Okay, so confession time: I absolutely love Lasagna. It’s one of those dishes that no matter my current diet status, I will drop everything and run to the table. I am a sucker for tomato sauce, and a glutton for anything browned and cheesy. Growing up, I always thought Lasagna was some sacred dish that is complicated and time consuming to make, so I never really had it much as a kid. It wasn’t until I went to Italy and had lasagna made by some guy’s grandmother did I realize my life would be forevermore incomplete without it. Thus began my recipe experimentation, and after years of messing with it, I think I’ve got it. While it does take some time to prepare, it is certainly not difficult.
There’s kind of a funny history to this recipe. The first time I made it, it was for my dad’s 60th birthday party for about 30 people. My dad is vehemently anti-onion, so I had to have two different pots of sauce going. That night, a fabulous family friend (who is more family than friend) was in attendance, and fell in love with it. He asked for the recipe, and has since served it at a lot of his gatherings– so much so that my lasagna is known as “Ricky’s Lasagna” in some Palm Springs circles. Obviously, I am 100% okay with that because it is so yummy and I want EVERYONE to eat and share it!
In Seattle, we have a friend named Kevin that has some kind of psychic skill and can sense when I am even thinking about making it. Since meeting him, he has been invited to every Lasagna night we’ve had, and like my dad, he also dislikes cooked onions, so the dual sauce continues. My sister-in-law’s boyfriend doesn’t eat pork, so I’ve made it that way too. Fortunately, this recipe is super adaptable which adds to its awesomeness.
I’m sure I sound a bit boastful, but this recipe really is good, and easy too! I won’t lie to you and say it is quick, because it certainly isn’t that–but it is something you can start and walk away from, or even just prepare in advance and pop in the fridge or freezer until you’re ready to eat it. Ultimately, I believe that making lasagna is an act of love, and I think all of the extra steps make for a better finished product. Trust me, you’ll be happy with your effort.
The secret, not shockingly, is in the sauce–and it is it so full of flavor! Fortunately, this recipe makes quite a bit of it, so you can make an extra lasagna, serve it on the side for the sauce fiends at the table, or even water it down a bit for spaghetti later in the week. You can even add in extra veggies like mushrooms or fresh herbs, whatever you have on hand, to make it a bit more hearty. The possibilities are endless, but the lasagna itself won’t be. Sadly. The good news is that I often end up making 1.5 lasagnas with this recipe, and freeze the uneaten half to pull out for an easy weeknight dinner.
I think one of the things that separates this recipe from the millions of others is 1) The spices, and 2) The fact that it actually has enough of the ricotta layer in it. So may lasagnas skimp on that creamy goodness, and I think that the sweet and cheesy layer is an absolute must have in any lasagna. It is there to cut the acidity and saltiness of the sauce, and also add a little bit of lightness to a naturally heavy dish. Besides, who doesn’t like a bit of extra cheese? I certainly don’t mind.
Also, you’ll notice that my ricotta layer utilizes two eggs over the usual one. If I’m being honest, I’ve used three before, too. Really, it just depends on the ricotta you buy: If you opt for a low fat option, you’ll definitely need the extra egg to keep it thick and creamy.
Ultimately, lasagna is one of those things that everyone agrees that they love it, but tend to disagree on the best recipe and method of preparation. Below, you’ll find my recipe, and I hope you enjoy it!
Eat with: A fresh tossed green salad and crunchy bread or homemade focaccia!
Drink with: A yummy Italian red wine — We opted for Chianti, but a nice Barolo is never a bad idea.
The Only Lasagna
- 1 box lasagna noodles
- 1.5 pounds grated mozzarella
- ½ cup fresh grated parmesan
- 1 pound ground beef
- 1 pound mild Italian sausage
- 2 tsp olive oil
- 1 medium yellow onion, diced
- 6 cloves garlic, crushed then minced
- 15 oz can of tomato sauce
- 12 oz tomato paste
- 28 oz diced tomatoes (I prefer Fire Roasted for this recipe)
- 1 tbs salt (or more to taste)
- 1 tbs sugar (or more depending on acidity)
- 1 tsp black pepper
- 2 tsp dried basil
- 2 tsp dried oregano
- 1 tsp thyme
- ½ tsp crushed red pepper flakes
- 1 bay leaf
- 6 oz pasta water to thin, if needed
- RICOTTA LAYER
- 30 oz Whole Milk Ricotta
- 2 eggs
- ½ tsp black pepper
- 1 handful of fresh basil minced
- Step 1 In a Dutch Oven or large pot, cook the Italian sausage and ground beef until almost cooked through over medium heat. Drain fat and set aside.
- Step 2 Add 2 tsp olive oil to the bottom of a pan and add in the onions. Cook about five minutes and add in garlic. Cook for another two minutes taking care to not burn the garlic.
- Step 3 Return meat to pan and mix in the tomato paste and stir. Cook for 1-2 minutes.
- Step 4 Add canned tomatoes and sauce and stir.
- Step 5 Mix in all of the herbs and spices and bring to a heavy simmer for 10 minutes.
- Step 6 Drop the heat and simmer on low and cook for 2-3 hours.
- Step 7 Take off heat, remove bay leaf, and set aside.
- Step 8 Cook lasagna noodles according to package (I usually use 9-12 noodles for one pan). You want them to be al dente. Reserve 6oz of cooking water, and drain the remaining. Run noodles under cold water when finished.
- Step 9 Stir together ricotta and eggs. You want it to be fluffy, so put some work into it. Then mix in pepper and basil. Set Aside.
- Step 10 Now that your sauce has cooled slightly, check it. If it is too thick, stir in some of the pasta water. Note: You want a thicker sauce, but you also want it to spread a bit too.
- Step 11 Preheat oven to 375°.
- Step 12 In the bottom of a 9×13 inch pan, spoon a couple of tablespoons of sauce.
- Step 13 Lay out noodles (each layer for me was about 3 noodles)
- Step 14 Spread ricotta mixture liberally.
- Step 15 Spoon on sauce.
- Step 16 Top with Mozzarella
- Step 17 Repeat Steps 13-15 until you’re close to the top of the dish. Your last layer before adding the final cheese should be sauce.
- Step 18 Top with remaining mozzarella and parmesan.
- Step 19 To Cook:* Cover pan with foil and cook for 30 minutes. Remove foil and cook for another 30 to get a browned top. You can broil for a minute or two to get a really browned top, but be sure to keep an eye on it!
- Step 20 Cool for 10 minutes, and serve with remaining sauce, salad, and bread!
*If you are cooking a previously frozen lasagna: Bake covered at 400° for an hour and a half. Uncover for remaining 10-15 minutes and broil if need be. Internal temperature should read 165* at least.