Recently, I had a rather hearty laugh reading about the very-Italian Matilda Cuomo (the mother of politician Andrew Cuomo) and her thoughts on Andrew’s longtime girlfriend’s rendition of lasagna. Sandra Lee, Food Network’s notoriously awful cook and host of Semi-Homemade, believes that lasagna is prepared with cottage cheese and canned tomato soup. Supposedly Mr. Cuomo’s favorite meal, his mother commented, “…that’s not the way lasagna should be made.” You need not be Italian, a famous chef, or even a consummate foodie to make that statement. Sandra’s version of the classic dish sounds plain awful. Unfortunately, she is not the only person to be under the evil assumption that lasagna is a layering of grisly ground beef, a jar of Ragu, and cottage cheese.
Lasagna done wrong is one of the world’s most terrible casseroles and lasagna done right (and there are many renditions) couldn’t be more delicious. Here is my recipe for lasagna and a classic, easy marinara sauce—both can be prepared a day in advance. Made with three fresh cheeses, olive oil, and wine-rich sauce, this dish is still easy without having to subject your family to bland, curded cheese swimming in a sea of Campbell’s.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Mix together eggs, ricotta, shredded mozzarella, parmesan, and parsley until blended.
Spread 1 ½ cups of sauce on bottom of 13 x 9 inch baking pan. Layer four uncooked lasagna sheets, 1/3 ricotta mixture, half of the sausage, ½ of the sliced mozzarella, and 1 – 1 ½ cups sauce.
Layer four more lasagna sheets, 1/3 ricotta mixture, and 1 – 1 ½ cups sauce.
Layer four more lasagna sheets, the remaining ricotta, the remaining sausage, and 1 – 1 ½ cups sauce.
Layer the last four lasagna sheets, 1-1 ½ cups sauce, and the remaining mozzarella slices.
Bake covered with foil for 60 minutes. Uncover and continue cooking until cheese is melted, about 5 additional minutes. Let stand 10 minutes before cutting. Spoon warm sauce over each piece, dust with chopped basil, and serve.
• Make sure sauce is thoroughly cooled, if not chilled, when assembling casserole.
• If you make the dish the night before, take out of fridge for 30 minutes prior to baking.
• When layering lasagna, spread ingredients to edges to seal in pasta during baking.
• Sausage may be replaced with 2 cups of fresh, uncooked, chopped spinach for a delicious, vegetarian alternative.