"Life is either a daring adventure or nothing..." -Helen Keller
We love Italian food. When asked which country we want to travel to (a common conversational question here), without a doubt, we reply, "Italy." Dangle the possibility of good Italian food in front of us, and we'll come running. Now the Pizza Hut an hour and a half away can whip up a decent plate of pasta, but the portion sizes are SERIOUSLY lacking! I wanted to make something really special for us, so I decided to make lasagna. Now, with no lasagna noodles, no tomato sauce, and the only cheese in town being some wimpy cheese singles, I knew I needed to get down to work, so I rolled up my sleeves for a day in the kitchen.

First, the cheese:
Let's be honest, what's Italian food without cheese? I took a quick look in the freezer and pulled a pack of 50% less fat cheese singles out. Then I checked the fridge and pulled out a container of Italian cheese from our wonderful families in America. We'd made some cheese here before, so I decided to try that again.

Our milk comes in juice-box containers (so gross, I know!). Each container is about a cup. I used 1 container of whole milk, and 4 containers of "low-fat" milk, with a little less fat than 2% milk in America and unfortunately the lowest fat milk we can buy here.

I poured these boxes of milk into a pan and began to heat it over low heat, constantly stirring the milk so it would not burn. It took about 20 minutes or so for the milk to begin to thicken and come to a boil. Once it boiled, I immediately turned the heat off and added 3 Tablespoons of freshly squeezed lemon juice, stirring for another minute. Then I covered the pan and allowed it to sit for 2 hours.

Two hours later, the milk had separated into curds and whey. I strained the mixture through a cheesecloth (or lint-free, non-fuzzy towel). I sprinkled in about 3/4 teaspoon of salt and mixed it up. Squeezing the cheese more makes it harder; I decided to squeeze less in an effort to get some cheese about the consistency of ricotta cheese. (There really isn't any way I've found to make better cheese without more specialized ingredients and tools.)

I let the cheese hang from a hook over the kitchen sink for any extra drainage to occur until I was ready to use it.
For the sauce:

1.5 lbs ground beef
1/2 onion, chopped
small green pepper, chopped
about 15 small tomatoes (when blended, this should be about 1.5 blenders full)
2 t. oregano
4 t. Italian seasoning
2 t. garlic powder
1 t. salt
2 t. white vinegar
1 T. apple cider vinegar
2 T. sugar

Austin loves meat and doesn't often get enough when we eat out, so I ran to the market and picked up a pound and a half of lean beef and had it ground. I browned this beef, drained off whatever fat remained, and then transferred it into another pan while I cooked 1/2 a white onion (diced) and a very small green pepper (also diced.) After they browned, I added the ground beef back to the pan and cooked them together for about 3 minutes.

I then added this to a larger pot which already contained about 15 small tomatoes, blended. I also added the spices above and the vinegar, plus or minus whatever spices were needed to tweak the taste to our liking. I also added about 2 T. sugar.

Then I set this aside onto the stove top to simmer for about 45 minutes until it was nice and thick.

Now, for making the noodles. I'd done this once before, but in Austin's mom's beautiful kitchen with a pasta machine. Her pasta machine was great. Here's a picture of mine:
Still, a new kitchen appliance is always fun, even if it's just a piece of wood. This whole process took a little while but was actually a fun experiment.

For the noodles:
2 cups flour
3 eggs
1/2 teaspoon salt

I mixed these things together and kneaded for about 5 minutes. It was really tough, unlike bread dough, so the "kneading" was just kind of like pulling and playing with it.

Then I made it into 3 balls and let it rest on the counter for 15 minutes. (There's no telling what diseases it might have picked up during those 15 minutes in our kitchen.) After 15 minutes, I took my rolling pin to it and rolled it until it was really thin. My aim was 1/16 of an inch thick. I think I succeeded on some parts of the noodles, and not so much on others. Nonetheless, I rolled until I had about 9 roughly lasagna shaped noodles then used a squiggly attachment from a grater I had to make the edges look a little more like lasagna noodles you can buy.
Now, to assemble the beast. This was the most fun, and the least labor intensive. I loved it.

Here are the layers I put down, from bottom to top of our 9 x 13 -ish pan.
1. about 1.5 cups of sauce to coat the bottom generously
2. three lasagna noodles, lengthwise on the pan
3. more sauce, generously
4. half of the homemade cheese ball, in dollops (that's a fun word!) across the lasagna
5. a sprinkle of Parmesan cheese
6. a layer of greens

7. another round of noodles
8. more sauce, generously
9. the rest of the homemade cheese, in dollops of course, with another sprinkle of Parmesan
10. a layer of 50% less fat cheese singles; (they're really thin here)
11. the last 3 noodles
12. more sauce
13. some more cheese singles (I just put these over 1/2 of this top layer)
14. another sprinkle of Parmesan

And that's a wrap. I made a tinfoil tent over the top and baked it at about 400 degrees F for about 40 minutes. I cooled it for about 5 minutes before serving to myself and my very happy best friend!

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