Wow I never thought I'd be sick of lasagna but I think I am reaching my cheesy noodley saucy limit. I decided to make lasagna for this weeks smackdown after Maggie at DogHill Kitchen suggested it(check out her version of my spring roll pie while you're there). I'm glad I did, it was a real eye opener. I am also glad it's almost gone.
On Sunday I decided mid-day to make the lasagna for this weeks smackdown, thankfully I had almost everything for it in the fridge except ricotta(who keeps ricotta right?) and was able to be in and out of the store in about 3 minutes. I usually make the smackdown recipe during the week with my over eager 5 year old but seeing as dear husband was wrangling kids it was the perfect opportunity to spend time some time blissfully alone in the kitchen. Woohoo!
So I decided to compare 3 different lasagnas. 1 homemade meat and cheese combo. 1 homemade vegetarian cheese combo. 1 Stouffers meat and cheese frozen lasagna.
Basically I made a beautiful red sauce, split it between 2 sauce pans and added browned mild Italian sausage to one. To the other pot I added zucchinis, mushrooms, swiss chard (the last from my frozen garden stash), pesto(also the last of my frozen stash)and red peppers. Both pots got liberal doses of home dried herbs and a quick dash of salt. The ricotta cheese layer was ricotta blended with eggs and liberal amounts of mozzarella and a small amount of fresh grated Parmesan.
I started layering sauce, noodles, cheese, sauce, noodles, cheese in 2 different 9X13 baking dishes. Meanwhile the sad little Stouffers sat quietly on the counter silently begging for more cheese or a shot of fresh veggies. No such luck Stouffers. When the pans were full up I took pictures of them, covered them and popped them in the oven along with the Stouffers.
I baked them for an hour and I truly wish I had stopped at 45 minutes. They were a bit over done but they did have that kick ass crunchy melty cheese layer on the bottom. The Stouffers (here I made a logistical error) needed a 1/2 half more than the homemade lasagna. So the homemade ones cooled their jets while the Stouffers tried to catch up, again no such luck.
Ok taste comparison time.
#1 homemade meat and cheese-4 complete layers of meat sauce, cheese and noodles
It definitely could have used more sauce but it was the most popular of the 3 and the only one that was dug into for seconds. It gets the rating of delicious from my whole family! NICE!
#2 homemade vegetable and cheese-4 complete layers of vegetables, cheese and sauce. This was my favorite possibly because I made it especially for me with my home grown vegetables or just because it was damn good! It too could have used more sauce but that was my error and a small one at that. My kids took small taster bites but passed on full servings and that's OK because they eat so many vegetables. I don't force them to eat too many things lest they develop an aversion to all things vegetable. This gets a 2 person delicious vote and a 3 person OK vote.
#3 The Stouffers meat and cheese-2 complete layers of meat sauce, cheese (cottage) and noodles. The noodles were seriously al dente in this one and oddly enough were stacked 2 on top of each other with nothing in between. I thought this might be the reason for the toughness but when I peeled them apart even the single noodles were tough, hmmm. This one definitely had more than enough sauce and cheese but it tasted institutional and it was slightly sweet. This one got an OK vote from everybody but nobody went back for seconds which is telling in itself, don't you think? Also it's the only one still in our refrigerator.
So to sum it up homemade wins. Store bought loses. Pretty simple. In the extra time it takes to actually bake the frozen lasagna you can make a fresh one or 2. The taste is better, texture is better and money wise a 5 serving of Stouffers costs 8 bucks and for 10 bucks you can make your own 9X13 lasagna with 12 servings! In the 40 minutes of work it took in the kitchen I produced 2 great lasagnas that fed us for 3 days of lunches, snacks(15 year old boy) and 2 full dinners. I can't see ever buying a frozen lasagna again.
Here's the Stouffers silently begging for attention.
Here are the homemade heavy weights getting ready to kick some store bought ass.
This is actually not lasagna but a great picture of my 5 year old cruising on 2 wheels, his first time ever. Notice the peculiar lack of snow? Yes, this is mid-January in Alaska folks!