When the Baudelaires entered the cafeteria, they found a lasagna waiting for them that was the size of a dance floor. It was sitting on an enormous trivet to keep it from burning the floor, and the person serving it was wearing a thick metal mask for protection, so that the children could only see their eyes peeking out from tiny eyeholes. The stunned Baudelaires got behind a long line of children and waited their turn for the metal-masked person to scoop lasagna onto ugly plastic trays and hand it wordlessly to the children. After receiving their lasagna, the orphans walked further down the line and helped themselves to green salad, which was waiting for them in a bowl the size of a pickup truck. Next to the salad was a mountain of garlic bread, and at the end of the line was another metal-masked person, handing out silverware to the students who had not been inside the administrative building.Lemony Snicket, The Austere Academy
Prufrock Prep—the “Austere Academy”— is a grim place to study, but the lasagna, green salad and garlic bread don’t sound too bad. That being said, the food presentation could definitely use a bit of work. Placing lasagna onto plastic trays? That doesn’t sound very hygienic. Even this looks better and cleaner than what I’m imagining:
However, since Prufrock Prep is mostly attended by rich kids like Carmelita Spats, I’m thinking that the food shouldn’t taste too bad. And there’s no point in recreating a revolting dish that no one’s going to eat, so I’m taking some artistic license here.
To make the lasagna healthier, I added spinach to the creamy cheese sauce layer. You can’t really taste the spinach, and I think it adds more texture to the cheese sauce! Then there’s the standard meat sauce in between the cheese sauce layers: I chose to use storebought sauce to save time (and also because I don’t think Prufrock Prep will serve a homemade version), but feel free to use your favourite meat sauce recipe.
The garlic bread
This may sound strange, but the garlic bread was the highlight of the meal for me.I’ve never been a fan of hard toasted ciabatta bread, and this homemade version is perfection. It’s soft, fluffy and moist, NOT crusty on the edges or hard as a brick. Bonus points if there’s stringy, stretchy cheese when I pull the garlic bread apart.
To this end, I stuffed some mozzarella cheese cubes in between the cuts on the garlic bread.
If you are a garlic bread purist, you can of course skip this step. But why would you ever do that? More cheese is always better.
And that’s why I have more photos of garlic bread than the lasagna.
The Green Salad
Not much for this one. Just gather your favourite salad vegetables (green vegetables, if you want to stick to the novel) and add some dressing if you want to. I skipped the dressing as the salad itself went quite well with the rich meat sauce that was oozing out of the lasagna.
A simple-to-make lasagna containing spinach and beef. Accompanied by a generous helping of cheesy garlic bread and green salad.
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 2 small tomatoes
- 1 large onion, chopped
- 1 clove of garlic, minced
- 250-260 g ground beef
- 2 cans storebought tomato-based pasta sauce (I use a blend of Prego’s Traditional Pasta and Tomato, Basil and Garlic Sauces; see Notes)
- 40 g parsley, chopped
- 1 large egg
- 250 g cottage cheese,
- 250 g blend of shredded parmesan and mozzarella, divided (I use Perfect Italiano’s Pizza Plus)
- 100 g baby spinach, washed
- 6 pieces dry oven-ready lasagna sheets (or use normal lasagna noodles)
- 1 (about 200-250 g) storebought baguette
- 100 g salted butter
- 3 cloves of garlic, minced
- 25 g parsley, chopped
- 50 g blend of mozzarella and parmesan cheese, cubed
- 1 package green salad vegetables
Preheat oven to 180ºC. Line a deep 8″x8″ pan with aluminium foil (for easier clean-up, you can do without if you wish). If your pan is shallow, make sure the aluminium foil lining goes above the sides of the pan so that the sauce doesn’t drip out.
To make the meat sauce: In a large wok, fry the tomatoes, onion and garlic in the olive oil. Add in the ground beef and cook until meat is browned. Stir in the tomato-based pasta sauce and parsley and let it simmer for 10 min. Turn off the heat.
To make the cheese layer: In a mixing bowl, combine the egg, cottage cheese, 125 g of the blend of parmesan and mozzarella, and baby spinach. The mixture will be quite dry but this is okay.
Spoon 1/2 of the meat sauce into the bottom of the pan. Line with 2 sheets of lasagna noodles. Make 3 layers of noodles, alternating between cheese layer and meat sauce and ending with cheese layer).
(i.e. your lasagna should have the following layers (bottom-up): i) meat sauce, ii) noodles, iii) cheese layer, iv) noodles, v) meat sauce, vi) noodles, vii) cheese layer).
Evenly sprinkle the remaining parmesan-mozzarella blend over the top of the lasagna. Cover with a sheet of aluminium foil and bake for 30 min. Then bake uncovered for another 15 min.
Score the garlic bread by making 1 cm cuts into the bread. Distribute the cuts so that they are 2 cm apart from each other.
Preheat oven to 180ºC (fan-forced) or 200ºC (conventional).
To a saucepan, add the butter, garlic and parsley. Melt the butter over the stove at low heat. (You might try doing this using the microwave too but I haven’t tried it since I don’t have one.)
Spoon the garlic-butter mixture into the cuts (about 1.5 teaspoons for each cut) in the garlic bread. It’s okay if some of it gets out.
Stuff a cheese cube into the cuts and sprinkle over the top of the bread.
Wrap the entire bread up in foil. Make sure that the cheese is firmly embedded in the bread and doesn’t touch the foil.
Place the foil pack on a baking sheet (to prevent leakage) and bake for 15 min.
Serve lasagna with garlic bread and the green salad! You can choose to top the green salad with your favourite dressing; but I thought it went well plain with the lasagna and garlic bread.