Christmas lasagna may be a new tradition here. As we pointed out in a recent post, we decided to pay homage to the traditional Italian menu featuring first a pasta course, then a meat course. However, our all-American guests decided to have both courses served at once.
The origins of lasagna are unclear, but there is some evidence to suggest the dish came from the name of the kind of cookware in which the lasagna was prepared. Furthermore, the earliest variations on the recipe had no tomatoes. Tomatoes came from the Western Hemisphere, and arrived in Italy from Spanish traders.
This recipe, modestly called “World’s Best Lasagna,” comes from John Chandler on allrecipes.com, has plenty of tomato: crushed, paste, and sauce. Here is the link. We made our version with the no-cook lasagna noodles, because the local stores seemed to be out of the others. If you don’t have the mix on hand, here is a recipe for Italian seasoning. We also doubled the spices called for in this recipe.
We include the recipe ingredients and directions here, too.
1 lb. sweet Italian sausage
¾ lb. lean ground beef
½ cup minced onion
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 can (28 oz.) crushed tomatoes
2 cans (6 oz.) tomato paste
2 cans (6.5 oz.) tomato sauce
½ cup water
2 Tbsp white sugar
1½ tsp dried basil leaves
½ tsp fennel seeds
1 tsp Italian seasoning
1½ tsp salt, divided, or to taste
¼ tsp ground black pepper
4 Tbsp fresh parsley, chopped
12 lasagna noodles
16 oz. ricotta cheese
¾ lb. mozzarella cheese, sliced
¾ cup grated Parmesan cheese
In a Dutch oven, cook sausage, ground beef, onion, and garlic over medium heat until well browned. Stir in crushed tomatoes, tomato paste, tomato sauce, and water. Season with sugar, basil, fennel seeds, Italian seasoning, 1 teaspoon salt, pepper, and 2 tablespoons parsley. Simmer, covered, for about 1½ hours, stirring occasionally.
Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Cook lasagna noodles in boiling water for 8 to 10 minutes. Drain noodles, and rinse with cold water. In a mixing bowl, combine ricotta cheese with egg, remaining parsley, and ½ teaspoon salt.
Preheat oven to 375º F (190º C).
To assemble, spread 1½ cups of meat sauce in the bottom of a 9 X 13-inch baking dish. Arrange 6 noodles lengthwise over meat sauce. Spread with one half of the ricotta cheese mixture. Top with a third of mozzarella cheese slices. Spoon 1½ cups meat sauce over mozzarella, and sprinkle with ¼ cup Parmesan cheese. Repeat layers, and top with remaining mozzarella and Parmesan cheese. Cover with foil: to prevent sticking, either spray foil with cooking spray, or make sure the foil does not touch the cheese.
Bake in preheated oven for 25 minutes. Remove foil, and bake an additional 25 minutes. Cool for 15 minutes before serving.
Prep Time: 30 minutes
Cook Time: 2 hours, 30 minutes