I have been making my traditional lasagna for many years as just about everyone in my family likes it except for a few vegetarians. I always have extra sauce to serve over spaghetti for them or the younger kids so no one is ever left out.
As a matter of fact it is one of my first recipes I posted since starting my blog in November of 2011 and you can find my original lasagna here; also check out my meatball recipe that I used. I have included my marinara recipe below which has stayed the same except for using canned tomatoes instead of fresh tomatoes from the garden! My tomatoes of choice are San Marzano but they are some times hard to come by so I use Muir Glen organic tomatoes instead.
So, what is different about this version? To begin with I used the no-cook, oven-ready flat noodles. I actually like both kinds. The no-cook is a great product as the noodles are ready to use and there is no extra step of boiling the noodles. However, the moisture content of the sauce needs to be just right so the dried noodles will rehydrate but not be overwhelmed with a thick sauce. You also do not want the sauce too thin where the noodles might become limp.
Second, I use to make meatballs, which is a technique I received from a sister’s Sicilian mother-in-law where they were cooked, sliced and then layered in the lasagna. I no longer do that since last year when I ran across a recipe by Buddy Valastero’s grandmother in “Cooking Italian with the Cake Boss”. I add the cooked meat, which now includes hot Italian sausage, to the sauce which saves a lot of extra work and ends up being the right consistency.
I will always use my marinara sauce as I like to finish my lasagna with it and serve some on the side. I use this sauce in all kinds of dishes and it has not changed for quite some time. I make a big batch and freeze it in small containers, so I always have some sauce handy for a recipe.
Lasagna has been a favorite dish for my family, friends, neighbors, former business associates of Gene’s and now I want to share my new version with my fellow bloggers. It is one of my best comfort foods I make!
- 1/8 cup olive oil (I use only enough if the meat is sticking too much)
- meatloaf mixture of 1/2 lb. ground chuck, 1/2 lb. ground pork and 1/2 lb. ground veal
- 1 lb. hot Italian sausage, casings removed – you can use sweet if you prefer
- 4 or more large garlic cloves, minced to taste
- 1 tsp. fresh oregano, minced or 1/2 tsp. dried
- 2 tbsp. tomato paste
- 1 can (28 oz.) crushed tomatotes
- 1 can (28 oz.) tomato puree
- 1-2 small cans tomato sauce (8 oz. each)
- 1 tbsp. sugar to cut the acidity of the tomatoes
- kosher salt and pepper to taste
- 2 lbs. fresh ricotta cheese (I use Calabro from Whole Foods and also have used hand-dipped ricotta) – to prevent runny ricotta add a tbsp. or two of breadcrumbs
- 1/8 cup fresh parsley, minced
- 2 -3 tbsp. fresh basil, minced
- 2 cups Parmesan, grated and divided
- 1-1/2 lbs. mozzarella (whole milk) grated on the large holes of a grater, divided
- 2 large eggs, beaten
- 1 lb. no boil flat lasagna sheets – I used 18 and there were only 17 in the box so I opened another box – the box said enough for a 9-inch x 13-inch dish but not for me as I did not want to skimp on any noodles – I have also used regular lasagna noodles and they work just as good
- Judi’s Marinara Sauce (see below)
Heat the oil in a large heavy pot. Add all of the meat and cook until no longer pink, about 15 minutes while breaking up the meat to combine. Add the garlic and oregano and cook for another minute or two. I like to drain any fat from the meat first, then stir in the tomato paste and cook, until the meat is coated with the paste, just a few minutes. Pour in the tomatoes, tomato puree and tomato sauce. I add extra to get the consistency I want if needed. Season with salt and pepper if desired and bring to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer, uncovered, for about 1-1/2 hours or until thickened.
Preheat the oven to 375°F and place a baking sheet in the oven to warm while you make the filling. The baking sheet is a great idea in case there are any spills. Combine the fresh ricotta cheese, parsley, basil, 1-1/2 cups of Parmesan, 1 lb. mozzarella in a large bowl and mix well. Place the remaining 1/2 cup Parmesan and 1/2 lb. mozzarella in a separate bowl, mix well and set aside.
Spray your dish with a non-stick spray and spread the bottom of a 9-inch x 13-inch x 2-inch glass dish with 1-1/2 cups sauce. Place noodles on top that are barely overlapping. Spread 1/3 of the ricotta cheese mixture over the noodles, then sprinkle with a little of the Parmesan/Mozarella mixture, and top with 1-1/2 cups sauce and another layer of noodles. Repeat this layering twice, finishing with a layer of 1-1/2 cups sauce.
Cover the lasagna with foil and place on a baking sheet for 40 minutes. Remove the foil and continue to bake until the top starts to turn golden and the filling is bubbling, about another 25 minutes. Remove and let rest for 20 minutes before serving with a tossed salad, garlic bread, some extra Parmesan cheese and a nice glass of Merlot.
Lasagna using the no-boil noodles…
Judi's Marinara Sauce
- enough olive oil to saute the onions
- 2 garlic cloves, minced (or more to taste)
- 4 to 6 quarts canned tomatoes, salt added; I now use 6 to 8 large cans of Muir Glen Organic Tomatoes (or San Marzano if I can find them)
- 1 (12 oz.) tomato paste
- 1 (1 lb. 13 oz.) tomato sauce
- 3-4 tbsp. fresh parsley, minced or 1-1/2 to 2 tbsp. dried
- 2 tbsp. sugar to cut the acidity of the tomatoes
- 2 bay leaves
- 3-4 tsp. fresh basil, minced or 2 tsp. dried basil
- 3-4 tsp. fresh oregano or 2 tsp. dried oregano
- 1/2 tsp. pepper
Saute onions in just enough oil until soft, but not brown, for about 15 minutes. Add the garlic and saute another minute or two. Process the tomatoes in a blender; then I strain through my All-Clad Food Mill to remove all of the seeds. Add to the onions along with the rest of the ingredients. I do try to use fresh herbs whenever I can because it really makes a difference in the taste especially with a sauce like this.
Reduce the heat and simmer uncovered for about 1-1/2 to 2 hours, stirring occasionally.