Thursday, August 3, 2017

The Best Gourmet Frozen Lasagna!

Happy Freezer Friday!  We love Freezer meals and this is the ultimate freeze lasagna of all time in the history of forever. Well. If I had a dollar for every blog post that ever claimed it was the "best ever"------ whatever it is...I'd have a bazillion dollars. However, in the case of this lasagna, it's a recipe that I've used in catering large weddings as well as bottomless pit feeding-frenzied teenage boys.  Okay, I say boys, but Little Man just turned 18 and is just about finished with his college he's man--ish. As for the Lasagna recipes, this one is pretty legit. It's loaded with vegetables and flavor.  

If you notice, there's not a Cooking with Chef Tess video with this one, I've taken a step back from the network TV show for a while. My producer said that I'm welcome back anytime, so don't think this is forever y'all.  It's a long/short story mainly having to do with choosing between something "earthly important" and something "family eternal"...and I picked the eternal. I'd hope everyone would respect my privacy on this one and just know that I love you all dearly and will still be posting frequently here as well as keeping my family on track, together, and focused on keeping the main goal the main goal.  So, dinner together with this righteous lasagna is probably a fantastic idea! 

Homemade Gourmet Freezer Lasagna

This recipe makes 16 very large servings, so feel free to make 2-4 casseroles, depending on the size of your family. Today, we’re making 4

This recipe I have tweaked quite a few times to find just what I liked, nice tender pasta that is still a little firm with just a great amount of sauce and meat (or veggies) to hold the layers apart and keep its shape. I hope you enjoy it.

  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 2 medium onion, chopped
  • 2 stocks celery, sliced thin
  • 2 cup shredded carrot
  • 1/4 cup minced garlic
  • 2 lb lean turkey Italian Sausage
  • ½ cup teff seed (optional)
  • 4 quarts (16 cups) tomato puree 
  • 3 Tbsp. Chef Tess Italian
  • 1 Tbsp. Red Pepper Flakes

Directions: put the oil in a large dutch oven on the stove. Saute the vegetables and the meat until the meat is cooked and the vegetables are tender.  Add tomato puree. I used 4 quarts of my home canned tomatoes, but you can totally use the store cans. It take 4-28 0z cans of tomato puree, or if you like a chunky sauce, use two 28 oz can of tomato puree and 2-28 oz cans of diced tomatoes.
Simmer on low for 10-15 minutes.

 Okay. Let’s talk about that sauce. If the sauce seems a little thin, keep in mind that I don't cook my noodles first, so there needs to be a little extra liquid for the noodles to cook properly. So, let’s get the cheese filling put together and build this awesome lasagna.

Cheese filling:
  • 2 lbs ricotta cheese 
  • 2 cups Parmesan cheese
  • 1/4 cup fresh chopped basil, or 2 Tbsp dry basil
  • 2 Tbsp. Chef Tess Romantic Italian Seasoning 
  • 2 eggs
  • salt and pepper (about 1 teaspoon each)

Combine well in a large bowl. 


24 oven ready lasagna noodles (dry)
2 lbs mozzarella cheese, part skim is okay
1 cup Parmesan cheese

Decide the size casserole you will make:
  • 8 inch by 8 inch yields 4 casseroles
  • 9 by 13 inch yields 2 casseroles
  • 16 by 11 inch yields 1 casserole

Be sure to use NON aluminum pans, as they will have a reaction to the tomato products. Just as a general rule, tomato products should not be stored in aluminum.

To assemble:
8 inch use: 1/2 cup tomato sauce, 3 dry noodles, 1/3 cup cheese filling per noodle.
9 by 13 use: 1 cup sauce, 4 dry noodles and 1/2 cup cheese filling per noodle.
16 by 11 use: 2 cups sauce, 8 dry noodles, and 3/4 cup cheese filling per noodle.

Spread the tomato sauce on the bottom of your pan, avoiding large chunks of meat, lay noodles down across the bottom of the pan on top of the tomato sauce.
Spread the cheese filling over the noodle.
Top the cheese layer with some tomato sauce
8-inch pan: 3/4 cup tomato sauce

For the third layer, top with noodles and then the remaining sauce. Top with mozzarella and Parmesan cheese. You know, I say three layers, but it just depends on how big the pan is. I always end up with more layers on the smaller pans than the large ones. Especially if I use a loaf pan instead of an 8 by 8-inch casserole. So... you know. 5 layers or so for the small pans. 

      Freezer Precautions: Okay, we’ve made our casseroles, so now we’re ready to freeze them. Cover with plastic wrap and then foil, as we don't want any tomato to meet foil.

    Label clearly with cooking directions:  Defrost in fridge 24 hours, or microwave defrost. This is the best way to cook frozen lasagna. By far. I've tried straight from the freezer to the oven and I don't like how uneven it cooks, even with the store purchased lasagna. I'm weird that way. I'm okay with that. 

      Slow Cooker Lasagna?  One more thing. If you measure the inside of your crock pot and can find a plastic container that fits it and goes about 4 inches up the sides, you can put all these layers of cheese, sauce and noodles in the container and freeze it. When you want lasagna, you simply invert the container under hot running water until the lasagna cube comes out. Place it in your crock pot on low 6-8 hours OR on high 4-5 hours.

To Serve: Adjust oven rack to middle of the oven. Remove foil, remove plastic. Spray side of foil that meets cheese with a non-stick coating of your choice. Replace foil tightly sealing edges. Place on oven rack (Usually put it on a sheet pan on the oven rack).

Bake times 400 degrees:
8 inch: 25-30 minutes, remove foil and bake an additional 15-20 minutes, until hot throughout and the cheese is browned in spots. Let cool for 10 minutes before serving.
9 inch by 11: 30-40 minutes, remove foil and bake additional 25-30 minutes until hot throughout and the cheese is browned in spots. Let cool 10 minutes before serving.
11 by 16 inch: 40-45 minutes, remove foil and bake additional 30-35 minutes until hot throughout and cheese is browned in spots. Let cool 10 minutes before serving.

There you go. Make frozen lasagna.

Always My Very Best,
Your Friend Chef Tess

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