5 Easy Tips to Make the Best Lasagna
Lasagna may just be the perfect dish — the sort of rich comfort food perfect for a holiday dinner, a new baby meal train, a welcome-to-the-neighborhood gift, or just an indulgent Sunday supper. But where a casserole excels in its simplicity, this 9x13 pan is full of complications: noodles that are too crispy or too mushy, sauce that is too soupy or too sparse.
How to Make the Best Lasagna
1. Start With the Right Ingredients
- All-beef is not best. Many people use ground beef in their spaghetti sauce, but here in lasagna, pork (or sausage) is your friend; a beef-and-pork combo is particularly flavorful. This highly rated recipe for Homemade Lasagna recommends a 1:1 beef-to-pork ratio.)
- Use whole milk mozzarella and ricotta when possible. Fresh is best. Part-skim is fine but will be blander — and lasagna is not a dish that lends well to cutting calories.
- Consider upping your cheese game by layering in some béchamel; this French mother sauce makes a lasagna that's absolutely dreamy by adding a layer of richness to cut the tomato sauce's tang. Try Italian Sausage and Mushroom Lasagna With Bechamel Sauce
- Want to make a far-from-lazy lasagna? Build it with homemade tomato sauce! (Using store bought is just fine, too.)
2. Assemble With Care
- Invest in a proper lasagna pan, one that is at least 3 inches deep, so you won't have that top layer bubble over the side and into the bottom of your oven. This Cuisinart lasagna pan even comes with a roasting rack — dual purpose!
- Make sure you put a little sauce down in the pan first so that first layer of pasta does not stick to the pan.
- Start layering. Cover the bottom of the pan with a thick layer of sauce, then layer in noodles, followed by a third of your cheese mixture, then more sauce. Repeat until you've reached the top.
- Notes: The final layer of pasta needs to be completely covered in sauce to prevent the noodles from becoming brittle. Some shredded cheese should blanket the top.
Related: 12 Easy Side Dishes for Lasagna
3. Cook and Rest
- Cover with foil before baking (usually at 375 degrees F for an hour), then remove foil and bake for an additional 15 minutes so that the cheese on top becomes a delicious golden brown.
- After removing from the oven, let it sit for 10 minutes before cutting into it; this keeps your layers from immediately sliding apart.
4. Know Where to Draw the Line
- Please, don't bother with fresh pasta. It's a lot of additional work with no obvious payoff, since fresh pasta sheets baked into all these layers can sometimes turn out too mushy. No-bake noodles are great here (though make sure you use plenty of sauce, as they'll absorb some) and dried-then-boiled lasagna sheets are just fine as well.
- Note: Though we're all about sneaking veggies into your kids' dinner, be wary of how many veggies you add here. Watery vegetables like mushrooms, squash, and spinach may create a soupy lasagna that slides off the spatula the moment it leaves the pan. If you really want to up the veggies, sauté them first and drain off the excess liquid.
5. Start With a Great Recipe
- There's a reason that John Chandler's recipe for World's Best Lasagna has 18,000+ ratings and 13,000+ reviews: It's delicious. His recipe doesn't cut corners — hello, homemade tomato sauce — but it's also not overly fussy.
- Yes, there is a healthier version of World's Best Lasagna, made with turkey sausage and low-fat cheese.
Want to see classic lasagna-making in action? Watch this short video!
New Twists on Lasagna
Nonna's may still be best, but that traditional Italian lasagna has gotten a revamp — now, anything involving multiple layers of sauce and cheese can be considered a lasagna.
- Spinach Lasagna III is a top-rated vegetarian lasagna.
- Mexican Lasagna gets layered up with ground beef, taco, seasoning, salsa, cheese, and tortillas.
- White Cheese Chicken Lasagna ditches the red sauce and goes for a creamy white sauce instead, along with spinach and chicken.
- Summer Lasagna uses slices of zucchini instead of pasta for a low-carb, gluten-free version.
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