No need for much of a preamble here.  Sausage, cheese, tomato sauce, noodles.  Let’s get going:

 

Ingredients:

  • 1.5 pounds of Italian sausage – out of skins and broken up (have used turkey sausage very successfully)

  • 1/2 cup each – celery, onion, carrot diced

  • 2 cans (16 oz) crushed tomatoes

  • 1 (6 oz) can tomato paste

  • 2 to 3 clove garlic, chopped (this depends on your garlic tolerance.  We use 3.  No vampires here.)

  • 1 tablespoon dried oregano

  • 1 t. pepper

  • 1 or 2 boxes of no-cook lasagna noodles.  I am not sure how many we use.  Maybe 10.  Making lasagna is more of an art than a science.  And on the no boil part, use real boil if you want to. I am no Rachel Ray who super shortcuts everything, but I really cannot be bothered with standard lasagna noodles.

  • 3 cups ricotta cheese (I have also successfully used cottage cheese here.  Same amount.  I know, this is heresy, but if you want to make it a little less guilt ridden, try cottage cheese.)

  • 4 egg whites

  • 1 cup grated parmesan

  • 3 or 4 tablespoons chopped parsley

  • 15 oz. pretty thinly sliced mozzarella cheese (Yes, this is about 1.5 packages.  Annoying, perhaps.  But when we cook, we snack.  Therefore, we make good use of that leftover mozzarella.)

  • Salt and pepper.  Very hard to say how much.  I like pepper, and we are not shy with the salt. 

  • Crushed red pepper flakes, if you like things spicy (What, you have no spice in life?  That, my friend, is a shame.)

 

Turning all of the above, into true deliciousness:

  • Pull out all required ingredients; order them neatly on your counter.  Put a trash bowl or bag on your counter (I don’t know why, but it’s just easier to have a bag or something on the counter for all trash bits and pieces created while cooking).  Depending on time of day, open a bottle of wine (not on the ingredients list, but it’s nice to have a glass while cooking.  Cooking, after all is about creativity and inspiration; therefore, wine is in order.

  • Anyway, above, I called for celery, carrots and onion.  Chop them up first thing (again, somewhat small dice, all about the same size).  Put it all into a bowl.

  • Then chop your garlic.  Hold that on the side on the cutting board. 

  • Get out a pan.  I use an All Clad 6 quart sauté pan with a lid.  Use something large with a lid.

  • Oh yes, you need extra virgin olive oil now (sorry, forgot that above.  It’s somewhat standard in my cooking.)

  • After you have chopped all of your vegetables, pour about 3 tablespoons of the olive oil into the pan.  Turn it to medium heat.

  • Open your package of sausage while the oil is heating.  Once the oil heats up (it should shimmer in the pan), toss in all of the chopped vegetables.  Grab a palmful of salt (I use kosher salt) and toss it into the pan.  Also give it a few grinds of black pepper.  Stir it all around.  Let it go for about 3 minutes.  Throw in the garlic and the sausage.  Stir.  Do whatever you need to do to break up the sausage as it cooks in the pan (wooden spoon, potato masher, grab an older child and give them this job).

  • Have a sip of wine.  You do not need the sausage to be fully cooked through.  In fact, best thing to do is not mess with it too much, let it get a little brown here and there.  This will take a few minutes.

  • Once you see some nice browned sausage pieces, add your oregano, red pepper flakes, canned tomatoes and tomato paste.  Stir.  Bring it to low simmer.  Turn the heat down and cover.  This will cook for about 30 minutes.

  • While the tomato sauce is cooking, grate your parmesan cheese and separate your eggs so you have the whites ready to go.  Get a bowl and mix the ricotta cheese, eggs whites and parsley together.  Add some black pepper.  Stir.

  • Cut your mozzarella into slices.  I don’t like mine too thick.

  • At this point, I would clean up whatever is lying around the kitchen.  I hate messy kitchens while I cook.  But that is just me.  Do whatever you like at this point.  You have a few minutes to spare.

  • After about 15 minutes, peak at the sauce.  Taste it and see if it needs salt or pepper.

  • Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.

  • After about 15 more minutes, turn the heat off of the sauce.

  • Now it’s assembly line time.  Grab your lasagna pan (did I mention you need a pan to cook the lasagna in?)   I use a Pyrex glass pan.  I think it’s 9×13.  Use whatever you have.  That is part of what makes lasagna an art, not a science.  Order your inputs on your counter: tomato sauce, noodles, ricotta cheese mix, mozzarella slices.

  • Start by putting a bit – not much – of the tomato sauce in the bottom of the pan.  This helps to keep the noodles from sticking.  Next, put a few of the noodles in the pan.  I overlap mine slightly.  Maybe break some up if you have to in order to create a good layer.  Next, add a real layer of the sauce, then add some cheese mix, then a layer of mozzarella.  Repeat.  I usually get to about three layers of noodles.  Estimating the amounts you need in each layer is the key here.   So just guess.  I am sure you will be fine.  I end by grating a bit more parmesan cheese on the top layer (over the mozzarella).  And then it goes into the oven.  Start your timer for 45 minutes.

  • You may have leftover sauce.  I make sure to never have leftover cheese (the mozzarella is often eaten in the cooking process; the ricotta I somehow manage to always use).  Leftover sauce would be great over any other kind of pasta.

  • Now, chill out and wait.  Your house should start to smell great.  Open your windows, watch neighbors swoon and wonder in culinary amazement.  Clean up whatever mess remains in your kitchen.  And when it’s done, take it out and don’t –DON’T – try it yet.  It needs to rest.  About 10 minutes.  I use this time to make a salad.  Then, the moment of truth.  Serve.  

If you make it, I hope you like it. 

P.S. I find this is about a two hour process, start to finish.

 

 

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