Meat and Vegetable Lasagna

12-16 lasagna noodles 16 oz. spinach, chopped
1½-2 lb. lean ground beef or turkey 26 oz. jar spaghetti sauce
salt Italian seasoning
2 large yellow onions, chopped pepper
1 whole garlic globe, minced 2-3 Tblsps. olive oil
24 oz. ricotta or cottage cheese 1 lb. grated mozzarella cheese
8-10 oz. mushrooms, sliced parmesan cheese
optional vegetables: mustard or collard greens, squash, broccoli, jalapeños, green chiles

This recipe can make one gigantic lasagna or two medium lasagnas.  The directions will be for the single large lasagna, but I always make two medium ones (one to eat and one to freeze).  If you make two (recommended), just put half the ingredients in each.

While slicing and chopping vegetables, bring a large pot of at least four gallons of water to boiling.  Completely immerse all the lasagna noodles, separating them underwater; boil for 14-15 minutes.  While the noodles are boiling, brown salted meat in a frying pan, drain grease, and set aside.  In the same frying pan, heat olive oil for a couple of minutes, then sauté onions and garlic, turning frequently, until lightly browned.  Set aside.

Pour noodles into a colander and separate; if they stick together, run cold water over them individually.  Line the bottoms of two medium (12½"×9"×2½" or bigger) glass or metal casserole pans, each with 3-4 noodles running lengthwise.

If two pans are used, spread a quarter of each of the ingredients, in the following ordered layers, over the first layer of noodles.  Pay attention; it’s easy to make an error!  Flatten everything evenly with a pancake turner.  Make a second layer of ingredients identical to the first (beginning with the remaining 6-8 noodles), except leave off the remaining grated mozzarella cheese until later!  Here are the layers (any other layer of optional vegetables can be inserted between layers #4 and #5):

1. noodles (bottom layer)
2. meat
3. ricotta or cottage cheese
4. mushrooms
5. spinach
6. onion/garlic mixture
7. spaghetti sauce
8. Italian seasoning, pepper
9. mozzarella cheese (top layer)

Bake in a preheated 350° oven (on top of a cookie sheet, in case of drippage).  After 30 minutes, remove the lasagna briefly from the oven, and sprinkle the top with the remaining mozzarella cheese.  DO NOT smash down the mozzarella cheese into the spaghetti sauce; this layer of cheese MUST REMAIN ON TOP so that it will brown!

Bake for an additional 20-25 minutes at 350°, until the top blanket of cheese is lightly to moderately browned (not burned).  When slicing to serve, carefully saw through the browned cheese and the lasagna with a serrated knife.  Serve with parmesan cheese sprinkled on top (optional).  The single, large lasagna provides 8-16 servings, depending on the serving sizes.

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