How to make authentic lasagne

July 28, 2012

If you’re of Sicilian descent, as we are, you never, EVER get sick of pasta and red sauce, in all of its many incarnations.

Since M. loves lasagne, we decided to celebrate our anniversary this month by cooking together. He’s a fantastic sous chef and cleaner-upper, so it’s a great partnership. Plus we really enjoy it. Here’s the thing: we’ve both dined out as much as we ever want to and now really do enjoy preparing food together at home. We still go out once or twice a week, but we’ve lost the taste for getting all dressed up and spending a fortune for someone else to cook a dinner that we can prepare better. And less expensively.

That’s not to say that we won’t ever go to Gary Danko or Kokkari or other restaurants we enjoy. Just not regularly.

So today, I’ll show you the lasagne we made and the preparation.  Let me say first that any lasagne dish with ingredients you like is “authentic.”  Mine is not traditional, nor is it anything like my mother’s, or my grandmother’s, but I’ve been making it like this, more or less, for 40 years.

Here goes: Preheat your oven to 375 degrees and spray your baking dish, rectangular is traditional, with cooking spray.

Chopped yellow and red peppers, red onion

I always begin by picking the nicest yellow and orange peppers, organic if I can get them (I don’t like green, they’re tougher and harsher on the tongue). M. chops them up and I sautee them. Normally, I put them in my tomato sauce, also known as “gravy” to my NJ and CT friends. But in Rochester, we called it “sauce.” I also saute up a nice, big red onion. All together. Then remove them to a bowl to make room in the pan for the next ingredient.

1 lb lean ground beef, hormone-free

We no longer buy meat, fish or poultry anywhere but Whole Foods. Their stuff is hormone-free and to tell you the truth, we’re quite concerned about the food supply. Meat is not a staple of our diet, we only eat it a few times a week, but when we do we buy the good stuff. Just saying. It’s not that much more expensive.  You can see the quality of this lean ground beef. It went in the pan just after the peppers and onions.

You can make great lasagne without meat, or using pork or sausage. We use ground beef.

Cook beef thoroughly

And we always cook it through. It goes in the oven fully cooked.

Not all lasagne noodles are no boil. Some need to be cooked first. Check the package.

Well, here’s where I get all ironic. Or inconsistent. Or both. The only pasta maker I’ve ever had belonged to my last husband and went with him. I love the tenderness of home-made pasta and believe it or not, these No-Boil lasagne taste exactly like home-made. So far, I haven’t looked to see what kind of chemicals or other ingredients Barilla might put in these to make them cook in an oven instead of boiling. I just know it makes things a lot easier–handling cooked lasagne noodles can be tricky–and they taste great. Eventually, I’ll get a pasta maker and do it myself again; I hope it’s before the stuff in these noodles kills me. (Good news: I just read that there’s nothing extra in them, they’re just thinner and absorb the sauce.)

I use a glass baking dish now but used to use metal. No difference.

Now, a word about tomato sauce. Everyone has their special recipe and some people don’t like to share it. Like me. Use your own special recipe for tomato sauce, or, as I advised a young friend visiting this month, just doctor up a nice bottled sauce with some good ingredients like sauteed vegetables.  A layer of sauce on the bottom of the pan, then start with the dry noodles. Overlap them a bit, say the instructions. 

Lunardi’s is a local Italian market but I have also bought grated cheeses at Whole Foods.

If you’re lactose intolerant, maybe cheese isn’t for you, but it’s definitely for us. I buy great romano and parmesan at an Italian market, ricotta (not pictured) and shredded mozzarella.

This is packaged ricotta, my mother is rolling over in her grave.

Once the noodles are down, I spoon ricotta on them. And sprinkle some grated cheese and mozzarella over that. Yeah, heavy on the cheese, this version. But you don’t have to do the same.

It’s already looking luscious.

Sometimes I put the vegetable saute in the tomato sauce but this time I just sprinkled it and the beef on top of the cheese.

Red sauce, yummy!

Layer away, till you come to the end. Barilla says to cover the noodles completely with sauce. And then:

Getting ready to pop in the oven

Of course I have to sprinkle a little mozzarella on top. Cover with foil, and pop in the oven for about an hour at 375 degrees.


It was delicious.  How about you? Got a favorite way to make lasagne?

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