May 24, 2011


Lasagna is an Italian classic that is a favorite of almost everyone.  If you need to feed a crowd or create a dinner that is versatile and limited only by your cooking imagination then Lasagna is what you are looking for.  You can add cooked Spinach or double the Mushrooms and leave out the Sausage for a Veggie version.  I have had a lot of not so good Lasagnas at many Italian restaurants that were too dry, dense and tasteless.  We've all had bad home cooked Lasagna made with slimy Noodles, horrible jarred Sauce and the absolute worst thing to add to Lasagna... Cottage Cheese.   I know, I know!  Cottage Cheese in Lasagna is common in America but it is not the best choice when flavor and texture are concerned.   There, I said it.  The use of Cottage Cheese has caused cultural outcries from many Italians who cringe at the very thought of using it!   This recipe allows for your own tastes and additions... even for Cottage Cheese, if you must.  If you like it and it tastes good to you, then use it.  It is your Lasagna and should reflect your cooking taste, not mine.  But don't worry, I won't tell Momma Mia Mancini you put it in because you are Cooking The Amazing.

Here is the recipe.

1 recipe  Tomato Sauce (or about 8 cups prepared)
24 oz.  Fresh Lasagna Pasta ( or 1 1/2 Boxes dried)
4 T  Butter
1 lb  Mild Italian Sausage
1  medium Onion, diced fine
2  Cloves Garlic, minced fine
3 T  Butter
8 0z  White Button Mushrooms, sliced
1/2 t  Fine Grain Sea Salt
1/2 t  Fresh Ground Black Pepper
12 oz  Ricotta Cheese
1/2 c  Fine Grated Parmesan Cheese
2 t  Dried Oregano
12  Fresh Basil Leaves
1/2 t  Fine Grain Sea Salt
1/2 t  Fresh Ground Black Pepper
12 oz  Provolone Cheese, Sliced Thin
16 oz   Fresh Mozzarella Cheese
1/2 t  Fine Grain Sea Salt
1/2 t  Fresh Ground Black Pepper

1.  Get all of the ingredients needed prepared ahead to make assembly of the Lasagna to go well in the long run.  Grate your Cheeses, prepare the Tomato Sauce boil the Pasta if you are using dry.  Store the cooked Pasta in a salted ice water bath but remember to rinse before using.  This will save time.  Use a 13 X 9 baking dish or a deep large disposable foil pan.  Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.

2.  Prepare the Tomato Sauce.  If you are going to take the trouble to make a homemade Lasagna then use a real homemade Tomato Sauce.   It is so easy and worth the little effort for the best tasting Lasagna.  This can be done the day before.  Heat it up to use it in this recipe.  If you must use jarred Sauce use a very good one.  Click HERE for my Tomato Sauce recipe.

3.  Boil the Lasagna Pasta.  I use fresh Pasta but dried Pasta is just fine.  Use 1 1/2 boxes of the 16 oz box size.  Add plenty of Salt to the boiling water and cook the Pasta as directed on the box for dried Pasta until just cooked, about 8-10 minutes.  If using fresh Pasta, boil in Salted water for 4 minutes until just almost cooked through.  Fresh usually require no cooking but I have found it to be gummy sometimes if I don't partially cook it ahead.  You can prepare your Pasta while the Sauce is simmering.  Place cooked Pasta in an Salted Ice bath to keep your Pasta from drying out or getting soggy.  When ready for use, drain, rinse and blot dry.   Fresh Pasta is available at most markets or Italian Delis.

4.  To make a Salted Ice bath simply add 2-3 c Ice to a large bowl of water then sprinkle in 3 t of Sea Salt and stir until the Salt is dissolved then add the cooked Pasta.

 5.  In a medium pan, add the 4 T of Butter and melt over medium heat.  The Butter will give it a great taste.  Add the Sausage and brown the Sausage over medium heat until cooked through, about 7-9 minutes.  Remove the Sausage and set aside and reserve the sausage fat in the pan.  Add a little Olive Oil, if needed, if not enough fat to saute the Onions in.  Add the diced Onion and cook until translucent, about 5-7 minutes then add the Garlic and saute 30 seconds more.    The Onions and Garlic pick up the flavor left by the Sausage on the pan.  Add the cooked Onions and Garlic to the Tomato Sauce.

6.  In the same pan over medium heat, saute the sliced Mushrooms in 3 T of Butter until browned, about 7-9 minutes.  Season with Sea Salt and Pepper as they cook.  Set aside.  You want the Mushrooms crispy on the edges and caramelized for best taste in this Lasagna.  You can use White Button or Crimini Mushrooms in this recipe or mix of both.

7.  Place the Ricotta Cheese in a medium bowl and add  1/2 c of Parmesan Cheese, 2 t dried Oregano and 12 leaves of fresh Basil that has been cut into chiffonade (rolled like a cigar tight then cut in strips).  Mix all well.
8.  Slice the Fresh Mozzarella into thick 1/2 inch slices and set aside. 

9.  Now it is time to assemble.  First ladle 2 cups of the Tomato Sauce into the bottom of the baking dish then put a layer of Lasagna Noodles on top.
10.  Over the Lasagna Noodles spread all of the Ricotta Cheese mixture evenly to the edges.  Then layer on all of the Provolone Cheese.

11.  Layer on another layer of Lasagna Noodles over the Cheese.  Then add all of the cooked Sausage.
12.  Add all of the Mushrooms over the Sausage and about 2-3 cups of the Tomato Sauce on top of the Mushrooms.  Add more Tomato Sauce if needed to be sure the Sausage and Mushrooms are well coated in Sauce.
13.  Add another Layer of Lasagna Noodles over the Mushrooms and Sausage.  Using your hands gently compress down on the Noodles so that any air pockets will fill in below for even cooking.  Then add 2 -3 cups of Tomato Sauce and then the sliced fresh Mozzarella Cheese.   Sprinkle with Sea Salt and fresh ground Black Pepper.

14.  Cover with foil loosely so that the Mozzarella doesn't stick to the foil and place on a cookie sheet for ease of transfer to the oven and out.  Safety first!  Then bake at 350 degrees for 1 hour or longer if needed until the Sauce is bubbling around the edges and the Cheese is melted.  All ovens vary in cooking times so yours may require 10 minutes more or so.  Remove the foil and broil on high for 1-2 minutes so that the Mozzarella browns in spots and bubbles.  Watch very closely so that it doesn't burn under the broiler. Remove from the oven and let the Lasagna then sit for 10 minutes before serving.  Garnish at the last minute with fresh Basil.

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