Let me set the scene for you.

It was the night before Thanksgiving. Biggest party night of the year. A fact that was completely unbeknownst to me until I found myself at Brother Jimmy’s drinking $2 margaritas. At 8 PM.

If only I had known then. The night was only just beginning.

Scene II – The Stumble Inn. A sports bar across the street from Brother Jimmy’s. Popular post-exam party location. Beer pong tables set up in the back. World-renowned for its fabulous drink deals. (The world, of course, as delineated by the Weill Cornell Medical Campus borders. No one else really cares about being able to get $1 American beers on Monday nights or $2 pitchers on Wednesdays. It IS the Upper East Side, after all. They are all at Stir or Bounce or one of the many other high-end lounges in the neighborhood paying $13 for their drink and damn well proud of it.)

“Let’s make a bet,” he said to me.

The “he” in question, of course, being my good friend Matt.
Warning signs should have gone off as soon as he said that. (How many margaritas had I had? In a court of law, could I make the case that I was too mentally unfit at this point to make any kind of a rational decision? And if not, should I maybe have drank some more so that, should worse have come to worse, that actually would have been a valid argument?). None of this went flashing through my head. however.

Instead, I smiled coyly. “What’s the bet?”

“You play with me on a team for beer pong. You have to make three shots. If you don’t do it, you have to cook me any dinner that I want. If you do do it, I have to cook you any dinner that you want.”

Have you ever heard of beer muscles? A phenomenon that occurs, mostly in men, such that when they drink too much they think they are stronger than the actually are? That’s what I had. Except the female, domesticated version. In which I believed for a second that I actually could cook anything.

Unequivocally, without a moment’s hesitation. “You’re on.”

Little did I know that when he said he would cook any dinner for me, what he really meant was that he would cook any dinner that was limited to a grilled cheese sandwich. And/or take-out. We may have even had to take out the grilled cheese sandwich.

So probably, it’s a good thing that I lost.

Instead, Matt, Sophie, Adam, Justin and I ended up at my apartment this past Monday eating the lasagna and garlic bread that he requested, as well as an undisclosed dessert that shall appear in the next few days.

My first dinner party. A veritable success.

Irony – we had just had an exam that day. So where did we end up later that night? None other than The Stumble Inn. (Yes, I went, crutches and all. Not even a pulled groin muscle is going to hold me down.)

The first thing I hear when we walk in?

“So Joanne, let’s make a bet.”

Boys. Gotta love em.
I did a lot of searching when trying to figure out what lasagna to make and settled on Giada’s recipe for classic Italian lasagna. The only thing I changed was to omit the bechamel sauce. My parents have made lasagna for years. And I am pretty sure they never heard the word bechamel before in their lives. Therefore, I deemed it unnecessary. I also added some garlic powder to the ground beef. Should I make this recipe again, I would season the ricotta a little bit more heavily as well as add some tomato sauce and an onion to the ground beef while cooking it. Other than that, it was a hit. The boys basically licked their plates. I would have too. If it weren’t entirely un-ladylike.

Classic Italian Lasagna
Serves 8, adapted from Giada DeLaurentis

3 cups tomato sauce (I cheated and used a jar from Whole Foods. All fresh ingredients – tomatoes, garlic, onion, basil. I will post the exact brand next time. It’s my favorite jarred tomato sauce.)
salt and pepper to taste
1 tbsp olive oil
1 lb lean ground beef
4 cups part-skim ricotta
3 eggs
1 lb lasagna noodles (I didn’t end up using the whole pound, just enough to fill my tray. I also used no-boil noodles.)
1 lb frozen spinach, thawed and patted dry
2 cups shredded mozzarella
1/4 cup parmesan

1. Preheat the oven to 375.

2. In a saute pan, preheat the olive oil. Cook the ground beef, breaking it up into small pieces with a spatula as you go. Season to taste with salt, pepper, and garlic powder if using. Cook until browned, then remove from heat, draining any excess liquid, and set aside.

3. In a medium-sized bowl, mix together the ricotta and eggs. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Set aside.

4. Into the bottom of a 9×13 inch baking dish, spread 1 cup of the tomato sauce. Add a layer of the pasta sheets. Over this, spread all of the ricotta mixture, followed by all of the spinach. Arrange another layer of pasta. Spread all of the ground beef over this, followed by half of the mozzarella. Add another cup of tomato sauce. Arrange the final layer of pasta. Spread the remaining tomato sauce over THIS and top with mozzarella and parmesan cheese.

5. Cover with aluminum foil and then bake for 30 minutes. Remove foil and bake for another 15 minutes.

I am submitting this to Presto Pasta Nights which is being hosted by Kevin of Closet Cooking (one of my favorite bloggers!).

You are reading this post on Eats Well With Others at https://joanne-eatswellwithothers.com. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to the author and or owner of Eats Well With Others. All rights reserved by Joanne Bruno.
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45 Responses to Giada’s Classic Italian Lasagna

  1. Barbara says:

    Funny story and you couldn’t have made a better choice for your first dinner party. Long live Giada!

  2. Lea Ann says:

    Lasagne is a good choice for a 1st dinner party or 51st dinner party and I love Giada’s recipes. Loved the story. I have a feeling you’ll be betting alot in the future.

  3. SnoWhite says:

    I love a good lasagna — sounds wonderful.

  4. Mari says:

    OMG why do you tease me like this! I want some NOW! =) please come over and cook for me ha…you can do a post about it..How to cook on a wall! lol

  5. Palidor says:

    I’m glad you lost because that means we get to see this yummy lasagna! That is an awesome lasagna, full of such yummy goodness. I mean, there’s 4 cups of ricotta! Now that’s my kind of lasagna.

  6. comfycook says:

    You do get into interesting situations or is that you write so well that you make them interesting. Regardless, as long as you don’t get into trouble, keep on having fun. Making dinner seems safe enough.

    The lasagne is beautiful with the array of colors. I can’t have meat and dairy in the same recipe so which would be better to make, a meat lasagne or a dairy lasagne?

    I usually make dairy but I am wondering if I am making a mistake. I could always add tofu to get a creamy sense.

    Any suggestions are welcome.

  7. SE(Denufood) says:

    very colorful and tempting..ofcourse i would replace beef with chicken ..btw..its fun to read the stories in your post..

  8. funny tale and great lasagna congrats on your first dinner party love Rebecca

  9. Toni says:

    I have some ricotta hanging out in the fridge from my ravioli disaster and I think lasagna may be on the menu for next week. This looks great.

  10. Faith says:

    Great story, and congrats on your successful dinner party! This looks fabulous, a truly perfect lasagna! Can’t wait to see your dessert!

  11. Shannon says:

    fantastic lasagna! at least you had dinner guests, and nothing worse 😉

  12. hahaha that’s so cute! dinner guest…congrats on your dinner party!

    bloobs! BLOOBS!

    kabocha is the best! the best!


  13. Delicious! I love Giada and I love lasagna. (and you should try it with the bechamel one day, I am a convert!)

  14. Bob says:

    Ha! Awesome. Man, I wish I had thought of doing that back when I was still single. Only I would have lost on purpose just so I could cook for girls. Heh.

    Sigh, I miss lasagna. My girlfriend won’t touch it. Yours looks awesome!

  15. Ty'sMommy says:

    That is too funny. Come on, girl! You should know better than to make bets with boy when you are drinking! lol I probably would have done the same thing though, us Italian girls and our will to cook…..

  16. teresa says:

    i need to make more bets with people if this is the possible outcome, i love it! nothing beats a hearty lasagna!

  17. Am so glad u lost the bet-in a good way ofcourse….ur lasagna is just the way it should be-italianfully perfect & i love a classic recipe……
    I love the way all ur real life hilariousness leads to good food and that was a compliment for ur writing style….its so so good!!!

  18. and did me tell yo that me had exactly the same template before i loaded my present ‘hey little sweetie’ @ yummy lolly?
    managed to tweak it a little after reading a wee on html et all and am still tweaking….
    till then ,tis was the best yeah…
    wanted to change to XMASCY one but that would mean another big round of tweakies and cant afford to bunk any more classes to catch with all i take on!!!! :-))))

  19. Kevin says:

    Cooking bets sound like fun! 🙂 If you asked me what my favorite meals were, lasagna with garlic bread would be right up there! I sometimes like to use cottage cheese instead of ricotta in mine. Thanks for sharing an amazing lasagna with Presto Pasta Nights!

  20. Pam says:

    I’ve wanted to try her lasagna. Maybe I should make some sort of bet with my husband and just maybe he might end up cookin git.

  21. Kelsey says:

    Ah, the good ol’ beer pong days….
    Great post once again, Joanne!

  22. Ruth Daniels says:

    Great post. Interestingly enough, my very first dinner party was lasagna too! Thanks for sharing this one with Presto Pasta Nights

  23. Your lasagna stayed together so perfectly! It’s totally giving me a craving – I haven’t had lasagna in so long. I never thought I would say this but I’m glad you lost! I hate to think of the other option(insert smiley face).

  24. Amy says:

    Ah yes, boys… they love to win, hate to lose. But you’re right – lucky you lost because look at the awesome meal you ended up making/eating.

    I love PPN. I’m even playing this round.

  25. burpandslurp says:

    Haha, loved the beginning story…you should have known he’s tricking you…he shoudl have offered you a good meal out instead!
    Oh well, at least you lost!
    now, that sounded weird…

  26. Debinhawaii says:

    Fun post and that is one gorgeous lasagna–can’t wait to see the dessert!

  27. Marisa says:

    I think I’m going crazy because I actually smelled lasagna while reading your post! Great writing as usual – I love reading your blog.

  28. Kim says:

    I’m laughing through this post because I have totally been in your shoes. I once told a group of guys that I could “hang with them” and match them drink for drink. Oh yeah, not my brightest moment, but several drinks in it sounded like the right thing to do.
    Sounds like you were lucky enough to get a fabulous lasagna out of the deal! I’ve always heard that Giada’s recipes were great and this looks fantastic. I know the bechamel sauce sounds different and loading with calories, but it is definitely worth trying at least once. Tyler does his the same way.

  29. Great story and lasagna sounds super delicious! I haven’t made one in a long time now, and need to make one soon!

  30. I KNOW! i was like MOM. SHUT UP. I don’t want to hear about this. this is stupid. and he’s stupid.

    packages = HEART.

    no joke on the disease front: my mom got yelled at by the neighbor because mom didn’t let us “eat dirt”. i.e. we’d die from lack of immunity. so yeah. dirt is FINE. i barely wash my fruits unless there is SOMETHING horrible on it. =D lazy, yes.

  31. chrystad72 says:

    Yum!! This all looks amazing. Great job! Im so glad your dinner party turned out well.

  32. doggybloggy says:

    love lasagna – thousands of years ago when I was in college my mom would bring me a big aluminum tray of lasagna to my apartment – best gift ever – I am loving the stories the most –

  33. Yum! I definitely would have omitted the bechamel too – I don’t think Italians use that, at least this Italian over here sure don’t. Sure turned out looking perfect! I know after that your friends will be praying for you to lose bets more often! 🙂

  34. theUngourmet says:

    Yeah, drunken betting is almost never a good idea. Oh well, you can never go wrong serving a yummy lasagna like this one. 😀

  35. Katy ~ says:

    Drunk betting is up there with drunk dialing~try to avoid it, grins, as you just never know what you might say. However, I think this is a win-win. You made a wonderful meal and got to enjoy it as well. Lasagna is good celebration food. Well done!

  36. christine says:

    Oh this is perfect timing. We do a big Italian dinner at my house on Xmas eve and now I have a new recipe to try for that night.

  37. VENNILLA says:

    Hi friend this is vennilla here.. ur doing a really good job.. can we exchange links..

  38. The lasagna looks fab! Gotta watch out for those bets though!

  39. Lasagna is one of my favorites. And fortunately it’s a dish that’s hearty and satisfying with or without meat. Congrats on a successful first dinner party!

  40. Kerstin says:

    What a gorgeous lasagna! Mmmm, looks like quite the crowd pleaser. I would have licked the plate 🙂

  41. Megan says:

    You should have served him grilled cheese sandwiches – take out, of course. 🙂

    I am thinking about making lasagna this week. It’s the perfect weather for it.

  42. Van says:

    The Lasagna looks restaurant quality, Joanne!


    One day I need to pull off a good dish like this.

  43. Jeanne says:

    Your lasagna looks absolutely perfect, and delicious! I’ll have to try this recipe next time I attempt lasagna!

  44. Chef Chuck says:

    This lasagna you made for your lucky friends looks spectacular!! I am sure the flavor made it outstanding!

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