Anytime I want to impress a guest for dinner, I always know I will have success serving up my classic lasagna. It's so rich and flavorful, you just can't go wrong. My Meaty Tomato Sauce is great on it's own, tossed with a little pasta, and it's my go-to sauce when Sabrina wants spaghetti for dinner. If you really go to the extra effort of making your own fresh ricotta, your guests will more than likely say, "This is the best lasagna I've ever had"! Trust me. ; )
Start by making my Meaty Tomato Sauce:
- 1 - 28 oz. can San Marzano whole tomatoes, crushed and strained of most seeds
- 1 - 14.5 oz. can tomato sauce
- 6 - 8 cloves of garlic, thinly sliced
- 3 Tbls EV olive oil
- ½ tsp cracked black pepper
- ½ tsp kosher salt
- 1 tsp Italian seasoning
- ¼ tsp red chile flakes, optional
- 1 bouquet garni, (I use thyme and oregano)
- 1 lb. spicy italian sausage, casings removed
- ¼ cup of red wine, (I like Cabs)
- 1 Tbls chopped fresh basil
I usually like to double the sauce recipe when there is a large group to feed, plus it freezes well for another time.
In a medium saucepan over medium-low heat, pour 3 Tbls olive oil, and add sliced garlic. Reduce to low heat, and SLOWLY sizzle the garlic, until it looks almost crisp with a deep golden color. This may take up to 15 - 20 min, (I usually crush and strain my tomatoes while this is cooking). Add crushed tomatoes, tomato sauce, salt, pepper, Italian seasoning, bouquet garni and red pepper flakes, (if using) and stir. Turn the heat up to medium, and simmer for about 15 min.
Meanwhile, place a skillet over medium-high heat and add a little olive oil. Saute the Italian sausage, and crumble up with a spatula as it cooks, for about 5 min. Add cooked sausage to the sauce, and place the skillet back on the heat. Deglaze the pan with the red wine, and scrape up any brown bits. Pour into sauce, stir and simmer for another 15 - 20 min. Kill the heat, remove the bouquet garni and stir in the chopped fresh basil. Keep warm, or make ahead and reheat when ready.
Mix up the ricotta and shred up some cheese:
- 1 ½ + ¼ cup shredded Provolone cheese, divided
- 2 cups shredded whole milk mozzarella cheese
- ½ + ¼ cup shredded parmesan, divided
- 2 ½ cups whole milk ricotta, (Home-Made Ricotta, make a double recipe)
- 1 egg
- ¼ - ½ cup whole milk
- 1 Tbls olive oil
- ½ large white onion, finely diced
- 2 cloves garlic, smashed and minced
- 1 Tbls chopped fresh basil
- 1 Tbls chopped fresh parsley
- ¼ tsp kosher salt
- ¼ tsp cracked black pepper
In a small skillet, over medium-high heat, sauté onions and garlic with a little olive oil, until tender, about 3-4 min. Set aside to cool down.
In a large bowl, add ricotta, egg, ¼ cup provolone, ¼ cup parmesan, herbs and salt and pepper. Next, add cooled and cooked onion garlic mixture, and blend well. Add milk, and mix until you get a nice, spreadable mixture. You may need to use all of the milk, or not. Taste the mixture for seasoning, and keep in mind that you will be adding a lot of salty cheese to the overall dish. The ricotta mixture should be flavorful, but not salty. Mix remaining shredded cheeses together in a separate bowl and set aside, or chill in the fridge.
Let's BUILD some LASAGNA!
- 1 package of uncooked lasagna noodles, (I like the curly edged kind)
- Reserved Meaty Tomato Sauce
- Reserved ricotta mixture
- Reserved shredded cheese blend
Preheat oven to 350º
Spray a deep 9" x 13" pan with cooking spray, and ladle in 1 cup of the meat sauce and spread it evenly. Add enough dry noodles to the pan to cover the bottom, overlapping slightly, (I also place dry noodles up against the sides). Spread a generous layer of ricotta over the noodles, about ⅓ of the mixture. Sprinkle a couple handfuls of cheese over the ricotta layer, about 1 cup. Drizzle with 1 cup of sauce and place another layer of dry noodles over the top, again overlapping slightly. Repeat the process, ricotta mixture, shredded cheese, and more sauce. Do one more layer, ending with the sauce layer, and seal with aluminum foil.
Bake covered in a 350º oven for 45 min. Remove aluminum foil, and continue to bake until bubbly golden brown, and pasta is tender, about 15 - 20 min. Let rest, loosely covered for at least 15 min. before you cut into it. (I like to cut off the dark, crispy pasta edges along the top, but that's up to you)
Serve with a drizzle of more meat sauce, crunchy garlic bread and a nice green salad.