You guys, today I’m going to share the secret to making a good, old-fashioned, family-favorite lasagna with you. Now, maybe you’re smarter than me, and have been doing it “right” all along. If so, then this post isn’t for you. 😜
But if you are like me, and you’ve struggled to make a lasagna that’s not a watery, falling apart mess the minute you serve it, then LISTEN UP! It took me years to get this right, and now that I have, I feel so relieved. I mean, a well-known adage among chefs is that “we eat with our eyes first”, right? So if your food looks unappealing, ain’t nobody gonna want to eat it. Getting the layers to stay together and the lasagna noodles not to release too much water into the casserole is the goal if you want your lasagna to look as good as it tastes.
Now, with that being said, there’s a tiny bit of irony here too, because I’m about to hit you with some “real life”. I almost didn’t post this recipe because I was trying to do 25 things at once and it got left in the oven a little too long. 😞
But then I thought, no, go ahead and put that picture up. It’s real life. And despite the fact that it got a bit (a lot) too brown on top, it still tasted wonderful and my family gobbled it right up. And even though the top and edges are darker than I would have liked, the layers stayed together perfectly and it wasn’t watery at all. So that’s still a win. Plus, remember how I told you I’m working on combating some of my perfectionist tendencies? This isn’t perfect, but it was still good, and for now, that’s good enough.
Without further ado, let me tell you what I finally learned a few years ago, after much trial and error. There are a THREE things that make a big difference in how your lasagna turns out:
- Use no-boil lasagna noodles. Barilla is the brand I always use. There may be others that I’m not aware of, but this one is sold in practically every grocery store, and it works like a dream. First, it’s a time and mess saver, because you don’t have to boil the noodles before assembling the lasagna. BUT, the important part is that because you layer the no-boil noodles into your lasagna dry, right out of the box, they don’t add extra moisture to your casserole. In fact, they absorb extra water, helping to ensure that your dish doesn’t turn out too runny. Trust me, just buy them.
2. Use sliced cheese in addition to shredded. Basically, just use a lot of cheese. The cheese is like the “glue” that helps hold the layers together, and the sliced cheese in particular really works like magic to hold some of those middle layers together. Use shredded cheese to mix with your ricotta, but use sliced mozzarella or provolone in the middle layers to ensure two layers of solid cheese that will get all melty and hold that sucker together when you slice it. Then, you can sprinkle shredded on top, because it looks nice for a little bit of the sauce to bubble up through it. Plus, you can’t have too much cheese, obviously.
3. Let your lasagna rest for about 15 minutes once it comes out of the oven, before you cut it. This lets all those bubbly juices and hot, melty cheeses settle back down and thicken up. If you cut it right out of the oven, the layers will slide apart, and you don’t want that!
The right kind of noodles and cheese, plus resting time after baking are the three biggest secrets, but I do have a couple of other little tips.
First, when you make your ricotta mixture, add some seasonings. If you have fresh basil on hand (maybe from your own herb garden?), then definitely chiffonade some that and mix it into the ricotta cheese. Maybe some fresh garlic, too. But, if you need to go the quick and easy route, some dried Italian seasoning blend from your spice cupboard works well, too.
Have you tried the Daks line of seasonings? I’m hooked on them! They are salt-free and so flavorful. I have several of their various blends and love them all! I used about a tablespoon of the Italian Blast in my ricotta layer this time and it was perfect.
One more tip–use a deep-dish pan. You will end up with 5 delicious layers in this lasagna, and you don’t want it to bubble over the edges when baking. Plus, you want plenty of room to build it higher and thicker, rather than longer and wider, if that makes sense.
Serve your thick, non-watery lasagna with garlic bread and a side salad and you have the best easy lasagna that your whole family will love. Add a glass of red wine for the adults, and everyone is even happier. 😉
The Best Easy Lasagna
- 1 box Barilla Oven-Ready Lasagna Noodles
- 2 jars Marinara sauce choose your favorite
- 1/2 lb ground beef
- 1/2 lb Italian Sausage
- 1 15 oz container of ricotta cheese
- 1 cup parmesan cheese grated
- 1 8 oz package sliced provolone cheese (12 slices)
- 1 8 oz package shredded mozzarella cheese (2 cups)
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 1 tbsp Italian seasoning I like Daks brand
- Pre-heat oven to 375°F. In a large skillet, heat olive oil and brown meat until cooked through; season with salt and pepper. Set aside.
- In a bowl, combine ricotta, 1 cup mozzarella, 1/2 cup parmesan cheese and the Italian seasoning. Stir well.
- Spray a 13 x 9 inch baking dish with non-stick cooking spray. Pour one cup of sauce on the bottom of the dish; spread evenly. Place 3 sheets of Barilla's no boil lasagna noodles side by side (sheets will expand while baking to the ends of the dish).
- Pour 1 cup of sauce and 3/4 cup of cheese mixture on the first layer. Top with 6 provolone cheese slices and 1/3 cup of the cooked meat. Repeat for 3 more layers. On the 3rd layer, you will have run out of provolone slices. Use another 1/2 cup of mozzarella here.
- For the final layer, top with 3 lasagne sheets, add remaining sauce and top with cheese mixture and remaining 1/2 cup of mozzarella.
- Cover with foil and bake for 25 minutes. Remove foil and bake additional 5 minutes to brown the cheese. Let rest 15 minutes before serving.