There is a tradition amongst Navy wives that the easiest way for us to support each other during our times of need is to make food. Whether it be a birth or death, a new family in town, or any circumstance that makes getting dinner on the table unusually difficult, we make and bring food to one another. When Sidney was born the food came in waves and fed us, in many cases breakfast, lunch, and dinner, for weeks. Having been on both the giving and receiving end of food hospitality, I realize that the easier the dish is for the recipient to put on the table, the more it will be enjoyed. After all, when you have your hands full the last thing you want is to have to cook.
This lasagna is my go-to meal when it is my turn to provide another family dinner. This version uses ground Italian sausage but you can easily substitute ground beef, pork, or turkey or make it vegetarian by omitting the meat all together. You can make the lasagna ahead of time and store it in the freezer, uncooked and tightly wrapped for up to two weeks. When I make this for my own family I often prepare it in two smaller pans then freeze one for a later meal. It is also very easy to increase the amount you make; I once quadrupled the dish for a friend who was bringing home her sixth child and had a large household to feed.
If you’re making this to give away, construct the lasagna in a disposable tin tray so your recipient won’t have to worry about returning your dish. I add a fresh loaf of Italian bread, a bagged salad and bottle of dressing , and bottle of wine and deliver a complete meal where the only preparation effort is putting the dish in the oven. It really doesn’t get any easier than this!
For the sauce:
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 small onion, minced
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 pound spicy Italian sausage, removed from the casings and crumbled
4 cups good quality marinara sauce
1/4 cup fresh basil, chopped
Salt & pepper to taste
- Heat the olive oil in a large heavy skillet set over medium-high heat. Add the onion and garlic and saute until soft, 4-5 minutes.
- Add the sausage and stirring occasionally, cook until the meat is no longer pink, 5-6 minutes.
- Stir in the marinara sauce and basil. Season with salt and pepper.
- Off the heat and set aside.
For the cheese filling:
2 cups low-fat ricotta cheese
2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1/2 cup broad leaf parsley, minced
Pinch fresh grated nutmeg
Salt and pepper
- Place the ricotta cheese in a medium bowl and stir to soften. Add the mozzarella cheese and stir until well combined.
- Add in the eggs and stir until blended.
- Fold in the parsley and nutmeg then season with salt and pepper. Set aside.
To assemble the lasagna:
1/2 box no-boil lasagna noodles
2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
- Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
- Coat an 8 inch by 8 inch square baking pan with cooking spray.
- Using a large ladle, place two scoops of the tomato and meat mixture on the bottom of the pan. Use a rubber spatula to evenly distribute it across the entire surface.
- Place three lasagna noodles on top of the sauce slightly overlapping their edges.
- Add another scoop of sauce and evenly distribute it over the top of the noodles.
- Top the sauce with 1/3 of the cheese mixture.
- Repeat the noodle, sauce, and cheese layer until you have either used all of the cheese mixture or have filled the pan, ending with a sauce layer.
- Top the sauce with the 2 cups of mozzarella cheese and the Parmesan cheese.
- Cover the lasagna with tin foil and bake for 25 minutes (45 if the lasagna has been sitting in the refrigerator prior to baking). Remove the foil from the pan and bake for an additional 5-10 minutes or until the cheese is brown and has melted. Let cool for 10 minutes before serving.