How to Make Lasagna
Layers of pasta, sauce, meat, and loads of cheese is what makes lasagna one of our favorite comfort foods! Here’s how to make lasagna like a pro!
Lasagna is one of those dishes that feels special when you eat it. It must be the layers of deliciousness that make it seem like someone went through an awful lot of painstaking effort on your behalf. Yet fear not! Lasagna is actually very simple to put together; all it takes is a few basic building blocks. We’re going to talk about quality ingredients and some shortcuts to simplify things even more.
All those delicious layers come together easily if you take just a minute to prep and set up. I like to make an assembly line of sorts. In a large bowl, mix up a 15 ounce container of whole milk ricotta cheese with 1 egg and 3/4 cup Parmesan cheese. I adore freshly grated Parmesan cheese in my Italian dishes. You’ll find that the secret to simple recipes like this one is the quality of the ingredients you put in them.
While I’m setting up, I also chop 1 medium onion, mince 3 cloves of garlic and preheat the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.
Add 1 tablespoon of olive oil to a large skillet, along with the chopped onion, minced garlic, and about a teaspoon of kosher salt. Cook over medium heat until the onions start to soften.
Add 1 pound of lean ground beef. While the meat browns and the onions and garlic continue to cook and caramelize, I like to add a little seasoning. You can use an Italian Seasoning blend (about 2 teaspoons) or you can make your own with 1 teaspoon of dried oregano, 1 teaspoon dried basil, and 1/4 teaspoon dried thyme. Add black pepper to taste.
Make your own Italian Seasoning to keep on hand. It’s a great addition to this lasagna, but also works well on chicken, pastas, and sauces.
You can go two directions with your sauce. Some people are die-hard, from-scratch sauce makers. If that is your prerogative then use your favorite marinara sauce recipe. (If you don't have a favorite, you can learn to make your own basic tomato sauce here). I am going to share one of my favorite shortcuts now - GASP - I use store bought marinara sauce! If you are short on time, or never manage to make enough extra to freeze, don’t feel bad about grabbing a couple of jars from the shelf. The quality of what you purchase is again a major factor here, so don’t skimp. I use two 15 ounce jars of my favorite sauce.
You need a little layer of sauce across the bottom of your pan to add moisture and keep things in place. You can use your meat sauce, or if you remember, spoon a little marinara into the lasagna pan before you’ve added it all to the skillet with the meat (this leaves out any lumps on the bottom).
You may notice from the photos that I chose not to pre-cook my lasagna noodles. You can absolutely pre-cook your noodles according to the package instructions and then layer them in the pan. But it’s fun to skip steps where you can. The trick to not having undercooked pasta in your finished dish is making sure you have enough moisture in the pan (That’s why we used 30 ounces of sauce). I used an entire box of lasagna noodles, but I also have a very large, deep lasagna pan. If you are using a standard 9 X 13 baking dish, you may have some pasta left over.
Spread some of your ricotta mixture over the noodles.
Then add shredded mozzarella cheese. I used a whole pound in the layers of this lasagna, plus what I added to the top. Research says that Americans prefer extra cheesy lasagna. I have to agree.
Spoon meat sauce over the top of the mozzarella. Repeat the process starting from the noodle step, until the pan is full. End with a thick layer of mozzarella cheese.
Bake for 45-50 minutes. The sauce at the sides will be bubbly. The cheese on top will be golden.
SO easy and worth every bit of the time it takes! This classic lasagna is sure to be a winner.