The first time I saw lasagna prepared, it was at my friend Scarlett’s house in the mid-1990s. As she pulled all those noodles from the boiling water and placed them neatly on waxed paper, I was impressed and intimidated. Was there not an easier way?
As it turns out, there is. Dry noodles can actually be layered with the sauce in the lasagna pan. I use canned crushed tomatoes for their predictable moisture content. It not only guarantees that the noodles will cook to al dente, but that the dish will set up to the desired level of firmness.
|WHAT YOU NEED||WHAT TO DO||WHY|
|4 cups (16 ounces) freshly shredded mozzarella||Prepare; set aside, covered. If preparing Fresh Pasta, do so now; set aside.||Freshly shredded has a smooth melting texture.|
|1 pound Italian or hot pork sausage, containing fewer than 78% fat calories||Meat sauce: Preheat an empty 5-quart tri-ply stockpot over medium heat until water droplets dance across the surface when flicked from your fingertips (2-4 minutes). Add sausage and break into marble-sized pieces with a potato masher. Brown, stirring occasionally with a bamboo spatula (15-20 minutes).||More than 78% renders excess fat. A bamboo spatula’s edge offers good coverage and is gentle on cookware.|
|3 cups (12 ounces) diced white or yellow onion||Add to sausage and sauté, stirring occasionally, until translucent (4-5 minutes).
Tip: With onion on its side, cut off and discard both ends. Cut in half from pole to pole; peel off any layers that look dry or tough; discard. Place cut sides down and slice to 1/4-inch, holding the pieces together as you work. Cut across slices to dice.
|Holding slices together reduces exposure to eye-irritants.|
|3 tablespoons minced garlic
1 tablespoon Italian herb mix
(basil, parsley, oregano)
|Add to the pot along with the herbs; sauté just until fragrant (1-2 minutes).
Tip: After separating a garlic clove from the head; cut off the root end. Place the broad side of a chef’s knife over top; strike with your fist or palm. Release the skin and discard. Cut in half, place cut sides down; rock the knife over top to mince.
|Garlic burns easily and so it is added after the onion.|
|72 ounces canned crushed tomatoes||Stir into the pot to deglaze (release the tasty browned bits). Bring to the boil over medium-high heat; promptly reduce heat to hold at a simmer (195-205°F) while preparing the ricotta mixture.||Deglazing uses liquid to release tasty bits from the pot.|
|15 ounces ricotta cheese
2 ounces (1/2 cup) grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
2 large eggs
1 tablespoon Italian herb mix (basil, parsley, oregano)
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
|Ricotta mixture: Whisk all together in a 3-quart bowl until uniform in color and consistency. Set aside.
Position an oven rack just below center; preheat to 350°F “Convection” (verify with an oven thermometer). Meanwhile, assemble lasagna.
|Ovens often run hot or cold, or preheat slowly.|
|14 ounces dry lasagna noodles or Fresh Pasta lasagna noodles||In a 4-quart capacity 9×13-inch square edged baking dish or stainless steel roasting pan layer the following:
3 cups meat sauce
|Aluminum is reactive with acidic foods, such as tomatoes, which causes unpleasant grey discoloration.
Uncooked noodles absorb excess liquids and are easy to handle.
|With the bottom of a spatula, evenly press surface to submerge noodles and eliminate air pockets. Evenly sprinkle the last 2 cups of mozzarella.||Noodles not submerged harden under oven heat.|
|1 teaspoon Italian herb mix (basil, parsley, oregano)||Sprinkle evenly over mozzarella. Place dish/pan over a sheet pan and bake until a skewer inserted in the middle penetrates all layers with just a hint of resistance (38-40 minutes). Rest 20 minutes before serving.||Resting allows noodles to finish absorbing excess liquids, firming the dish.|
Testing Notes: Most lasagna noodles come in a 16 ounce package with 18 noodles. If using an 11×14-inch pan, 6 noodles can be used for each noodle layer.