Although this is advertised as three-cheese lasagna, technically I used four cheeses. But that’s only because I was worried I didn’t have enough mozzarella cheese. And because I don’t personally think there’s such thing as too much cheese, I used Sis’s food processor to grate some string cheese to add to the recipe. Just a little tip from me to you in case you have a Costco-sized portion of string cheese and don’t know what to do with it.
At any rate, when I pulled the pan out of the oven after it was done baking, I nearly dropped the pan. It was the most ridiculously heavy pan of lasagna I had ever made and the heaviness was due to the ingredients — not the pan. I used a very lightweight aluminum pan as opposed to ceramic pans I’ve used in the past that are heavy even without the added weight of the ingredients.
In large part, the dish was so ridiculously heavy because I used three pounds of grated cheese. In all honesty, it may have been even more than three pounds because I really wasn’t measuring. I just used as much cheese as I thought looked to be sufficient to layer in the pan. And I could have used more. When I got to the top-most layer the cheese was a bit too sparse for my taste. In my opinion, cheese should cover the top layer, not accent it. So I grated some fresh parmesan over the top of the pan until the cheese covered the sauce and I felt fully satisfied.
The key to getting a lasagna that is not soupy when you cut into it is two things: 1) You must make sure your tomato sauce is thick enough before you start layering; a thin sauce can produce watery results and 2) You should cook the noodles partially — less than al dente; that way the noodles will continue cooking in the oven and absorb some of the sauce. There is a third thing you can do if your lasagna tends to turn out runny, and that’s to bake it the day before and let everything set. You should be able to reheat the next day either in individual portions or as a whole and yield a non-runny lasagna casserole.
Lastly, I’m a big believer in letting flavors marry. I think it would behoove you to make both sauces the day before or early in the morning before baking to let the flavors set in the sauces. Also, salt is your friend. Make sure you taste the tomato sauce and season it before assembling your casserole. There’s nothing worse than a slice of lasagna that you have to season once it’s already on your plate.
This recipe is lightly adapted from Alison Roman’s recipe for “Very Good Lasagna.”
tomato sauce ingredients.
- 2 T. olive oil
- 1 large yellow onion, finely chopped
- 4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
- 1 T. anchovy paste
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 2 T. tomato paste
- 28-oz can whole peeled tomatoes
- 28-oz can crushed tomatoes
- 16 oz mushrooms, cleaned and sliced
- 3 lbs fresh mozzarella, grated or shredded
- 16 oz whole-milk ricotta
- 1 c. coarsely grated Parmesan, plus more as desired
- ¼ to ½ c. cream
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 1 pound dried lasagna noodles (not the no-boil variety)
- Olive oil, for drizzling
- tomato sauce
- Heat the olive oil in a large, heavy-bottomed pot over medium heat. Add the onion, mushrooms, and garlic and season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion is totally softened and translucent (without letting it brown), 8 to 10 minutes. Add the tomato paste and anchovy paste and continue to cook, stirring, until the tomato paste has turned a deeper brick red color, about 2 minutes.
- Using your hands, crush the whole tomatoes into smaller, bite-sized pieces and add them and the crushed tomatoes to the pot, stirring to scrape up any bits from the bottom. Fill one of the tomato cans halfway with water and add it to the pot. Season with salt and pepper. Bring to a simmer and cook, stirring occasionally, until the tomato sauce has thickened and flavors have come together, 35-45 minutes. You want it to be as thick as tomato sauce from a jar — any looser and the lasagna will be too wet to cut into nice pieces.
- Preheat the oven to 425°F and set a large pot of salted water to boil.
- Set aside 2 cups of mozzarella. In a medium bowl, combine 2 cups mozzarella, the ricotta, Parmesan, and cream; season with salt and pepper.
- Cook the lasagna noodles in the boiling water until just softened (before al dente), 4 to 5 minutes. Drain and separate any noodles that are trying to stick together, drizzling them with a bit of olive oil to prevent them from sticking further.
- Spoon a bit of sauce on the bottom of a 3-quart baking dish and top with a layer of noodles, avoiding any heavy overlap (some overlap is fine and inevitable). Top with about 1¼ cups of sauce, ¼ of the remaining grated cheese and dollop one-fourth of the cheese mixture over.
- Top with another layer of noodles and repeat three more times, ending with the last of the noodles (depending on size of the noodle/shape of the baking dish, you may have a few extra noodles) and the last of the sauce. Top with the reserved 2 cups mozzarella and more Parmesan, if you like.
- Cover loosely with aluminum foil and place the baking dish on a foil-lined rimmed baking sheet (to prevent any overflow from burning on the bottom of your oven). Bake until the pasta is completely tender and cooked through and the sauce is bubbling up around the edges, 25 to 30 minutes. Remove the foil and continue to bake until the lasagna is golden brown on top with frilly, crispy edges and corners, another 25 to 40 minutes. Let cool slightly before eating.