Superior Yet Easy Lasagne

You can spend all day long cooking lasanga. 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.)

Ingredients

Assembly
1lb curly-edged lasagna noodles
1 tbsp salt
12 oz mozzarella cheese, shredded (3 cups)
¼ cup grated grated Pecorino Romano cheese
 
Meat Sauce
2 slices hearty white sandwich bread, torn into small pieces
¼ cup milk
1½lb lean 90% ground beef
1 lb Italian sausage (my addition)
¾ tsp salt
½ tsp pepper
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
 
Cream Sauce
8 ounces (1 cup) cottage cheese
4 ounces Pecorino Romano cheese, grated (2 cups)
1 cup heavy cream
1 tsp cornstarch
2 cloves garlic, minced
¼ tsp salt
¼ tsp pepper

Preparation

Determine your plan and timetable to make the lasanga. 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.

Meat Sauce

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.

Cream Sauce

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.

Assembly

Oil a 13"×9" glass or other baking dish.

1. Cover with strips lenghtwise of lasagne.

2. Dawb about 1 cup of meat sauce.

3. Dawb 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.

Baking

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 Peccorino romano, which browns best. Don't burn the cheeses.

Allow lasagne to cool 30 to 60 minutes before cutting (otherwise, hot, it will also be soupy).