To me, there are many ways to make an excellent lasagna, but for me personally there are a few key things I want mine to consist of. I like a rich, flavorful and meaty tomato based sauce, I like a layer of ricotta cheese blended with spinach, garlic and parmasan cheese, and of course there has to me lots of gooey, mozzarella on top.
Some lasagna recipes can be very complex with three sauces and two different cheese blends. For this recipe I use just one sauce (a meat sauce...although you can use whichever favorite tomato based sauce you like), a simple ricotta cheese mixture featuring spinach and artichokes (think hot spinach artichoke dip), and I finish it off with grated mozzarella.
Tomato Based Sauce: Check out my recipes for my family's meat sauce, bolognese or simple marinara.
- 24 ounce tub whole milk ricotta cheese
- 1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
- 1 package of chopped frozen spinach, thawed and drained
- 2 eggs, beaten
- 1 can artichokes, chopped
- 3 cloves garlic, crushed
- fresh chopped parsley (and other Italian herbs of choice)
- 1/8 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 1 tsp each of salt and pepper
Combine all ingredients in a large bowl and mix well until evenly distributed. Reserve for layering in the lasagna.
- Ricotta filling
- Tomato or meat sauce
- lasagna pasta, cooked
- 2 cups mozzarella cheese, grated
- 1/2 cup parmesan cheese (or other hard Italian cheese), grated
- fresh chopped parsley
If you don't have the tomato sauce made ahead of time, do that first as it is the most time consuming. The next step is to bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and cook the lasagna pasta just to al dente, according to package direction (I find 1 standard size package is more than enough, but I usually cook it all and let my pup enjoy the leftover pasta).While the pasta is cooking prepare the ricotta mixture. It's pretty simply to bring together. One of the most important things to do is insure the thawed spinach is squeezed of all its water as you don't want a watery filling.
Once the pasta is cooked and cooled enough to handle, begin assembling your pasta. Preheat the oven to 375 and get a large casserole pan (approximately 9x13 inches or similar are typical). Ladle in a little red sauce, about 1.5- 2 cups to cover the bottom of the pan and then add a layer of lasagna noodles.Next add a thick layer of red sauce (about 3 cups) and a 1/4 cup of parmesan cheese, followed by a second layer of pasta. Next add the entire ricotta mixture and a third layer of pasta. Repeat with another thick layer of red sauce and the remaining parmesan cheese. Lastly, add the forth layer of pasta followed by a thin layer of red sauce and the 2 cups of mozzarella cheese. Cover with aluminum foil and bake for 30 minutes. Remove the foil and bake uncovered for another 15 minutes is until the top is browned and bubbly. Serve with a nice green salad, garlic bread and a good red wine.