Easy Lasagna is a lasagna that is simply lasagna noodles and layered with a meat sauce and lots of cheese for a dinner that can be on the table in less than an hour!
WORLD’S OKAYEST LASAGNA?
I live in Minnesota and have lived in the midwest for 99% of my life. Having an authentic version of Italian dishes wasn’t a luxury we were afforded in the trailer park growing up. My mom made do with what she had. It was Ricotta right from the container, store-bought spaghetti sauce, and a giant block of government-issued cheese. I thought it was the greatest meal we ever had, with loads of cheese, meat, and noodles.
So why call it the okayest? Because I know there are better versions out there. I know that you can add texture and seasoning to the ricotta and make your sauce from scratch. (I actually have a wonderful homemade spaghetti recipe.) I know that you can use different cheeses and better seasonings. But it just doesn’t taste the same as moms.
All this to say… I’m not trying to tell anyone this recipe is better than theirs. Or that they should change what they are doing. I am simply sharing a recipe and keeping a record of it here, for my kids.
You can use a store-bought spaghetti sauce for this recipe, but if you are feeling up to it, make this homemade spaghetti with meat sauce to use. If you choose the make the homemade sauce, simply jump to the assembly instructions in the recipe.
Ingredients (full recipe below)
- Olive oil
- Ground beef
- Italian seasoning
- Kosher salt
- Ground black pepper
- Spaghetti sauce
- Lasagna noodles
- Ricotta cheese – I opted for dollops, but you can certainly spread evenly if you prefer.
- Mozzarella cheese -for between the layers
- Cheddar Cheese – you can of course use a blend through the recipe (where ever it calls for cheese) but I opted to only add the cheddar on top.
- Parmesan cheese – yup, you guessed it. I used the stuff right from the green jar. What can I say?
HOW TO MAKE THE MEAT SAUCE
Again, if you went ahead and made the homemade spaghetti with meat sauce, you can skip this section. If not, it is easy to put this sauce together.
To make the sauce, heat up the olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the onions and cook them until soft (about 5 minutes). Add the garlic and cook an additional minute. Then, add the ground beef, Italian seasoning, salt, and pepper. Separate the beef with a wooden spoon and cook it until the beef is no longer pink. Add in the spaghetti sauce and cook until warmed through.
OPTIONAL: We didn’t waste anything when we didn’t have any money, so my mom would add some tap water to the jar of spaghetti sauce. Shake it up and pour it into the skillet with the beef. It gets out every last bit!
HOW TO ASSEMBLE EASY LASAGNA
Before baking, preheat the oven to 375°F and add all the delicious layers to the dish.
- Begin by adding a thin layer of the meat sauce to the bottom of the dish.
- Add four pieces of the cooked lasagna on top of the sauce. Break up any pieces to cover as much of the bottom as possible.
- Spread about 1/3 third of the remaining meat sauce over the noodles.
- Next, dollop about 1/3 of the ricotta cheese over the sauce.
- Then, follow up with evenly sprinkling 1 cup of the shredded mozzarella cheese on top.
- Continue two more times with the layering of the: noodles, meat sauce, ricotta cheese, and mozzarella cheese. The cheddar cheese goes on top.
- Spray a piece of aluminum foil with nonstick spray and cover the pan (spray side down) with the foil.
- Bake the lasagna, covered, for 25-30 minutes. Then, remove the foil and cook for an additional 5-10 minutes. The cheese should be golden and bubbly.
- Let the lasagna sit for about 10 minutes before serving.
- Top with parmesan cheese and parsley (for garnish).
HOW TO FREEZE LASAGNA
Lasagna is one of those dishes that is perfect to make ahead of time and freeze until ready to bake. It’s best to prepare the lasagna right up to the point of baking it, but not putting it in the oven. And, I recommend using a disposable pan so you don’t have to worry about your glass or ceramic dish cracking in the freezer.
- Let the assembled lasagna cool completely.
- After cooled, wrap the entire dish (pan and all) in plastic wrap.
- Cover the pan with a layer of aluminum foil (over the plastic wrap).
- Label and date the dish; it can be frozen for up to 3 months.
When ready to bake a frozen lasagna:
- Remove it from the freezer and let it thaw in the refrigerator overnight.
- When ready to bake, let the thawed lasagna come to room temperature (about 30 minutes) and preheat the oven to 375°F.
- Unwrap the lasagna and cover with a new piece of aluminum foil.
- Bake for about an hour (or until the internal temperature reaches 165°F).
- Remove from the oven and let it rest for about 10 minutes before serving.
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 yellow onion, diced
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 pounds ground beef
- 1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
- 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
- 40 ounces spaghetti sauce
- 1 package (12 ounces) lasagna noodles, cooked al dente and drained
- 1 cup whole milk ricotta cheese, divided
- 3 cups mozzarella cheese, shredded and divided
- 1 cup cheddar cheese, shredded
- 1/2 cup parmesan cheese
- parsley, for garnish
Preheat the oven to 375°F.
In a large skillet, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the onion and cook for about 5 minutes, or until soft.
Add the garlic and cook an additional minute.
Add the ground beef, Italian seasoning, salt, and pepper to the skillet. Cook until the beef is browned (about 8 minutes).
Add the spaghetti sauce to the skillet and bring to a simmer. Remove from heat.
In a 9×13-inch baking dish, add a thin layer of the meat sauce to the bottom. Be sure to coat the entire bottom of the pan.
Layer about 4 lasagna noodles over the meat sauce. Break apart any noodles to fit them in the dish and fill in the sides.
Spread about 1/3 of the meat sauce over the noodles, followed by a few dollops of ricotta cheese. (You can also spread the ricotta evenly.)
Sprinkle a cup of the mozzarella cheese over the ricotta cheese.
Repeat this layering 2 more times–noodles, meat sauce, ricotta cheese, and mozzarella cheese. You should end up with three layers.
Top the dish with the cheddar and parmesan cheeses.
Cover the lasagna with a piece of aluminum foil that has been sprayed with nonstick spray. Bake, covered, for 25-30 minutes. Then, remove the foil and bake for an additional 5-10 minutes.
Remove from the oven and let sit for about 10 minutes before serving. Top with parmesan cheese and parsley (for garnish).