Prep 3 hrs
Cook 45 mins
The sauce is really what makes this lasagna! For the very best results make the sauce at least a day ahead and refrigerate to blend flavors or even up to 4 days in advance the longer you leave it refrigerated the better your sauce will be, you might have a small amount of sauce left over, you can freeze it if desired, once you have made the sauce the rest is easy to put together! Make the sauce on a day when you have some time, it needs to simmer for about 3 hours over low heat. This recipe requires a lot of mozzarella cheese, so purchase a large brick of it, I always use more than the 3 cups! Also to save some time you can boil your lasagna noodles up to a day in advance, run them under cold water, dry with paper towels and then brush both sides with vegetable oil to prevent the noodles from sticking, then stack them on a baking sheet then cover with plastic wrap to use the following day. You can use 2 cups canned sliced mushrooms in place of the fresh, but the fresh is better! Don't omit the wine in the sauce and please do not use the no-boil lasagna noodles for this! The exact measurements does not matter with this recipe, use as much cheese as you wish, but please don't be "stingy" with the sauce when layering the lasagna the more sauce you use the better it will be, so use lots!
- 12 lasagna noodles (do not overcook the noodles, I always boil a few more than 12!)
- 4 cups grated mozzarella cheese, divided (or to taste, can use more cheese)
- 2 cups grated parmesan cheese, divided (can use more if desired)
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 lb Italian sausage, casings removed
- 1 large onion, chopped
- 2 teaspoons dried chili pepper flakes (optional or to taste)
- 3 teaspoons dried oregano
- 2 teaspoons dried basil
- 2 tablespoons minced fresh garlic
- 2 tablespoons tomato paste
- 1⁄2 cup dry red wine (do not omit the wine!)
- 2 (28 ounce) cans crushed tomatoes
- 1 (28 ounce) can diced tomatoes (drained)
- 2 (14 ounce) cans tomato sauce (use Hunt's for this)
- 1 large bay leaf
- 12 large white button mushrooms, sliced (you can really use as much as you wish, they shrink while cooking!)
- 1 1⁄2 tablespoons salt (or to taste)
- black pepper (or to taste)
- 2 -4 teaspoons sugar (optional)
- 6 cups ricotta cheese (you can even use 8 cups ricotta if desired!)
- 1 (8 ounce) package cream cheese, softened (optional)
- 3 cups mozzarella cheese (can even use 3 cups!)
- 1 1⁄2 cups grated parmesan cheese
- 2 eggs, slightly beaten
- 2 teaspoons dried parsley
- 1 1⁄2 teaspoons black pepper
- 2 teaspoons salt (or to taste)
- 1⁄2 teaspoon garlic powder
- NOTE* it is important not to overcook your lasagna noodles as they will cook more in the sauce, just boil until they are flexible in the pot, do not cook until they are very soft.
- For the sauce; in a large heavy pot, heat oil over medium heat; add in the sausage with the chopped onions, chili pepper flakes, oregano and basil, cook stirring and breaking up the sausage meat with a spoon until the sausage meat is browned, this should take about 10 minutes (add in the garlic the last 2 minutes of cooking) drain fat.
- Add in the tomato paste; cook stirring for 2 minutes.
- Add in the wine and cook 2 minutes.
- Add in all the remaining ingredients; bring to a boil stirring with wooden spoon.
- Reduce heat to low and simmer covered for 1 hour.
- Uncover and simmer for another 2 hours (uncovered).
- Season with more salt and pepper and add in sugar if needed to reduce the acidic tomato taste.
- Cool and refrigerate 24 hours or up to 4 days (or you can use it right away for the lasagna, this sauce is better if cooled and refrigerated to use the following day).
- In a large bowl using a wooden spoon, mix together all the filling ingredients until well blended.
- Grease a lasagna baking dish (one with high sides).
- Set oven to 350°F.
- Spread enough sauce into bottom of the pan to cover generously.
- Separate the ricotta cheese filling into three even amounts.
- Arrange 3 cooked noodles into bottom of the baking dish over the sauce, then drop about one-third of the cheese filling over the noodles, spread out evenly with a spoon (the mixture does not have to completely cover).
- Sprinkle with about 1 cup mozzarella cheese and then 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese.
- Repeat the layering of sauce, noodles, one-third ricotta cheese filling, mozzarella cheese, then Parmesan cheese 2 more times.
- Top with remaining 3 noodles, then spoon a generous amount of sauce over noodles (you might have some sauce leftover!).
- Sprinkle with remaining 1 cup mozzarella cheese (you can use more if desired) then sprinkle the top with about 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese.
- Generously spray a large piece of foil.
- Cover the baking dish loosely with the foil.
- Bake for about 45 minutes.
- Carefully uncover and bake for another 15 minutes (cook until the sauce is bubbly and a fork inserted in the middle of the lasagna comes out very hot).
- Let stand about 30 minutes (or more) before slicing.
This was awesome. You are so right about the sauce - it makes it even better. I let the sauce sit for a few days as you suggested, and it was so tasty. I love mushrooms so I added a pound of cremini. Thanks for posting.