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How to Make Lasagna

Italian Sausage Lasagna
Lasagna is a classic family favorite, and it’s no secret why! Layers of al dente lasagna noodles, creamy cheese filling, hearty meat and warm red sauce make this Italian favorite irresistible. Served as a weeknight meal or an entrée for an occasion, it’s totally versatile and always delicious. Whether you want to keep it traditional or give it a twist (here’s to you, chicken enchilada lasagna roll-ups!) this is how to make the perfect lasagna.

Introduction

Lasagna is one of the oldest types of pasta, a classic Italian favorite that consists of layered noodles, cheese, sauce and meat. Lasagna noodles are long, flat noodles with two wavy edges, perfect for placing in a casserole dish and layering with cheese and sauce. Though the classic lasagna includes ricotta and Italian sausage, there are many delicious twists on the tradition: vegetarians can enjoy eggplant or zucchini lasagna, leftover chicken can easily be used in lasagna, and a seafood version with crab and shrimp tastes good, too! Whichever version you choose, those layers of pasta, baked with cheese will give you that traditional comfort food casserole you’ve been craving. Lasagna is derived from Italy, and if you look at the ingredient list, it’s no surprise! The creamy cheese, al dente pasta and Italian-inspired meats make this heritage easy to guess. The original lasagna recipe is said to have used béchamel sauce – a favorite ingredient still used today in classic lasagna recipes. Béchamel sauce is a simple white sauce made from just a few pantry staples. Here’s our recipe for homemade béchamel sauce.

Lasagna can be enjoyed all year long – either for a weeknight meal or for a more special occasion. With its hearty flavors, it can be made in cooler months and enjoyed as a comfort food casserole. Many families also make lasagna as an entrée on Christmas as it’s a crowd-pleaser, easy to make, and both filling and delicious. Another time to devour lasagna? National Lasagna Day on July 29th!

Methods for Making Lasagna

Though the most common way to make lasagna is baking it in a casserole dish, there are other ways to make lasagna as well. You can make a quick-fix lasagna on the stovetop in a skillet, like this Easy Skillet Lasagna recipe, or let the slow cooker do all of the work for you with one of these slow-cooker lasagna recipes: Classic Slow-Cooker Lasagna, Slow-Cooker Spinach Alfredo Lasagna. Looking for a no-mess, fuss-free favorite? This One-Pot Sausage Lasagna is just the ticket.

How to Make Lasagna

Here’s how to make our classic lasagna recipe, Italian Sausage Lasagna. This recipe is identical to the recipe included in the 1995 edition of our Betty Crocker Cookbook, and this lasagna continues as a favorite!

What you’ll need:

  • 1 lb. bulk Italian pork sausage
  • 1 medium onion, chopped (1/2 cup)
  • 1 clove garlic, crushed
  • 3 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh basil leaves or 1 teaspoon dried basil leaves
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 2 cups Muir Glen™ organic diced tomatoes (from 28-oz can), undrained
  • 1 can (15 oz) Muir Glen™ organic tomato sauce
  • 12 uncooked lasagna noodles (12 oz)
  • 1 container (15 oz) ricotta cheese or small-curd cottage cheese (2 cups)
  • ¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh oregano leaves or 1 1/2 teaspoons dried oregano leaves
  • 2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese (8 oz)
  • ¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese

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How to:

1. In 10-inch skillet, cook sausage, onion and garlic over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until sausage is no longer pink; drain.

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2. Stir in 2 tablespoons of the parsley, the basil, sugar, tomatoes and tomato sauce. Heat to boiling, stirring occasionally. Reduce heat to low; simmer uncovered about 45 minutes or until slightly thickened.

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3. Heat oven to 350ºF. Cook and drain noodles as directed on package.

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4. In medium bowl, mix ricotta cheese, 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese, remaining 1 tablespoon parsley and the oregano.

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5. Spread 1 cup of the sauce mixture in ungreased 13x9-inch (3-quart) glass baking dish. Top with 4 noodles. Spread 1 cup of the cheese mixture over noodles; spread with 1 cup of the sauce mixture. Sprinkle with 2/3 cup of the mozzarella cheese. Repeat with 4 noodles, the remaining cheese mixture, 1 cup of the sauce mixture and 2/3 cup of the mozzarella cheese. Top with remaining noodles and sauce mixture. Sprinkle with remaining mozzarella cheese and 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese.

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6. Cover; bake 30 minutes. Uncover; bake about 15 minutes longer or until hot and bubbly. Let stand 15 minutes before cutting.

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To make this recipe ahead, cover unbaked lasagna with foil; refrigerate no longer than 24 hours to freeze up to 2 months. Bake covered 45 minutes, then bake uncovered 15-20 minutes longer (35-45 minutes if frozen). Check the center and bake a little longer if necessary until hot and bubbly.

Layers of a Lasagna

Noodles

There are a variety of brands of lasagna noodles. Cook the noodles in boiling water, following the directions on the package, just until tender or al dente. If the noodles are overcooked, they might fall apart while you are layering the lasagna. After cooking the noodles, place them in cold water until you’re ready to layer. This keeps them from sticking together. In some cases, the recipe may call for no-boil noodles. This isn’t a typo! No-boil noodles are already boiled and then dried before being sold
– so they can bake perfectly without taking the time to boil them beforehand. If you’re looking for a timesaver, try a no-boil noodle.

  • To purchase dried pasta, avoid broken pasta or pasta that looks cracked. It may fall apart during cooking. Check the expiration dates on packages.
  • When purchasing fresh pasta, avoid packages with moisture droplets or liquid, the pasta may be moldy or mushy. The pasta should be smooth and evenly colored without broken or crumbly pieces. Look for “sell by dates”, too.
  • When purchasing frozen pasta, avoid packages that are frozen as a solid block and those with ice crystals or freezer burn (dry, white spots).
  • To store dried pasta, label date and store tightly covered in a cool, dry location up to 1 year.
  • To store fresh pasta, refrigerate; use by package expiration date. Store opened, uncooked pasta in tightly coved container up to 3 days.
  • To store frozen pasta, freeze unopened fresh pasta in its original package up to 9 months. Leftover uncooked pasta can be frozen in airtight container up to 3 months and homemade fresh pasta up to 1 month.

Cooking pasta to perfection

  • Use 1 quart water (4 cups) for every 4 ounces of pasta. Once the water has boiled vigorously, add pasta gradually and stir frequently during cooking to prevent it from sticking together.
  • To add flavor, use ½ teaspoon salt for every 8 ounces of pasta. Stir in just as the water starts to boil and make sure it dissolves before adding pasta.
  • Follow package directions for cook times. For baked recipes, slightly undercook pasta because it will continue to cook during baking.
  • Cooked pasta should be al dente, or tender but firm to the bite, without any raw flavor. Overcooked pasta is mushy, waterlogged and bland.
  • Unless specified, do not rinse pasta after draining or sauces won’t cling. Pasta is usually only rinsed for cold salads.

Meat

Lasagna meats can depend on the recipe. Though the classic meat used in lasagna is Italian sausage, you can use ground beef, lean turkey, spicy pork sausage and chicken in the dish. Make sure the meat is completely cooked before adding it to the lasagna, an important first step in any recipe. Here’s a timesaving tip: if the recipe calls for chicken, use a store-bought rotisserie chicken for a quick-fix option.

Cheese

There’s a great variety of cheeses that can be used in lasagna. It’s completely dependent on the recipe. Here are a few of our favorites to use in lasagna: ricotta, mozzarella, Parmesan, and Asiago.

Sauce

You can use either homemade or from-scratch sauce in your lasagna recipes. If you’re using a sauce other than béchamel (as detailed above) we recommend using a tomato-based sauce that’s full of delicious herbs and spices. Try using a tomato sauce that includes basil and oregano for a compliment to the fresh herbs you’re including in your recipe. Here’s a delicious homemade red sauce recipe.

What to Serve with Lasagna

Garnishing lasagna to give it a bit of color is easy. Simply chop fresh basil and place around the top of the baked dish, or sprinkle with oregano. Though lasagna is your main entrée at the dinner table, it pairs well with many sides – making it an easy dinner dish to accompany. You can serve it with a classic salad, like this Caesar Salad, or homemade garlic bread.

Leftover Lasagna

Different Types of Lasagna

Looking for a twist on the traditional lasagna recipe? Here are a few of our favorites: Vegetable Ragu Zucchini Lasagna, Taco Fiesta Chicken Lasagna, and Chicken Alfredo Caprese Lasagna. If you’re looking to portion out your lasagna, we love lasagna roll-ups. The roll-ups can easily be made-ahead, frozen, and baked when they’re ready to eat. Since every roll-up is packed with the same amount of ingredients (and killer flavor), it’s easy to enjoy a couple of roll-ups at a time, or serve the entire dish at a family dinner. Here’s one of our favorite roll-up recipes.

Make-Ahead Meat-Lovers Lasagna Roll-Ups


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