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Classic Meat Lasagna

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Yields three lasagne of four ample servings each.

  • To learn more, read:
    Lasagna: Make 3, Freeze 2
  • by Clifford Wright from Fine Cooking
    Issue 44

Classic meat lasagna shows off its many layers. Make it as tall as your ingredients will allow.

  • 2 Tbs. plus 1/3 cup olive oil
  • 2 lb. mild (sweet) Italian sausage, casings removed and broken into pieces
  • 8 cloves garlic, peeled and slightly crushed
  • 2 large onions, finely chopped
  • 1-1/2 cups dry red wine (such as Chianti)
  • Four 28-oz. cans (or three 35-oz. cans) crushed tomatoes (about 14 cups total)
  • 2 Tbs. dried oregano
  • 2 tsp. dried thyme
  • 1 Tbs. chopped fresh rosemary (you can substitute 2 tsp. dried, but fresh is best)
  • 1 tsp. fennel seeds, crushed 
  • 1-1/2 tsp. kosher salt
  • 1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 Tbs. granulated sugar or to taste
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1-1/2 cups freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
  • 32 oz. ricotta cheese
  • A large handful of fresh basil leaves, washed well and chopped
  • 2-1/2 lb. fresh mozzarella cheese, sliced as thinly as possible
  • 1 lb. instant (no-boil) lasagna noodles
Tip:
Pop the mozzarella in the freezer for a few minutes before slicing; the firmer cheese will be easier to slice thinly.

In a heavy based pot, heat the 2 Tbs. olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the sausage and brown it all over, breaking it up into small pieces with a wooden spoon and stirring, 10 to 12 minutes. Remove the sausage with a slotted spoon and set aside. Pour off most of the fat, but leave some behind for flavor.

To the pot, add the remaining 1/3 cup of olive oil and the garlic and heat over medium-high heat until the garlic just begins to turn light brown, about 5 minutes. Remove and discard the garlic immediately, leaving the oil in the pot. Add the onions to the pot and cook, stirring frequently, until translucent, 5 to 6 minutes. Return the sausage to the pot. Add the red wine and cook until it has reduced by at least half, about 10 minutes.

Add the crushed tomatoes and stir in the oregano, thyme, rosemary, fennel seeds, salt, pepper, and sugar. Reduce the heat to medium low and cook to blend and develop the flavors, about 30 min. Taste for seasoning. You should have about 16 cups of sauce.

Meanwhile, in a large bowl, beat the eggs and add the Parmesan. Beat in the ricotta cheese. Season with salt and pepper and fold in the chopped basil.

Heat the oven to 400°F. To make three lasagne of four layers each, begin by lightly oiling three 9x9x2- or 8x8x2-inch metal or ceramic pans (disposable pans are also fine). Cover the bottom of each pan lightly with some of the sauce. Lay down a layer of pasta in each of the three pans. Spread enough of the ricotta cheese mixture on top of the pasta to cover, about 1/2 cup. Top the ricotta with enough sauce to cover it completely, about 1/2 cup. Cover with another layer of pasta and ladle more sauce over that, followed by enough mozzarella cheese to cover, enough ricotta cheese to cover, and some more sauce. Continue with two more layers in that order: pasta, sauce, mozzarella, ricotta, and sauce. Finish with a layer of pasta, some sauce, some mozzarella cheese, and a final light layer of sauce. You should be able to easily get four layers into each pan; if you have extra components, go ahead and add another layer to one or more of the lasagne. Don’t worry if the height of the lasagna exceeds the pan; it settles as it bakes. Save any remaining sauce to serve with the lasagna.

Classic Meat Lasagna Recipe

Seal the pans with aluminum foil, tented so it doesn’t stick to the cheese. Bake until the edges are bubbling and a knife inserted into the center of each lasagna comes out very hot, 40 to 50 minutes.

Make Ahead Tips

The baked lasagna freezes well. Let sit for 15 minutes before serving or let cool completely on a rack before freezing, well-wrapped in foil. Defrost frozen lasagna overnight in the refrigerator and then bake at 400°F for about 1 hour.

nutrition information (per serving):
Calories (kcal): 920; Fat (g): 51; Fat Calories (kcal): 460; Saturated Fat (g): 24; Protein (g): 63; Monounsaturated Fat (g): 20; Carbohydrates (g): 57; Polyunsaturated Fat (g): 5; Sodium (mg): 1480; Cholesterol (mg): 170; Fiber (g): 7;

Photo: Mark Thomas and Steve Hunter

Fabulous!! This was my first attempt at lasagna, and boy did I do well! I used sweet and hot sausage. The no boil noodles were great, and having 2 pies to freeze was great and so easy to reheat. I think this may be one of the best lasagnas I have ever tasted.

Amazing! I think the secret ingredient is the homemade meat sauce - so good! I bought several logs of fresh mozzarella cheese, and realized once I got home that they were cut into a spiral. This worked out great because I could unroll them into a thin flat sheet and cut them into rectangles for the lasagna. If you can find cheese cut into a spiral like this, it's a huge time saver!

Wonderful!!!! I did make the sauce the night before like a previous reviewer suggested. I made the entire recipe in one big pan to serve a crowd for the NCAA final four games and it was a big hit. I made it in a 17x12 and used almost 3 boxes of noodles, all the sauce and 1.5 of the ricotta mixture. It feed the entire crowd of 18 with a little to spare. Allow double the time to cook.

Incredible delicious. My family thinks I have been taking cooking classes. I made the sauce a day a head, then just warmed it through before putting it altogether.

Excellent flavor and a very good dish. I used hot italian sausage instead of mild and I'm leaving out the sugar next time as the sauce is sweet enough on it own. Was a wonderful "leftover." Also, as stated below, this yields a lot of sauce. I froze the extra and will use for a quick dinner over pasta!

This is a great recipe and first time to use no-boil noodles. Although don't see the time-saving feature of no-boil noodles, they definitely are lighter than boil kind. Only comment I have about sauce is it makes a bunch--almost double what I used for amount of noodles called for. Will definitely use this recipe again.

The best lasagna I've tasted. Really appreciate the make ahead tips. Great for big crowds.

This is the best lasagna in the world! i have even made it with regular uncooked lasagna noodles and it was great!

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