Dutch Oven Lasagne

A friend of mine (also named Jennifer) was in charge of feeding about 65 twelve and thirteen year old girls and their leaders for a three-day church camp.  Tonight's main dish was Dutch Oven Lasagne.  I volunteered to drive out to Camp Mooney and help so that I could learn how it's done.

Jennifer did an amazing job coordinating it all.  She had the ground beef already cooked and the cheese shredded.  Any lasagne recipe will work but here's what we did:  We started off by lining seven 14-inch Dutch ovens with aluminum foil so clean-up would be a snap.

The layers go in this order:  Sauce, UNCOOKED noodles (break them up to fill in the gaps), half of the cottage cheese (or ricotta) mixed with shredded mozzarella, eggs and Italian seasonings, more sauce, ground beef browned with onions, another layer of noodles, the rest of the cottage cheese mixture, more sauce, more meat, a final layer of noodles, and then sauce to completely cover them.  At this point you pour a cup of water over everything.  This adds enough extra moisture for the dry noodles to absorb.  Then, top the whole thing off with a layer of mozzarella cheese and then sprinkle with grated Parmesan.

Cover with the lid and get ready for the fun part.

To determine how many charcoal briquets you need to prepare to simulate baking in a 350 degree oven use this formula:  take the diameter of the Dutch oven and subtract two.  That is how many briquets you put underneath the pot.  Add two to the diameter and that is how many you put on top.  (Note:  I was told this is not the same formula if you are baking bread in a Dutch oven because you need additional heat on top, but I will try to cover that in another post.)

We were using seven 14-inch ovens, so we needed twelve on the bottom and sixteen on the top of each oven.  One of the guys at camp used a blowtorch attached to a propane tank to quickly fire up all the briquets in "chimneys" and they were ready in about ten minutes.
Jennifer used tongs and leather gloves to distribute all the hot coals onto metal stands.

But wait, there's more!  Hungry girls need dessert, so we also prepared Peach Cobbler in six more Dutch ovens and stacked them on top of the Dutch ovens the lasagne was in.  We added more briquets to the top and dinner and dessert cooked together.  How ingenious is that?

It took about an hour and fifteen minutes to cook the lasagne and then we removed the those ovens from the stands and let the it sit for ten to fifteen minutes before we served it.  We put the cobblers back on the coals and let them continue to cook another half hour or so.

The cobbler was simple to put together.  We covered the bottom of the smaller foil-lined ovens with a layer of undrained canned peaches, sprinkled on some cinnamon and then a whole dry white cake mix and drizzled the top with 3/4 cup melted butter.

Both the lasagne and the cobbler were delicious and got rave reviews from the girls and the adults.  I can't wait to try this at home for my family.  Great job, Jennifer! Thanks for letting me help.

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