A sheet pan of lasagna, wrapped in a cape of bubbly cheese, is just the superhero needed to save a group of roommates, trapped in the dorm on a Sunday night, commiserating over tough classes and a high-stakes video game tournament that took a nosedive into a steaming landfill.
Alex, the only child of the Fixin’ Leaks and Leeks Team, is living in the dorms at the University of Washington, and his roommate and friends are from China. They’ve shared many meals, conversations, and late nights wondering what to do when the cafeterias suddenly shut down because of supply-chain snafus and worker shortages. They just dig in, tough it out, and when worse comes to worse, try their hand at a karaoke place next to the Shawarma King on University Way. Also, Nate and I are only thirty minutes away, if they need a home-cooked meal, or if they need us to bring one that they can share.
“Mom!” Alex texted me yesterday. “My friends don’t feel so good.”
Of course, when I received this text, I immediately thought that Alex’s friends were sick, but Alex later explained that his friends were inconsolably depressed because their favorite team from China lost the League of Legends video game tournament at around 3 a.m. the night before. We’re not sure what happened exactly. Either Alex’s friends’ favorite team from China lost or Alex’s friends were on the favored team from China that lost. In any case, Nate and I believed that the obvious solution would be food. Most likely, everyone’s depressed AND hungry.
“Can we bring anything? Anything for dinner on Sunday?” I texted back.
After some texting back and forth, Alex said that his friends wanted to try lasagna.
Oh, the power of lasagna to rescue young souls from the depths of a pile of Snickers wrappers and empty two-liter bottles of Mountain Dew! I felt like I was in such familiar, solid territory to help Alex and his friends, until Nate picked up a box of “oven ready” lasagna noodles, and I said, “What the freak do I do with these?”
After consulting the directions on the box and several online recipes, I was more confused than ever. Did I need to add extra water to the dish before baking? Or wine? Or broth? Or cream? Or all of the above?
Here’s what I ended up doing—and it worked!
–1 pound of lean ground beef
–1/2 cup of onion, finely chopped
–1/2 cup of bell peppers, finely chopped
–1 clove of garlic, chopped
–1/2 tablespoon of red pepper flakes (optional)
–2 24-ounce jars of bottled marinara sauce
–1 cup of ricotta cheese
–2 tablespoons of dried Italian herbs
–1/2 teaspoon of cracked black pepper
–12 “oven ready” lasagna noodles
–1 8-ounce package of shredded mozzarella cheese
–1 cup of water
–Preheat the oven to 375 degrees
–Cook the ground beef in a pan on the stove top over medium heat. Drain the fat.
–Combine the meat with the garlic, peppers, onion, red pepper flakes (if using), and 1 ½ jars of the marinara sauce.
–In a separate bowl, combine the ricotta cheese, Italian herbs, and cracked black pepper.
–In a 9X13-inch pan, place some of the meat/sauce mixture.
–Layer four lasagna noodles on top.
–Cover the noodles with 1/3 of the ricotta cheese mixture.
–Pour more sauce over the top.
–Use about 1/3 of the package of mozzarella cheese to cover this layer.
–Add four more noodles + 1/3 more of the ricotta cheese+ remaining meat sauce + 1/3 more of the mozzarella cheese.
–Add four more noodles + the remaining ricotta cheese + the unused marinara sauce from the jar.
–Pour one cup of water around the edges of the pan.
–Seal tightly with aluminum foil and bake for 50 minutes.
–Remove the foil and cover with the last bit of mozzarella cheese from the package. Cook for ten minutes.
–Broil the lasagna for a few minutes under the broiler until the cheese is bubbly.
Results: The house smelled heavenly while the lasagna baked. The entire thing traveled well, and Alex and his friends could heat it up easily on their own. We dropped it off, and just like that: the masked, caped Super Lasagna flew away, a loaf of garlic bread tucked under their arm, ready to take on all of the karaoke joints on University Way—and fight for justice for Alex’s friends on the video game tournament circuit.
Your Turn: What is your go-to comfort food?