It only took about 300 food wishes before it finally came true, but here is my favorite lasagna. Since this is such a traditional Italian-American Christmas recipe, I figured what better time to post it?
By the way, this is simply my rendition of Italian-American lasagna, and not intended to claim any type of superiority, authenticity, or other such nonsense. If your Nonna uses fresh pasta, or insists on a béchamel, then bless her heart, but that's not how this half-Italian rolls.
There are only two things you need for great lasagna; a thick, rich, super-meaty meat sauce, and lots of it; and a ricotta filling where only the finest cheeses are welcomed. For the sauce I love a combination of half Italian sausage and half lean ground beef. I also like lots of sauce.
If you use too much sauce, the worst that can happen is you have a plate of pasta with sauce, but if you don't use enough, you end up with dry lasagna, and there's nothing sadder than dry lasagna.
For the cheese mixture I like the holy trinity of whole milk ricotta, fresh mozzarella, and Reggiano-Parmigiano. If you use the real stuff, your lasagna will taste better. I also use twice as much ricotta as most recipes, which works great here since I use twice the meat as well. Hey, this is Christmas lasagna after all. Enjoy!
Ingredients (for a deep 15" x 10" lasagna pan):
For the meat sauce:
1 pound Italian sausage
1 1/2 pound lean ground beef
8 oz mushrooms, chopped
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 freshly ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
6 cups marinara sauce
1/2 cup water
Note: depending on the seasoning of your sausage, you can add 1/2 teaspoon of an Italian dried herb blend.
For the cheese filling:
2 egg, beaten
2 lbs ricotta cheese
8 oz mozzarella cheese, cubed
2/3 cup freshly grated Reggiano-Parmigiano
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
big pinch of cayenne
1 lb lasagna noodles
8 oz mozzarella cheese, torn in small pieces
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese to top