Main Dish · Vegetarian Main Dishes

Homemade Lasagna

Homemade Lasagna

“Lasagna: the world’s most perfect food!” — Garfield (Jim Davis)

There are no two ways about it, lasagna is a labor of love. Whether you’re making it for someone you love, or because you really love lasagna, I can’t imagine making lasagna with indifference. If I just wanted pasta with sauce, I’d make spaghetti or Baked Penne Casserole. Lasagna is not one of my healthier recipes, I’m afraid, so I just make it once or twice a year as a special treat.

There are ways to take a few shortcuts if you don’t mind sacrificing a bit of flavor. I’m using a solid chunk of Romano cheese and crumbling it in my food processor so it will still be fresh. You could certainly substitute grated or shredded cheese from the deli or cheese shop to save a little time. But please, don’t use that dried stuff from the shelf in the pasta aisle. Fresh cheese is so much more flavorful, and it gives the lasagna a better texture, too. You could substitute two 24-oz. jars of pasta sauce from the grocery store instead of making Homemade Marinara Sauce, and you could substitute “oven-ready” noodles that don’t need to be cooked before assembly. I used those quite happily for a time, but I do find them a bit thin. Before that, I used my mom’s “Overnight Lasagna” recipe. It used regular lasagna noodles but didn’t cook them first. You just added more water to your sauce for the noodles to absorb and assembled the lasagna the day before. It wasn’t as reliable as I’d like, though. Sometimes it ended up a bit watery. One time, it just didn’t work at all and we had crunchy lasagna. With a guest for dinner, no less! So I’ve recently switched to the old-fashioned method. You don’t have to.

I’m usually cooking for two these days, so a full batch of lasagna is way more than we need. Now when I make lasagna, I use two 8”x8” pans instead of a more traditional 9”x13” lasagna pan. We eat one for dinner (and a couple of lunches) and freeze the other for later. I have to think ahead a bit, though, to be sure I’m not going to need the pan for something else before we get around to eating the frozen one.

You may notice that I have my pans partially lined with foil. That’s because our weirdly cool spring isn’t the only reason I’ve still been thinking about fall foods. I’m having my kitchen renovated in September, so I’m stocking up my freezer. They expect the project to take six to seven weeks, but our house is old. When you try to renovate an old house, you always find something you didn’t count on. Projects almost always take a lot longer than expected. I figure if I plan on three months, there’s at least a decent chance I’ll be pleasantly surprised. I’m excited to be getting a new kitchen, but not enough to be willing to eat takeout for two to three months. And if I’m going to be eating frozen food, I’d just as soon have it be something I made myself. You’ll find more on the “foil plan” just before the nutrition label, and a printer-friendly version of the recipe at the very bottom of this page.

Ingredients:

0 Lasagna

1 (16-oz.) package lasagne noodles

6 cups Homemade Marinara Sauce

1 lb. hot Italian sausage (may substitute sweet, or ground beef)

2 eggs

15 oz. Ricotta cheese

9 oz Romano, Parmesan, or a combination of both

1 lb Shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese

3 Tbsp chopped fresh parsley (sub 3 tsp dried)

Preparation:

1.) Set aside 1 cup of the mozzarella. Cut the Romano and/or Parmesan into chunks, and place in the bowl of a food processor fitted with the metal blade. Pulse until cheese is uniformly crumbled. Set aside 1 oz.

2.) Cook the sausage until done, transfer to paper towels to drain. It doesn’t matter how you do the cooking. I’ve grilled and pan-fried links, and pan-fried loose sausage that I either bought that way or squeezed out of the casings. If you’re using loose sausage and breaking it up as it cooks, you can skip step 3.

3.) When cool enough to handle, pulse in food processor until roughly uniform.

3 Lasagna.jpg

4.) Cook the lasagna noodles according to package directions. When they’re done, drain them well and lay them in a single layer on a lightly oiled baking sheet or piece of plastic wrap so they won’t stick to each other. I used two half-sheet pans and a corner of my (clean) counter, which I also oiled lightly.

4 Lasagna.jpg

5.) In a medium bowl, beat eggs with a fork or spoon. It doesn’t have to be thorough, just enough to blend the yolks into the whites a bit. Add Ricotta and mix well.

5c lasagna

6.) Add the crumbled Romano and/or Parmesan, omitting the ounce you set aside in Step 1, and mix well again.

5e lasagna

7.) Arrange your sauce, noodles, ricotta mixture, mozzarella, parsley, and sausage in a line, with two 8”x8” pans in front of you. (Remember, you don’t need any foil in your pans unless you’re trying my freezer trick.) Place a (half) cup of sauce in the bottom of the pan and tilt the pan to spread the sauce around.

6b lasagna

8.) Place a single layer of noodles on top of the sauce, oriented horizontally, cutting as needed to fit.

7 lasagna.jpg

9.) Spread one-fourth of the ricotta mixture over the noodles, dividing it evenly between the two pans. It doesn’t have to be a uniform layer, or even very neat.

8 lasagna.jpg

10.) Sprinkle one-fourth of the mozzarella evenly over the ricotta mixture.

9 lasagna.jpg

11.) Sprinkle one-fourth of the parsley.

10 lasagna

12.) Sprinkle one-fourth of the sausage over the cheeses and parsley.

11 lasagna

13.) Drizzle about 1½ cups of the sauce over the sausage, and gently spread it around a bit. It doesn’t need to be perfect.

12 Lasagna.jpg

14.) Repeat the layers: noodles, ricotta mixture, mozzarella, parsley, sausage, and sauce three more times. With each layer, change the direction of the noodles. My noodles were horizontal in the first layer, so the second is vertical and the third horizontal again, etc. The last layer is sauce, and you can put a little extra here if you have some left over. Sprinkle the reserved cheeses over the top. Cover the lasagna tightly with foil.

15.) If you’re making the lasagna ahead of time (up to a day in advance) you can pop it in the fridge once you’ve assembled it and covered it with foil, and do the cooking later. You’ll need to add 10 – 15 minutes of cooking time before removing the foil, to compensate for the chill of the fridge. If you’re making it more than a day in advance, you’re best off cooking it now and reheating later.

Preheat the oven to 375℉. Bake for 45 minutes, then remove the foil. Return to the oven and bake for another 15 minutes.

14 lasagna

16.) Remove the lasagna from the oven and let it sit for 5 – 10 minutes before serving.

15 lasagna.jpg

Here’s how I set up the foil in the pans. I started with a piece of extra wide heavy duty foil about 12” — 14” wide, and folded it in half, cut end to cut end. Then I turned a pan upside down and molded the foil across it, handle side to handle side. Flipping the pan right side up, it was easy to fit the molded foil into the pan, and tuck it under the handles.

freezer 1.jpg

After the lasagna has cooled, I got a sheet of plastic wrap ready. It’s long enough to go around the lasagna with an inch or two of overlap. Next, I loosened the lasagna by running a knife along the edges that don’t have foil. Holding the two ends of the foil, I carefully lifted the lasagna out of the pan and placed it in the center of the plastic wrap.

freezer 2.jpg

Folding the edges of the foil down over the top, I then brought the plastic up over the foil, overlapped it to hold it together, and tucked the ends in. Just like wrapping a present!

I repeated this with another piece of plastic wrap, oriented in the opposite direction, and folded that across, too.

freezer 5.jpg

Then I slid the wrapped lasagna into a labeled gallon-size ziptop bag. Since food is less susceptible to freezer burn when it’s tightly wrapped, it’s good to get as much air out of the bag as you can. I slipped the end of a straw in at one corner and zipped the top closed right up to the straw. I used the straw to suck all the air out, then quickly closed the bag as I pulled the straw out.

freezer 6

Next, I rinsed and dried the pan I used for baking. I gently placed the wrapped lasagna in the pan before freezing. This will help it keep its shape. Once the lasagne is frozen, I’ll retrieve the pan for another use.

freezer 7

Remember to remove the foil from the bottom of the frozen lasagna before returning it to a pan if you’re reheating via microwave.

Nutrition Notes:

  1. That’s 8 servings for the entire batch, or 4 servings per 8″x8″ pan.
  2. When I make this recipe using Barilla wavy lasagna noodles and two 8”x8” pans, I usually have three or four noodles left over. I’ve calculated the nutrition information to reflect that. If you use the whole box, your nutrition values will be different.Lasagna NutritionLabel.png

Lasagna


Ingredients


1 (16-oz.) package lasagne noodles
6 cups Homemade Marinara Sauce
1 lb. hot Italian sausage (may substitute sweet, or ground beef)
2 eggs
15 oz. Ricotta cheese
9 oz Romano, Parmesan, or a combination of both
1 lb Shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese
3 Tbsp chopped fresh parsley (sub 3 tsp dried)

Directions


1.) Set aside 1 cup of the mozzarella. Cut the Romano and/or Parmesan into chunks, and place in the bowl of a food processor fitted with the metal blade. Pulse until cheese is uniformly crumbled. Set aside 1 oz.
2.) Cook the sausage until done, transfer to paper towels to drain. It doesn’t matter how you do the cooking. I’ve grilled and pan-fried links, and pan-fried loose sausage that I either bought that way or squeezed out of the casings. If you’re using loose sausage and breaking it up as it cooks, you can skip step 3.
3.) When cool enough to handle, pulse in food processor until roughly uniform.
4.) Cook the lasagna noodles according to package directions. When they’re done, drain them well and lay them in a single layer on a lightly oiled baking sheet or piece of plastic wrap so they won’t stick to each other. I used two half-sheet pans and a corner of my (clean) counter, which I also oiled lightly.
5.) In a medium bowl, beat eggs with a fork or spoon. It doesn’t have to be thorough, just enough to blend the yolks into the whites a bit. Add Ricotta and mix well.
6.) Add the crumbled Romano and/or Parmesan, omitting the ounce you set aside in Step 1, and mix well again.
7.) Arrange your sauce, noodles, ricotta mixture, mozzarella, parsley, and sausage in a line, with your lasagne pan(s) in front of you. Place a half cup of sauce in the bottom of each pan and tilt the pan to spread the sauce around.
8.) Place a single layer of noodles on top of the sauce, oriented horizontally, cutting as needed to fit.
9.) Spread one-fourth of the ricotta mixture over the noodles, dividing it evenly between the two pans. It doesn’t have to be a uniform layer, or even very neat.
10.) Sprinkle one-fourth of the mozzarella evenly over the ricotta mixture.
11.) Sprinkle one-fourth of the parsley.
12.) Sprinkle one-fourth of the sausage over the cheeses and parsley.
13.) Drizzle about 1½ cups of the sauce over the sausage, and gently spread it around a bit. It doesn’t need to be perfect.
14.) Repeat the layers: noodles, ricotta mixture, mozzarella, parsley, sausage, and sauce three more times. With each layer, change the direction of the noodles. My noodles were horizontal in the first layer, so the second is vertical and the third horizontal again, etc. The last layer is sauce, and you can put a little extra here if you have some left over. Sprinkle the reserved cheeses over the top. Cover the lasagna tightly with foil.
If you’re making the lasagna ahead of time (up to a day in advance) you can pop it in the fridge once you’ve assembled it and covered it with foil, and do the cooking later. You’ll need to add 10 – 15 minutes of cooking time before removing the foil, to compensate for the chill of the fridge. If you’re making it more than a day in advance, you’re best off cooking it now and reheating later.
15.) Preheat the oven to 375℉. Bake for 45 minutes, then remove the foil. Return to the oven and bake for another 15 minutes.
16.) Remove the lasagna from the oven and let it sit for 5 – 10 minutes before serving.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s