This is the most ooey and gooey and delicious meal ever! I use my homemade meat sauce or meatballs and sauce….but that’s not the only secret. After the years of people loving my lasagna, I am sharing all my tricks below! This is definitely something to do on the weekends, as it requires some effort. But, as always, I make a ton of lasagna at once so all the effort can equate to many meals. And it is worth the effort, the only thing that says love more than a bowl full of spaghetti is a homemade lasagna!
This has become our Christmas day meal for the last few years. It works so well for our chaotic schedule, I am able to make 4 pans of lasagna late morning Christmas eve, freeze 2 for later in the winter and put the other 2 unbaked in the refrigerator. The next day, while opening presents with the grandparents, all I have to do is pop the lasagnas in the oven and bake them off. Christmas day is not a day to be cooking, baking or assembling food – prepare the day before so you can fully enjoy the craziness of the day!
I also believe that a nice homemade lasagna makes a fantastic gift to someone recovering from illness, mourning the loss of a loved one or celebrating a new baby. So making extra can really come in handy.
Secret # 1: I use traditional noodles, cook them al dente, hang them to dry (to prevent the lasagna from dripping in water) and then you have a moist yet not overly waterlogged lasagna.
Secret # 2: I load the lasagna with 5 cheeses! It looks like a lot, and actually….it is a lot. However, this is for 4 lasagnas (and lasagna isn’t meant to be a diet food anyway).
The mascarpone is mixed into the ricotta for richness, the parmesan reggiano is layered on top for sharpness, and the provolone is an added taste surprise in one of the middle layers!
Ingredients (Makes 2 large and 2 medium sized lasagnas…eat some, give some, freeze some!)
2 boxes of Ronzoni lasagna noodles
2 tubs of ricotta cheese
1 container of mascarpone cheese
1 egg (whisked with 1 tbsp cream or milk)
1/2 nutmeg nut grated
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
2 squares of mozzarella cheese
1/2 pound parmesan reggiano cheese
Tip: For parties I will use mostly the full fat cheeses when it comes to ricotta and mozzarella, possibly use one low fat and one full fat, but I don’t want to skimp on the flavor. The provolone and parmesan reggiano are full octane!
1 bag of shredded mozzarella cheese
2 bags of sliced provolone cheese
Firsts make your sauce, I offer 3 varieties on my blog as listed above. If you use the bolognese you will have small pieces of meat throughout the lasagna, if you use meatballs it takes more effort. The meatballs need to be sliced before making the meat layer.
Get the largest pot you have and fill it almost to the top with water (leave a few inches of room up top as the noodles will displace water, and to prevent the water from boiling over). Start the water heating over high heat.
Take a large bowl and pour in the ricotta cheese. Add the mascarpone, the whisked egg with cream or milk, then grate in the nutmeg. Sprinkle in the salt and pepper, mix well. Grate the 2 blocks of mozzarella into another large bowl. I buy the extra bag of grated mozzarella just as an insurance policy if I run out!
Grate the parmesan reggiano into a medium bowl, and lay out the provolone on a plate. The water should be boiling by now, so pop in your lasagna noodles. Set a timer for 2 minutes under the full package instructed cook time (they will cook a bit in the lasagna).
Once the lasagna noodles are cooked, pour them into a colander and rinse with cold water. Hang paper towels all over the kitchen and then lay the noodles on the towels to dry (that’s how my mom did it, so that is how I do it. It’s kind of fun). Once you hang your last noodle, the first batch should be dry and you can start assembling the lasagna.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Pour a couple of ladles filled with sauce on the bottom of all the pans and smooth it out. Lay in the first layer of noodles. Smooth in a layer of the ricotta mixture, then some more sauce. Layer another set of noodles. Layer in either sliced meatballs and sauce or the meat sauce, trying for extra chunks. Sprinkle a bit of the mozzarella.
Next layer of noodles. Ladle in some more sauce, layer the provolone slices and sprinkle a bit more mozzarella. Next layer of noodles go down, make sure these are “pretty” noodles since this will be the top of your lasagna (hide the torn or broken ones in the middle!)
Pour on a strong layer of sauce, then sprinkle on the remainder of the mozzarella cheese, then the parmesan reggiano cheese and you are finished! We happen to have parsley still alive in our herb garden, so we took a few leaves and rolled them up then sliced very small chiffonade pieces (thinly slice the rolled up herb creating very small slivers) and sprinkled on top for added color.
Cover the lasagna’s you will freeze tightly first with clear wrap and on top of that some aluminum foil.
Tip: Whenever covering items that include tomatoes, do not use aluminum foil directly over the tomatoes, or you will find holes in it as the acid in the tomato eats away at the aluminum. Cover first with clear wrap, then to make sure nothing drips over the side, tightly with aluminum on top of the clear wrap.
If you plan to give one away, cover it in clear wrap, then aluminum foil tightly, and put a note on top with instructions on how to heat (and use these instructions for the lasagna’s you will be eating that night):
Remove clear wrap, then put the aluminum foil back on top and heat in a preheated oven at 350 degrees for 30 minutes. Remove the foil, and heat for another 10-20 minutes. You will know it is done, when it is bubbling all around the edges and when you push your finger in the center it feels warm.
Best served with warm garlic bread or focaccia bread and a salad