Monday, February 22, 2021

Classic Lasagna

A classic, homestyle lasagna, made with a ground beef and Italian sausage, a homemade tomato based pasta sauce and layered in with lasagna noodles and cheeses.
A classic, homestyle lasagna, made with a ground beef and Italian sausage, a homemade tomato based pasta sauce and layered in with lasagna noodles and cheeses.

Classic Lasagna

Lasagna is one of the best loved casseroles there is. Even on the All Recipes website, the all time, most popular recipe is what's called "World's Best Lasagna," which turns out to be pretty much the same as my recipe, my Mama's recipe, and likely I'd guess, pretty similar to just about every other good, homemade lasagna in the world, really.

Even that recipe has a striking resemblance to the McCalls 1973 cookbook recipe, that I'm certain many homemakers adopted as their own at the time.

This is my version, based on my memories of the flavors of my Mama's recipe - with a few liberties I've taken for some extra zing. Mama used all ground beef. I'm using a combination of ground beef and a spicy Italian sausage, just for the extra flavor. Mama used plain salt and pepper, but I, of course, am adding in a little bit of what we in the Deep South consider our all-purpose seasoning - Creole or Cajun seasoning. 

In the summer, when I make my full homemade spaghetti sauce recipe from fresh tomatoes, some of the sauce is saved for other dishes like this one. Oh my goodness, is that fresh tomato sauce the absolute best! And, of course, a good lasagna calls out for a nice mixed garden salad and my favorite garlic bread.

Here's how to make my Classic Lasagna. As always, you'll find the full recipe text with measurements and instructions, as well as a printable document, a little bit further down the page. Just swipe or scroll past the step-by-step pictures below.

It really all starts with the noodles.

One of the bigger debates and trends these days is over the use of oven-ready lasagna noodles, layering them into the casserole dish uncooked. I find them to be a little off in texture though, and while I have used them, when I have the time, I still prefer to pre-cook regular lasagna noodles.

I recently tried the oven ready version again for a speedy, shortcut version of lasagna, and while they are better than they were in the beginning, they still aren't quite as tender as pre-boiled noodles, that I am using here. I just love the texture of a precooked noodle so much better in a lasagna!


For the sauce, heat olive oil in a large saucepan over medium heat; add onion and cook until softened. Add the beef and sausage and cook until browned. Add the garlic and cook another minute. Add the Italian seasoning, basil, salt, pepper, Cajun seasoning, bay leaf and tomato paste; cook and stir for about 2 minutes. Use kitchen shears to cut up the tomatoes in the can; add the tomatoes, with their juices, tomato sauce, water, sugar and red pepper flakes, if using. Bring to a boil, reduce and simmer, uncovered for about 1 hour or until sauce is thickened and reduced, stirring occasionally.

When it comes to lasagna, though, here's where the real controversy arises. Ricotta or cottage cheese.

Here's my response to that. 

Use whatever you grew up with and prefer. 

I grew up with my Mama's lasagna made with cottage cheese. I've tried ricotta and hated it. Didn't like the taste or the texture at all.

If ricotta is what you grew up eating, you might feel the same way about cottage cheese.

The solution is quite simple. Use whatever you grew up with and prefer. It's just that simple!

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. For the cheese filling, mix cottage cheese or ricotta with the eggs and Creole or Cajun seasoning, if using. Set aside 1/2 pound of the Mozzarella cheese and 1/2 cup of the meat sauce.


Though we all often put some sauce into the bottom of the baking dish, since I was using a stoneware baker, I just smeared a bit of olive oil in the bottom. 


Begin layering the casserole with 1/4 of the ingredients, lasagna noodles, meat sauce, cheese mixture and Mozzarella. 


Repeat for three more layers. Cover with aluminum foil.


Tip: Bake on a rimmed baking sheet lined with foil to prevent boil over.

Bake covered at 350 degrees F for about 40 minutes or until hot and bubbly. Remove, uncover, sprinkle the last half pound of mozzarella on top, then the Parmesan, and sprinkle lightly with Italian seasoning if you like. Return to the oven for about 8 to 10 minutes, or until the cheese has melted.


Remove and let stand for 15 minutes before slicing.



Dig in!


Serve with garlic bread and a mixed garden salad.


Classic Lasagna




Classic Lasagna

Classic Lasagna

Yield: About 12 Servings
Author: Deep South Dish
Prep time: 15 MinCook time: 2 HourTotal time: 2 H & 15 M
A classic, homestyle lasagna, made with a ground beef and Italian sausage, a homemade tomato based pasta sauce and layered in with lasagna noodles and cheeses.

Ingredients

For the Meat Sauce:
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 cup chopped onion
  • 1 pound ground beef
  • 1/2 pound spicy Italian sausage, removed from casings
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried Italian seasoning
  • 1 teaspoon dried basil
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon Creole/Cajun seasoning, or to taste, optional
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 (6 ounce) can tomato paste
  • 1 (1 pound 12 ounce) can whole, Italian style tomatoes
  • 2 (8 ounce) cans tomato sauce
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
  • Dash red pepper flakes, optional
For the Lasagna:
  • 1 (16 ounce) package lasagna noodles
  • 1 (24 ounce) ricotta or cottage cheese
  • 2 large eggs, beaten
  • 1/4 teaspoon Creole/Cajun seasoning, or to taste, optional
  • 2 pounds shredded Mozzarella, divided
  • 1/2 tablespoon olive oil
  • Shredded Parmesan, to taste
  • Italian seasoning, to taste, optional

Instructions

  1. Heat olive oil in a large saucepan over medium heat; add onion and cook until softened. 
  2. Add the beef and sausage and cook until browned. Add the garlic and cook another minute. 
  3. Add the Italian seasoning, basil, salt, pepper, Cajun seasoning, bay leaf and tomato paste; cook and stir for about 2 minutes. 
  4. Use kitchen shears to cut up the tomatoes in the can; add the tomatoes, with their juices, tomato sauce, water, sugar and red pepper flakes, if using. Bring to a boil, reduce and simmer, uncovered for about 1 hour or until sauce is thickened and reduced, stirring occasionally. Remove bay leaf and set aside 1/2 cup of the meat sauce.
  5. Meanwhile, prepare lasagna noodles according to package directions, drain carefully and set aside.
  6. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Mix the ricotta or cottage cheese with the eggs and Cajun seasoning, if using. Set aside 1/2 pound of the Mozzarella cheese.
  7. Spread the olive oil on the bottom of a deep oblong baking dish or lasagna pan and prepare the layers with 1/4 of the ingredients, lasagna noodles, meat sauce, cheese mixture and Mozzarella. Repeat for three more layers. 
  8. Cover with aluminum foil that has been sprayed on underside, with non-stick spray or brushed with oil to prevent cheese from sticking.
  9. Place on a foil lined, rimmed baking sheet, for boil over insurance, and bake covered at 350 degrees F for about 40 minutes or until hot and bubbly. 
  10. Remove, uncover, spoon on reserved meat sauce and sprinkle the last 1/2 pound of mozzarella on top, then the Parmesan, and sprinkle lightly with Italian seasoning, if desired. 
  11. Return to the oven for about 8 to 10 minutes, or until the cheese has melted. Remove and let stand for 15 minutes before slicing.
  12. Serve with hot garlic bread and a mixed garden salad.

Notes:

I prefer to use Cento brand San Marzano Italian style tomatoes. May substitute your favorite commercially prepared pasta sauce if you prefer. You'll need about 5 to 6 cups. In the summer, I often set aside a portion of my Homemade Fresh Tomato Spaghetti and Meat Sauce to make this lasagna. Simply eliminate the meat sauce portion of this recipe and skip to layering. May also use very thin slices of Mozzarella instead of shredded, just be sure to cut them very thin.

Make Ahead: Meat sauce can be prepared in advance. When ready to layer, warm slightly if desired to loosen so sauce is easier to spread. Layer ingredients as noted, cover tightly and refrigerate. Let come to room temperature, or add about 15 to 20 minutes of additional cooking time. 

Ground Beef, Lasagna, Pasta Sauce, Casserole
Dinner
American, Italian-American
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