Rachael Ray's 'So You Think You Can Cook?!' Winner

Thousands of cooks across the country vied for a spot in Rachael Ray's "So You Think You Can Cook?!" challenge.

The field was narrowed to five contestants who competed against one another in four cooking challenges. The final two faced off Monday on Ray's show, with actress Marcia Cross serving as a judge.

In a breathtaking finale, Jenn Thomas of Cuyahaoga Falls, Ohio, was declared the winner.

Not only did Thomas get to prepare her recipe on the "Rachael Ray Show," she will also receive cooking instruction at the Culinary Institute of America, and have her recipe published in Every Day With Rachael Ray magazine.

Find Jenn Thomas's recipe below and click here to go to Rachael Ray's Web site. .

Lasagna Meatball Sandwiches and Romaine Lettuce Salad


Roasted Tomatoes:

3 large tomatoes, sliced into half-inch thick slices
Extra Virgin Olive Oil, for drizzling
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Lasanga Filling:

4 pieces whole wheat lasagna noodles
8 ounces ricotta cheese
Fresh basil, chopped
1 egg
1 garlic clove, grated
1 small wedge white onion, grated
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

White Sauce (Bechamel Sauce):

2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons flour
1 cup whole milk
Dash freshly grated nutmeg
1 garlic clove, grated
1 small onion, grated
Salt and freshly ground black pepper


1 pound ground chuck
¼ cup plain bread crumbs, about a palmful
½ cup shredded or grated Parmesan cheese, about 2 palmfuls
¼ cup chopped fresh basil
2 garlic cloves, grated
¼ medium onion, grated
½ teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 package Italian dressing mix, such as Good Seasons brand
2 eggs
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 cup tomato sauce, whatever you like and have in the house
1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
¼ cup grated or shredded Parmesan cheese

Garlic Butter:
1 head garlic, peeled and cloves removed
¼ chopped fresh basil
½ onion, roughly chopped
Zest of 1 lemon
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
1 pound (4 sticks) unsalted butter, softened at room temperature
4 Burger buns

Simple Salad:
1 head Romaine lettuce, chopped
¼ cup shredded or grated Parmesan cheese
Your favorite dressing Directions:

Preheat an oven to 400ºF.

Lay the tomatoes on a lined baking sheet and coat them with a thin layer of extra virgin olive oil, salt and freshly ground black pepper. Bake them for about 30 minutes until they've dried out a little and have let off some of their liquid. Reserve them once they're roasted until you're ready to assemble the lasagna.

Once the tomatoes are in the oven, place a large pot of salted water over high heat and bring to a boil. Once boiling, add the lasagna noodles and cook according to the package directions. Drain and reserve noodles in the cooking pot.

While the noodles are boiling, prepare the lasagna filling by mixing together the ricotta cheese, chopped basil, egg, garlic and onion in a medium size bowl. Season the filling with salt and freshly ground black pepper and reserve it until you're ready to assemble the lasagna.

While the noodles are boiling and tomatoes are roasting, place a medium skillet over medium heat and melt butter. Add the flour and mix until a play-dough texture forms and slowly whisk in the milk. Simmer the white sauce, whisking occasionally, until it has thickened, 2-3 minutes. Stir in the nutmeg, grated garlic and onion, and season the sauce with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Pour the prepared sauce into a 7-by-1-inch baking dish and set aside.

Once the sauce and noodles are ready, prepare the meatballs by placing a large skillet or cast iron pan over medium high heat with 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, about 2 turns of the pan. Combine all the meatball ingredients in a large mixing bowl (go ahead and use your hands here, just be sure to mix it only enough to evenly incorporate everything; you don't want to overmix it here). Lump the meat into one ball in the bowl and score it into 4 equal parts using the side of your pan. Roll each one into a ball and flatten to form patties. Cook the patties in the hot skillet until seared and almost fully cooked, 3-4 minutes per side.

While the patties are cooking, assemble the lasagna by placing 2 lasagna noodles on the bottom of the béchamel-lined baking dish. Divide the ricotta cheese filling between the two noodles, spreading it to evenly cover them.Top the ricotta with the roasted tomatoes, and sandwich them off with the other two lasagna noodles. Place the four meatball patties on top and cover them with the tomato sauce, mozzarella cheese and more Parmesan cheese.

Bake the lasagna in the oven for 15-20 minutes or until bubbly. While the lasagna is baking, prepare the garlic butter. In a food processor add garlic, basil, onion, lemon zest, salt and freshly ground black pepper. Turn the machine on and slowly drizzle in the extra virgin olive oil until everything is finely chopped. Turn the machine off and add the butter. Turn the machine back on and allow everything to mix evenly together. Generously spread the prepared butter on the inside of buns, both top and bottom. Place them on baking sheet and pop them into the oven alongside the lasagna until the butter has melted and they're nice and toasty, about 8 minutes.

When the lasagna and buns come out of the oven, put the four bun bottoms onto four serving plates. Cut the lasagna into four pieces, using the patties as a guide and leaving them intact. Place one quarter of the lasagna (including the whole meatball pattie) onto each bun and top with the toasted bun top. Quickly toss together the chopped lettuce, cheese and salad dressing at the last minute and serve it up alongside these yummy burgers. Enjoy!

Jenn's Kitchen Tips:

On Sundays I make up a few batches of the béchamel sauce to save time during the week.
The reason we roast the tomatoes ahead of time is this reduces the water in the vegetables, so when placed into lasagna it will not be runny.
The garlic butter is going to make way more than you need. I like to make a huge batch of it and divide into small containers to freeze. This will save a lot of time and wow friends and family that you have "homemade garlic butter" in your freezer!