Editor’s Note: This version of the Italian classic is not for the faint of meat or for vegetarians.
One of the most disturbing things I’ve ever seen was a low-fat lasagna that completely replaced whole-milk ricotta cheese with cottage cheese and broken-up saltines. All I could think was, “Why bother?” It’s like when two soccer teams play to a 0-0 tie. All of us could have slept in and saved ourselves the trouble — not a real game, not real lasagna.
Let’s keep it real
Lasagna is a classic dish born of Italian culinary ingenuity and necessity. It’s completely flexible, with many acceptable versions available. But let’s be clear — cottage cheese and saltines are no substitute for ricotta. And today, we’re not going to compromise on taste — no shortcuts.
Canned tomatoes are convenient
This recipe does use canned tomatoes, and that is, theoretically, a shortcut. But what’s more important here is that you use 100% real tomatoes. Whole-peeled work best because you know no one has tried to pull one over on you. Any kind of “sauce” that uses fillers, preservatives, or high-fructose corn syrup is just not cool.
If you want to make this fully authentic, that is best. You can make larger batches of basic tomato sauce ahead of time. It’s not too hard and the results are nothing short of fantastic.
Best Meat = Best Eats
Buy your meat from sources you trust. If you can actually map your food comfortably from farm to table, you’re in great shape. If not, just use a butcher you trust.
You should try making your own sausages at some point. But you probably aren’t going to make sausage just to use in lasagna, so the trick here again is to buy trustworthy meat. You can’t go wrong with most Italian markets.
- ½ pound ground chuck
- ½ pound ground spicy Italian sausage
- ½ medium onion, chopped
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 1 teaspoon ground oregano
- ½ teaspoon ground basil
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- ¼ teaspoon pepper
- 1 can whole peeled tomatoes with basil, garlic, and oregano
- 1 can tomato sauce
- 1 can tomato paste
- ½ cup small curd cottage cheese
- 2 ounces grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
- 1 tablespoon freshly chopped parsley leaves
- 1 large egg, lightly beaten
- 6 lasagna noodles
- 1 cup shredded whole milk mozzarella
- Preheat oven to 350°F.
- In a large saucepan, combine ground chuck, sausage, onion, and garlic. Cook over medium-high heat until meat is browned and crumbled; drain.
- Return meat to pan and add oregano, basil, salt, and pepper.
- Add tomatoes, tomato sauce, and paste. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer 30 to 45 minutes.
- In a mixing bowl, combine cottage cheese, Parmigiano-Reggiano, parsley, and eggs.
- Boil a large pot of water, and cook the lasagna noodles for six minutes. Remove from water, brush lightly with olive oil to prevent sticking, and set aside.
- Pour ¼ of sauce into bottom of a baking pan. Place 3 cooked lasagna noodles evenly on top of sauce.
- Spread ⅓ of cottage cheese mixture over noodles, top with ¼ of sauce, and ⅓ mozzarella cheese. Repeat layers, ending with sauce, and reserve ⅓ of mozzarella cheese.
- Bake 45 minutes. Top with remaining mozzarella and bake 15 minutes or until hot and bubbling around edges. Let sit 15 minutes before serving.