Lasagna can be an intimidating dish to attempt, but when done right is well worth the effort. The following recipe takes about 20 to 30 minutes to prep and has a cook time of approxiamately 1 hour and 30 minutes. It is great for dinner at home or bringing to pot lucks, etc.
- 12 oz. box of dry lasagna noodles (this recipe uses oven ready)
- 29 oz. can tomato puree or sauce
- 6 oz. can tomato paste
- 30 oz. ricotta cheese (skim or whole milk)
- 4 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
- 2 cups grated parmesan cheese
- 2 large eggs
- 2 Roma tomatoes
- 1 medium white onion
- 2-3 cloves garlic
- 6 green onions (about 1/2 cup chopped)
- 1 lb. ground beef
- 1/4 cup olive oil (extra virgin preferred)
- 2 tbsp. balsamic or red wine vinegar
- 4 tbsp. basil
- 2 tbsp. oregano
- 1 tsp. thyme
- 1 1/2 tsp. black pepper
- 2 tbsp. kosher salt
- 1/4 tsp. crushed red pepper (optional)
- 1/4 tsp. tarragon (optional)
Step 1: Meat Sauce
- Brown the ground beef on medium heat in a saucepan. Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a separate saucepan with the vinegar, oregano, 1/2 tsp. thyme, 1/2 tsp. black pepper, crushed red pepper and tarragon. Heating the herbs and spices with the oil will bring out the herbs’ own essential oils and flavors. Use a whisk to beat together the oil and vinegar.
- Dice the onion into 1/4 inch pieces and set half of it aside (for the cheese filling). Dice the Roma tomatoes with a serrated knife, also 1/4 inch. Finely chop the garlic cloves and add the onions, tomatoes, and garlic to the oil-herb mixture. Stirring frequently, allow the onions to become translucent.
- Remove the ground beef from the heat and drain. Mix 1 tbsp. kosher salt, tomato paste, tomato puree, and onion/tomato/oil mixture into the beef. Set the sauce aside and allow it to cool.
Step 2: Cheese Filling
- In a large mixing bowl, combine the ricotta, parmesan, eggs, 2 tbsp. basil, finely chopped green onions, 1 tbsp. kosher salt, 1 tsp. black pepper, the remaining diced onion half and half the mozzarella cheese (2 cups). Mix well. The consistency should be that of cold mashed potatoes.
Step 3: Building the Lasagna
- Coat the inside of a baking pan with cooking spray . A 13×9 inch pan should do. It should also be at least 2 inches deep. Use plenty of spray; you’ll thank yourself when it’s time to serve.
- Place the first layer of pasta in the bottom of the pan. Overlap the pieces by about 1/4 inch. If you use oven ready pasta, it might have to be trimmed to fit the corners of the pan. Just break of small pieces until the pasta fits, leaving as little space between noodles as possible.
- Use a spatula to spread half of the cheese mixture over the pasta. It should be 1/4 inch thick or so and make a seal between the noodles and the pan.
- Cover the cheese layer with a layer of meat sauce, which by now should be cool enough to not melt the cheese and make a mess while you make build up the layers.
- Add a layer of pasta, overlapping and tripping the noodles as needed to get the best coverage.
- Add another cheese layer, using the rest of the cheese mixture.
- Add a meat sauce layer, leaving about 1 cup.
- Place the final pasta layer as in steps 2 and 5.
- Spread the final cup of meat sauce over the top layer of noodles.
Step 4: Baking the Lasagna
- Cover the pan with aluminum foil and bake at 350 degrees for an hour and 15 minutes, or until the internal temperature reaches 145 degrees and the noodles are soft.
- Remove the foil cover and evenly sprinkle the remaining shredded mozzarella over the top of the lasagna. Turn the oven temperature up to 450 and put the lasagna back in until the cheese melts and just begins to brown. The internal temperature should be around 165. This should take around 15 minutes.
- Once the lasagna is done and out of the oven, it will have to stand for around 30 minutes before it is cut. Cut the lasagna into squares and serve.
A Few Tips:
- Oven-ready lasagna noodles are an easy way to cut down on prep time, since cooked noodles have to be boiled and then cooled before the lasagna can be built. Cooked and cooled lasagna noodles have the advantage of being flexible, so they can conform to the pan without trimming. A disadvantage is that cooked noodles can slide around and make layer building a bit trickier.
- If the top layer of the lasagna seems close to the top edge of the pan, place a piece of wax paper to prevent the foil from sticking to the lasagna.
- This recipe can be used as a base for many variations of lasagna. For example, ground sausage may be added to the meat sauce, or place cooked shrimp on top.
- Garnish with some freshly chopped Italian or curl-leaf parsley and serve with toasted garlic bread.