Sometime in the 1990s, a cooking demonstration event was held at the Northern Armory Gym. These used to come to Havre on a fairly regular basis, but none has occurred since that time. For the first few customers, cookbooks were given out. I didn’t get one, but my good friend, Lynne Mahan, had one and gave it to me, saying she had way too many cookbooks. That cookbook is one of the most useful gifts I have ever received, as I have made many recipes from it.
The book is called Easy Home Cooking (1995) and was released by the Campbell Soup Company, so of course their products are featured throughout the book. One of the recipes I have made over and over is called Easy Party Lasagna.
Now, let’s get one thing straight, as I can feel the heat of a thousand suns beating down my back by every Italian nonna’s disapproving stare out there. This is NOT lasagna! I call it a layered casserole, because no Italian nonna would ever use the ingredients found for the white layer! OK, so now that I no longer feel the heat of all of those Italian nonna’s eyes, here is the recipe, although I make mine different:
1 can (10.75 oz) cream of mushroom soup
1/4 c. milk
2 c. shredded mozzarella cheese (8 oz.)
1 lb. ground beef
1 can (11 1/8 oz.) condensed Italian Tomato soup
1 c. water
6 dry lasagna noodles
Mix mushroom soup, milk and 1/2 c. cheese. Set aside. (This is the evil white layer!)
In medium skillet over medium-high heat, cook beef until browned, stirring to separate meat. Pour off fat. Stir in Italian soup and water. Heat through.
In 2-quart shallow baking dish spoon half of the meat mixture. Top with 3 lasagna noodles and mushroom soup mixture. Top with remaining 3 lasagna noodles and remaining meat mixture. Cover.
Bake at 400 degrees F. for 40 minutes or until hot. Uncover and sprinkle remaining cheese over top. Bake 10 minutes more or until cheese is melted. Let stand 10 minutes. If desired, garnish with fresh basil. Serves 8.
As far as I can tell, Campbell’s no longer makes the Italian tomato soup, so just add some dried Italian seasoning, maybe a teaspoon or a little bit more, to the soup. I use oven ready lasagna noodles for this recipe. And, I don’t usually make the red layers as instructed. I almost always make this recipe using leftover homemade red sauce from a delicious spaghetti dinner the night before. Sometimes I buy a 3 cup package of shredded mozzarella cheese and really pile it on! Not often, but sometimes. I let the cheese kind of brown up on the top before removing it from the oven. Also, I cut the lasagna up in pieces right out of the oven. I find it separates better that way.
I love to serve this with a fresh tossed salad with Ranch dressing and a good glass of red wine. This is an excellent cool weather meal as not only does it heat up The Cottage, it smells divine!