This lasagna is a must-try and a favorite in my home. It’s fridge and freezer friendly, and you can make a large batch to please a crowd.
What Makes a Lasagna a Great Lasagna
Every family probably has a lasagna recipe or two. Meat lasagna, vegetarian lasagna…the list is endless. I also believe every home cook has a trick or two or a very specific method to prepare lasagna. I will share my method and tell you exactly why I ensure this dish tastes amazing every time.
To Boil or Not to Boil the Lasagna Noodles.
My money is on “boil.” Even brands that say don’t boil achieve better and tastier results by boiling the sheets. Your dish will not be ruined if you want to save yourself some effort and do not boil the noodles. My mom would spend a lot of time boiling them simply because she soaked them in hot water one at a time. The trick I will share with you is adding salt and olive oil to your boiling water. You can add all sheets you need simultaneously, and they won’t stick. If you still don’t want to bother with boiling, I would advise you to add extra liquid to your meat sauce and ensure most of the liquid goes to the bottom. That will allow the bottom layer of your lasagna to soak more of the liquid and be softer when you serve.
How Long to Cook the Lasagna?
Lasagna is one of these dishes; the longer you cook some elements, the better it tastes. Whenever I have time and inspiration, I can leave my meat sauce to simmer for a few hours before I start preparing everything else. That allows the meat to soak well in the sauce and get that delicious flavor. I also cook my lasagna a bit longer in the oven but at a lower temperature. Again this step is completely optional. I believe it gives better flavor. However, as a working professional and soon-to-be-mom, I cannot dedicate a weekend to cooking a single dish, so even I skip this step at times and proceed with the ‘until everything is cooked’ philosophy.
What’s With the Carrot
I told someone I add a bit of carrot to most of my tomato-based sauce, and they gave me a look. It’s simple, carrots are sweet and help kill some of the acidity from the tomatoes. Once cooked, you cannot taste it, so if someone has strong opinions on having carrots in the sauce, they won’t even know. This also prevents me from adding sugar, which is a popular approach. Carrots have some great nutrients that will make your dish richer in vitamins.
Bechamel as well?
Yes! Absolutely yes. Mastering bechamel could be tricky. It needs good hand-eye coordination and a bit of patience. When I started cooking, I lacked patience; my sauce would also be grainy and not very appealing. Low heat, slowly adding the ingredients, and vigorous mixing are the keys to avoiding a sauce that tastes more like flour than anything else.
The Best Beef and Ricotta Lasagna
- 2 pots
- 1 Ovenproof dish
- lasagna noodles
- 1 cup Grated mozzarella cheese
For the filling
- 1 lba ground beeg
- 2 cans crushed tomatoes
- 1 carrot
- 4-5 basil leaves more if you want to use for decoration
- 3 cloves garlic
- 1/2 tsp olive oil
- Salt and Pepper to taste
For the Beshamel
- 4 tbsp butter
- 2 tbsp flour
- 2 cups milk
For the riccota filling
- 4 oz ricotta cheese
- 2 tbsp milk
Prepare the filling
- Heat the olive oil in a pan and add the crushed garlic. Let it cook for a moment and add the meat
- When meat starts getting brown, grind the carrot and and add it the pan, mix well
- Chop the basil and add it to the pan, season with salt and pepper to taste
- Add the tomato cans and let the mix come to bubbling but not boiling. Once you see the first bubbles, reduce the heat and let it simmer while you get everything else ready.
Cooking the lasagna noodles
- Boil water in a pot and add splash of olive oil
- Add the noodles to the pot and reduce the stove heat, Let them cook until al dente
Prepare the bechamel
- Melt butter in a sauce pan and immediately reduce the heat to low
- Slowly start adding the flour to the butter while mixing them together in the pan. Do not add everything at once but use a tea spoon to add a bit at a time, only add more once the butter and the flour had combined.
- Once you have added the flour to the butter repeat the same with the milk. Slowly add small quantities while mixing it into the butter. If the mix becomes grainy, stop adding milk and mix until it's consistant and then continue adding more milk
- The end result should be creamy and consistent sauce, remove from the stove otherwise it will burn
Prepare the ricotta filling
- In a bow mix the ricotta cheese and a bit of milk
Build and Cook and the lasgna
- Preheat over to 350 °F
- Add about 1/4 of the bechamel at the bottom of your baking dish
- Top with your first layer of noodles
- Add generous amount of the beef filling, mozzarella cheese and then add the ricotta
- Continue alternating noodle, beef filling and ricotta until you run out of space or out of ingredients. It usually takes me 3 layers of noodles before that happens to me, but it will vary for you depending on the size of your dish.
- Once you add the top noodle, pour the remaining bechamel on top
- Cover the lasagna with a lid or foil if your dish does not have a lid
- Cook for 50 minutes
- Pull the lasagna and sprinkle the remaining mozzarella cheese
- Cook the lasagna without cover until the cheese has melted and starts to brown