As an official Italian, (that’s EYE-TALIAN….kidding) I am expected to have a few Italian favorites in my arsenal. I don’t who expects this of me, but I expect it of myself. So, having eaten it for all of my life, I have developed a discerning palette for this genre and can be quite picky when it comes Italian food. Everyone in my family is picky, though, and we all like different things. We all agree, however, that my grandmother’s red sauce is the best. Some call it gravy..not us. We call it sauce. We used to beg her to jar it, but alas, we just have to wait for her to cook it up fresh to enjoy it. She is about to turn 90 and she still makes it a couple of times a month and always for holidays. When you ask for the recipe, she makes it seem like she just throws a few things in here and there so you can never get the real recipe or a straight answer. My aunt has even tried to watch her make it (and her ridiculously amazing meatballs) so that she could write down the steps, but the exact process remains elusive and still no one can make it as good as hers. I’ll keep trying to get it right, but I think some things just can’t be taught.
My meat lasagna that follows uses a jarred marinara sauce (gasp! my grandmother may have just fainted in her kitchen on long island at the mere thought of jar sauce.) But I assure you that, as I mentioned above, I am very picky about my sauce. I use the jar just out of convenience and lack of time, but the one I use also happens to be really delicious. I use Rao’s Tomato Basil Marinara sauce. It’s pricey, but worth it. The perfect blend of oiliness, garlicky-ness, not too oregano-y, etc. You can, of course, use whatever sauce strikes your fancy.
You can make this meat lasagna with either ground beef or ground turkey and both taste really good. I think the aforementioned “oiliness” of the sauce makes certain that the ground turkey doesn’t taste too dry, as can sometimes happen with this healthier alternative.
It seems weird at first to put these hard noodles into your dish and to trust that they will come out cooked, but they do! and they’re cooked perfectly al dente instead of overcooked and gooey. So these, plus some meat sauce, plus some cheese and you are set! It’s a little bit of prep. Did I mention I like to make my own Ricotta cheese for this? (pronounced “ragut” by like 90% of my family) You can find the recipe in one of my previous posts here. The end result is a deliciously filling, stick to your ribs, traditional Italian meal that everyone in the fam loves.
Package of No Boil Lasagna Noodles
Shredded Mozarella cheese or sliced fresh mozzarella
Grated parmesean-romano cheese
Ground Beef or Turkey
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
First, I brown the meat. I put a few tablespoons of olive oil in a pot or dutch oven and, once it’s hot, I add the ground meat. Breaking it up as it cooks, I get it to a point where it’s all pretty much cooked through and then I throw in the sauce.
I like to let that cook all together for as long as I can, but at least 30 minutes. Keep in mind that the longer the sauce cooks with meat, the more flavorful it will become.
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Using a 9×13 dish, you can just start layering it up.
Since I didn’t have to cook these noodles, I simply start in with them and then I go to town. Noodles, ricotta cheese, meat sauce, shredded mozzarella, sprinkle of parm cheese, a little more sauce, then start with the noodles again.
It’s really hard to mess this up so it surprises me that so many sub-par lasagnas are out there masquerading as the real thing. When I have enough layers to make me happy, I top it off with a little more sauce and a heaping layer of mozzarella (again, pronounced “mutzadel” by aforementioned family members) and grated parmesan. Cook at 350 for about 30 minutes. Sometimes I even broil it at the end for a few minutes to get that bubbling cheese with the brown bits. But remember to watch it carefully on broil or it can all go downhill fast!! So ridiculously good.