When I was putting the finishing touches on this book, I realized that I had never written it down. I have made many versions of lasagna, and can almost make it in my sleep. The two keys are (a) using the Barilla Lasagna sheets (rolled flat like homemade) that don’t required pre-boiling (or another brand of no-boil lasagna noodle), and (b) making plenty of sauce, because the lasagna sheets need to soak up the hot sauce in order to cook properly.
This lasagna is wonderful re-heated. In fact, it even gets better after a day or two.
I usually end up with leftover ricotta mixture, which I bake to accompany another meal. Put the leftover ricotta mixture in lightly greased individual ramekins, sprinkle it with parmesan and panko (or bread crumbs) and pop it in the oven after the lasagna has been cooking for about thirty minutes. It makes a wonderful breakfast or light lunch.
Please note that I’ve created a more healthy option in this recipe, using reduced fat ricotta and mozzarella. If you don’t care about fat or calories, consider using full fat ricotta and mozzarella. The creamy texture is worth the difference in taste. Please don’t ever use pre-grated mozzarella. You actually pay more and get a poorer quality cheese that is coated with chemicals to keep it from sticking.
 Panko is Japanese-style bread crumbs. The crumbs are more coarsely textured and crispier than traditional bread crumbs. My preferred brand is Ian’s. I like them because the crumbs are made with unbleached whole wheat flour and do not contain sugar, which is an unnecessary ingredient that a lot of brands contain.
- 1–2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 1 large onion, chopped
- 4 garlic cloves, pressed
- 28-ounce can crushed tomatoes
- 28-ounce can organic diced tomatoes with basil
- 2 bay leaves
- ¼ cup fresh basil
- ¼ cup chopped fresh parsley
- ¼ cup dry white wine, optional
- Freshly ground black pepper
- ¼ teaspoon sea salt
- 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
- 12-ounce package Lightlife Smart Ground Original
- 1 package Field Roast Italian Sausage, quartered lengthwise and chopped into small pieces
- 4 ounces fresh spinach
- 3 eggs
- 20-ounce container of ricotta cheese (reduced fat)
- 1 cup parmesan cheese, grated
- 2 cups reduced fat mozzarella, grated
- Freshly grated nutmeg
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 12–15 sheets of no-boil lasagna (depending on whether you end up doing 3 or 4 layers)
- 2–3 cups reduced fat mozzarella, grated
- Heat the olive oil and sauté the chopped onion over moderately low heat until softened and translucent, about 6–7 minutes. Add the garlic and sauté for a minute, then add the tomatoes and herbs. Simmer for about 30 minutes, adding a little white wine or tomato juice if it looks too thick.
- While the sauce is cooking, make the meat layer. Heat the tablespoon of olive oil in a separate skillet and sauté the Smart Ground for 3 minutes. Add the Italian sausage pieces, and sauté for another 2 minutes.
- While the sauce is cooking, steam the spinach for 3–4 minutes. Squeeze out all the green juice (saving it, of course, for stock), chop it, and set aside on a triple layer of paper towels to cool.
- Get a large mixing bowl, break in the eggs and beat them with a whisk. Add the ricotta, parmesan, mozzarella, chopped spinach, nutmeg, salt and pepper, and mix well.
- Preheat the oven to 375°F. Now, you get to be an architect! Lightly coat a large, deep 9 x 13-inch baking dish with olive oil or non-stick cooking spray. Ladle in about a cup of the hot sauce.
- Add a layer of lasagna noodles. Cover with about ⅓ of the ricotta mixture (or ½ of it if you are only making three layers instead of four), and then sprinkle with either ⅓ or ½ of the Smart Ground and Italian sausage. Sprinkle some of the mozzarella over the Smart Ground and Italian sausage, and then ladle sauce over the top.
- Repeat step 6 at least once more (or twice if you have enough sauce remaining).
- For your last layer, end with the lasagna noodles and cover with all the remaining sauce. Cover tightly with foil and bake for 45 minutes.
- When the timer goes off, remove the foil, add the remaining mozzarella, and put the dish back in the oven for another 15–20 minutes.
- Take the lasagna out of the oven and let it rest for at least ten to fifteen minutes before you try to cut it into portions. Make a salad and have a lovely glass of Cabernet or Chianti Classico while you smell the aroma and anticipate how delightful it will taste.