Sometimes for dinner you just want a simple and comforting meal. When my husband came home from work and saw me building the lasagna layers, he was so happy! Jason grew up with an amazing mom who loved to cook from scratch and she created the most delicious and elaborate Italian suppers. So for Jason this lasagna with meat sauce recipe is one of those familiar meals that I like to surprise him with every now and then.
I have a quick and flavorful tomato sauce recipe that I use for most of my Italian dishes, especially my spaghetti and meatballs recipe. For the tomato sauce I use ripe crushed tomatoes imported from Italy, minced onion and fresh garlic. I have found that the Cento crushed tomatoes are much sweeter and more ripe than other canned tomato brands, and provide the authentic flavor I am looking for.
The best part is that it only takes 30 minutes to make the sauce and you can add other meat, sausages and vegetables to the tomato sauce to infuse a little extra flavor. I added ground beef to the fresh tomato sauce, which added a nice rich flavor to the lasagna. If you don’t have time to make sauce from scratch, no worries, a couple of jars of your favorite ready-made tomato sauce is always a quick option!
This lasagna with meat sauce has 3 layers. I build each layer by laying out 4 overlapping pieces of noodle, then evenly spreading the ricotta cheese, meat sauce and mozzarella cheese. I repeat this with 2 more layers, finish off with sauce and cheese, then bake at 375°F for 30 minutes. The result should be a tender, cheesy and flavorful lasagna casserole.
Jason enjoys a side of tomato sauce to top the lasagna or dip bread, so I always save him some extra sauce. It’s just the two of us (for now), so with 12 generous servings of lasagna with meat sauce per recipe we had a lot of left overs to eat! I cut them into individual pieces and wrapped them up and placed them in the freezer. We can have a quick and hearty meal anytime of the week!
TIP #1: Have you ever wondered why it sometimes takes all day for you to enjoy your grandma’s famous spaghetti and meat sauce dish? It’s because the meat is simmered all day in the sauce, which provides two advantages. If you have time (around 3-4 hours), the slow low heat simmering allows the flavors in the sauce to be concentrated as the sauce reduces. The natural acids in the tomatoes (malic and citric acid) helps to gently tenderize the meat over time, while the meat infuses flavor into the sauce. Yum!
TIP #2: Tomato sauces made with either fresh or canned vine ripened tomatoes give the best sweet, smooth and concentrated flavors. This is because the longer a tomato stays on the vine when ripening, the less citric acid it contains. So it’s best to pick the ripest tomatoes for the base of your sauce.
- 1 box lasagna noodles
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- ½ cup diced yellow onion
- 1 pound ground beef
- 7 cups tomato sauce (recipe to follow)
- 32 ounces of ricotta cheese
- 1 pound grated mozzarella cheese
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 4 tablespoons olive oil
- ½ cup yellow onions, minced
- 4 garlic gloves, minced
- 7 cups (56 ounces) crushed tomatoes (I recommend Cento Brand, imported from Italy)
- 6 ounces tomato paste (use less if a thinner consistency is desired)
- 2 teaspoons kosher salt, add more to taste
- Heat olive oil over medium low heat and sauté onion and garlic until onions are translucent, 3 minutes.
- Add tomato paste and stir well. Add tomatoes and simmer 30 minutes.
- In a medium sized sauté pan, heat the oil over medium heat. When oil is hot, carefully added the dices onions and sauté until translucent, about 3 minutes. Add the ground beef to the pan, cook until no traces of pink are seen. Pour off any excess fat drippings from the pan. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
- Add the cooked beef to the tomato sauce. Season tomato sauce with salt and pepper to taste. Set aside until ready to build the lasagna.
- Preheat oven to 375°F.
- Cook pasta according to package directions. Drain and set aside until ready to use.
- Reserve about 1 cup of meat sauce and 1 cup of grated mozzarella cheese.
- In a 13 inch by 9 inch baking dish add just enough sauce to lightly cover the bottom of the dish to prevent sticking.
- Layer 4 sheets of lasagna, top with ⅓ of ricotta cheese, ⅓ meat sauce and ⅓ of the mozzarella cheese. Repeat for 2 more layers.
- On the top layer pour the reserved meat sauce and cover evenly with the reserved mozzarella cheese. Line a sheet tray with foil and place the lasagna tray on top. Bake for 30 minutes, or until the cheese is hot and starting to slightly brown on top.
- Before slicing, allow the lasagna to rest for 5 minutes. Enjoy!