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This has been our answer to Thanksgiving Dinner for the last two years. Not sure what happened, but after a full lifetime of making turkey each and every November, we suddenly remembered that as kids growing up, there was always that coveted tray of Baked Ziti there on the table right next to the chosen bird! Just looking to change things up a bit, we decided to do just ‘that’ part and all the compatible side fixings. This dish is perfect for any holiday, especially Christmas! It takes some time to make it but it is well worth the effort, and it will make the house smell amazing as well as most likely give you some leftovers for ‘the day after’. You probably have many of the ingredients already right in your pantry. ** You can also make the sauce ahead of time, the day before or even weeks before and freeze, and then pop the meatballs and sausages right in the prepared sauce. Spreading this over two cooking days does break this up in a very manageable way.
  1. First start with preparing the meatballs. Combine either two or the three meats in a large bowl. Add two eggs, oatmeal, breadcrumbs, the grated onion and shallots, and all of the spices. (Paprika, cumin, oregano, thyme, rosemary and fresh diced parsley)
  2. Mix well. It helps to put on culinary gloves and get your hands in there for combining all of this, although a good hand held spoon will do as well.
  3. Make the meatballs. I use a scooper that is like a small icecream scooper, but you can hand do them just as well. Set on a platter and prepare a skillet with 2 tablespoons of avocado oil. Also use the dutch oven with an additional 2 tablespoons of avocado oil.
  4. When skillet and dutch oven are hot, begin to brown the meatballs. Keep turning with tongs and when they are lightly browned, remove and set back on the platter.
  5. Now, the Sauce. Begin by sautéing the garlic, then the onion and celery in 2 tablespoons of oil in a very large pot with a little salt. Use medium heat, so as not to burn the garlic. When they begin to soften, stir in the 2 fulls cans of tomato paste, and keep stirring while cooking. Add in tomatoes from boxes, and the jar of sauce and then two full jars of water. Bring to a boil, add the pinch of sugar, lower heat and let cook for 15 -20 minutes, and then add the meatballs, one at a time. Then add all of the sausages, whole. Bring back to a boil and lower the heat to simmer.
  6. Cover and cook for 90 minutes, stirring now and then.
  1. Prepare the meats. Take out of sauce and put on a platter. Take the meatballs and slice them thinly. Take the sausages and slice them on a slight diagonal, thinly. Shred mozzarella cheese. Mix two eggs into ricotta cheese and sprinkle with either red or black pepper Get parmesan ready to add to the layers. Open boxes of lasagna.
  2. Cover the bottom of a large roasting pan with sauce. Put the first layer of the uncooked lasagna into the pan, immersed in the sauce, making sure not to touch the sides of the pan with the noodles. Put a layer of ricotta cheese on next, by spreading it over the noodles using the back of a large spoon. Sprinkle with Red Pepper flakes, and that is optional depending on people’s tastes. Begin to layer the meatballs slices and sausages over that. Make a thin layer of the mozzarella cheese to cover all that. Add sauce over that and repeat steps these steps 3 x, so you will have 3 layers. On the last layer, use all of the parmesan to cover. Cover with foil and put into 350 degrees, preheated oven for 50 minutes. Take foil off for the last 15 minutes so the cheese can brown a little. Let rest for 30 minutes at least before slicing.
  3. Don't forget your holiday flowers for the table!
Recipe Notes

Note: most important part, make ENOUGH sauce, as you need to make sure that the lasagna pieces, which go in uncooked, right from the box, are pretty much immersed in the sauce . No little edges can stick out or stick to the sides of the pan, or they won’t cook up correctly. These ‘no boil’ lasagna noodles are amazing if you do this right. The benefit of having lots of extra sauce is that it is also good for serving over the leftovers. If you make an abundance, freeze the extra. Depending on how much meat you think you want in the tray of lasagna, you will also have leftover meatballs and sausages. We don’t like our lasagna too heavy, so we go with the lighter approach and use less in the lasagna tray. People who want more sausages and meat can have some served either on top of their slice, or on the side.

Finally, freeze any extra as well, and you will have another meal ready to throw together quickly a few weeks later when you start craving these flavors again. I usually make something different like a soup or just serve over pasta.


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