If you’re looking for an incredible lasagna recipe, look no further. It has layers of thick and rich meat sauce, lasagna noodles, homemade ricotta cheese, mozzarella cheese, and Parmesan cheese. Are you convinced yet? If not, let me add that it’s easy to make, produces awesome leftovers, and freezes beautifully!
Even though it’s not quite hurricane season, we have a system headed our way. Therefore, as I always do when threatened by a tropical system, I make frozen meals that will be easy to reheat if the only power that we have is from the generator. Lasagna seemed like a good choice! I used an adaptation of Allrecipe’s World’s Best Lasagna to make four 8 x 6-inch awesome lasagnas. Last night, we had one of them for dinner. OMG, was it good! The other lasagnas are in the freezer.
This is an updated post from September 7, 2015. All of the photographs are new, the text is more informative in terms of the process, and notes have been added to the recipe.
Ingredients for Lasagna Meat Sauce:
I used the following ingredients for the meat sauce: Ground turkey (I always use ground turkey in place of ground beef – it’s way more tender and has much less fat), sweet Italian sausage, onions, garlic, crushed tomatoes, tomato sauce, tomato paste, red wine, Italian seasoning, dried basil, salt, freshly ground black pepper, and granulated sugar. I know that it sounds like a lot of ingredients, but the meat sauce is actually quite easy to make.
Making the Meat Sauce for the Lasagna:
I started by browning the ground turkey and Italian sausage in a large Dutch oven over medium heat until all the pink was gone. Once the meat was cooked, I transferred it to a large colander to drain off the grease. Then, I ran the meat under hot water to ensure that most of grease was drained off. When the meat had cooled a bit, I used my fingers to break up any remaining large pieces. The reason that I do this is that I prefer the meat to be in small pieces.
While the meat was draining, I wiped the Dutch oven with a paper towel to remove any residual grease, and added the onions and garlic. I cooked the onions and garlic over medium heat for about five minutes. Next, I returned the meat to the Dutch oven, and stirred the mixture to combine the meat with the vegetables. Then I added the Italian seasoning, basil, salt, pepper, and sugar to the mixture, and again stirred to combine. After that, I added the crushed tomatoes, tomato sauce, and tomato paste to the meat mixture, stirring to combine everything. Finally I added the red wine, and gave the mixture one last stir to ensure that everything was well combined.
I transferred the meat sauce to my slow cooker, and cooked it on high for 5 hours. After 5 hours, the meat sauce was perfectly done. I corrected the seasonings at this point.
Making the Lasagna:
For the actual lasagna, I used the following ingredients: Meat sauce, lasagna noodles, ricotta cheese, egg, and Parmesan cheese. I always use homemade ricotta when I make lasagna. It is so much better than the store-bought ricotta.
Since it’s just the two of us, I always make lasagna in multiple 8 x 6-inch baking dishes, and layer it in three layers.
First layer: Meat sauce, noodles, mozzarella cheese, Parmesan cheese.
Second layer: Meat sauce, noodles, ricotta cheese mixed with egg, Parmesan cheese.
Third layer: Meat sauce, noodles, mozzarella cheese, Parmesan cheese.
I ended up with four incredible lasagnas.
I froze three of the lasagnas, and cooked the fourth one.
First, I covered one of the lasagnas with aluminum foil, and popped it into a 375° F oven for 20 minutes. After 20 minutes, I removed the aluminum foil, and cooked the lasagna for an additional 15 minutes. Before serving the lasagna, I let it cool for about 10 minutes. I served it with a nice Caesar salad and freshly made French bread. OMG, was it incredibly good. It was full of thick, rich meat sauce, and gooey cheese. Yum!
- 1 1/4 pounds (20 ounces) lean ground turkey (See Note 1)
- 1 pound (16 ounces) sweet Italian sausage (See Note 2)
- 1 large onion chopped (2 cups)
- 5 cloves garlic minced (1 Tablespoon)
- 2 teaspoons Italian seasoning
- 1 teaspoon dried basil
- 1 teaspoon Kosher salt
- ¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1 Tablespoon granulated sugar
- 28 ounce can crushed tomatoes, preferably salt free
- 16 ounces (2-8 ounce cans) tomato sauce, preferably salt free
- 12 ounces (2-6 ounce cans) tomato paste, preferably salt free
- 1/2 cup red wine
- 16 ounces lasagna noodles cooked according to package directions
- 9 cups Meat Sauce
- 1 1/2 cups (12 ounces) ricotta cheese (See Note 3)
- 1 large egg
- 1 1/2 pounds (24 ounces) whole milk mozzarella cheese, shredded
- 6 ounces Parmesan cheese grated
Brown turkey and Italian sausage in a large Dutch oven over medium heat, breaking up the meat as it cooks. Transfer to a colander; run under hot water to remove as much grease as possible. Allow to cool; rub meat between fingers to break up into small pieces. (See Notes 4 and 5)
Wipe Dutch oven with paper towel to remove any remaining grease. Add onions and garlic. Sauté over medium heat for about five minutes. Return meat to Dutch oven. Add Italian seasoning, basil, salt, pepper, and sugar. Stir well to combine. Add crushed tomatoes, tomato sauce, and tomato paste; stir well to combine. Add wine; stir well to combine. Bring to a boil; transfer to Crockpot. Cook on high setting for 5 hours. (See Notes 6 and 7)
- Mix ricotta cheese with egg. Set aside.
First Layer: Spread 3/4 cup of the meat sauce in the bottom of a 8 x 6-inch baking dish. Arrange two noodles cut to size lengthwise over the meat sauce. Top with 4 ounces of the shredded mozzarella cheese, and 2/3-ounce of the grated Parmesan cheese.
Second Layer: Spread 3/4 cup of the meat sauce over the first layer. Arrange two noodles cut to size lengthwise over the meat sauce. Top with 1/2 cup of the ricotta cheese mixed with egg, and 2/3-ounce of the grated Parmesan cheese.
Third Layer: Spread 3/4 cup of the meat sauce over the second layer. Arrange two noodles cut to size lengthwise over the meat sauce. Top with 4 ounces of the shredded mozzarella cheese, and 2/3-ounce of the grated Parmesan cheese.
- Preheat oven to 375° F.
Cover lasagna with aluminum foil. Bake covered in preheated oven for 20 minutes. Remove aluminum foil. Bake uncovered 15 minutes, or until golden brown and bubbly. Remove from oven; let rest 10 minutes before serving. Yield: 4 servings per 8 x 6-inch pan; 4 lasagnas total. (See Note 8)
- Note 1: I use 93% or 97% ground turkey. You can use ground beef in place of the ground turkey. However, the reasons that I always use ground turkey are that (1) it's cheaper than ground beef; (2) it's more tender than ground beef; (3) the taste of the meat sauce comes from all of the other ingredients.
- Note 2: If your Italian sausage comes in casings, remove the casings before cooking the sausage.
- Note 3: If possible, use homemade ricotta cheese. It's so much better than store-bought ricotta cheese, and is easy to make.
- Note 4: I always drain ground turkey (and ground beef for that matter) in a colander, and run it under hot water to remove as much grease as possible. The taste of the dishes comes from all of the other ingredients, and is not impacted by rinsing the cooked meat.
- Note 5: As hard as I try, I can never break the meat up into small enough pieces while it is cooking. Therefore, after it has been rinsed and cooled, I rub the cooked meat between my hands to break it up into very small pieces. This allows the meat to cook more evenly and have a better texture in the finished dish.
- Note 6: Even though I have an InstantPot, I never use it as a slow cooker. The reason is that it doesn't seem to get hot enough to work well as a slow cooker.
- Note 7: Rather than using a Crockpot, you can cook the meat sauce on the stove or in the oven. If cooked on the stove, the meat sauce should be covered and cooked over medium low heat for 2 hours, adding more liquid if necessary. Alternatively, the meat sauce can be cooked, covered in the oven at 300° F for three hours.
- Note 8: Assembly is based on 8 x 6-inch baking dish. If using 13 x 9-inch baking dish, double ingredients in the layers.
- Note 9: The finished lasagnas freeze beautifully before they are baked. To cook the frozen lasagnas, increase the cooking time while covered with aluminum foil to 40 minutes, and cook uncovered for 15 minutes. Also, the leftovers are incredible.