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~ Thick-and-Zesty Gluten-Free Ground-Beef Lasagna ~

IMG_4011I'm not sure how many lasagna recipes one cook is supposed to have, but, I'm guessing most households have more than one.    Here in my kitchen, I make four different types of lasagna, each with its own unique sauce: Bolognese, seafood, vegetable, and, kid-friendly ground beef. Today, because a few of you have asked for a gluten-free lasagna recipe recently, I'm posting my easy-to-make version, which is a spin-off of my crowd-pleasing kid-friendly ground beef lasagna.

Notes before starting:  It goes without saying you'll need gluten-free lasagna noodles -- your favorite brand, your choice, that's fine, mine are brown rice noodles.  There's more.  Even though I do not boil any store-bought lasagna noodles to make lasagna,  I do not recommend any of the no-boil type noodles -- experience has taught they tend to get gummy.  Next, it's important to know that I use McCormick spices exclusively, because they guarantee all their products to be gluten-free.  I also specify Hatfield sausage, because it too is gluten-free too -- not all sausage products are.  One last point:  Generally speaking, I do not like to use shredded block cheeses when I make lasagna.  I prefer the block cheeses be sliced.  Why?  Because sliced cheese eliminates the airspace that shredded cheese creates, which makes for a prettier lasagna. Because the thickness of the cheese does matter, ask your deli-person to slice the cheese as thin as possible without the slices breaking or crumbling.  If the cheeses are sliced too thick, there'll be too much cheese, and you'll have a bubble-over mess in your oven when the lasagna bakes.

Part One -- Making the meat sauce:

IMG_3885For the meat sauce:

3  tablespoons olive oil

2  generous cups diced yellow or sweet onion (12 ounces)

1  pound sliced white button mushroom caps

1  tablespoon McCormick garlic powder

3  packets McCormick Thick & Zesty spaghetti sauce mix

3  pounds 90/10 ground beef (90% fat free)

1  pound Hatfield sweet Italian sausage, casings removed

1  28-ounce can crushed tomatoes

IMG_3882 IMG_3882 IMG_3882 IMG_3882 IMG_3896 IMG_3896 IMG_3896~Step 1.  Place the oil in a 12" chef's pan.   Prep onions and mushrooms as directed, placing them in pan as you work.  Place over low heat for 1-2 minutes, stirring constantly.  Increase heat to sauté, stirring frequently, until onion softens and mushrooms have lost almost all moisture, about 15-20 minutes, using a large spatula to chop up mushrooms a bit as they cook.  Stir in the garlic powder and packets of spaghetti sauce mix.  Continue to sauté for about 30-60 seconds.  Mixture will be thick and pasty.

IMG_3907 IMG_3907 IMG_3907 IMG_3907 IMG_3918 IMG_3918 IMG_3918 IMG_3918 IMG_3918~Step 2.  Add all of the ground beef and sweet sausage to onion/mushroom mixture.  Cook mixture over medium-high heat, stirring frequently and using the spatula to break up the meats into small bits and pieces, until the meat has lost its red color, is steamed through, and almost no moisture remains in the bottom of the pan, 25-30 minutes.

IMG_3934 IMG_3934 IMG_3934~ Step 3.  Add and thoroughly stir in the crushed tomatoes.  Adjust the heat to a gentle, steady simmer and continue to cook, stirring constantly with a large spoon, about 15 minutes.  This meat sauce, which is also a great meat sauce for spaghetti, is ready to use.  That said, I like to remove the pan from the heat, cover it, and let it rest for about 30 minutes prior to assembling the lasagna, to give the flavors time to marry.  That said,  it is important to have the sauce warm-to-hot when assembling the lasagna as it will pre-soften the noodles before the lasagna goes into the oven.

Part Two -- Assembling & baking the lasagna:

IMG_3948For the assembly:

all the meat sauce,  from above recipe

1  10-ounce box ruffled-edge gluten-free brown-rice lasagna noodles, uncooked

1/2-3/4   pound thinly-sliced Cooper CV sharp cheese, or white American cheese

1/2-3/4   pound thinly-sliced provolone cheese

1/2-3/4  pound thinly-sliced mozzarella cheese

1/2-3/4  cup fine-grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

1-2  teaspoons Italian seasoning blend, or dried oregano

no-stick cooking spray

IMG_3957 IMG_3957 IMG_3957 IMG_3957 IMG_3967 IMG_3967 IMG_3967~Step 1.  Spray the bottom of a 13" x 9" x 2" casserole with no-stick.  Spoon a thin but even layer of meat sauce in bottom of casserole dish.  Arrange lasagna noodles, side by side, over the sauce.  Four noodles will fit lengthwise.  Break one noodle to fit in the remaining space.  Arrange a single layer of Cooper CV cheese slices over the noodles.  Arrange a single layer of provolone slices over the CV.  Arrange a single layer of mozzarella slices over the provolone.  Spoon a second layer of meat sauce over the cheese layer.  Generously sprinkle Parmigianno-Reggiano over meat sauce.  

IMG_3975 IMG_3975 IMG_3975 IMG_3975 IMG_3987 IMG_3987 IMG_3987 IMG_3987~Step 2.  Arrange a second layer of lasagna noodles in the dish and repeat the above process (a second layer of cheeses, a third layer of meat sauce, plus a sprinkling of Parmigiano-Reggiano). Sprinkle Italian seasoning blend over all.  The lasagna is now ready for the oven or the freezer, or, it can be covered with plastic wrap and refrigerated overnight, returned to room temperature (which takes about 3-4 hours) and baked the next day.  I highly recommend refrigerating it over night -- it's convenient, but more importantly, it gives all the great flavors time to marry.

IMG_3999 IMG_3999 IMG_3999~ Step 3.  Cover lasagna with a piece of foil that's been sprayed with no-stick.  Place foil, sprayed side down, over lasagna and cover tightly.  Bake on center rack of 350° oven, 45 minutes. Remove foil and continue to bake 25-30 more minutes, or until browned and bubbly.  Remove from oven and rest, 30-60 minutes prior to slicing and serving -- 30 minutes if you want to eat your lasagna at that "ooey-gooey" stage, or, 60 minutes if you want nicer, neater slices and a more refined presentation.

One bite & all agree -- no need to reveal this as a GF recipe:

IMG_4043Thick-and-Zesty Gluten-Free Ground-Beef Lasagna:  Recipe yields 8-12 hearty servings. 

Special Equipment List: cutting board; chef's knife; 12" chef's pan w/straight, deep sides & lid,; large spatula; large spoon;  13" x 9" x 2" casserole dish; plastic wrap (optional); aluminum foil

IMG_3873Cook's Note: For the record, I do not eat a gluten-free diet, nor do I recommend that anyone for any other reason than being a bona fide celiac adopt a gluten-free diet. Simply stated, depriving the body of gluten, meaning wheat or by-products of wheat, for any long-term length of time, causes. not cures, health problems -- research it.  That said, I do know two bona fide celiacs, and, when either pay a visit to my kitchen, I accommodate -- which isn't remarkably hard because lots of foods (meat, poultry, fish, seafood and vegetables), pantry ingredients and meals are gluten-free, and, for the record, there are some very good gluten-free pastas available, so know, a GF pasta dish or three are helpful to keep in your back pocket.  Here are ~ My Five Basic Tips for Foolproof GF Cookie Baking ~.  

"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2021)


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