Lasagna is the bomb. On the one hand, is a crowd pleaser easy to do. On the other hand, lends itself to endless riffs ingredient (see all our lasagna recipes here), a field of dumping tasty leftover meat and vegetables. But too often, a piece of homemade lasagna has landed on the plate with a sad plop — formless chaos of sauce, cheese and noodles. We will smile and slurp soup casserole every day (messy lasagna lasagna is better than not), but there are better ways to do it. As consulted test kitchen for tips for a sector that stands as a tower of perfection of propagation.
1. “Always use the no-boil noodles. They won’t get soggy and will absorb extra liquid. Don’t add too much sauce or cheese, and be sure to bake the lasagna uncovered at least at the end until the topping is nice and browned on top.” –Janet McCracken, Deputy Food Editor
2. “Make the lasagna early in the day or a day ahead, cooling it completely, then reheating it gently. This is great if you want to cook it off, cool, slice, and freeze portions, too. Also, be gentle! Lasagna is like a custard: If you jostle it too much, the cheese will break and get runny.” –Mary-Frances Heck, Associate Food Editor
3. “Last but not least, be patient! You’ve spent all this time building your lasagna. Now that it’s gorgeous and browned and bubbly, let it rest for at least 20 minutes like you would a gargantuan standing rib roast. This will ensure more even squares when you cut it, and the cheese and sauce won’t run all over the plate.”
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 cups chopped onions
1/2 cup diced carrot
1 tablespoon fennel seeds, crushed in spice mill or in mortar with pestle
1 pound spicy Italian turkey sausages, casings removed 3 large garlic cloves, pressed
1/2 cup dry white wine
5 cups crushed tomatoes with added puree (from two 28-ounce cans)
1 cup chopped fresh basil, divided
2 tablespoons chopped fresh oregano
1 15-ounce container whole-milk ricotta cheese
3 cups (packed) coarsely grated whole-milk mozzarella cheese (12 ounces)
1 1/4 cups freshly grated Parmesan cheese, divided
16 6 1/2×3 1/4-inch no-boil lasagna noodles
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Heat oil in large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add onions, carrot, and fennel seeds; sauté 5 minutes. Add sausage and garlic; sauté until sausage is cooked through, breaking into pieces, 8 to 10 minutes. Add wine; boil 1 minute. Add tomatoes, 1/2 cup basil, and oregano. Bring to boil. Reduce heat; simmer until sauce thickens, about 10 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.
Combine ricotta, mozzarella, 1 cup Parmesan, and 1/2 cup basil in medium bowl; stir to blend. Season with pepper. DO AHEAD Sauce and cheese mixture can be made 1 day ahead. Cover separately; chill. Place noodles in large bowl; cover with hot water. Soak until pliable, separating occasionally, about 30 minutes. Drain well.
Preheat oven to 375°F. Spread 1 cup sauce over bottom of 13x9x2-inch glass baking dish. Cover with 4 noodles, arranging crosswise. Drop 1/4 of cheese mixture over by tablespoonfuls; spread out. Top with 1 cup sauce, then 4 noodles and 1/3 of remaining cheese mixture. Repeat 2 more times with 1 cup sauce, 4 noodles, and 1/2 of cheese mixture. Spread any remaining sauce over. Sprinkle with 1/4 cup Parmesan. Bake lasagna uncovered until heated through and puffed, about 50 minutes. Let stand 10 to 15 minutes and serve.