mom’s meat lasagna

Nothing says comfort food quite like a piping hot casserole of homemade lasagna. This recipe is an ode to my mom’s original recipe, but gains a hint of richness from cream added to the sauce. The result tames the acidity of the tomato sauce, while fresh ricotta and lots of mozzarella cheese give the lasagna all the melty goodness you’d expect in this hearty, family-friendly dish.

1 16-ounce box dried lasagna noodles
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, divided
1 pound ground beef
Kosher salt, to taste
Freshly ground black pepper
1/2 medium onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, finely minced
2 tablespoons flour
1/4 cup low-sodium beef stock (or red wine) 
3 24-ounce jars tomato sauce
2 tablespoons heavy cream
1 large egg, beaten
4 cups homemade (or whole milk) ricotta
1/4 cup Parmigiano-Reggiano, finely grated, divided, plus extra for garnish
1 teaspoon dried oregano
2 tablespoons finely minced fresh flat-leaf Italian parsley
2 8-ounce packages (sliced) mozzarella cheese

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F. 
  2. Fill a large stockpot with salted water and bring to a boil. Add lasagna noodles and cook until al dente, about 10 minutes. Drain and transfer to a medium bowl. Toss with 1 tablespoon olive oil and set aside.
  3. In a large sauté pan, heat 1 tablespoon olive oil over medium heat. Add beef and cook until browned and no longer pink, about 10 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Transfer meat with a slotted spoon to a bowl and set aside. Drain off excess grease from pan and return pan to medium heat. Add remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil. Add onions and cook until softened, 5-10 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Add garlic and cook for another 1-2 minutes. 
  4. Return meat to pan of onions and add flour. Stir flour into mixture, coating well. Add beef stock (or wine) and deglaze pan, scraping up browned bits off bottom of pan (mixture will get thick). Add 2 jars of tomato sauce and cream and stir to combine. Reduce heat to simmer and cook until warmed through.
  5. Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, add egg, ricotta cheese, Parmigiano-Reggiano, oregano, and parsley and season with salt and pepper. Mix until well combined.
  6. Place remaining jar of sauce in a medium saucepan and keep warm over low heat (this will be to serve alongside finished lasagna for extra sauce).
  7. To assemble lasagna, pour a thin layer of tomato sauce on bottom of a 9 x 13-inch baking pan. Place about 4 lasagna noodles over sauce, layering to cover sauce. Add 1/2 of ricotta mixture, spreading evenly over top of noodles. Add a layer of tomato sauce, followed by 1/2 of mozzarella. Add another layer of noodles, remaining 1/2 ricotta, followed by another layer of tomato sauce. Add another layer of noodles, followed by another layer of tomato sauce. Add final layer of noodles, followed by tomato sauce and remaining 1/2 mozzarella. Sprinkle top of finished lasagna with additional Parmigiano-Reggiano and season with salt and pepper. Rap pan against counter surface to release any air bubbles. Cover pan with aluminum foil and bake for 45 minutes. Remove foil and bake for another 15-20 minutes, until cheese is bubbling and top is lightly golden brown. Allow lasagna to cool for about 15 minutes before slicing. Serve warm.

Serves 8-10.

cook’s note: We love to serve this dish with a big green salad and lots of homemade garlic bread for dipping in the extra sauce.