This is a hearty, meaty lasagna recipe. You have two choices here. If you’re up for it, you can make your own sauce, which takes about 2 hours. Or, to save time, you can substitute your favorite store-bought sauce. We have done both. It’s all up to you. Our homemade sauce will make more than what’s needed for one lasagna. Since it takes so long to make the sauce, we always make sure we have enough for a second lasagna or to use, as is, over pasta for another night. You can save the extra sauce in the refrigerator up to 3 days or in the freezer up to 3 months.
1 pound sweet Italian sausage
1 pound lean ground beef
1 cup (150 grams) finely diced onion
1/2 cup (75 grams) finely diced carrot
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/3 cup (75 grams) tomato paste
2 teaspoons dried basil
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 1/2 cups water
2 (28-ounce) cans crushed tomatoes
1 to 2 teaspoons fine sea salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 to 2 teaspoons sugar (optional, see notes)
1 tablespoon olive oil
12 unbroken lasagna noodles
16 ounces part-skim ricotta cheese or cottage cheese
1/2 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
1 large egg, beaten
1 pound part-skim mozzarella cheese, grated
If you have sausages with casings, you will need to remove the casings. To do so, take a knife and cut down the length of the sausage. The casing should peel away easily. If you purchased sausage meat without casings, continue to the next step.
Place a heavy large pot over medium-high heat. When the pot is hot, add the sausage and beef and cook until browned, about 10 minutes. As the meat cooks, use a wooden spoon to break the meat apart into small crumbles.
When the sausage and beef are starting to brown, stir in the onion and carrots. Cook, stirring occasionally until softened and starting to brown, about 8 minutes. Stir in the garlic, basil, oregano and tomato paste. Cook for 1 minute or until fragrant and the redness of the tomato paste has turned more orange.
Pour in the water then use a wooden spoon to scrape any bits of meat that have stuck to the bottom of the pot — there’s lots of flavor there. When the pot is almost scrapped clean of stuck bits, stir in the canned tomatoes.
Bring the sauce to a low simmer. Taste then season with salt, pepper and sugar as needed. We usually end up adding 1 to 2 teaspoons of salt, 1/2 teaspoon of ground pepper and little to no sugar (see notes about sugar). Gently simmer the sauce, uncovered for 1 1/2 hours. (Keep the sauce at a very low simmer).
Skim off any fat floating on top and adjust the seasoning as necessary. The sauce can be prepared in advance and refrigerated for up to 3 days, or frozen for up to 3 months. This recipe yields about 9 cups of sauce. You will need 4 to 5 cups of sauce for the lasagna. You can save the sauce for a second lasagna or use to top pasta another day.
Heat oven to 375 degrees F.
Bring a large pot of salted water with 1 tablespoon of olive oil to a boil. Add lasagna noodles to the boiling water. Return to a boil, stirring frequently. Cook the pasta, according to package directions, this is usually about 10 minutes. Drain.
In the meantime, stir ricotta with Parmigiano-Reggiano, and the beaten egg.
To assemble the lasagna, ladle about 3/4 cup of the meat sauce into the bottom of a 13-inch by 9-inch baking dish. Arrange noodles lengthwise and side by side and cover the bottom. (If the noodles are short on one end, you may need to cut an extra noodle and place into dish to cover where the other noodles have not).
Next, spread about half of the ricotta cheese mixture over the noodles. Sprinkle with a third of the shredded mozzarella cheese then top with about 1 1/4 cups of meat sauce. Add another layer of noodles and repeat. Add a third layer of noodles then top with remaining sauce and a final layer of shredded mozzarella cheese.
Cover loosely with aluminum foil and bake 30 minutes, uncover then bake 20 minutes until cheese is crusty around the edges. Let rest at least 15 minutes.