Saturday, December 31, 2011


I love, love, love lasagna.

The best I ever had was at this amazing little Italian restaurant in San Francisco with my husband.  We ate outside under a patio heater in the fall, and it was one of the best meals we ever had.  But this recipe makes a pretty delish lasagna, too.  The beloved Cooks Illustrated people have done the trouble-shooting, and come up with yet another winning recipe for a classic.  We did this for Christmas this year, and it's great for feeding a crowd.  Give it a try!


Tomato-Meat Sauce:
1 tbsp. olive oil
1 medium onion , chopped fine (about 1 cup)
6 medium cloves garlic, pressed or minced (about 2 tbsp.)
1 pound meatloaf mix or 1/3 pound each ground beef chuck, ground veal, and ground pork (see note)
1/2 tsp. table salt
1/2 tsp. ground black pepper
1/4 c. heavy cream (half & half works, too)
1 can (28 oz.) tomato puree
1 can (28 oz.) petite diced tomatoes, drained

Ricotta, Mozzarella, and Pasta Layers:
15 ounces ricotta cheese (whole milk or part skim, 1-3/4 c.)
2-1/2 oz. freshly grated Parmesan cheese (1-1/4 c.)
1/2 c. chopped fresh basil
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1/2 tsp. table salt
1/2 tsp. ground black pepper
12 no-boil lasagna noodles from one 8- or 9-ounce package (use Barilla!)
16 oz. whole milk mozzarella, shredded (about 4 cups - I've used a little less, but just go for it! )

Mix ricotta, 1 cup Parmesan, basil, egg, salt, and pepper in medium bowl with fork until well-combined and creamy; set aside.

Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 375 degrees.  Heat oil in large, heavy-bottomed Dutch oven over medium heat until shimmering but not smoking, about 2 minutes; add onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened but not browned, about 2 minutes. Add garlic and cook until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Increase heat to medium-high and add ground meats, salt, and pepper; cook, breaking meat into small pieces with wooden spoon, until meat loses its raw color but has not browned, about 4 minutes.

Add cream and simmer,stirring occasionally, until liquid evaporates and only fat remains, about 4 minutes. Add pureed and drained diced tomatoes and bring to simmer; reduce heat to low and simmer slowly until flavors are blended, about 3 minutes; set sauce aside. (Sauce can be cooled, covered, and refrigerated for up to 2 days; reheat before assembling lasagna.)

Spread 1/4 cup meat sauce on the bottom of 9- by13-inch baking dish.  Place 3 noodles on top of sauce.  Drop 3 tablespoons ricotta mixture down center of each noodle. Level by pressing flat with back of measuring spoon.  Sprinkle evenly with 1 cup shredded mozzarella.  Spoon 1 1/2 cups meat sauce evenly over cheese. 

Repeat layering of noodles, ricotta, mozzarella, and sauce two more times. Place 3 remaining noodles on top of sauce, spread remaining sauce over noodles, sprinkle with remaining cup mozzarella, then with remaining 1/4 cup Parmesan. Lightly spray a large sheet of foil with nonstick cooking spray and cover lasagna. Bake 15 minutes, then remove foil. Return lasagna to oven and continue to bake until cheese is spotty brown and sauce is bubbling, about 25 minutes longer. Cool lasagna about 10 minutes; cut into pieces and serve.

To freeze: The assembled, unbaked lasagna, if wrapped tightly in plastic wrap and then in foil, will keep in the freezer for up to 2 months. To bake, defrost it in the refrigerator for a day or two and bake as directed, extending the baking time by about 5 minutes.

Note:  If you can’t find meatloaf mixture for the sauce, or if you choose not to eat veal, substitute 1/2 pound ground beef and 1/2 pound sweet Italian sausage, casings removed, for the meatloaf mixture.

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