Yep. It’s finally happened. Today’s the day, February 10th. I am now officially 30. Despite all my talk about accepting it gracefully, I was in a pretty bad mood today. I don’t think it was actually because of my birthday. Have you ever had one of those days where you wake up cranky for no reason and just can’t shake the crankiness all day? It was like that. With moments of sunshine, because I got lots of birthday wishes and all my classes were mercifully well-behaved. Plus my big book order for the year finally came yesterday, so I spent my prep digging through luscious boxes of never-before-opened books. So it wasn’t all bad.

I came home and showered off the grumps, and now I’m feeling happy and waiting for Adam to come home and take me out for my surprise dinner. No idea where we’re going, but I can’t wait.

**I forgot to note that this lasagna is what I made for my 30th birthday dinner party.

waiting to partyJackie’s 30th Lasagne (modified from Everday Italian by Giada De Laurentiis)

I made 2 of these, one with meat and one without. I made a pot of my sauce, but instead of ground beef and meat stock I added extra onion, basil, and only used veggie stock. So it is a vegetarian sauce.

Ingredients (this makes 2 lasagne, so halve if you don’t want that much)

Salt and pepper
Extra Virgin olive oil
2 boxes of dry lasagna noodles
1 lb. ground beef
4 cups Bechamel Sauce (recipe follows)
3 cups tomato sauce
3 lbs. whole-milk ricotta cheese
6 large eggs
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 (10-ounce) packages frozen chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
6 cups mozzarella, mix of fresh and shredded (I probably actually used way more than this, but eyeball it as you go)
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

1. Preheat oven to 375 F.

3. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add 3 tablespoons oil to keep the noodles from sticking together. Cook the lasagna noodles about 6 minutes until almost al dente but still firm in the middle. Drain and lay out on cookie sheets to prevent sticking.

3. Make the tomato sauce (you’ll have leftover sauce if you follow my recipe) and let it simmer while you make the Bechamel sauce (recipe follows). Add the tomato sauce to the Bechamel sauce and stir until well combined. Set aside.

4. In a saute pan, heat extra-virgin olive oil. When almost smoking, add the ground beef and season with salt and pepper. Brown meat, breaking any large lumps, until it is no longer pink. Remove from heat and drain any excess fat. Set aside and allow to cool completely.

5. In a medium sized bowl, thoroughly mix the ricotta and eggs. Season with salt and pepper. Set aside.

6. Into the bottom of a 13 by 9-inch baking dish, spread 1/3 of the bechamel sauce.

bechamel on the bottom

Arrange the pasta sheets side by side, covering the bottom of the baking dish.

first pasta layer

Evenly spread a layer of all the ricotta mixture…

ricotta layer

and then a layer of all the spinach (I used less than Giada’s recipe).

spinach layer

Arrange another layer of pasta sheets and spread all the ground beef on top (except on the veggie one).

meat layer

Sprinkle 1/2 the mozzarella cheese on top of the beef.  Spread another 1/3 of the bechamel sauce.

2nd bechamel layer and cheese

Arrange the final layer of pasta sheets and top with remaining bechamel, mozzarella and Parmesan cheeses. Cut the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter into 1/4-inch cubes and top lasagna.

7. Line a large baking sheet with aluminum foil. Place lasagna dish on top, cover and put on the middle rack of the oven and bake until top is bubbling, about 30 minutes. Remove cover and continue to bake for about 15 minutes.

Bechamel Sauce

  • 5 tablespoons unsalted butter, plus 2 tablespoons for the lasagna
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 4 cups whole milk at room temperature
  • Pinch freshly grated nutmeg

In a 2-quart pot, melt 5 tablespoons of butter over medium heat. When butter has completely melted, add the flour and whisk until smooth, about 2 minutes. Gradually add the milk, whisking constantly to prevent any lumps from forming. Continue to simmer and whisk over medium heat until the sauce is thick, smooth and creamy, about 10 minutes. The sauce should be thick enough to coat the back of wooden spoon. Remove from heat and add the nutmeg. Stir until well combined and check for seasoning. Set aside and allow to cool completely.