Chef John Folse's Mexican Lasagna

Yields: 8 Servings

While lasagna is traditionally thought of as an Italian dish, the combination of tomatoes, meat and cheese is not unique to that cuisine. This Mexican version gives a nod to Italy with the pasta and ricotta, but the taste clearly says "Olé!"

1 (8 ounce) package lasagna noodles
1 pound ground beef
1 cup chopped onion
½ cup chopped celery
½ cup chopped bell pepper
¼ cup minced garlic
¼ cup chopped fresh cilantro or parsley
1 tsp chili powder
1 (15 ounce) container ricotta
3 cups prepared salsa
1 cup shredded Monterey Jack cheese

Preheat oven to 375º F. Cook and drain noodles according to package directions and set aside. In a heavy-bottomed pot, cook ground beef over medium-high heat until golden brown, stirring constantly, 20-25 minutes. Add onions, celery, bell pepper, garlic, cilantro and chili powder. Continue to cook, stirring occasionally until vegetables are wilted, 10-12 minutes. Spray 13" x 9" Pyrex baking dish with vegetable spray. Place five of the cooked noodles in bottom of pan and layer with 1½ cups of beef mixture. Top with 1 cup of ricotta cheese, then with 1¼ cup salsa. Repeat with remaining ingredients. Sprinkle top of casserole with Monterey Jack and bake uncovered 40-45 minutes or until bubbling hot.  Let stand ten minutes before cutting.