Last updated on September 5, 2023 by Liza Hawkins
As the fall chill settles in, there’s nothing quite like cozying up with a hearty, comforting meal that warms both body and soul. With the hustle and bustle of the holiday season amid other day-to-day activities, it’s essential to have recipes in your arsenal that offer convenience without compromising on flavor. That’s where this hearty beef lasagna steps in!
This lasagna is a delightful dish that can be prepared in advance and baked to perfection when you’re ready to savor it, making post-workweek dinners a breeze.
Making Lasagna: Layered Goodness
The foundation of a delicious lasagna lies in its layers. Start by selecting quality ingredients. Choose your preferred pasta sheets, whether it’s classic boil-first lasagna, no-boil, or a gluten-free alternative. Next, decide on your filling. While traditional lasagna calls for ricotta cheese, don’t hesitate to explore alternatives like cottage cheese, a creamy white sauce lasagna, or topped with a blend of mozzarella, provolone, and parmesan for a unique twist.
The sauce is the heart and soul of lasagna, and a rich, flavorful tomato sauce is essential.
Note: My go-to recently has been a take on this simple homemade pasta sauce: add a large can of crushed tomatoes, one stick of salted butter, and a medium onion (peeled and halved) to a deep skillet. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer, covered, for 45 minutes — stirring occasionally. Remove the cover, add freshly chopped basil and salt to taste, let simmer uncovered for a couple more minutes, and then … voila! Delicious simple and versatile tomato sauce.
In addition to fresh basil, consider adding a medley of aromatic herbs and spices like oregano, garlic, and red pepper flakes to infuse your sauce with depth and character.
For a meaty variation, brown ground beef or sausage, and incorporate it into your sauce for an extra dose of savory goodness.
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Cooking Lasagna: The Art of Timing
After assembling your lasagna layers in a deep casserole dish, it’s time to get ready for the oven. To ensure the perfect balance of textures, bake your lasagna covered for the first portion of cooking time. This helps the pasta sheets soften and the flavors meld together. Then, uncover it for the final stretch to achieve that irresistible golden crust on top (and especially around the edges).
Preheat your oven to around 375°F and bake for approximately 25-30 minutes covered with a lid or foil. Once the lasagna is bubbling and the pasta is tender, remove the cover and let it bake for an additional 10-15 minutes, or until the top turns golden brown. It’s right about now that the aroma fills your kitchen, acting like a taste bud teaser!
Serving Lasagna: Presentation and Pairings
Bringing your lasagna masterpiece to the table can be a moment of pride, and presentation plays a role in elevating the dining experience. Garnish your lasagna with fresh basil leaves, a dusting of grated parmesan, or a sprinkle of red pepper flakes for an extra pop of color and flavor. Serve it with a side salad or garlic bread (try making your own Italian bread!) to complement the richness of the dish and add a refreshing contrast.
Remember this serving tip: cut your lasagna into portions using a sharp knife dipped in hot water. This ensures clean, attractive slices that retain their structure. As you place each serving on the plate, it’s always satisfying to see the layers reveal themselves.
Storing Lasagna: Make the Most of Leftovers
Lasagna often yields more than a single meal, making it an ideal candidate for leftovers. To preserve the flavors and textures, be sure to store any uneaten portions properly. Allow your lasagna to cool to room temperature before transferring it to an airtight container or wrapping it securely in aluminum foil. Refrigerate for up to 3-4 days or freeze for longer-term storage.
When reheating lasagna, consider using an oven or toaster oven instead of the microwave. This will help maintain the crispy top layer and prevent the dish from becoming overly soggy. Cover it with foil to prevent excessive browning, and heat at 350°F until it’s warmed through.
A sprinkle of fresh basil or a drizzle of olive oil can breathe new life into your reheated lasagna.
Lasagna is a versatile and timeless dish that can be tailored to your tastes and needs. Whether you’re preparing it for a weeknight dinner or a special occasion, mastering the art of making, cooking, serving, and storing lasagna will undoubtedly make it a cherished addition to your culinary repertoire.
Embrace the warmth of this classic comfort food and enjoy the cozy, flavorful moments it brings to your table.
Lasagna is a delightful dish that can be prepared in advance and baked to perfection when you're ready to savor it.
- 6 uncooked lasagna noodles
- 1 pound ground beef or turkey
- 1 16-ounce container ricotta cheese
- 2 cups shredded Italian cheese blend
- 2 cups shredded mozzarella
- 1 large egg
- 2 tablespoons dried Italian herbs
- 2 teaspoons dried parsley
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon garlic salt
- 1/2 teaspoon pepper
- 1 medium onion, diced
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 1 jar marinara sauce
- 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- Preheat the oven to 375°F. Spread 1 tablespoon of the olive oil into the bottom of a 1-1/2 quart baking dish. Set aside.
- Place a large skillet over medium-high heat, add the olive oil, followed by the onions. Sauté until the onions are translucent, about 8 minutes, and then add the garlic and continue cooking for another minute.
- Add the ground beef, garlic salt, pepper and 1 tablespoon Italian herbs to the skillet, and cook until the ground beef has browned, about 10 minutes. Drain the beef mixture, and then add it back to the skillet along with 3/4 of the jar of sauce. Continue cooking over medium heat while you prepare the ricotta mixture.
- For the ricotta mixture, in a large bowl, combine the ricotta, egg, 1 tablespoon dried Italian herbs, 1 teaspoon parsley and salt.
- Layer uncooked pasta on the bottom of the baking dish, followed by a layer of the meat mixture, and then a layer of the ricotta mixture, then a layer of Italian cheese blend. Repeat these layers once more, ending with a layer of pasta on top. Pour the remaining sauce over the layers, and then cover with mozzarella cheese.
- Bake for 50-60 minutes, or until the cheese is melted and the edges are slightly browned and bubbly. Let it rest for 15 minutes before serving.
Serve with buttered crusty bread and a fresh salad. If you have leftover meat sauce, save it to use for lunch or dinner with spaghetti.
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Amount Per Serving: Calories: 750Total Fat: 45gSaturated Fat: 20gTrans Fat: 1gUnsaturated Fat: 21gCholesterol: 197mgSodium: 1213mgCarbohydrates: 29gFiber: 2gSugar: 4gProtein: 55g