My Italian friend, Maria, taught me how to make real Italian lasagna, which she learned by watching her real Italian mother. I combined her techniques with another traditional recipe from Easy Basics for Good Cooking. The result was this meaty, down-home Italian lasagna. Maria recommended making extra sauce to serve as “gravy” over the top of each serving, so I often double this recipe to have extra sauce on the side.
Be sure to use a non-aluminum baking pan. Aluminum may react with the acid in the tomatoes to create a black, mushy, metallic-tasting mess — trust me, it isn’t good! This may also happen if the foil cover touches the tomato sauce for extended periods. Instead, use a glass, stoneware, or stainless-steel pan, and cover with foil right before baking. If refrigerating or freezing prior to baking (or after), cover the dish with plastic wrap and replace with the foil just prior to baking.
This is best started hours ahead to let the sauce simmer…. so let’s get started!
Italian Sausage Lasagna
2 medium onions, chopped (or 1 large)
olive oil (enough to cook onions, meat and garlic)
1 to 2 lbs. mild Italian sausage (or lean ground beef, or a combination of both)
2 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
2 (6 oz.) cans Italian tomato paste
2 (16 oz.) cans Italian tomatoes
1 C dry red wine
1 C water
2 tsp. salt
2 tsp. oregano leaves
1 Tbsp. basil
1 tsp. pepper
1 tsp. sugar
8 oz. lasagna noodles
2 C (1 lb.) ricotta cheese
2 eggs, beaten
2 Tbsp. fresh parsley
16 oz. mozzarella cheese, grated or sliced thin
1/2 C grated Parmesan cheese (the real deal — not the stuff in the green can!)
Cook onion in oil until soft; add sausage/beef and garlic and cook, stirring, until sausage/beef is brown and crumbly. Discard excess fat.
Stir in tomato paste, tomatoes, wine, water, salt, oregano, basil, pepper and sugar. Simmer uncovered for about 1-1/2 hours.
Cook lasagna noodles. Drain, rinse with cold water and drain again. (An easy alternative: Soak the noodles in a large bowl of very hot (hottest) tap water for 20 minutes. Drain and keep in cool water, or layer between sheets of wax paper to prevent sticking.)
Mix beaten eggs with ricotta; add 2 Tbsp. chopped fresh parsley.
Butter a 9×13-inch baking dish (see note). Spread a thin layer of sauce over the bottom. Arrange 1/3 of the noodles in an even layer over the sauce. Spread 1/3 sauce over the noodles, dot with 1/3 of the ricotta mixture then 1/3 of the mozzarella.
Repeat layering 2 more times. Sprinkle Parmesan cheese over top.
Bake covered at 350F for 30 minutes; remove cover and bake uncovered for 15 minutes or until hot and bubbly.