Tom and I never go out on Valentine’s Day. Everything is so crowded so I make something special at home. Last year we had steak but this year I wanted something else. My son and his wife are in Italy right now for their wedding anniversary as well as Valentine’s day…seriously, how romantic is that?! They have sent me some amazing photos of landscapes, architecture and food and I got very inspired to make something Italian! Here’s a gorgeous shot they took in Como.
I might not be able to eat in Italy this Valentine’s Day, maybe next year, 🙂 but we will eat like we are! If you haven’t read our love story head over here to check it out. I bet it’s not like most you’ve read! Now onto the lasagna!
This is super easy to put together and even though I don’t usually use no-boil lasagna noodles, I did in this dish and it really turned out great! Just go through the list of ingredients and get everything prepared ahead and the recipe will come together much easier. I used my food processor to chop the vegetables and shred the cheese.
Next, you’ll heat the oil until it shimmers and saute the onion for 5 minutes before adding the garlic, cook for another minute or until the garlic is fragrant. Toss in the ground meat and brown it until no longer pink. Stir in the cream and keep cooking until the liquid is evaporated. Stir in the tomatoes, reserved juice and tomato sauce and simmer for a couple of minutes. Taste it and add salt and pepper, I added an 1/8 tsp of each. In a separate bowl combine the ricotta, 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, egg, basil and 1/8 tsp of both salt and pepper.
Spread 1/2 cup sauce over bottom of loaf pan that’s been sprayed with cooking spray. Lay 1 noodle in pan, spread one-third of ricotta mixture over noodle, sprinkle with 1/4 cup mozzarella, and top with 1/2 cup sauce; repeat layering 2 more times. Lay remaining noodle in pan and top with remaining sauce, remaining 1/4 cup mozzarella, and remaining 2 tablespoons Parmesan. I had quite a bit of sauce left-over at the end to pour on top and you might too. Don’t be worried, just pour it all on and it will be perfect! I also wanted a bit more mozzarella on top so I sprinkled a little more on top, I like it ooey and gooey!
Wrap it all up in aluminum foil and bake it at 350 degrees for 25-30 minutes. Remove the foil and bake it for 10 more minutes or until the cheese starts to get brown in spots. Let it stand for 20 minutes before diving in. That’s the hard part but you can do it! 🙂 Set the table, light the candles, pretend you are in Italy! Buon Appetito!
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 small onion, chopped fine
- Salt and pepper
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 8 ounces meatloaf mix
- 2 tablespoons heavy cream
- 1 (14.5-ounce) can diced tomatoes, drained with 1/4 cup juice reserved
- 1 (8-ounce) can tomato sauce
- 1/2 cup whole-milk ricotta cheese
- 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, grated, plus 2 tablespoons, grated
- 3 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
- 1 large egg, lightly beaten
- 1/8 teaspoon salt
- 1/8 teaspoon pepper
- 4 no-boil lasagna noodles
- 4 ounces whole-milk mozzarella cheese, shredded (1 cup)
- Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 400 degrees.
- Heat oil in large saucepan over medium heat until shimmering. Add onion and 1/8 teaspoon salt and cook until softened, about 5 minutes. Stir in garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Stir in meatloaf mix and cook, breaking up meat, until no longer pink.
- Stir in cream, bring to a simmer and cook until liquid evaporates, about 2 minutes. Stir in tomatoes and reserved juice and tomato sauce. Bring to a simmer and cook about 2 minutes. Taste and season with salt and pepper if desired.
- Combine ricotta, 1/2 cup Parmesan, basil, egg, salt, and pepper in bowl.
- Spread 1/2 cup sauce over bottom of loaf pan. Lay 1 noodle in pan, spread one-third of ricotta mixture over noodle, sprinkle with 1/4 cup mozzarella, and top with 1/2 cup sauce; repeat layering 2 more times. Lay remaining noodle in pan and top with remaining sauce, remaining 1/4 cup mozzarella, and remaining 2 tablespoons Parmesan.
- Cover pan tightly with aluminum foil that has been sprayed with vegetable oil spray. Bake until sauce bubbles lightly around edges, 25 to 30 minutes. Remove foil and continue to bake until hot throughout and cheese is browned in spots, about 10 minutes. Let cool for 20 minutes before serving. Sprinkle with chopped basil if desired.
My “Gamer” Valentine’s Day Love Story
We met in an online game. Star Wars Galaxies to be exact.
It’s weird telling people how we met, “How’d you meet?” “umm…in an online game…” We are met with either blank stares or “That’s so cool”! You’re never sure what you’re going to get. Even in this tech savvy world we live in it still seems weird to some people, like it can’t be taken seriously. For instance we can’t say, “Yeah we met at the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity or something important sounding like that and to make matters worse it’s a Star Wars game…geeky AND weird!
(There’s more to read below!)
I ended up in his guild, (for you non-gamers that’s a group of like-minded people that share common goals in a game, like taking down the baddest boss (monster) in the game. We started talking some or rather typing and eventually ended up curious about each other’s real names and he miraculously guessed mine on the very first try! I was pretty astounded and he had my attention after that!
I have to say that meeting in this way turned out to be really important in that we got to know each other without any physical distractions. It was just what we typed to one another and nothing else. Our thoughts and our feelings only. This built such an intimacy between us that I never knew could exist. That beginning bonded us in a special way. We knew each other, I mean REALLY knew each other before we ever physically met…not to mention my typing skills improved dramatically! 🙂
We eventually moved on from Star Wars and onto the world of Azeroth (World of Warcraft) where our relationship grew until we finally decided to meet! It had been nearly two years since we’d met online and finally meeting in person was one of the most exciting, thrilling, heart-thumpingly nervous days of my life! Meeting him really “sealed the deal” in my heart and I have never looked back!
Now we get to game side by side instead of over 1000 miles apart and we look forward to “leveling” together offline and on for the rest of our lives!
Happy Valentine’s Day and….May the Force be with You!
- 2 large egg yolks plus 1 large white, room temperature
- 1/2 cup sugar, divided (2 Tbsp will go in the egg white)
- 3/4 cup cake flour
- 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/8 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/3 cup buttermilk, room temperature
- 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled
- 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
- 3/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1/2 cup mashed or finely chopped strawberries, (I used a food processor)
- 4 ounces of cream cheese, at room temperature
- 4 Tbsp butter at room temperature
- 1 3/4 cups confectioners' sugar, sifted
- 1/4 cup mashed strawberries, drained well
- Red food coloring is optional. 3 drops will make cake a pale pink.
- Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 350 degrees. Grease or spray with cooking spray two 6‑inch round cake pans, line with parchment paper, grease and flour parchment or spray again if using cooking spray.
- Using a hand-held mixer set at medium-low speed, beat egg white in a medium bowl until foamy, about 1 minute. Increase speed to medium-high and beat egg white to soft, billowy mounds, about 1 minute. Gradually add 2 tablespoons sugar and beat until glossy, stiff peaks form, 1 to 2 minutes, scraping down sides of bowl as needed; set aside.
- Whisk flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and remaining 6 tablespoons sugar together in second medium bowl.
- In small bowl, whisk buttermilk, melted butter, oil, vanilla, and egg yolks together.
- Using hand-held mixer set at low speed, gradually pour butter mixture into flour mixture and mix until almost combined, 15 to 30 seconds. Scrape down bowl, then beat on medium-low speed until smooth and fully combined, 10 to 15 seconds.
- Stir drained strawberries into batter.
- Using a rubber spatula, stir one-third of whites into batter, then add remaining whites and gently fold into batter until no white streaks remain. Divide batter evenly between prepared pans, smooth tops, and gently tap each pan on counter to release air bubbles.
- Bake cakes until toothpick inserted in center comes out with a few moist crumbs attached, 16 to 18 minutes, rotating pans halfway through baking.
- Let cakes cool in pans on wire rack for 10 minutes. Run knife around edge of cakes to loosen. Remove cakes from pans, discarding parchment, and let cool completely on rack, about 1 hour.
- Line edges of cake platter with 4 strips of parchment paper to keep platter clean. Place 1 cake layer on platter. Spread 1/2 cup frosting evenly over top, right to edge of cake. Top with second cake layer, then spread 1/2 cup frosting evenly over top. Spread remaining frosting evenly over sides of cake. Carefully remove parchment strips before serving.
- Combine the cream cheese and butter in a medium bowl with an electric mixer on low speed for about 30 seconds. Stop the mixer and add the sugar and drained strawberries. Blend on low speed until the sugar is incorporated then raise the speed to medium and mix the frosting another minute or until the frosting lightens and is well combined.
- Cooled cakes can be wrapped tightly in plastic wrap and stored at room temperature for up to 1 day. Wrapped tightly in plastic, then aluminum foil, cakes can be frozen for up to 1 month. Defrost cakes at room temperature before unwrapping and frosting.
- Assembled cake can be refrigerated for up to 1 day. Bring to room temperature before serving.
- The frosting might seem a little loose at first. I put the frosted cake in the fridge to firm up before serving and it was perfect. Just make sure you don't have a lot of juice left in the berries. If it's very loose just add more powdered sugar, a little at a time, until you get the consistency you like.