I’ve never heard that lasagnas are like snowflakes, but if I did, I wouldn’t be the least taken back by such a comparison. I’ve eaten my share of lasagna. And in my experience, no two have ever really been alike. There are so many factors that influence the creation of a lasagna – region, culture, family style, personal taste, sauce choice, etc., etc. Some with meat, others without, and on occasion, the veggie. Shredded or fresh mozzarella, ricotta or none, the introduction of other cheeses – all of these variations make lasagna one of those amazing nostalgic Italian comfort foods that takes you somewhere in time – your Nonna’s kitchen, that out of the way Italian place only you and your honey know about, that unforgettable trattoria you stumbled upon walking through the streets of Florence…
I share with you my recipe for lasagna – it may seem foreign to what you have always been used to, but I assure you, this version will surprise you and have your guests singing, “that’s amore.” As far as lasagnas go, it is the most authentic style to Italy’s preparation. Italians (at least the majority of the boot) do not use ricotta. Ricotta is used by some regions, like Sicily, and was introduced to the United States by the influx of immigrants in the early 1900’s. I like sticking to this recipe…each bite is an instant trip back to my home away from home.There are four key components to this lasagna – flat lasagna sheets, béchamel, Bolognese, and cheese (not ricotta).
The first thing you want to do is prepare a hearty meat sauce. A traditional Bolognese works great, but for simplicity’s sake, here’s a quick recipe: Click here for my quick Bolognese Recipe.
The second prep is your béchamel. It requires your full attention, so work on it while your sauce simmers. Click here for my Béchamel Recipe.
The third step is deciding whether to use fresh mozzarella, shredded, or a combination of both. I like both, along with generous sprinklings of parmesan. For one lasagna, you’ll need about 3-4 cups shredded mozzarella, about 6 oz. thinly sliced fresh mozzarella (optional), and about 1/4 cup grated parmesan.
To assemble your lasagna (once your components are ready to go):
Preheat your oven to 350 F.
Spoon several hearty scoops of sauce on the bottom of a 9″x13″ (or similar) glass baking dish. Place one layer of non-cooked flat lasagna sheets (I suggest and prefer Barilla).Cover this layer with more sauce, several scoops, and spread evenly to coat the pasta sheets.Sprinkle a few handfuls of shredded mozzarella, and you can also add thin slices of fresh mozzarella for this ‘cheese’ layer.Spoon three long, hearty rows of béchamel sauce (and as an option, you can sprinkle grated parmesan over this layer).Now repeat this same order of layers until you run out of ingredients or your layers have reached near the top of the baking dish. Your last layer should be either a sprinkling of mozzarella over sauce or with the addition of several rows of béchamel. Depending on ingredients left.Bake at 350 F for about 35 to 40 minutes or until the cheese is bubbly and slightly browned. Allow to cool for about 10 minutes and serve it up! Buon Apetito!