Baked Lasagna with Italian Sausage

We tried this recipe last night because we happened to have all the ingredients on hand! This was one of the better lasagna recipes we have prepared. The source is Kathy Nicholson of Plano, Texas. The recipe appears in the Fall 2011 issue of the Penzeys spice catalog.

We simmered the tomato ingredients, along with the garlic, salt, spices, and sugar while the Italian sausage was browning. We then added the crumbled sausage and simmered the mixture for an additional hour. We think the longer cooking time for the sauce makes it thicker, allowing the sauce to set better in the lasagna and enhancing the flavor.

2 lbs. Italian sausage (or 2 lbs. ground pork mixed with 2 Tbsp Italian seasoning)

2 garlic cloves, crushed

1 28-oz. can crushed tomatoes

1 8-oz. can tomato sauce

1 6-oz. can tomato paste

1 tsp salt

2 tsp sugar

1 tsp oregano (preferably Turkish oregano)

1 tsp dried basil

1/4 to 1 tsp fresh ground pepper, to taste

2 15-oz. containers ricotta cheese

1 cup grated Parmesan cheese

2 large eggs

3 cups mozzarella cheese

8 oz. lasagna noodles

1. In a large kettle or Dutch oven, cook the sausage and garlic, stirring until the sausage crumbles and is no longer pink. Drain off the fat. Stir in the tomatoes, sauce, paste, salt, sugar, spices, and pepper.

2. Simmer for 30 minutes and then set aside to cool.

3. While the sauce cools, preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Cook the noodles according to the package directions. Drain well and toss with a bit of olive oil to prevent sticking. Keep warm and cover until ready to use.

4. Combine the ricotta cheese, Parmesan, and eggs. Spoon 1/2 cup of the cooled tomato sauce mixture into a 9 X 13 pan. Add a layer of noodles, half of the ricotta mixture, 1 cup of the mozzarella cheese and half of the sauce. Repeat. Top with the remaining cup of mozzarella cheese. Bake at 350 degrees F. for 40 minutes.

Serves 8. Prep time: 15 minutes. Cooking time: 75 minutes plus noodle cooling time.

Nutritional information: 670 calories per serving, 280 calories from fat, 180 mg cholesterol, 940 mg sodium, 52 g protein, 42 g carbohydrates, 4 g dietary fiber.

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