Did you ever see BeWitched where the husband springs a dinner party on his wife? You know how it goes, “Honey, I forgot to tell you, my boss and his wife are coming over for dinner tonight. I didn’t think you would mind whipping up a meal for them. Great, thanks! See you tonight!” And that’s the show right? The wife figuring out how to create a gourmet meal within a 30 minute show to make her husband look fantastic in front of his boss.
Well something similar happened to me the other day. Our sweet daughter decided she wanted to have a party, specifically for my husband’s side of the family. She decided this at 1:00 in the afternoon, and she was determined to have it THAT NIGHT. Her exact quote was, “No, it HAS to be tonight, otherwise I’ll just cry all night in my room!” She was really excited about it, she wrote a couple songs for the occasion, so we thought, “what the heck, it might be fun!” So my husband invited his parents and brother over, both of us thinking there was no way all of them could make it on such short notice….but low and behold they could! We were all really happy they could come over, until I realized that I just turned into Samantha Stephens but with a broken nose…I had to pull this one out with no magic at all!
Now, for those of you who know my in-laws, you know that they are the most wonderful, caring, non judgmental people I know. I adore these people! However, there is this little tinge in my stomach every time my Mother In Law comes over, where I want to make the VERY best impression I can on her. I don’t know why, but if she’s coming over, I want the house clean, the food to be amazing, my hair to look fantastic, and I want to be cool and calm when she comes over like it’s no big deal to clean the whole house, prepare a huge meal and host people for dinner. I know she loves me, and I’ve been married to her son for almost 9 years and been together even longer, but if she comes over and sees my frantically tossing salad and sees all the dirty pots and pans tossed wildly into the sink, Parmesan cheese all over my counter and the chaos that is my typical kitchen while I’m cooking, I think I would have a heart attack.
So you can see now how all of a sudden, I went from, “Yea this is a great idea, it will be fun!” to then turning into the wild animal my mom would call the “White Tornado” where I frantically clean the house as fast as possible and start working with no breaks and yes have a couple soda’s to help keep the energy up! Within 4 hours, we went to the store, cleaned the whole house and I prepared my tride and true “My In-Laws are Coming for dinner” Lasagna. So here it is for all of you folks who find yourself with a couple of hours to prepare a fabulous meal within an hour and a half…and yes I have accounted for time for you to fix your hair right before they come over.
“The In-Laws Are Coming Over For Dinner” Lasagna
1 Box Lasagna Noodles
1 32 oz container of Ricotta Cheese
1 medium size bag of shredded mozzarella
3 hefty shakes of Parmesan Cheese with Romano
1 pound ground beef
1 pound ground sausage
1 onion (diced really well – if you don’t have a slap chop or food chopper thing please go get one, you will love it)
3 cloves garlic
2 24 oz cans of Spaghetti Sauce (I use the basic one from the store, and then doctor it up, but you can pick your favorite flavor)
Salt, Pepper, Dried Basil, Dried oregano, Dried Parsley
Set Oven to 350 Degrees
How to work your Magic
- Boil water for the noodles.
- While the water is boiling, take another pot and heat it on high, after a couple minutes add the ground beef and sausage into the pan. One great way to test if the pan is hot enough is to take a little water on your fingers and splash a little water on the pan. If it sizzles and evaporates immediately, it’s ready.
- Add salt and pepper to the meat and cook through.
- While the water is boiling and the meat is cooking (look at you doing 3 things at once…maybe you ARE magic!) chop up the onion and garlic into little bitty pieces, you don’t want your Mother In Law to get a huge piece of onion in her lasagna.
- When the meat is cooked through, drain the fat / oil out of the pan. My trick is that we keep one aluminum can (usually from dog food) and drain all the fat into that, then keep the fat can in the freezer after you’re done and keep adding until it’s about 3/4 full. Then you can throw it away and make a new fat can. It’s easy and simple and doesn’t put hot oil in your drain (which I’ve learned from my smart husband is a very bad idea). Plus it’s fun to say you have a fat can and not be talking about your butt. 🙂
- Add the onion and garlic into the meat mixture and cook until the onion starts to get soft
- Usually around now the water is boiling – when it is, add a teeny tiny amount of olive oil into the water to help keep the noodles from sticking together. Then put the noodles in the boiling water. This is a test of patience as lasagna noodles are particular. Put one in the water and then let it soften up to make room for the 2nd…do this for all the noodles in the box. Trust me and don’t try to dump them all in…this will require you to have to flip them over after one half is cooked…it’s not a pretty sight. Cook for 8 minutes…yes, set a timer.
- Add 1.5 cans of spaghetti sauce into the meat mixture and add some oregano, basil and parsley to taste. Taste it lots and make sure it’s a great simple sauce. It doesn’t have to be too fancy or powerful as the cheese will be added too to get some extra “Wha-Pow” flavor into it.
- Let the sauce hang out and get to know each other…it’s the sauce party, time for all the flavors to meet and greet and make it a super fun party.
- Mix 1/2 – 3/4 of the tub of ricotta cheese in a bowl with the egg and one two hefty shakes of the parmesan cheese and one handful of mozzarella. Add a couple shakes of oregano, basil and parm cheese and mix up to create a yummy melty cheesy mixture.
- Drain the noodles and leave them in the colander until you are ready to combine it all.
- Now comes the fun part…putting it all together. So here’s the key.
- Take a large casserole dish, mine is 11×17 or something like that…go big….and spray it with non stick spray.
- Now put noodles in the pan, but not your traditional way. Take four pieces, and lay them horizontally starting in the middle of the pan and then drape them over the sides “But Dani, wait! Then we don’t eat them!” to that I say…”Don’t fear…you will LOVE this trick!”
- Then put down four more noodles on the other side of the pan with the same drapey technique. and add four noodles to connect the two sides on the bottom. You will think you won’t have enough noodles, but you will 😉
- Then the layering begins! Start with 1/2 of the meat sauce and then 1/2 of the cheese mixture.
17. Then one more layer of noodles, this time just in the middle, no draping needed. So about 4-5 noodles, the rest of the meat sauce and then the rest of the cheese mixture. At this point you shouldn’t have any more meat sauce or any more cheese mixture but just a couple more noodles.
18. Now your trick can begin. Take the draping noodles off the sides and wrap them over all of the layers to encase it in a cute little lasagna snuggie. Put the 1/2 can of sauce on the top of it to keep it from getting super crispy and then put an extra handful of mozzarella and parmesan cheese on the top.
19. Bake for 30 minutes at 350 until the cheese is bubbly.
20. During this 30 minutes you can then toss a quick salad, clean the kitchen and then you’ll have just enough time to fix your hair and makeup and bribe your kid to set the table.
Just as the doorbell rings, your hair is perfect, the lasagna is just coming out of the oven and you’ll officially have that statement spoken that you’ve wanted all day “Wow, it smells GREAT in here! How did you have time to do all of this?” To which you can say, “I must be magic!”