Lasagna is one of our favorite fall-back recipes, because it always makes an amazing amount of leftovers. It is time consuming, because layering does take a while and it has to cook for 45 minutes or so, so it’s not a last minute meal, but it’s worth the effort when you have the time.
We make ours with spinach, sweet Italian turkey sausage (I don’t like the spicy kind), mozzarella cheese, and a little bit of some other cheese to add extra flavor. We use whatever pasta sauce we have in the house. I always drain as much of the grease out of the meat as possible, and use as much spinach as possible, to make this as healthy as possible. If you added more veggies, you could even use fewer layers of pasta and it would be even better. (Calin doesn’t like vegetables, so we don’t do this often. I did try it with one layer of thin slices of zucchini once, and you could barely taste it, but I felt healthier just knowing it was there.
Don’t worry if your layers go a bit too high for the pan. The spinach will cook down so much that it will be fine. Just try to press the top down enough that the cheese doesn’t melt over the top before the spinach flattens.
It does take quite a bit of cheese, but we probably also go a little overboard. If you were focusing on the health factor, you could get away with less cheese. But don’t skimp too much! Lasagna is supposed to be cheesy goodness!
Once you have everything ready, just start layering. The bottom should be just a little bit of pasta sauce so that nothing sticks. Then alternate ingredients until you fill the pan. Generally it’s a good idea to have sauce next to noodles so that the noodles will soften better.
It’s very hard to spread ricotta on anything other than noodles because it sticks so well. I generally drop spoonfulls and then break them into little clumps and sprinkle them over the top.
You should have a layer of noodles, cheese, sauce, ricotta and one primary ingredient before you go back to another row of noodles. This batch ended up with two spinach layers on the top and bottom, and one sausage layer in the middle.
You can make this with any ingredients, vegetarian or meaty, chopped or sliced thin and layered up. Pour approximately 1 cup of boiling water over the layered lasagna. Wrap the whole pan in tin foil and bake at 450 degrees for 35 minutes; then uncover and bake for 10-15 minutes, to crisp the cheese. You can also finish off with 2-3 minutes on broil, if you like especially crispy cheese.
- 1 1/2 boxes lasagna noodles (not no-boil noodles), uncooked
- 1 large package of baby spinach
- 1 large container of ricotta
- 2-3 jars of your favorite pasta sauce
- 5-6 Italian sausage links, browned
- 1 large block of mozzarella cheese, grated
- parmesan or other strong cheese (for sprinkling)
- 1 cup boiling water
- Preheat oven to 450 degrees.
- Spread a thin layer of pasta sauce in the bottom of a large pan (preferably a lasagna pan with high sides – this will fit entire lasagna noodles and will hold more layers).
- Spread one layer of noodles evenly across the bottom, then begin layering cheese, spinach, ricotta, sausage, sauce and more noodles however you like. Make sure you put sauce on one side of every noodle layer.
- As you get close to the top of the pan, make sure you have a good layer of sauce on top of your last layer of noodles.
- Load up the top with all the remaining cheese (and grate more if there isn’t enough), and sprinkle your stronger cheese on top.
- Boil about 1 cup of water, and pour it evenly over the top of the lasagna.
- Cover the entire pan with tin foil and bake for 35 minutes.
- Poke the noodles to see if they are soft – if not, leave the foil on and bake for another 5-10 minutes, until the noodles are soft.
- Remove the foil and put the lasagna back in the oven for another 5-10 minutes uncovered, to bake the cheese. (If you are die-hard about crispy cheese, you can even turn the oven up to broil for the last few minutes.)
- Remove from the oven and let cool for several minutes before serving.
Notes: You can also make lasagna to freeze ahead for lunches or easy dinners. Make sure you cut it up into individual portions before you package and freeze it – it is nearly impossible to divide up later, and unless you are planning to eat the entire thing, you do not want to thaw it all. My large lasagna pan makes approximately 12 portions. To reheat, I recommend a toaster oven rather than a microwave, but both work.