The Best Homemade Lasagna

My husband’s family made homemade lasagna every Christmas while he was growing up, and so we’ve made this a tradition of our own. This recipe is the epically tastiest homemade lasagna I have ever had. The fresh herbs CRUSH in the sauce and having super fresh and nicely flavored sausage and beef in the layers is incredible. I use spicy sausage from the Meat Shop – don’t skimp here! It makes a huge difference in the overall flavor of the dish. While it’s not good for you by any stretch, we also try to be a little health conscious and make sure it’s not a heart attack either.

You can also assemble this lasagna long 1-3 days before baking it and store it covered in the refrigerator. I think it actually makes it better to cook the pasta slightly short of al dente and let it rest for 2-3 hours before baking, as it absorbs any excess liquid and fully cooks the pasta. Anyway, onto the recipe!

  • Prep Time: 30 minutes – 3 hours
  • Assembly Time: 5 minutes
  • Cooking Time: 40 minutes
  • Idle Time: 1-72 hours

You will certainly need a few items to make this recipe. The first time we made it was in a rental and we discovered, near the last minute, that we didn’t have a good baking dish! Ah! Scramble! So, have everything ahead of time. You’ll need a wide pot for boiling the pasta sheets,

Oh also, if you’re super old school (like us!) you can use FRESH PASTA (link to our recipe) instead. We prefer the egg yolk heavy pasta. It makes this lasagna absolutely EPIC – super silky and rich but somehow a little lighter than store bought pasta if you roll yours quite thin. If you do use fresh pasta, do NOT boil it first. Layer it in directly and the fresh pasta will cook easily with the excess liquid and oven temperatures.

For this recipe, you’ll need at least one 2″ or more deep baking tray (I like a pyrex with a top so I can bake in it, serve from it, then just throw the lid on for leftovers), a large wide-bottom saucepan, 4-L or more pasta pot (ones with build it stainers are amazing and worth the investment if you make a lot of pasta), spatula, and a strainer (if you’re shy on space, I love this one that goes over the sink) or colander. Also all the measuring utensils you’d need for any other recipe.

Ingredients

  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 diced small yellow onion or 1/2 large
  • 1 lb ground beef
  • 1 lb uncased spicy Italian sausage
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • [optional] 1 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 1 28 oz can crushed tomatoes
  • 1 1/2 cup water
  • 1 13 oz can tomato sauce
  • 4 tbsp tomato paste
  • 2 tbsp each Italian-style fresh herbs: rosemary, thyme, basil, and oregano
    • Sub Note: You can sub dried herbs here, but use only 1 tsp of each instead
  • 1 lb lasagna pasta sheets
  • 2 cups whole milk ricotta
  • 1.5 cups Italian cheese blend
  • 1.5 cups Mozzarella cheese
  • 1 egg
  • Salt and Pepper to taste
  • 1 8-oz Fresh Mozzarella Ball, sliced [optional]
  • Fresh Italian Parsley for garnish [optional]
  • Fresh Parmesan for garnish [optional]

Recipe

This recipe is in parts that all come back together at the end.

The Sauce

The sauce takes the longest so get this started first. Nothing wrong with putting the pasta water on, but definitely this is the biggest amount of time.

  1. Add the olive oil to the wide bottom saucepan on medium-high heat. Let the oil heat for a minute or two.
  2. Add the diced onion, stirring occasionally until translucent and fragrant, about 4-6 minutes.
  3. Add the beef and the sausage stirring occasionally and breaking apart any large clumps. Cook until almost all the meat is browned, 7-10 minutes.
  4. Add the and, if desired, the red pepper flakes. Cook and stir for one minute until the garlic is fragrant.
  5. Drain the fat from the meat, leaving 1 tbsp of oil/grease.
    Note: I like to do this by using a slotted spoon to move the meat to a large bowl/plate, then dumping out all the grease. About 1 tbsp should be what remains, enough to lightly coat the whole interior of the pan. Then throw the meat back in after draining. I’ve seen others tip the pan over the sink to let the excess grease run off, using a slotted spoon or spatula to hold the meat in place.
  6. Add the can of crushed tomatoes, swirl 1/2 cup of water into the can to remove the bits clinging to the sides, and also add to the mixture. Cook for 1-2 minutes until warm.
  7. Add the can of tomato sauce. Stir until well combined.
  8. Add the tomato paste and remaining 1 cup of water to the tomato sauce can. Stir till well combined and add to the sauce.
  9. Once everything is bubbling, reduce heat to a low simmer for 20 minutes to 3 hours, stirring occasionally. The longer you simmer the more tender and tasty the meat will be. The liquid should be extremely thick but easy to stir and spread when finished (e.g., not runny). If you’re simmering on the longer side and the liquid gets to thin, add a half cup of water, stir, and keep simmering.
    Note: Now is a very good time to begin the pasta and make the cheese mixture!!
  10. 5 minutes prior to finish, add all the herbs and stir well to incorporate.
  11. Salt and pepper to taste.

The Pasta

  1. Put a large pot of water on the stove to boil. You’ll need at least 4L but follow the directions on your pasta pack.
  2. Boil until slightly less than al dente (I usually subtract 2 minutes from package time). You want the pasta to be cooked so that it’s moving but still slightly stiff. It will continue to absorb moisture as it cooks in the lasagna and you don’t want it to get soggy.
  3. Drain the pasta by pouring through a strainer and run it under cold water to keep it from cooking any further. Set aside for assembly.

The Cheese Mixture – 5 minutes before assembly

  1. Combine the ricotta, 1 cup of the Italian cheese blend, 0.5 cups of mozzarella cheese, and one egg in a small bowl and combine. The mixture should be thick like a spread.
    Note: If the mixture if too thick, you can thin with some whole milk, cream, or yogurt. If the mixture is too thick, add a bit more of the Italian or mozzarella cheese.

The Assembly

Here’s the fun part! Grab your nieces and nephews, grand kids, and everyone else who likes making a mess and let’s have some fun!

You really can’t mess up this part and you can tune it to your liking. My husband loved a lot of cheese so we always add the fresh mozzarella ball slices. I looooove sauce so if he’s not around I double the sauce and alternative layers of cheese.

  1. Grab your baking tray and start with a layer of the sauce mixture. Try to layer it evenly across the bottom of the tray so it coats.
  2. Add a layer of the pasta noodles. I like to overlap them 50% so the middle layers all basically have a “double noodle”. It also helps the lasagna to stay together when you slice it.
  3. Add a layer of the cheese mixture and another layer of sauce. If you love cheese, now is a good time to add slices of the fresh mozzarella which will melt into each layer.
  4. Alternate steps 2 and 3, building a delicious tower of lasagna and moderating to your liking.
  5. When the lasagna is as tall as the baking tray, decorate the top with the remaining mozzarella and Italian cheese mixture.

Finish!

At this point, you can store the lasagna in the oven for up to 4 hours before baking or place it in the freezer covered to bake within 2-4 weeks (depending on how good your freezer is). But… to bake

  1. Preheat oven to 375 F.
  2. Bake covered for 20-30 minutes, allowing the entire lasagna to absorb the flavors and juiced and come to temperature. If you like a firmer lasagna, stick to the lower side of this time range. If you like a mushier, well-combined lasagna (I do!), then cook on the longer side.
  3. Remove the cover and bake for another 10-15 minutes until the cheese on top is browned and bubbling to your liking.
  4. Remove and let sit for 5-10 minutes.
  5. Cut and serve, garnishing with fresh Italian parsley and fresh grated parmesan.

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