The first time I made this lasagna was during the period where Jasper and I were dating long distance. He was living out here in NoVa, and I was in grad school in California. He invited some friends over to play rock band at his apartment so that we could all hang out, and I wanted to cook something for the party that would suit a crowd. I thought lasagna would be great, but I wanted to try something different from my usual. My favorite lasagna recipe came from an episode of Tyler's Ultimate on Food Network, so I decided to try the other recipe from that episode. I found the recipe online and went to work, but things did not turn out as planned.
Jasper pretty much never cooked for himself at home, so he didn't have a lot of the equipment I needed - like a lasagna pan, or a food processor, or a large pot. So I had to buy one of those one-time use foil pans, try to chop the veg really tiny instead of pureeing it, and split the sauce into two smaller pots. Then, it turned out, the recipe was incorrect - it actually made enough for two whole lasagnas! So I was trying to cram enough ingredients for two casseroles into one flimsy pan, which of course overflowed. It was also so heavy that the bottom ripped, so we put a cookie sheet underneath and hoped for the best.
As it was cooking, I finally read the reviews online (too late) and realized that the amount of cinnamon listed was way too much for most people and that they only used 1/4 the amount - but I had already used the full amount!
By the time guests started arriving I was completely distraught, I thought my lasagna was a total disaster. I served it anyway, with many apologies, and it actually turned out to be a huge success! Jasper's friend Will absolutely LOVED it, he thought the cinnamon was the best idea ever.
To this day I still think of it as "Will's lasagna", and he still loves it! I make it for him for parties, as payment for house-sitting, or (as was the case this year) as a Christmas present. The large recipe works out great because it means that there will be one lasagna for us, and one for Will. So without further ado, I present to you the infamous Cinnamon Lasagna!
Will's Cinnamon Lasagna
adapted from Tyler's Ultimate
makes TWO 9x13 lasagnas, the extra will freeze well or you can use 1/2 the recipe for one pan
2 lbs no-boil lasagna noodles
Extra-virgin olive oil
2 lbs ground beef
2 lbs ground sweet Italian sausage
1 onion, roughly chopped
2 cloves garlic, peeled
3 carrots, roughly chopped
2 stalks celery, roughly chopped
2 tbsp roughly chopped fresh basil
1/4 cup roughly chopped Italian flat-leaf parsley
1 tbsp oregano leaves
2 tbsp all-purpose flour
2 cups red wine
2 (28-ounce) cans crushed San Marzano tomatoes
3 tbsp heavy cream
1 tsp ground cinnamon
2 quarts ricotta cheese
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1/2 cup grated Parmesan, plus more for topping
1 lb mozzarella cheese, shredded, plus more for topping
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Coat a large pot with olive oil, add beef and sausage and brown until no longer pink, about 10 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. In a food processor, combine the onion, carrots, celery, garlic, basil, parsley, and oregano. Process until pureed, add to the pan with the ground meat and stir to combine. Stir in the flour. Add the wine and cook until it has reduced by half. Stir in the tomatoes and add the heavy cream and the cinnamon.
In a mixing bowl, combine the ricotta and Parmesan cheeses. Stir in the eggs and season with salt and pepper.
To assemble the lasagna: Coat the bottom of 2 deep 13 by 9-inch pans with olive oil. Arrange 4 noodles lengthwise in a slightly overlapping layer on the sauce. Dollop 1/4 of the ricotta mixture over each layer of pasta, and spread to the edges with a spatula. Spread a little less than 1/4 of the meat sauce over each. Sprinkle 1/4 of the mozzarella on top of each. Repeat with the next layer of noodles, ricotta, sauce, and cheeses for each pan. Top the last layer with noodles, sauce, shredded mozzarella and Parmesan. Tap the pans to force out air bubbles. Bake for 1 hour, remove from oven. Let lasagnas rest for 30 minutes so the noodles will settle and cut easily. Cut into 2-inch squares and serve.