Some of the things I missed the most while I was in China were cheese, bread, and dessert. I got my fill of good vegetables, meat, and seafood, but nothing quite filled the hole in my heart (or stomach, in this case) that cheese and carbs left. So it shouldn’t surprise anyone that my first meals back were loaded. Driving back from the airport we even made an emergency pit stop at In-N-Out Burger. Double double mustard fried with grilled onions and a Neapolitan shake? Yes please! Next up on my must-have-soon list was an over the top cheesy pasta dish, and lasagna fit the bill perfectly.
I’ve posted a vegetable lasagna recipe already, but this craving was for the classic version. So I whipped up a classic lasagna and enjoyed every last bite of the delicious cheesy, carb loaded, meat filled goodness. Then, yesterday I read online that July 29th is National Lasagna Day. Perfect! I bumped this recipe up the line so you’ll be prepared to make your own for the special day.
(Developed over the years by me)
1 box no-boil lasagna noodles
1 15-oz container of Ricotta cheese
1/4 cup fresh grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 cup frozen spinach, thawed and excess moisture squeezed out
4-5 fresh basil leaves, julienned (or 1 tsp dry basil but I really recommend finding some fresh!)
1/2 tsp salt
pinch of black pepper
1 lb Italian sausage (I used sweet, but also like spicy)
2 tbsp tomato paste
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp dry basil
1 tsp dry oregano
1 tsp dry parsley
1/4 tsp dry rosemary
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp fresh ground pepper
pinch of red pepper flakes
1 15-oz can diced tomatoes
1 15-oz can tomato sauce
1/3-1/2 cup dry red wine
1 16-oz ball of fresh mozzarella, shredded (to equal about 2 cups)*
1/2 cup fresh grated Parmesan cheese
*As with many things, I think that real fresh mozzarella is key. Of course it’s really up to you, but I don’t think a block of Kraft mozzarella will cut it! You can find real balls of fresh mozzarella in the specialty cheese section of any well stocked grocery store. If you have trouble shredding it you can cut it into slices. Or do what I do it and hand it to the nearest strong man and make them do it! 🙂
Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
In a large skillet, brown and crumble the Italian sausage. When the sausage is cooked through and browned add the tomato paste and garlic. Cook for 30 seconds or until garlic is fragrant. Stir to coat the sausage with the tomato paste. Season with dry basil, oregano, parsley, rosemary, salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes and cook for 1 more minute. Stir in the diced tomatoes and tomato sauce and bring to a simmer. Add the red wine and continue to simmer for 10 minutes.
While the meat sauce is simmering, combine the ingredients for the ricotta filling in a medium sized bowl.
Spread 1/3 cup of meat sauce in the bottom of a 9×13 pan. Then lay out 4 noodles, slightly overlapping. Make 3 sets of layers in the following order:
- 1/3 of the Ricotta filling
- 1/4 of the Meat sauce
- 1/4 of the Mozzarella and Parmesan cheese
After the 3rd group of layers, top off the lasagna with another layer of noodles, the last of the sauce, and the rest of the shredded cheese.
Cover the pan with aluminum foil and bake for 45 minutes. Remove the foil and bake for an additional 10 minutes. (I also gave mine 2 minutes under the broiler to make the cheese a deeper golden brown)
Serve with a green salad and garlic bread. (Yes mine is totally Texas Toast, not homemade or gourmet but Jesse loves it and it was fast!)