THE Lasagna

Garfield the cat and I have one major aspect in common: we both love, and I mean love, lasagna. This Italian classic is one I remember my mom making for me since early childhood. From my playroom upstairs, the heavenly aroma danced across my nose as the casserole baked in the oven. It's a recipe that is near and dear to my heart mostly because of the emotional ties it holds... and well, because it's plain delicious. I've since tweaked the lasagna recipe - sorry mom, you're the greatest - and I'd now like to think it's somewhat famous within my group of friends.

Bachelor night with Ashley? Lasagna. My future brother-in-laws stop over for dinner? Lasagna. Evenings with my best friend and her fiancé? Lasagna with salad and garlic breadsticks. Whipping up a pan for my trainer and her family post new baby arrival? Lasagna.

I mean, I'm not tooting my own lasagna horn but my trainer's daughter - who is quite picky when it comes to eating - told me that she asked Santa for my lasagna. Need I say more?

This is not my traditional lasagna concoction though. When my best friend asked if we could do dinner, I offered to whip up this kitchen staple but realized I did not have ground beef nor ground sausage in my freezer. But, I did have ground turkey. So, in an effort to use what I had on hand, I substituted ground turkey for the beef. I highly recommend you make this lasagna with beef combined with sausage because that is my forever favorite variation. If you're ruling out meat completely, try chopped and sautéed mushrooms or you could even use zucchini slices instead of the pasta noodles!

Price Breakdown • My lasagna recipe is incredibly budget conscious. The entire pan cost me roughly $20.00 - that's for a FOUR layer lasagna - and serves 6... I'm not talking a sparse portion either, I'm talking a hunk of casserole on your plate. You can feed a small crowd, or cut individual squares perfect for freezer leftovers.

Here's what you'll need:

2lbs ground turkey - substitute 1lbs ground beef and 1lbs ground sausage if desired

2 jars quality pasta sauce

2 15oz containers Ricotta cheese

1 8oz package oven ready lasagna noodles

Mozzarella cheese

Parmesan cheese

Fresh parsley

Ground nutmeg - my secret ingredient

1 egg

Salt and pepper

Splash of red wine

1) Begin by browning your ground turkey (or beef and sausage mixture) in a pan over medium heat. When the meat is almost cooked through, season with salt and pepper, and add a splash of red wine (optional) for flavor. Allow the wine to cook for 1-2 minutes.

2) While the meat browns, put your ricotta cheese into a bowl.

3) Sprinkle in a good amount of Parmesan cheese. I never measure, so sorry. I would estimate maybe 1/4 cup??

4) Next, your fresh chopped parsley. I just ripped off a small handful from the bushel and chopped it finely. Again, I'm really bad at measuring.

5) Secret ingredient alert! The freshly ground nutmeg is a game changer. You might not think that it adds much, but the flavor is super complex, warm, and savory. Just grind in a little dusting. Season with salt and pepper.

6) Add 1 egg into the ricotta mixture and stir to combine. Set aside. Your meat should be done cooking now, and we're ready to start building the casserole!

7) Begin by spreading a few spoonfuls of sauce onto the bottom of a 9x13in baking sheet. I'm using a disposable pan this time because I took the casserole over to my best friend's house.

8) Now, place 3 lasagna noodles over the little layer of pasta sauce... Preheat your oven to 375F degrees.

9) Spread an even layer of the ricotta mixture over the noodles. You'll have to make judgement calls as to the amount per layer! Remember, there will be four.

10) Add the meat layer...

11) A layer of mozzarella cheese, please...

12) Your sauce layer comes next. Repeat the process three more times beginning with noodles.

13) When you've reached the last layer, spread the ricotta mixture over the noodles, sprinkle on the meat, top with sauce and THEN finish with more mozzarella. Make sense?

14) Bake the lasagna at 375F for 45-50 minutes until the cheese is nicely browned and the noodles are fully cooked through. Serve with the classic sides mentioned above and perhaps a glass of wine.

I hope you all enjoy this very special recipe, friends. It's totally amazing.

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