You can spend all day long cooking lasagna. Or, you can make it the easy way and yet produce the best lasagna you've ever eaten. By the way, in the north of Italy, the word used tends to be the (feminine) plural, lasagne, referring to, just as for other pasta dishes (like spaghetti) more than one (noodle, sheet, etc.). In the south, the singular, lasagna, can be heard.
I got this from the folks at Cook's Country/America's Test Kitchen and have written it down here how I did it. I think it's a keeper. If you make a few times, you can get it down so it takes you practically no time at all to prepare the major components, assemble, then bake. Moreover, I found this lasagne to be eminently microwavable and edible the next day. (That's saying something because I am well known for hating to eat left-overs.)
|1lb||curly-edged lasagna noodles|
|12 oz||mozzarella cheese, shredded (3 cups)|
|¼ cup||grated grated peccorino romano cheese|
|2 slices||hearty white sandwich bread, torn into small pieces|
|1½ lb||lean 90% ground beef|
|1 lb||Italian sausage (my addition)|
|1 tbsp||olive oil|
|1||onion, chopped fine|
|6 cloves||garlic, minced|
|1 tsp||dried oregano|
|pinch||red pepper flakes|
|1 can (28oz)||crushed tomatoes|
|8 ounces||(1 cup) cottage cheese|
|4 ounces||peccorino romano cheese, grated (2 cups)|
|1 cup||heavy cream|
|2 cloves||garlic, minced|
Determine your plan and timetable to make the lasagna. Are you making the constituent parts ahead of time with the idea of baking it closer to dinner time? If so, hold back on cooking the noodles because you'll do that an assemble about 90 minutes before serving dinner.
1. Pregrate all the cheeses (for assembly and cream sauce steps).
2. Cook noodles for about 10 minutes, drain, pour out on a greased baker's half sheet until ready to build.
3. In a large bowl, wet the sandwich bread pieces with the milk. Add the ground beef and, if using it, the sausage and mix with your fingers until fairly homogenous. Mix in also salt and pepper.
4. Oil a pot, then clarify onion without browning (5 minutes), bloom garlic (30 seconds), then oregano and red-pepper flakes. Add the meat, then break up and cook just until the meat is still a bit pink, but otherwise not browned.
5. Add the tomatoes, bring to a simmer, then turn off and set aside for assembly.
6. In a bowl, reduce the cottage cheese curds to a coarse paste (but not a cream).
7. Mix in cheese, heavy cream, cornstarch, garlic, salt and pepper. Set aside for assembly.
Oil a 13"×9" glass or other baking dish.
1. Cover with strips lengthwise of lasagna.
2. Daub about 1 cup of meat sauce.
3. Daub about ½ cup of cream sauce.
4. Cover with 1 cup of mozzarella.
5. Repeat the steps just above three more times. End with cream sauce on top.
Protect the oven on the bottom rack with a sheet- or other pan to catch drips.
Cover with foil and bake at 375 for about an hour. Somewhere between 30 and 45 minutes, turn the baking dish 180°, remove the foil and cover it with mozzarella, then a fine layer of eccorino romano, which browns best. Don't burn the cheeses.
Allow lasagna to cool 30 to 60 minutes before cutting (otherwise, hot, it will also be soupy).