Seriously Delicious Homemade Lasagna. There are a few things we can do to really elevate or Lasagna to be stand out from the rest. Serve it up with some Garlic Bread, Garlic Twisty Bread or even Garlic Fingers or a Salad.
By far a better way to prepare the Pasta is to Fill the Casserole dish you plan on making the lasagna in, with the Lasagna Shells and Hot Tap Water. Halfway through cooking your Pasta Sauce, Start soaking for 30 minutes. When the Pasta Sauce is done so is the Pasta.
I tested this method and was surprised at the results. Not only do you move the Cooking of the Pasta out of the equation. But you move the Pasta to the end when you need it. Both the Pasta and the Casserole dish don’t come into play until the end. So both are used and set aside until you need it. Brilliant!
The results are bang on too, with cooked just right pasta. For quicker dishes that require baking in the oven, I would still stick with Boiling the Pasta. But for Lasagna where a lot of your time is tied up in preparation of the meat and sauce, soaking is absolutely the best method for Lasagna.
The Meat Filling can be widely versatile as well. From using just Ground Beef or Ground Beef seasoned with Meatball seasonings. Just prepare the meatballs the same way you would and then instead of shaping them. Cook them to form the meat filling.
Small amounts of Pepperoni, Salami or other cured meats can be chopped and added with the Meat Mixture.
We can also cut the meat with Italian Sausage, Pork Chops, Ribs, Steak. When the meats are done simmering with the Pasta Sauce. Remove them from the sauce and mince to add to the Ground Beef Filling.
This is how it is done with Authentic Lasagna. The minced meat was part of the Pasta Sauce that either gets plated and eaten alone or minced and used for Lasagna Meat Filling or in with the Pasta Sauce for Spaghetti.
The Cheese Filling can be widely versatile. From Ricotta, Sour Cream, Cottage Cheese. Another Idea comes from using Ravioli Fillings and Seasonings for layering the Lasagna.
Use just one of these or in combination to create your Cheese Filling layer. Optionally with some Spinach.
Cottage Cheese Lasagna Filling
Mix Cottage Cheese with 1 Egg, Parmesan/Romano Cheese, and some Parsley. Salt and Pepper to Taste with a Pinch of Nutmeg.
Ricotta Lasagna Filling
Same as above except replace the Cottage Cheese with Ricotta.
Sour Cream works wonders with Pasta Sauce. We use it with our Meatball Oven Sub and Meatball Side Platter. You can use it here for Lasagna as stand alone or mixed with either Cottage and/or Ricotta Cheese.
This is where we add all 3 Fillings together to form a Trinity Filling. I add equal amounts of Cottage Cheese and Ricotta a small amount of Sour Cream and 1 Egg. Seasoned with Parsley, Salt & Pepper and a Pinch of Nutmeg.
Bechamel Sauce with Parmesan or Romano cheese can be made up as well and included with the Cheese Filling after it has cooled down or drizzle over the meat filling. You could also just place it on the top layer all by itself.
The Sauce is crucial here. Not only for taste but the amount proportionate to the Lasagna and how thick or thin it is. Which can result in a Lasagna that is too wet or dry.
You also want no meat in the Sauce or at least very little for this Lasagna Recipe. It is meant to bring everything together.
Bolognese Lasagna has the sauce and meat mixed together as a Bolognese Sauce.
This Sauce is typically very thick and used with Lasagna or wide pasta and can be done here for this recipe as well. It usually has some form of Dairy and Wine added to the Pasta Sauce.
Fresh Tomato Sauce
If you’re going for the best quality tasting sauce. Then creating your own Crushed Tomatoes is by far the best.
To do so, chop up some Tomatoes, seeds removed and place them into a roasting pan, and roast for a few hours in the oven, mixing once in a while. Continue to cook until desired consistency.
Optionally you can get it fairly close to the right consistency. Then cook in a stockpot to reach the desired consistency. It takes longer to do the sauce but offers a superior taste.
A 3:1 Saputo’s High Moisture Mozzarella Cheese to Provolone Cheese is absolutely the best. A complete game changer for Lasagna. It offers the best Melting and little brown Crisp spots on the top with added flavor.
The Top of the Lasagna should not be dark brown or black. This is a sign of being overcooked which causes you to lose what the cheese originally had to offer. Instead, you should see small brown spots scattered throughout the top. This is a sign of a well cooked Lasagna with very good Cheese cooked just right.
There are a lot of things that play their part in overcooked cheese. One of which is the Moisture content in the Mozzarella Cheese itself.
The Second is how long it was cooked for, uncovered.
The Third is, you need Provolone Cheese not only for flavor but for the beautiful browning it offers for dishes like Pizza, Lasagna, Casserole, and other recipes.
If you want to add Parmesan Cheese, Romano Cheese. You can add these towards the end. Use as part of the Garnish, with the Cheese Filling or Meat Filling.
After the lasagna has been assembled and ready to go into the oven. There are a few things that can be added on top to accent the Lasagna.
Pepperoni is a Classic to add. Other meats like Italian Deli Meats or Bacon Bits can be added as well.
Make that Lasagna Standout by adding Extra Cheese Blends, Chili Flakes, Aleppo Pepper which is excellent with this and some Greenery like Parsley, Basil, Oregano, Green Onions, Salt & Pepper.
Putting together the Lasagna
There are a couple of things to consider when layering this.
Heavy Ingredients first
It only makes sense to place the heavier ingredients first.
For the Longest time when making Lasagna, I would place the Cheese Filling on the bottom. Often when taking pictures the Cheese filling would get lost due to the weight of the meat filling as well as drying out. I still sometimes forget and place the cheese on the bottom because this is how I did it for so long.
While not crucial you don’t really want to place your Lasagna strip to close together. You want to be able to cut in between and preserve that ruffled edge for a more appealing Lasagna. A Lasagna Tray specifically designed can help quite a bit here.
Sauce and Cheese Contact
Sauce the Top layer pretty good prior to placing Cheese on top.
You could argue that you want to eliminate the sliding action of the cheese on the sauce. However the trade off is going to be a dried cheese and you will lose out on the Chewy stretchy Goodness from the Cheese.
The Pasta absorbs moisture as it cooks. Ever notice that the Cheese Filling Gets drier after it has been in the oven. This is because the pasta is absorbing the Moisture.
The Cheese should never be in contact with the Pasta sheet. It needs that wet buffer so the pasta can soak in the extra moisture with enough moisture left that the cheese doesn’t dry out.
Here is a test. Make the Lasagna normally but for one strip, don’t sauce the top pasta sheet, and then sprinkle cheese directly on the pasta and cook.
You will find that the part with no sauce has really dry cheese. There is no stretch or chewiness coming from it whereas the other strips have all that the cheese can offer. The Takeaway lesson is. The Lasagna Sheets will absorb more moisture of the ingredient it is in contact with.
We use 4 Lasagna Pastas for each Strip which is 2 Servings or 1 big one. In a box, we get roughly 20+. So for 1 Box of Lasagna Pasta, we can create 5 Strips which is 10 Portions or 5 really big servings.
- Add Dry Red or White Wine to the Ground Beef and cook until the wine is reduced.
- Make a thick Bechamel Sauce and allow to cool to combine with the Cheese Filling.
- Add Pepperoni, Bacon Bits, Italian Deli Meats on top.
- Place sliced Mozzarella either with the meat or cheese filling.
- Drizzle Flavored Olive Oil or Melted Butter over the finishing Cheese. This adds flavor, moisture and assist in browning.
- Sauce Pot
- Large Wok or Skillet
- Casserole Dish
- Tin Foil
- 1 box Lasagna Sheets – 20 sheets, see notes
- 1 lbs Ground Beef
- 1/2 lbs Italian Sausages
- 1/2 lbs Fatty Pork Chop or Steak
- 2 Carrot
- 2 Celery
- 2 Onion
- 5 Cloves Garlic
- 1 Bell Peppers – Red, Green, Yellow or Mixed
- 3 C Mozzarella Cheese
- 1 C Provolone Cheese
- 2-4 Bay Leaves
- 3 C Crushed Tomatoes
- 2 C Water
- 1/2 C Tomato Paste
- 1/3 C Olive Oil
- 1 cube Maggi Bouillon Cube – Beef or Chicken
- 1 tsp Red Wine Vinegar
- 2 Tbl Sugar
- 1 Tbl Kosher Salt, Marjoram & Parsley
- 1/2 tsp Basil, Black Pepper, Fennel Seeds, Oregano, Red Chili Flakes, Savory & Thyme
- 1/4 tsp Ground Rosemary
- 1/8 tsp Ground Clove
- 1 C Cottage Cheese or more
- 1 C Ricotta Cheese or more
- 1/4 C Sour Cream
- 1 Egg
- 1 Tbl Powdered Parmesan Cheese
- 1 Tbl Powdered Romano Cheese
- 1 Tbl Parsley
- 1/4 tsp Salt & Pepper
- 1/8 tsp Nutmeg
- In a Blender Combine all Pasta Sauce Ingredients except the Crushed Tomatoes, Oil and Tomato Paste. Add in 1 Onion, 1 Carrot, 1 Celery and 3 Garlic. Blend until smooth. Set aside for now.
- In a Sauce Pot over medium heat. Add the 1/3 C Olive Oil and 1/2 C Tomato Paste. Cook for 5 minutes mixing often. Add in the Crushed Tomatoes and the Blended Ingredients. Place on the back Burner and bring to boil. Add a few Bay Leaves. Then reduce the heat to low and simmer partially covered. Stirring from time to time.
- Trim the Fat off of the Pork Chop or Steak and Chop into small pieces.
- In a Skillet over medium heat. Render the Fat Trimmings until browned and Crisp. Remove from the Skillet, Chop really fine and add to the Sauce. While rendering the Fat, Chop up the remaining Vegetables into small pieces and add them into a bowl. Set aside.
- Sear the Pork Chop or Steak with the Sausages until a good fond is created on the bottom of the pan. Place the Meat into the Sauce pot with the Pasta Sauce to simmer for 1 hour.Raise the heat to medium high and add in the Ground Beef. Let it sit there for a few minutes to create a fond. Then start breaking the meat up and scrape the bottom. When the Ground Beef is Cooked, add in the Chopped Vegetables and saute briefly Just a few minutes. Set aside.
While the Sauce is Simmering
- Place the Lasagna Shells in a Casserole dish that you will use for the Lasagna and fill with Hot water. Set this aside for 30 minutes or until ready to use. Preheat the oven to 350 F with the rack in middle position.
- Combine Cheese Filling Ingredients and mix well. Refrigerate for later. Partially Freeze Both Cheese so that they shred better. Then Shred the Mozzarella Cheese and Provolone Cheese. Combine 3 Cups Mozzarella and 1 Cup Provolone Cheese, and toss. Refrigerate until ready to use.
- After the 1 hour of simmering, shut the heat off and remove the meat from the Sauce and chop. Add the Chopped meat with the Ground Beef and enough Sauce to bind the meat mixture but still holds it's shape. Remove the Bay Leaves from the Sauce.
- Ladle of SaucePasta SaucePasta SauceMeat MixtureSaucePastaSauceCheese MixturePastaRemaining Pasta SauceCheese BlendCover with Tin Foil.
Cooking The Lasagna
- Place the assembled Lasagna into preheated oven at 350 F for 45 minutes.
- After 45 minutes remove Tin Foil and continue to Bake until nice colorization on top. About 20-30 minutes. Remove, Garnish with Parmesan, Parsley, Aleppo or Chili Flakes and Let Cool.
- With a very sharp Knife cut down the center to create 10 halves and serve.