Sunday Night LasagnaCourse: Main CourseCuisine: Italian AmericanDifficulty: Easy
Lasagna is my love language. I grew up in Westchester County New York, a suburb of Manhattan with a very large Italian American population. When I was growing up, everyone’s Mom made some variation of lasagna regularly, Italian or not! My mother typically made it on Sunday, as it takes a little more effort than a weeknight meal. Mom always made homemade sauce, as do I, but many I knew used jarred sauce. I don’t judge, but I think homemade sauce is really worth the effort and makes a truly memorable lasagna.
Some lasagna recipes call for Bechamel sauce, a sauce made of butter, flour, and milk, which I find wholly unnecessary. I believe that the ricotta mixture, thinned down with a little heavy cream is plenty rich enough. I typically serve lasagna with a big salad, or some roasted veggies, and we all happily overeat.
As for meat, my family prefers beef, chuck to be precise, which is typically fattier than other types of ground beef. It is sometimes sold as “80/20” ground beef, which means 80% lean and 20% fat. You could certainly get away with a 90/10 beef, but I would not recommend going any leaner than that. Sometimes I use ground turkey in my lasagna, but again, I recommend a fattier mixture that contains turkey dark meat, and not turkey breast which is very lean. Some people enjoy pork sausage in their lasagna instead of, or in addition to, ground beef. Make adjustments as you like and make it your own!
16 lasagna noodles (NOT “no boil”. I use the curly ones.)
1 batch Mamma’s Red Sauce, warmed gently on the stove
2 cups grated Parmesan cheese (Pecorino Romano or Grana Padano work well too)
16 oz. container whole milk ricotta cheese
1.5 lb. whole milk mozzarella cheese, shredded, about 6 cups
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1 lb. ground beef or turkey (Don’t use a lean meat like 95% lean ground beef or ground turkey breast. You want at least 90/10 beef or fattier- I prefer 80/20 chuck, or ground turkey that contains dark meat.)
1 medium onion, finely diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 ribs celery, finely diced
freshly cracked black pepper (from a pepper mill)
grapeseed oil, or other neutral flavored oil
- Adjust oven rack to middle position and preheat oven to 375 degrees Farenheit. Add appx. 3 tbsp salt to 6 qts water and bring to a boil.
- Place a large sauté pan (10 or 12 inch) on stove over high heat. Season beef or turkey with 1 tsp Kosher salt and black pepper to taste. If using turkey or 90/10 beef, add 1 tbsp grapeseed oil to pan. If using chuck, or 80/20 beef, you do not need to add oil. Place meat into pan and press into one large meat disk, covering the entirety of the sauté pan. Do not stir meat. Allow meat to cook until a fragrant crust develops. Once this occurs, break up meat to cook remaining sides. If using 80/20 beef, drain some of the fat so that about 1 tbsp fat remains in the pan. If using leaner meat and there isn’t any remaining fat, keep handy your preferred cooking oil (I use grapeseed).
- Once meat is mostly cooked, push to one side of pan. Tilt pan so that residual fat pools on now empty side. If there isn’t 1 tbsp of fat in pan, add 1 tbsp of oil. Add onion, garlic, and celery to pan and reduce heat to medium high. Sprinkle 1/2 tsp salt over onion mixture and stir. Cook onion mixture until softened and lightly browned. Stir onion mixture into meat. Remove from heat and set aside.
- In boiling water, cook lasagna noodles until they are slightly firmer than al dente, then drain into a colander. Coat noodles lightly with olive oil so they don’t stick together in colander.
- Mix ricotta, 3/4 cup grated Parmesan, heavy cream, egg, 1/2 tsp Kosher salt, and a few cranks of black pepper in a medium bowl. Set aside.
- Spread 1/2 cup of sauce over the entire bottom of a 13 x 16 casserole dish (or a very deep 13 x 9 pan-you may need to use 3 noodles per layer instead of 4 and adjust filling ingredients accordingly). Place 4 noodles in the bottom of dish to create the first layer. Dollop 2 tbsp of ricotta mixture on each noodle and spread using a knife or offset spatula. Sprinkle appx. 1 cup of meat mixture over noodles evenly. Ladle appx. 1 cup of sauce over noodles. Sprinkle 1/3 cup Parmesan and 1 cup Mozzarella over sauce.
- Repeat the layering of noodles, ricotta, sauce, Parmesan and Mozzarella 2 more times.
- Place the 4 remaining noodles on top and spread 1 cup of sauce evenly over noodles. Sprinkle 1/2 cup Parmesan and 2-3 cups of Mozzarella on top of sauced noodles.
- Lightly oil a large piece of foil and cover lasagna. Bake lasagna on middle rack for about 15 minutes, then remove foil. Continue baking lasagna until cheese is spotty brown and sauce is bubbling, about 20-25 more minutes. If you like a bronze lid of crusty cheese (you know I do), you can place lasagna under your oven broiler (on high) but DO NOT WALK AWAY. Cheese goes from golden to burnt very quickly, so keep an eye on it. It should only take a few minutes under the broiler to look like mine does in the photo. Allow to cool for 5-10 minutes, then dig in!
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