Monday, November 7, 2011
This is a beloved recipe in the Cats and Casseroles household. I make it every Thanksgiving and most Christmases, and it's something my family looks forward to every year. I call it my "holiday lasagna," because it's a dish I reserve for special occasions. It does take a bit more time to prepare than a lasagna made with a jarred sauce, and certainly more than a frozen one, but it's totally, totally worth it.
This lasagna is incredibly yummy. The sauce is what makes it truly special, in my opinion. I love the combination of the sausage with the ground beef and all those herbs. The sauce is thick and rich, and has just the perfect balance of flavors.
Part of what makes this lasagna a perfect holiday dish is that it can be made ahead. When I hosted Thanksgiving, I would make this two days ahead of the big event and store it in the refrigerator. When I have company over, it's nice to enjoy time with them instead of being squirreled away in the kitchen preparing dinner.
for the sauce:
1 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
1 lb sweet Italian sausage
3/4 lb lean ground beef (I often use a whole pound, since it's easier to find)
1/2 c minced onion
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 (28 oz) can crushed tomatoes
2 (6 oz) cans tomato paste
2 (8 oz) cans tomato sauce
1/2 cup water
2 tbsp white sugar
1 1/2 tsp dried basil leaves
1/2 tsp fennel seeds
1 tsp Italian seasoning
1 tbsp salt
1/4 tsp ground black pepper
2 tbsp chopped fresh parsley
to build the lasagna:
12 no-bake lasagna noodles (I highly recommend Barilla)
1 16 oz container whole-milk ricotta cheese
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 tbsp chopped fresh parsley
pinch black pepper
1 8oz bag shredded whole-milk mozzarella cheese
1/2 c grated Parmesan cheese
1. In a large stockpot, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add in the onion and cook for a couple of minutes, or until translucent. Add in the sausage and ground beef. Cook until both sausage and beef are cooked through with no pink inside. Drain off excess grease. Add in the garlic and cook until fragrant. Turn down the heat to medium-low.
2. Pour in the crushed tomatoes, tomato paste, tomato sauce, and water. Stir in the sugar, basil, fennel, Italian seasoning, salt, black pepper, and parsley. Allow the sauce to simmer, covered, for 1 1/2 hours, stirring occasionally and adjusting heat as needed.
3. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
4. In a small bowl, stir together the ricotta, egg, salt, parsley, and pepper.
5. To build the lasagna: Spoon some sauce to cover the bottom of a deep 9 x 13 metal pan with straight sides. Top this sauce with 6 no-bake lasagna noodles. Spread 1/2 of the ricotta mixture over the noodles. Sprinkle 1/2 of the mozzarella and 1/4 Parmesan on top. Cover with meat sauce. Put down another 6 noodles and repeat the layers, but save the mozzarella and Parmesan cheeses for last.
6. Cover the lasagna with foil. Bake for 25 minutes, and then remove foil and bake for another 25 minutes. Let lasagna cool down for about 15 minutes before serving.