes more, until the carrot is quite soft. When it’s almost there, add the garlic and cook for about a minute.

Add the tomatoes and juice and bring to a boil, stirring often. Lower the heat and simmer for 30 minutes. Season with salt and it’s ready to serve or use in a recipe. You can store it for 1 week in the refrigerator or up to 6 months in the freezer.

On the side, roasted broccoli (add slices of garlic about 5 minutes before it’s done) tossed with lemon zest and Parmesan cheese when it comes out of the oven.

Swordfish and leftover refreshed veggies

I don’t have much else to share since lately I’ve been making a three-night meal on Sundays. However, I received a big, beautiful piece of swordfish in my seafood share last week. I simply baked and served it with generous squirts of lemon juice. On the side, leftover roasted butternut squash and green beans tossed in gojuchang and thrown back in the oven to crisp up.


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Creative Commons licensed photo by Alleksana via Pexels

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