Barefoot Contessa's Lasagne
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 cup chopped yellow onion (1 onion)
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 1/2 lbs hot Italian sausage, casings removed
- 1 (28 ounce) can crushed tomatoes in puree
- 1 (6 ounce) can tomato paste
- 1/4 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley, divided
- 1/2 cup chopped fresh basil leaf
- 2 teaspoons kosher salt
- 3/4 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
- 1/2 lb lasagna noodle
- 15 ounces ricotta cheese
- 3 -4 ounces creamy goat cheese, crumbled
- 1 cup grated parmesan cheese, plus 1/4 cup for sprinkling
- 1 extra-large egg, lightly beaten
- 1 lb fresh mozzarella cheese, thinly sliced
What To Do With Them
- Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
- Heat the olive oil in a large (10 to 12-inch) skillet.
- Add the onion and cook for 5 minutes over medium-low heat, until translucent.
- Add the garlic and cook for 1 more minute.
- Add the sausage and cook over medium-low heat, breaking it up with a fork, for 8 to 10 minutes, or until no longer pink.
- Add the tomatoes, tomato paste, 2 tablespoons of the parsley, the basil, 1½ teaspoons of the salt, and ½ teaspoon pepper.
- Simmer, uncovered, over medium-low heat, for 25-30 minutes, until thickened and tomatoes have reached desired taste.
- Meanwhile, fill a large bowl with the hottest tap water. Add the noodles and allow them to sit in the water for 20 minutes. (Keep separating them as they soak so they don't stick together so badly - add a dash of EVOO to the water.) Drain.
- In a medium bowl, combine the ricotta, goat cheese, 1 cup of Parmesan, the egg, the remaining 2 tablespoons of parsley, remaining ½ teaspoon salt, and ¼ teaspoon pepper. Set aside.
- Ladle 1/3 of the sauce into a 9 by 12 by 2-inch rectangular baking dish, spreading the sauce over the bottom of the dish. Then add the layers as follows: half the pasta, half the mozzarella, half the ricotta, and one 1/3 of the sauce. Add the rest of the pasta, mozzarella, ricotta, and finally, sauce. Sprinkle with ¼ cup of Parmesan.
- Bake for 30 minutes, until the sauce is bubbling.
Common Lasagne Mistakes
From Bon Appetite
My own notes appear in italics after each entry.
Overcooking the Noodles
First, you have to decide what type of dish you want to make," says Chris Morocco, senior food editor Bon Appetite. "If you're using no-boil noodles—which I sometimes do—it's just not a real lasagna. It's a baked pasta dish." Hey, we get it—when you're strapped for time, no-boil noodles can be a lifesaver. Just be sure to bump up the flavor and bring in the big guns with your sauce, cheese, and seasoning (nobody could accuse no-boil noodles of being texturally great or overly flavorful). Yeah, I beg to differ on the no-boil noodles.
That said, if you're going big with traditionally-boiled noodles, err on the side of undercooking them. "Four to five minutes will do it," says Rick Martinez, associate food editor. Remember that you'll be cooking them again, by baking them in a hot oven. In this recipe Ina Garten simply soaks the noodles in hot water for 20 minutes or a little longer while prepping other stuff. I just tried this method for Christmas Eve dinner yesterday and it works GREAT. The noodles came out of the oven absolutely perfect.
- Letting the Noodles Get All Clumpy
Once you've cooked your noodles to just under al dente, do not—we repeat do not—dump them in a colander to drain in the sink as you prepare the sauce and cheese. They'll quickly become a clumpy mess, and that's just no good. Instead, after you've drained the pot, lay each noodle flat on an oiled baking sheet. It takes a little extra time, but it's worth it. If you soak the noodles as mentioned above you don't have to worry about clumpy noodles, either. I don't buy into BA's snobby snark above about no-cook noodles just being a pasta dish. Elitist bastards :-)
- Skipping the Béchamel Sauce
Yes, your lasagna needs a béchamel and a tomato-based marinara sauce. The only acceptable workaround is to make a meat ragú with plenty of milk or cream. Point being: You need some dairy up in there, beyond the cheese. A cream-based sauce keeps things moist and counters the acidity of the tomatoes. In Ina's recipe above the meat ragú does a wonderful job, but I'm intrigued about the béchamel.
- Starting the Layers with Noodles
The first layer of your lasagna should be sauce, says Claire Saffitz, associate food editor. Not only does it help keep things moist, it ensures that the noodles won't stick to the pan.
- Using the Wrong Cheese
This may sound controversial, but the BA test kitchen does not advocate for the use of ricotta cheese in lasagna. "It becomes dry and weirdly cracked at the surface," explains Morocco, who prefers to keep things saucy with a béchamel (see point no. 3!). Saffitz says her favorite cheese for lasagna is a grated, hard aged cheese, like Parmesan. It adds a salty, nutty flavor—especially when paired with a good sauce. If you must use ricotta (we're not ones to tell your nonna no), combat dryness by beating it with egg, herbs, and salt and pepper before spreading it on the noodles. Ina's recipe of course doesn't call for the béchamel, and it also uses ricotta. Ina's lasagna comes out fantastic, but again, using the hard cheese like parm and grating it sounds intriguing!
- Being Stingy With the Layers
"If there's less than three layers, it's probably not a lasagna," says Morocco. There's no need to go crazy—aim for somewhere between three and 1,000—but one thing's for sure: You need to use a pan that's big enough to hold all of that gooey goodness in. The Test Kitchen likes 13"X9" casserole dishes. Bonus points for glass, so you can see how things are coming along as it bakes. Indeed, the 13" x 9" x 2" glass casserole is awesome, but I'd like to find something deeper in the future - 3 layers pretty much fill it up to the top.
- Not Covering It While Baking
If you leave your lasagna uncovered in the oven, it will become dry. Fight back with a foil-topped tray for a portion of the baking time. Once the lasagna has baked halfway through, remove the foil so the top can brown. If, once it's fully cooked, the top still looks pale, turn on the broiler to help move things along. But keep an eye on the casserole; it can burn quickly. So, I got around this using Ina's recipe by putting the last layer of noodles and top with just a smidgen of sauce, the mozarella slices distributed around, and then good parmesan microplaned heavily all over the top. The melted cheeses on top sealed off the inner layers and the top browned absolutely perfectly during the 30 minute cook. Everything was perfect!