My lasagna recipe has morphed and evolved over the years, and I think I've finally settled on "the recipe." It's a balance of easy and slightly time consuming elements, however, I would most certainly classify it as an easy recipe to pull off.
One important thing to note: do not cut this recipe in half or decrease it in any way. This recipe is meant to be shared or at least enjoyed on multiple occasions. I don't make lasagna often, but when I do, I make at least two or three pan's worth, so that we can give one away and freeze one for the next month. There's almost always a new mom or someone with an injury or other special circumstance in everyone's circle of influence, so use this as an opportunity to spread some love. :)
So, here it is.....my "secret" lasagna recipe!
- 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 2-3 lbs ground beef
- 4 teaspoons minced garlic
- 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano, crumbled
- 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
- 134 oz of your favorite jar spaghetti sauce (I used two Costco-sized jars of Prego)
- 2 bay leaves
- 6 thyme sprigs, tied together with kitchen string
- 3 tbsp brown sugar
- 3 tsp anchovy paste
- Several splashes of worcestershire sauce
- 2 tsp garlic powder
- Salt and freshly ground pepper
- 1-2 pounds sweet Italian sausage, casings removed
- 2 pounds fresh ricotta
- 1/4 cup finely chopped flat-leaf parsley
- 2 tablespoons finely chopped basil
- 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
- 2 pound packaged whole-milk mozzarella, shredded (6 cups)
- 1 large egg, beaten
- Lasagna noodles (you can use no-cook if you like, but regular lasagna noodles taste better)
I really just eye-ball the ground beef and sausage. Ultimately you need a-whole-lotta both. Personally, I like a really meaty and really cheesy lasagna.
In the biggest dutch oven or heavy-bottom pot that you own, heat the olive oil until shimmering. Add the ground beef and sausage, and cook over moderately high heat, breaking up the meat into large chunks, until no pink remains. Add the garlic, oregano, anchovy paste, worcestershire, garlic powder and crushed red pepper and cook until fragrant.
Add all of the jar sauce, the brown sugar, bay leaves and thyme bundle. Cover, and simmer over low heat for at least 60 minutes. Add salt and pepper if needed (I didn't add any this last time I made lasagna and was very happy with my sauce...but each time is different). Remove the thyme bundle and bay leaves when you're done simmering.
In a large bowl, combine the ricotta with the parsley, basil and 1/4 cup of the Parmesan. Add two cups of the shredded mozzarella and season with salt and pepper. Beat in the egg. Make sure you season with salt and pepper BEFORE you add the egg. I always forget and have to trust that I've seasoned the ricotta mixture properly (unless I'm feeling brave enough to eat raw egg, which I am NOT doing while pregnant). I've found that a little salt goes a long way in this step.
Cook your lasagna noodles according to the package instructions (or don't, if you're using no-cook noodles). I prefer regular lasagna noodles, even though they are more work -- they just taste better in my opinion, but I've used the no-cook version quite a bit too, so use whatever you prefer.
I like to buy disposable lasagna trays in bulk from Costco (they usually come in packs of twelve, I believe) -- makes it easy to freeze or giveaway without compromising your bakeware.
Once your noodles are cooked, it's time to assemble your lasagna! Remember, you're going to be making at least 2-3 lasagnas, so get a few pans out. You'll start by ladling a small amount of sauce into the bottom of each pan. From there you will layer your ingredients in the following order:
- ricotta mixture
Don't overdo it. You'll want to have at least 3-4 layers, so use your elements sparingly. The more thin layers you have, the better your lasagna will be. Your final layer will consist of noodles, sauce, mozzarella and parmesan.
Cooking instructions will vary depending on when you eat the lasagna. The absolute best thing to do is refrigerate your lasagna overnight before cooking. But, if you plan to cook one of you lasagnas immediately, here's what you'll do:
- Preheat oven to 400 F
- Cover the lasagna with tented aluminum foil, and bake for 25 minutes.
- Uncover the lasagna and bake for an additional 20 minutes, until bubbly and golden.
If you cook it right away, it may be a tad watery, but it will be completely delicious, so who cares?
If you freeze or refrigerate your lasagna, here's what you'll want to do:
- If frozen, defrost in the refrigerator overnight -- make sure it completely defrosts
- Let lasagna sit out on your counter for about an hour before you plan to cook it (to take the chill off)
- Preheat oven to 400 F
- Cover the lasagna with tented foil and bake for 70 minutes
- Uncover the lasagna and bake for an additional 20 minutes, until bubbly and golden
Slice and serve!!