I have a deep and unwavering love for pasta – and making pastas with fun and different combinations of ingredients, like cauliflower and bacon, or italian sausage and whole grain mustard. But, sometimes you just want a classic pasta dish – some good old red sauce filled with ground beef, and lots of mozzarella! For those days, this is a quick and easy, basic lasagna; I’d say it only required about 20 minutes of active prep time, it baked up fairly quickly (about 30 minutes), and it was incredibly tasty.
Classic Lasagna with Meat Sauce
serves about 6, generously
For the sauce:
1 T olive oil
one medium yellow onion, diced
5 cloves garlic, minced
1lb ground beef (85/15 or 90/10)
2 T tomato paste
28oz can whole, peeled tomatoes
14oz can diced tomatoes
2 t dried oregano
2 T sugar
salt and pepper
For the lasagna:
one batch of meat sauce
1/2lb no-boil lasagna noodles
15oz whole milk ricotta cheese
3/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
12oz sliced mozzarella
1.) Start by making your meat sauce. Heat the olive oil in a heavy-bottomed pot over medium heat, and then add the onion. Cook until nearly translucent, 3-4 minutes. Add the garlic, and a pinch each of salt and pepper, and stir to combine.
2.) Push the garlic and onion off to the sides of the pot, and add your ground beef. Season with another pinch of salt and pepper, and cook until the beef is browned and cooked through; drain any excess fat and liquid from the pot.
3.) Add the tomato paste to the beef mixture, and stir until it’s evenly distributed. Open your can of whole, peeled tomatoes, and use a pair of kitchen scissors to chop them up a bit – no need to be exact about it, I just kind of stick the scissors into the can and chop away. Pour the chopped whole tomatoes, and the diced tomatoes (with their juices) into the pot, and stir.
4.) Add the oregano and sugar to the sauce, along with another healthy pinch of salt and pepper. Stir to combine well; let the sauce simmer for about 20-30 minutes, until it’s slightly reduced and thickened, stirring occasionally.
5.) Preheat your oven to 375°. While the sauce reduces, make your ricotta filling. In a small bowl, combine the ricotta, parmesan cheese, egg, and about 1/4 teaspoon of pepper. Mix until the consistency is smooth.
6.) When the sauce is ready, it’s time to assemble your lasagna! I used a 9×9 baking dish, but any equivalent size will do. Begin with a layer of sauce on the bottom of the pan. Top the sauce with a layer of lasagna noodles (breaking some up to fill the dish from side to side, if necessary), then a layer of the ricotta mixture, then a layer of sliced mozzarella. Repeat the layering 2 more times, ending with the mozzarella.
7.) Lightly spray the top of the lasagna with some olive oil, and place it on to a larger, rimmed baking sheet. Bake for about 30 minutes, until the top is golden brown and bubbly. Once you remove the lasagna from the oven, allow it to sit for about 10 minutes before serving, so the layers have a chance to set, and you don’t end up with a runny mess.
This lasagna was delicious! And, because the active prep time is minimal – it was great for a weeknight. I threw the sauce together, got some stuff done around the house while it simmered, then assembled the lasagna, and caught up on some laundry while it baked! I served it with a garlicky kale salad and some fantastic, crusty dinner rolls (recipe coming soon), and it was perfect. Of course, the lasagna made for several days of great work lunches, as well, much to my husband’s delight.
You could also make this lasagna ahead if you wanted to. Assemble the day before you want to cook it, wrap it and stick it in the fridge. When you’re ready to bake it, allow the lasagna to sit at room temp while the oven heats, and then bake it as usual. Alternatively, you could bake the lasagna, allow it to cool completely, then wrap it tightly and freeze it. When you’re ready to serve it, it can go straight from the freezer to the oven; it will require an extra 15 minutes or so of baking time.
Why don’t I make lasagna more often?