Making lasagna for the first time, looking for a recipe
December 26, 2019 5:17 PM   Subscribe

I've been craving lasagna all day and I want to make it for myself! I've never made lasagna (to be honest I can't remember when I've last had homemade lasagna! :( ) and I'm a bit overwhelmed by all the recipes out there for it. I'm not the greatest cook, but I'm pretty competent. Can you recommend a lasagna recipe for me?

I don't mind if I have to make the red sauce separately (I'd actually prefer this), as I find most store bought pasta sauces waaaay too sweet. I am not able to make pasta from scratch, however!
posted by VirginiaPlain to Food & Drink (22 answers total) 19 users marked this as a favorite
Response by poster: I forgot to add that I love mushrooms sooo... bonus points if the recipe contains mushrooms!!
posted by VirginiaPlain at 5:19 PM on December 26, 2019

I make mine by memory, but this is basically it: Alison Roman's Very Good Lasagna.

No mushrooms in it, but you could very easily add sliced mushrooms to the sauce (saute them first for favor/to take out some of the moisture from them). Don't be worried, lasagna is VERY VERY forgiving and it's likely going to be good no matter what you do!
posted by Countess Sandwich at 5:25 PM on December 26, 2019 [4 favorites]

If you aren't a purist and want to save yourself a few extra steps, let me recommend no-boil noodles. you do need to add extra sauce since the noodles absorb the liquid as the lasagna bakes.
posted by brookeb at 5:33 PM on December 26, 2019 [7 favorites]

I largely make it from memory but it is as simple or complicated as you want to make it. On the one hand there is the pure assembly job with store bought sauce, bechamel, grated cheese and dry lasagne sheets. On the other hand you could make everything from scratch. Or you can make some things and rely on store bought items for the rest.

Personally, I have never made fresh lasagne sheets, dry works great. I make the meaty sauce from scratch but am quite happy to use store bought bechamel, mainly because making that from scratch would require much more lead time and I can’t be asked.

You can add assorted veg to the tomato sauce. Things that release a bit of water when cooking like mushrooms or courgette are great because the dry pasta sheets can absorb a slightly liquid sauce.

As I do like nice cheese topping I will grate my own. If you have parmesan cheese to hand you can mix that with other cheese but shouldn’t use it on its own because it tends to be too dry. As a finishing touch I like to slice some halved tomatoes and make pretty patterns with them on top of the cheese before it goes in the oven. I just follow the cooking instructions on the pasta box.

Pro tip - leave enough space in the dish for things to bubble up a bit as they cook. And perhaps place a tray below the oven shelf you place the dish on to catch any sauce that bubbles over the burnt sauce off the oven is not fun.
posted by koahiatamadl at 5:58 PM on December 26, 2019

If you want an American-ass lasagna — like, the thing a really good Midwestern host would make as a nice meal for special guests — then The Pioneer Woman's recipe is a good place to start. I swap her dry herbs for fresh and otherwise don't change a thing. Using JD sausage for part of the meat is brilliant — you might think it would be weird, but it's just delicious as hell.
posted by nebulawindphone at 6:04 PM on December 26, 2019 [4 favorites]

This makes incredibe lasagna

McCall's Cooking School, Number 1, 1973, pg 56 and 57.

1 lb sweet or hot Italian sausage (5 links)
½ lb ground beef
½ lb finely chopped onion
2 cloves garlic, crushed
2 T sugar
2 T salt
1 ½ t basil leaves, dried
½ t fennel seed
¼ t pepper
¼ C chopped parsley
4 C canned tomatoes, undrained, or 1 can (2 lbs, 3 oz) Italian-style tomatoes
2 cans (6 oz size) tomato paste
1 T salt (I skip this— otherwise it is too salty for my taste)
12 curly lasagna noodles (¾ of a 1 lb package)
1 container (15 oz) ricotta or ½ lb Swiss + ½ lb American cheese
1 egg
½ t salt
¾ lb mozzarella cheese, thinly sliced
1 jar (3 oz; ¾ C) grated Parmesan and/or ramano cheese

Remove sausage meat from outer casings and break up. In 5-quart Dutch oven over medium heat saute sausage, beef (break up meat with wooden spoon), onion, and garlic, stirring frequently, until well browned- about 20 minutes. Add sugar, 1 T salt, the basil, fennel, pepper, and half of the parsley; mix well. Add tomatoes, tomato paste, and ½ C water, mashing tomatoes with wooden spoon. Bring to boiling, then reduce heat; simmer, covered and stirring occasionally, until thick- 1 ½ hours.

In 8-quart kettle, bring 3 quarts water and 1 T salt to boiling. Add lasagna, 2 or 3 at a time. Boil, uncovered and stirring occasionally, 10 minutes or until tender. Drain and rinse in cold water. Dry lasagna on paper towels.

Preheat oven to 375°. In medium bowl, combine ricotta, egg, remaining parsley, and ½ t salt; mix well. Spoon 1 ½ C sauce in the bottom of baking dish. Layer with 6 lasagna noodles, overlapping, to cover. Spread with half of ricotta mixture (or Swiss/ American Cheese); top with third of mozzarella. Spoon 1 ½ C sauce over cheese; sprinkle with ¼ C Parmesan. Repeat layering. Spread with remaining sauce; top with rest of mozzarella and Parmesan. Cover with foil, tucking around edge. Bake 25 minutes; remove foil; bake, uncovered, 25 minutes before serving.
posted by Patapsco Mike at 6:11 PM on December 26, 2019 [1 favorite]

For the cheese layers, my mother's recipe calls for 1 (16oz) tub of ricotta cheese, 1 tub cottage cheese (drain both if necessary), 1 lb mozzarella, shredded, and 1 bunch Italian parsley minced. (Reserve some mozzarella for the top)
The sauce recipe you are not allowed to have.
posted by sexyrobot at 6:56 PM on December 26, 2019 [4 favorites]

Simple, simple, simple lasagna -- add other things if you have them and want to bring the drama.

1) Brown a pound of ground beef, add some oil if needed to keep from burning to the pan (I use a stainless steel pan), then spoon off most of the grease. Change out the meat, if you like. I've used ground venison or ground pork.
Extras if you've got: onion, bell pepper, black olives, mushrooms, or just about anything that you like on a pizza.
Spices if you like: garlic powder, minced garlic, onion powder, minced onion, sweet basil, oregano, whatever savory notes tickle your fancy. Less is better.
Add a small can of tomato paste and refill can with water and add some of that. Let simmer a few minutes and set aside.

2) Boil up a couple of cups of flattish noodles. I'm over lasagna noodles, unless I break them into 3 to 4-inch pieces. They do make small lasagna noodles. I add a little salt, but no oil. Drain and set aside.

3) Bring out the cheeses of your choice. I used sliced American, because I'm basic. Nope, no creamy layer. You do you.

4) Preheat the oven to 350 F and begin the assembly in a couple of 8-inch square Pyrex-type cake pans with rubber covers. Meat, noodles, cheese, meat, noodles, cheese. I don't oil the sides, but you can. Always end with a cheese layer.

5) Pop into the oven at 350 F for 30 minutes. Serve with garlic bread and a salad. Or put the rubber lid on and store in the fridge until you are ready to bake it.
posted by TrishaU at 7:24 PM on December 26, 2019

4 Levels of Lasagna: Amateur to Food Scientist | Epicurious - not exactly a recipe, but more of a video to inspire you on your lasagna journey!
posted by oceanjesse at 7:47 PM on December 26, 2019 [1 favorite]

Red sauce:

2 750g boxes Pomi strained tomatoes
4 tbsp olive oil
1/4 teaspoon each oregano, chili flakes, powdered ginger, powdered garlic
2 teaspoons each salt (nb. Diamond kosher) and sugar

In a pot with a not-flimsy bottom, warm up the spices in the olive oil. Add tomatoes, salt and sugar and bring to a simmer stirring over high heat. Lower the heat all the way and simmer for half an hour, stirring occasionally.


1 quart milk
4 tbsp butter
6 tbsp flour
1 small onion and one clove of garlic, diced
1 tsp salt
A few cracks of black pepper, a few gratings/pinch of nutmeg and one bay leaf if you have them.

Cook onion and garlic in butter, again in a pot with a not-flimsy bottom, on medium heat until softened.
Add flour, whisking, for a few minutes - it will go from smelling like raw pie crust to smelling like cooked pie crust.
Stir in pepper and nutmeg, then pour in the milk and add the bay leaf.
Whisk continuously over high heat until you begin to see some bubbling action. Lower heat all the way and simmer for 20 minutes, whisking occasionally. Remove the bay leaf. Feel free at this point to stir in a pound or so of sliced mushrooms that you've sautéed in butter or olive oil, plus a few drops of truffle oil if you have it; or a pound of browned sweet or spicy Italian sausage, or none of these.

Cook a pound of lasagna noodles in salted water, drain, toss with a little olive oil, and spread them out on a baking tray (a few layers thick is fine) to cool down until you can handle them.

Put a few spoonfuls of both sauces on the bottom of your lasagna dish, as if you were lightly saucing a pizza. Add a layer of noodles, then a slightly more generous layer of sauces + dollops of whole milk ricotta (you want to end up using more than half of a 32 oz container) + dusting of parmesan. Fill the dish thusly, and bake at 350F until bubbly and browned, maybe half an hour. I make the top layer extra saucy rather than cover it with foil -someone will appreciate the crispy bits!

Let the thing cool down at least 15 minutes before cutting into it. If by some miracle you have any leftovers, I like to reheat inch-thick slices on their cross-section sides in a non-stick pan until slightly crispy. Bah, so hungry now...
posted by STFUDonnie at 8:12 PM on December 26, 2019 [1 favorite]

A bit different. I've been making this pesto lasagna recipe from the book The Enchanted Broccoli Forest for more than 30 years. It's simple, tastes wonderful, guests rave about it. Maybe a nice change from a tomato sauce based lasagna.
posted by frumiousb at 8:42 PM on December 26, 2019 [2 favorites]

You don't need to precook the noodles if you use plenty of sauce. Just lay the dry noodles in the pan on top of a layer of sauce, then build as you wish with cheese, meat, veg, etc. Put sauce on top of every noodle layer. Finish with noodles on top and more sauce, cheese over that if you like (I don't; I find top cheese just makes it complicated to cut neatly), and bake for an hour. The noodles will be just fine if you use enough sauce. I usually make my own, but jarred is fine if you have a couple jars in the cabinet.

Layers I like:
big chunks of mozzarella cheese (cut up a block)
ricotta with an egg mixed in and a bit of salt
Ricotta with egg and also chopped spinach (thawed frozen with the water wrung out of it in a tea towel is fine; if you use fresh, precook it to get the water out) and a bit of salt. Add pesto (or pesto ingredients) to make it even better.
chopped up meatballs or sausage (precooked)
artichoke hearts, olives, mushrooms (raw, marinated, canned, whatever)
posted by bink at 9:45 PM on December 26, 2019

This is pretty close to what I make at home, and fairly simple.

Easy Lasagna Recipe

You can just use a jar of spaghetti sauce instead of the onion, salt, pepper, tomatoes, italian seasoning if you are in a hurry/lazy/strapped for ingredients/etc.
posted by stovenator at 10:06 PM on December 26, 2019

I really really like this one from Smitten Kitchen. I had never made it before either and it turned out great the very first time. I initially used store bought noodle sheets, but they're all the no-boil kind and I think the texture is weird (it's okay I guess). I finally caved in and started making my own noodles since she includes the recipe and it is so easy and *so good*. I don't have any pasta gadgets, I just use a rolling pin and roll bits out as thin as I can manage, and I don't pre-boil them.

The only thing with the fresh noodles is not to assemble an extra lasagna for the freezer with them - they went mushy.

I also sneak lots of extra veg into the sauce.
posted by jrobin276 at 12:10 AM on December 27, 2019 [1 favorite]

This is the best lasagna.
The sauce is a Bolognese, with meat. If you want a vegetarian version, you can substitute the meat with aubergine and/or mushrooms, and then don't stew for as long. I buy fresh lasagna sheets at the supermarket, the day I'm making the lasagna.
posted by mumimor at 1:13 AM on December 27, 2019

Mary Berry's lasagne recipe is very similar to the one we make at home, and it's extremely comforting. This is a typical British style lasagne rather than American, although I'm not particularly well-versed on the latter. Of course, you can modify the recipe to include mushrooms (I'd add them towards the last 15 minutes of ragu simmering so that they don't become overcooked).
posted by MrWonton at 5:49 AM on December 27, 2019

The Guardian's perfect lasagne. I also like lentil lasagne. That one does have mushrooms but I would think you could add mushrooms to any recipe.
posted by paduasoy at 6:55 AM on December 27, 2019 [1 favorite]

This recipe is a pretty classic example with a few extra flourishes to make it special. The smoked mozzarella really adds something! I never bother with the prosciutto but I'm sure it's yummy. You could totally add mushrooms to this! I think the no-boil noodles are always just a little too chewy, but it seems like they work fine for a lot of people. Lasagna is super adaptable and you can get pretty creative with the ingredients, but holy shit, please don't use American cheese.
posted by cakelite at 7:46 AM on December 27, 2019

I second the Pioneer Woman recipe. It sounds weird but it's so good.
My Italian-American coworker from New Jersey tried it and said "I didn't believe non-Italians could MAKE good lasagna!"
posted by exceptinsects at 9:41 AM on December 27, 2019

Some good recipes previously.
posted by mostly vowels at 10:03 AM on December 27, 2019

I used to use no-boil noodles but sometimes it came out too dry. You can actually use regular lasagna noodles without boiling them. Put them in a 9 by 13 dish and pour boiling water over them. Let it stand 20 to 30 minutes. The noodles will be a bit denser than al dente. That's okay because they will cook thoroughly in the oven. As well they will absorb more of the sauce's flavor that way.
posted by Splunge at 3:07 PM on December 27, 2019 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: I made the Pioneer Woman lasagna last night and it was pretty good!! I will try a different recipe next time!!
posted by VirginiaPlain at 10:52 AM on December 29, 2019 [1 favorite]

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