Who doesn’t love lasagna? If you were to ask me to make a list of my top favorite Italian foods, lasagna would be right towards the top. I have tried many different recipes over the years, but being from Wisconsin, one of the chief complaints about these lasagnas was that none of them were cheesy enough. Since this was a recurring trend, I decided it was finally time for me to tackle a lasagna recipe of my own. I sat down and compared all of the various dishes I had tried, and I took ingredients from each that I enjoyed most, and changed others to fit my own personal preferences. The end result was an ultra cheesy dish that screams Wisconsin.
Making a lasagna can seem like a daunting task, because there are so many different components in the dish. Full disclosure here, I used to get SO stressed when making lasagnas because I didn’t know which part of the dish I should tackle first. However, after many rounds of trial and error, I figured out a progression of preparation that makes for the smoothest lasagna creation. By following this step-by-step process, creating a delicious cheesy lasagna can be easily done!
½ cup Diced Green Pepper
½ cup Diced Yellow Onion
1 tsp Minced Garlic
½ tbsp Butter
1 lb Ground Italian Sausage
10 oz Marinara Sauce
¼ cup Parmesan Cheese (optional depending on the type of marinara sauce used)
9 Lasagna Noodles
2 tbsp Olive Oil
20 oz Part Skim Ricotta Cheese
2 cups Shredded Mozzarella Cheese
Kitchen Tip 1: Lasagna takes a lot of dishes during the prep process. As the kitchen proceeds to get messier and messier it can be overwhelming. This is why I find it best to tackle each separate element of the dish one segment at a time instead of multitasking, and trying to complete many items at the same time. The faster the process is rushed, the more chaotic the kitchen will become.
1. Before any other step can be tackled, the vegetables have to be diced up. Deseed the green pepper, and peel off the outer layer of the onion; then chop them down to quarter inch pieces. Pile the pieces up on a plate or cutting board, and then add the minced garlic to the stack.
2. Melt the butter down in a large frying pan. Make sure the pan has ample room for not just the veggies, but also the meat and sauce.
3. Once the butter is melted, sauté the onion, pepper, and garlic until they start to become tender. Then add in the ground Italian sausage. Use a spatula to separate the Italian Sausage into small pieces as it is browning. Italian sausage can be reluctant to break down, but just keep working it until it is.
Kitchen Tip 2: The veggies can be prone to cooking faster than the sausage. If you are worried that they are going to become too crispy, move them to the edges of the pan before adding the meat in. You can always mix everything together after the meat is done cooking.
4. After the meat has been browned, strain the grease out, and then pour it back into the frying pan. Set it aside while working with the marinara sauce.
5. This next step is optional depending on the type of marinara sauce you are using. My personal recipe for marinara sauce already has parmesan cheese melted into it, so I skip this step. Some sauces that are bought in stores also are already cheesy versions, allowing this step to be skipped. However, if the marinara sauce you bought does not already have cheese as an ingredient, then you should heat up the sauce and melt in the parmesan cheese directly into it.
6. Once the sauce is prepped, mix 1 cup of it directly into the meat and veggies. Set both the frying pan and the extra sauce off to the side.
7. Next, boil a large kettle filled with water, and add the olive oil directly into the water. After the water and oil have come to a roiling boil, add in the noodles and cook according to the box instructions.
8. Now it is finally time to start constructing the dish together! Grease a 13×9 pan and layer 3 of the noodles down across the bottom. (This is easiest to do while the noodles are still warm, if they cool too much they can end up sticking together and ripping.)
9. Spread half of the meat mix over the top of the noodles; then spread half of the ricotta cheese on top of the meat.
10. Lay 3 more noodles on top, and repeat the process of spreading the second half of the meat mixture and ricotta cheese.
11. Add the final 3 noodles on top of that layer; then spread the remaining sauce on top. Finally, sprinkle the mozzarella cheese on top of everything.
12. Cover the dish with tin foil, and bake for 25 minutes at 350 degrees.
13. Once the lasagna is cooked, it is very important to let it sit a full ten minutes before cutting it. It can be very tempting to eat right away, but letting the dish sit allows the layers to set together and makes serving the pieces out of the pan much easier.
Even though it can be really overwhelming to look at a lasagna recipe, the process can be simplified by taking it one step at a time. This is a great dish to make for a crowd, or a small busy family that needs leftovers throughout the week, and the best part of lasagna is that it’s one of those dishes that actually tastes better the longer it sits, so sometimes the leftovers taste even better than the first day you have it! Enjoy!