Lasagna is unassuming. It knows it is the finest of comfort foods, and does not need precise lines or fancy garnishes to make it great. It simply is. Its combination of cheese and meat and vegetables and grains makes it a meal in itself. When I was living in Spain and eating the cooking of my Spanish host mama, my longing for lasagna was rivaled only by my desire for a warm chocolate chip cookie.
I have eaten many different lasagnas in my life, and tried making them, too. There are so many variations. Will there be veggies, hamburger, pepperoni, or sausage? Lasagna noodles ridged, pre-boiled, or homemade? Whole-wheat or white? And the cheese- OH, what about the cheese? Sometimes, a lasagna successfully combines complementary options into one blissful square. Other times, the results are not so blissful and you feel like you are in a bad potluck situation. In this lasagna recipe, I combined all of my favorite variants to make every bite perfectly cheesy, sweet and spicy, and melt-on-your-tongue. And it all starts with the homemade lasagna noodle.
Please, don't look at this mess on my counter and be afraid. Making homemade pasta is easy, and so much fun. When's the last time you just grabbed a big pile of egg and flour and rolled it right on the counter until it became something edible? It's a satisfaction you can't get anywhere else. Just make sure your counter is clean.
Start by piling your flour into a hill. Make a well in the middle of the flour using your fingers, and crack your eggs into it. If your eggs have a mind of their own like mine did, just catch them before they ooze off the countertop. More messy fun. Then, sprinkle some olive oil into the mix and rub some onto your hands, as well. Use a fork to break the yolks and begin mixing the ingredients together. Once the dough starts to hold itself, start kneading with your hands. The goal is a nice, smooth, springy dough ball, like this:
Once you have achieved this, cut the dough ball into quarters. One quarter at a time, begin rolling the dough out with a rolling pin. If you have a KitchenAid mixer with a lasagna attachment, no need to roll the dough too thin; the attachment will do most of the work for you. If you don't have a mixer, you can still make incredible pasta. You will just have to do a lot more rolling. Roll the dough as thin as you possible can - you should be able to see your hand through it if you hold it up.
If you are using a mixer and pasta attachment, choose a medium setting for the thickness of your noodles. Above, you'll see that I set the attachment too thin at my first go of it, so my noodles were barely holding together. If you mess up like me, just bunch the pasta back up and roll it out again. Noodles are pretty forgiving.
Once the dough has been noodle-fied, let it set out to dry a bit before layering it into your lasagna.
Meanwhile, start to mix the meaty tomato sauce. In a large skillet over medium heat, brown the sweet Italian pork sausage. Once there is no more pink, go ahead and mix the tomato sauce with it. Now, when the tomato plants in my garden start producing later this summer, I promise a recipe for fresh homemade tomato sauce. But for now, Newman's Own Italian Sausage will have to do the trick. Mix in some oregano, basil, and garlic powder to give it a little punch.
Finally, the cheese component. A lasagna is not complete without a beautiful, fluffy layer of cheese. Combine ricotta and plenty of freshly grated parmesan cheese in a small bowl. Then, add the oregano, basil, and pepper and fluff with a rubber spatula.
Now every delicious part of your lasagna is ready to be assembled. In a 9X11" baking dish, smooth meat sauce onto the bottom. Then, layer 2 noodles. Top with the cheese mixture, then repeat for another two layers. Finish with a top layer of cheese. You can sprinkle it with more grated parmesan cheese and oregano and pepper for added flair.
Cover with foil and bake for 30 minutes at 350 degrees F. Then, remove the foil and bake for another 15 minutes until it is hot and bubbly and beginning to brown on top.
Is that not the most inviting piece of lasagna you've ever seen? Every bite is the perfect combination of sweet, spicy, and savory, and the fresh pasta will offset the creamy cheese with its light and delectable touch. Do you have any experience making fresh pasta? What's your favorite type to make? I would love to hear what your take is on this lasagna, or any others! Basically, I just love pasta. Please share!
Recipe for Deidre's Homemade Sweet Italian Sausage LasagnaIngredients
For the Pasta:
For the Meat Sauce:
- 2 cups flour, plus extra for rolling dough
- 2 tbsp olive oil, plus extra for kneading
- 3 eggs
For the Cheese:
- 1 lb sweet Italian pork sausage
- 24 oz tomato pasta sauce (I use Newman's Own Italian Sausage)
- 2 tbsp dried or fresh oregano
- 2 tbsp dried or fresh basil
- 2 tsp garlic powder
- 16 oz ricotta cheese
- 3/4 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
- 2 tbsp dried or fresh oregano
- 2 tbsp dried or fresh basil
- 2 tsp black pepper
- To make the dough for the lasagna noodles, pile flour onto a clean work surface. Make a well in the middle and crack eggs into it. Add the olive oil to the well.
- Using a fork, whisk the ingredients until they start to come together. Then, use your hands to knead the dough until it forms a smooth, springy ball. This will take about 5-8 minutes.
- Divide the dough ball into quarters. Then, one quarter at a time, roll out onto your work surface with a rolling pin. If you are using a stand mixer with a pasta attachment, roll out just thin enough to pass through the attachment. Set attachment at a middle-thickness setting. Then send the dough through. If you are making your pasta by hand, roll the dough as thin as you are able. When you pick it up you should be able to see your hand through the dough. Cut into 2- or 3-inch wide strips. Then, lay pasta out to dry.
- Meanwhile, preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Brown your Italian sausage in a large skillet over medium heat. Once sausage is browned, remove from heat and mix tomato sauce, oregano, basil, and garlic.
- In a separate medium-sized bowl, mix together all the ingredients for the cheese filling. Use a rubber spatula to fully combine.
- To assemble lasagna, spread meat sauce mixture onto the bottom of a 9X11" baking dish, just enough to cover. Then, layer 2 noodles on top. *Noodles don't need to be boiled - just put them right in! * Cover with a hearty layer of cheese. Then, repeat twice more, ending with the cheese mixture on top. You may choose to sprinkle the top layer with more freshly grated parmesan cheese and spices.
- Cover, and bake for 30 minutes.
- Remove cover and bake for another 15 minutes, or until lasagna has begun to brown and is bubbly.
- Let cool for 15 minutes before serving.