Rach's spiced-up Firehouse Lasagna is a shout-out to emergency first responders, who are still out there working during the coronavirus pandemic. It was inspired by the work she does with her buddy Denis Leary's Firefighters Foundation.
"The meat sauce is delicious by itself in a bowl of pasta, period," Rach says. "If you want to turn it into chili, just add chili powder and some beans and you have chili. It's a really versatile recipe, so you may want to make an extra batch of this and pop it in your freezer." (Get more of Rach's favorite freezer meals here.)
To make this a vegetarian dish, simply leave out the meat, double the veggies for the sauce and season them with her firehouse seasoning. Or you can swap in a meatless ground "beef" product for the ground beef.
- 2 teaspoons dried oregano
- 2 teaspoons red pepper flakes
- 2 teaspoons pimenton
- 1 teaspoon ground fennel, fennel seed or fennel pollen
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1 teaspoon dried thyme
- 1 teaspoon dried sage
- About ⅛ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
- About ⅛ teaspoon ground allspice
- 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil (EVOO)
- 1 onion, finely chopped
- 1 carrot, peeled and grated
- 1 rib celery with leafy tops, finely chopped
- 4 cloves garlic, grated or chopped
- Salt and pepper
- 1 ½ pounds ground beef or ground beef and pork, combined (or sub in a meatless ground “beef” product)
- 1 fresh bay leaf
- ⅓ batch Firehouse Spice Blend (about 1 palmful)
- 3 cups passata, tomato sauce or tomato puree
- One 15-ounce can fire-roasted diced tomatoes
- Splash of red or white wine
- One 16-ounce bag frozen chopped organic spinach, defrosted and wrung dry
- 3 cups ricotta cheese
- 1 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
- 2 eggs
- Freshly grated nutmeg
- About 1 teaspoon ground white pepper
- One 1-ounce package flat lasagna sheets
- 12 ounces smoked mozzarella, very thinly sliced or shredded
- 1 ½ cups shredded Pepper Jack cheese (about 8 ounces)
- Basil leaves, torn
For the spice blend, combine ingredients in a bowl.
For the spicy sauce, heat a Dutch oven over medium to medium-high heat with EVOO, 2 turns of the pan, add onions, carrots, celery, garlic, salt and pepper, and sweat vegetables 5 minutes. Add ground meat, season it with salt, pepper and bay, crumble, cover and cook a few minutes to let it lose its pink color. Stir in spice blend, about a palmful, then add about 2 cups passata, the diced tomatoes and a splash of wine, drizzled around the pan. Let it thicken up Add the diced tomatoes and about 2 cups passata or tomato sauce/puree and simmer at low bubble, about 20 minutes.
Bring a large pot of water to a boil for pasta sheets. Salt water and boil pasta 4 to 5 minutes, drain and arrange on kitchen towels.
For the spinach filling, place spinach in kitchen towel and wring out excess liquid.
Place ricotta in a bowl and add Parm, eggs, salt, spinach, nutmeg and white pepper. Mix together.
Preheat oven to 375˚F with rack at center.
To a 9x13 casserole, spread remaining 1 cup passata, sauce or puree across the bottom, add a layer of pasta, a layer of spicy sauce, top with the next layer of pasta, then a layer of ricotta and spinach mixture. Repeat layers: pasta, spicy sauce, pasta, ricotta, pasta, spicy sauce and finish with mozzarella and pepper Jack cheeses.
Cover pan with foil and bake for 40 minutes, uncover and cook until top is brown and bubbly, about 20 minutes. Let stand 10 to 15 minutes, top with torn basil, cut and serve.