When it comes to real satisfaction of a well-made build, nothing layers it on quite like the perfect lasagna.
It’s one of the perfect homemade dishes, really — while a side salad is lovely, a lasagna is really a full meal unto itself, especially if you’ve added greens into it. It’s versatile; you can make a traditional, hearty Italian lasagna replete with red sauce, beef, and ricotta, or go for some lighter fare with whole grain noodles sandwiching spinach and turkey.
And of course there’s the satisfaction of seeing it all come together, from that first perfect layer to the end of the build. Firing it in the oven can send that mouth-watering smell wafting from the kitchen.
So how does one make the perfect meal?
Lasagna: Some Assembly Required
Let’s start with the basics — a traditional lasagna, in this case.
Once you’ve perfected a basic build, you can start tweaking the design to create your trademark design. So we’ll start pretty simple.
9-12 lasagna noodles (I recommend whole wheat, but go where your heart takes you)
2 pounds ground beef
3-4 cloves minced garlic
2 large cans crushed tomatoes
2 small cans tomato paste
1 large egg
4 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
1 medium onion, diced
Seasoning: salt, pepper, Italian seasoning, basil — to taste
Put on a large pot of water to boil and preheat your oven to 375F (190C).
Saute meat, onion, and garlic on stovetop; drain as needed. Stir in crushed tomatoes and tomato paste. Add a bit of water if needed. Season to taste: around 1tsp each of salt and pepper, a dash of Italian herbs.
Once water is at a boil, cook lasagna noodles according to package instructions (or about 30 seconds to a minute less for a bit more al dente bite).
As noodles cook, get a large mixing bowl: stir together ricotta cheese, about 3/4 of the shredded mozzarella, the egg, and some salt, pepper, and herbs.
In a large-ish (9×13 or so) baking dish, spread enough meat sauce to cover the bottom layer. Apply first three noodles over this, ensuring good bed adhesion. Spoon ricotta mixture on top of the noodles, then top with some more meat sauce. Repeat with next layer: noodles, ricotta, sauce. Build to desired height (not exceeding the maximum build volume of your pan, of course). Top final layer with the rest of the shredded cheese.
Fire the build in the oven for 25 minutes, covered lightly with aluminum foil. Remove foil and bake another 25 minutes or so, ensuring good cheese bubbling.
Let cool before serving, then cut into squares guided by your level of hunger.
Lasagna is a fun and easy dish to get together, and again, there’s a world of possibility out there! Skip the red meat and use turkey — or skip meat altogether and make a nice veggie dish. I recently had one made with broccoli, and it was amazing.