Lasagna is a very popular baked noodle dish which is relatively easy to make at home. When you make lasagna, you can also freeze it for future cooking in the event of a busy day when you don't have time to cook. Lasagna is also easy to scale up or down for events like potlucks and large family dinners, and the recipe is incredibly flexible so you can play around with variations like spinach lasagna, meat lasagna, or lasagna Bolognese, which layers pasta with cheeses, creamy bechamel sauce, and veal.
To make lasagna, you will need lasagna noodles, cheeses of choice, and a filling. Lasagna noodles are available at most markets; you can find basic noodles in addition to whole wheat noodles, noodles flavored with ingredients like sundried tomatoes or spinach, and no-boil lasagna noodles, which can remove a step from your cooking process. You will need around one pound (one half kilogram) of noodles for a nine by 13 inch (23 by 33 centimeter) pan. A basic lasagna also includes three cheeses: ricotta, mozzarella, and Parmesan. When you make lasagna in the pan specified above, plan on around three cups of ricotta and a chunk of mozzarella which is about the size of two small fists. You can play around with other cheeses as well, if you like. For the filling, most people use tomato sauce paired with ingredients like ground meat, roasted eggplant, spinach, or other vegetables. All told, you will need around five cups of tomato sauce to make lasagna.
Start by boiling your noodles until they are just barely cooked; during the baking process, they will be cooked even more, and you don't want them to turn to mush. Boil the noodles with oil to prevent them from sticking, and when you drain the noodles, run cold water over them to keep them separated. If you need to cook part of the filling, as is the case with tomato sauce made from scratch, ground meats, and spinach, cook the filling while the lasagna noodles boil. Lay out your cheeses, sauce, and utensils to spread ingredients with so that you do not have to dig into a drawer while you make lasagna.
Oil your baking pan and cover the bottom in a layer of lasagna noodles. Follow the noodles with around one and one half cups of ricotta, and sprinkle a layer of grated mozzarella on top. Follow with salt and pepper, and add another layer of lasagna noodles. Spread three to four cups of tomato sauce on this layer, and add the cooked meat, eggplant, or other ingredients you wish to include. Follow with a third layer of pasta and cover this layer in ricotta and mozzarella as before. Top the lasagna with a final layer of noodles covered in the remaining tomato sauce, a sprinkling of mozzarella, and around one quarter cup grated Parmesan.
Bake at 350 degrees Fahrenheit (177 degrees Celsius) for around 45 minutes, or until the lasagna is bubbling and browned. For variations on this basic recipe, try excluding tomato sauce and layering in spinach mixed with ricotta, or add a layer of bechamel sauce to one of the layers for an extra creamy lasagna.