A great friend of mine just had a beautiful baby boy, and BOY OH BOY, I know how tough it is to make dinner and take care of a newborn! So, I offered to prepare her favorite meal. She told me that her favorite dish was lasagna, even joking how she must be related to Garfield somehow... "Lasagna...", I said, thinking that I actually haven't had my mom's wonderful lasagna for a long, long time. I think the last time I ate her lasagna was 8 years ago, when she came to visit us to see her new grandbaby (my first son).
Don't get me wrong, I have eaten lasagna many times in these 8 years, but not her comforting, home cooked, hearty lasagna, filled with both red meaty tomato sauce and a cheesy white Parmesan sauce, layered with slices of ham and mozzarella cheese, and topped with melted Parmesan cheese. Her recipe is very different from the recipes I have seen in the US. My mom doesn't use ricotta cheese or some veggies, instead, she uses both ham and mozzarella, and she also adds two sauces to make the lasagna noodles extra tender.
When I called my mom to get her delicious recipe, she gave me three important tips about the noodles. First she said that I should go ahead and buy the 'oven ready to bake' noodles, since the ones that must be boiled first are harder to deal with and break easily. The second tip she gave me was to prepare the lasagna dish the day before, cover it, and let it set in the refrigerator for a day to allow the sauce to sink in and moisten the noodles (since we are using the 'oven ready to bake' ones). She also told me to make sure to really add extra sauce on the edges of the dish to avoid the noodles from becoming hard and chewy. The last tip she gave me (which came in late, a week after I had already prepared and eaten the lasagna) was to cover the dish with parchment paper instead of aluminum foil. According to my mom, the aluminum from the foil is released into the dish when baking due to the acidity of the tomato sauce. So, we're actually eating aluminum. I don't know about this for sure, and please don't hold me responsible for it. :) Do your own research. But I believe my mom because she has about 45 years of cooking experience... and some of the tips she gave me in the past I saw, years later, in cooking shows like Martha Stewart and Food Network.
By the way, about my friend, I just received a wonderful thank you note from her saying how she loved it, and how her picky-eater son (he's about my oldest son's age) had three servings of it! :D
Here's the recipe. My mom likes to go the extra mile and makes her sauces and seasonings from scratch. I, on the other hand, like to take short cuts. So, this is my "short cut" version of my mom's recipe. This savory lasagna dish serves about 6-8 people and takes approximately 45 min to prep and 1 hour to bake (better to do it the day before and leave it in the fridge overnight):
ASSEMBLING THE LASAGNA: