I'm making lasagna for dinner! Any suggestions?

I’m cooking for my parents again, and lasagna seems challenging enough. I’ve never made anything that has to be baked before. Any hints, suggestions, warnings, etc.? Any ideas for side dishes? BTW, you’re all welcome to come to dinner (about 7-ish, ok?) with us; just take your shoes off at the door!

Oh, and happy 200 posts to me!

Happy 200th lasagna to ya! :wink:

Yes, if you’re gonna do it, do it right, no jar sauce! Make your own, I like a lot of basil and oregano in mine. If none of you have an aversion to green stuff put in a few layers of spinach too, Florentine, sounds fancy anyway! Use the real stuff, ricotta, and real mozzarella not that “part skim” rubber stuff. Damn! you’re making me hungry.


Don’t put any green peppers in. Don’t put sugar in the sauce. Don’t buy preshredded cheese. Oregano, basil, garlic (fresh), are the main spices. Just a touch of thyme, rosemary and marjoram. I love mushrooms in mine. if you use meat, use half ground beef and half italian sausage. Don’t leave even a milimeter of bare noodle showing on top. I prefer a meduim white onion in mine. If you use spinach boil fresh and avoid canned.

I use the lasagna noodles that don’t have to be boiled first. The noodles don’t get soggy and fall apart like the ones that you have to boil first. I also don’t like ricotta cheese so I mix cottage cheese and mozeralla cheese together and it’s wonderful! And make your own sauce! It’s so much better than canned and it’s realy easy to make. As for side dishes I would suggest a nice tossed salad and some garlic bread.

I wish I could make lasagna tonight but we just had spaghetti last night so I can’t!! Damn, I’m getting hungry too!

Good luck with dinner and happy 200th post!

SouthernStyle: Thanks!

Needs2know, if I’m feeling particularly ballsy at the supermarket tomorow, I will make my sauce from scratch. My parents used to do this, but they use the canned stuff now. They used to use tomato sauce, tomato paste, a bit of brown sugar (lee, I know, I never understood it either. They say the sauce is too acidic for them otherwise. Eh. ) and italian seasonings. It tasted better, somehow, then.

I was thinking of mushrooms and spinach, and my mom is REALLY pushing for veggies, but I decided against it this first time. If it’s good, and a “do again” recipe, then I’ll add them next time.

I splurged and bought a hard slab of parmesano reggiano for $10/lb. Damn stuff better be good. grumble $17 alone on cheeses for this dish! It better come out good or else!

lee, I had the darndest time finding decent sausage out here in Hawaii. And by the time I got to most stores, they were either sold out or closed. sigh So I decided to use ground pork and ground beef. Hope that works.

Rachelle, happy 500 posts! I think I’ll go for your salad suggestion. There was a recipe I found on the Internet for caesar salad, and it sounds great! I wanted bread too, but my half-Italian friend said that traditionally, bread during the first course, pasta, is a no-no. Or so her Italian mother says. I’ll bow to tradition this time.

And who says you can’t have Italian on consecutive nights? I sure would! :smiley:

Thanks for the replies, everyone. I’ll let you know how it turns out. Meantime, keep the hints coming!! It’s at least 14 hours till dinnertime!

Horowitz’s Not-So-Big-Sauce

2 lbs ground beef
1/2 lb itialian sausage
1 1/2 cups spanish onion
3 15 oz cans tomato sauce
1 15 oz can crushed tomatos
1 1/2 Tbs oregano
1 Tbs Basil
3/4 Tbs Marjoram
1/4 Tbs Italian Seasoning
1/2 Tsp Fennel seed
3/4 Tbs Garlic powder
1/4 Tbs black pepper
1/2 Tsp Salt
1 Tbs brown sugar
1/4 Tbs sugar

You can use fresh spices if you have enough time to let everything cook long enough to release the flavors. The proportions will be the same, but the amouts will change.

I use ricotta as a base layer. I separate a couple of eggs and mix the yolks with the ricotta. I also add some fresh parmesan to this mixture. I then whip the whites and fold the ricotta mixture into them. This gives a lite and fluffy bottom layer.

From here it is basically noodle-sauce-cheese-
noodle-sauce-cheese. Grated mozeralla for the cheese.

Bake at 350 deg. F for 35 to 45 minutes.

For me I like the relationship between the fennel and the sugar. Also if the sauce is spicier the sugar helps to balance this. This is the same kind of approach used in spicy chineese food. But hey you can leave it out or add it last if the sauce still needs something.

Lot’s of good suggestions, especially with regards to the full fat mozzarella and ricotta and no boil noodles. As an alternative to cooking the meat in the sauce, you can consider turning your ground pork and beef into meatballs, cook them in the sauce (they get flavor as they give flavor) and then slice them up and use them as a layer. Or, if you don’t want/have time to make meatballs, bake the meat like a meatloaf (think giant meatball) and slice and layer this in.

My wife is Italian and everyone in her family makes lasagna a little bit different. But in the end, they’re all an equally delicious, gooey, cheesy mess. Ummm…the lasagnas, that is.

I like these ideas! That meatloaf way sounds like a good way to avoid clumps of meat, which is what I was concerned about. I think I’ll try one of these ideas next time, ok? With the spinach… yeah. I am soooo looking forward to making this!

LOL! Thanks for clearing that up! :smiley:
Horowitz, thanks very much for passing that sauce recipe along. OOC, what is the difference between a spanish onion and a regular onion?

I wouldn’t normally use Italian sausage because it creates to much fat. Not that I don’t love it anyway! As for the veggies, that’s a good idea. Yesterday a coworker and I were having a discussion about this. Friday her brother had brought by a truck load of fresh veggies. I bought two eggplants but neglected to get any of the zuchinni. (I did get the yellow squash, and had that on Saturday.) I told her that we (meaning my daughter and I) eat a lot of pasta but I no longer feel the need to make a sauce that is cooked all day into oblivion. We often use fresh veggies like zuchinni, spinach, mushrooms, yellow squash and different kinds of peppers. We saute them with garlic, olive oil, pour in a can of chopped tomatoes or use fresh and often eat it meat free over angel hair, penne or bow ties. I love canned clams with nothing more than a large can of chopped tomatoes, garlic, basil, tyme, etc. over thin spagetti or angel hair. It takes about 15 minutes to make, in the time it takes to boil the noodles.

Years ago I had a recipe for vegetable lasagna that was a low fat thing. It used low fat cottage cheese instead of ricotta. Not really a true lasagna but a tasty dish anyway. You could always adapt it and use the real high test stuff. I’ll see if I can find it.


My family loves my lasagna. I have three “secrets” that I think make it extra nummy:

  1. Fennel seeds. I don’t measure, so I don’t know how much to tell you, but I bet it would be at least a teaspoon, probably closer to 1.5 teaspoons. Great flavor when cooking is finished.

  2. Pepperoni. I put sliced pepperoni in the sauce. Nummy.

  3. Pre-cooked Italian Sausage. I cook the fresh sausage before hand and cut it into 1/4" slices. That helps get rid of a lot of the grease.

Also, make sure that you allow the lasagna to cool for 15 minutes before cutting into it. Otherwise you’ll have a mess.

OMG, Audrey, your subject line gave me a start! See, we were planning to have lasanga for dinner tonight. I make mine very, very plain because that is all the LittleTot will eat. Anyhoo, I’m making the lasanga, sprinkling cheese on the top layer when I notice there are green flecks in the cheese! Ewwww. Now we don’t have anything to eat. :frowning: I called my husband up and strongly hinted that he take us out, but he seems to think corndogs are an okay dinner for adults. Nitwit.

I guess this is more of a what not to do post…seems to me the only way to ruin lasanga is moldy cheese.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got more retching to do.

Tater…are you sure it’s mold? Were you using a canned parmesean? Because I’ve seen them with green flecks in it. Always thought it was parsley or some such nonsense. Besides my grandma always said a little mold won’t hurt ya, especially on cheese. She used to make me peanut butter sandwiches on moldy bread. She’d just break the moldy part off. Naturally I don’t feed stuff like that to my kids, but then I ate an awful lot of stuff back then they wouldn’t dream of touching. I think everybody did. When I was just a little thing my grandma had me eating sardines and Ritz crackers. How many 7 year olds do you know will eat sardines!?


Great minds think alike! What else can I say? :smiley:

Very sorry to hear about your lasagna. A shame, cuz it’s a lot of work to make one! Thanks for telling me, though. I shall thoroughly inspect my cheeses before I commence sprinklage.

Corndogs, huh? Eew. Come on over and have lasagna!! I’ll set out extra settings for ya!

Oh no, this was a mixture of Mozzerella, Regatto, and something called “Danish Hard Cheese”. Definately mold.

My son would probably still eat it, but then he’d probably have diahrhea two months from now and I’d just die of guilt. :wink: Luckily I make very simple lasanga (jar sauce, noodles, cheese and ricotta cheese) so it’s not like I had a lot invested in it.

Gotta go get dressed now, maybe if we’re waiting by the front door when he gets home, Hubby will take us out. Or I’ll commandeer the car and wallet. Either way, I am not cooking tonight.

And Audrey, I’m sure your lasanga will be wonderful.

Subtle, very subtle!! :smiley: Have a good time!

Thank you, tatertot! I will letcha know how it turns out.

Mix fennel, a bit of coarsely chopped red pepper and black pepper and salt into the ground pork now. That will give it a more italian sausage like flavor.

Lasagna. Yum. There’s something I haven’t made in quite a while.

Possible suggestions: I buy larger mushrooms, slice them thin, and use them as a layer or two all on their own. I love mushrooms.

No-boil noodles are fabulous time savers, but as pointed out above somewhere, make absolutely sure the noodles are completely sauce-covered before baking.

Ceaser salads go great with lasagna. Use real bacon, very crisp, not the silly ‘bits.’ Yuck to the bits.

One more - a second to the suggestion on waiting 15 minutes before slicing. This is critical.

Have a great dinner!

You don’t necessarily have to worry about the Italian sausage being too fatty. It needs to be browned (so would ground meat [if going this route, a mix of beef/pork/veal is the way to do it]) before going into the casserole.

So brown it, and pour off the rendered fat. Big deal.