My mother might just disown me for posting the first ever lasagna recipe on this blog that didn’t come from her own arsenal, but I just couldn’t resist. My mother makes fabulous lasagna loaded with the things she loves (solid chunks of mozzarella and cheddar – yes, cheddar – and sour cream) and minus the normal lasagna ingredients that she doesn’t like (ricotta cheese). I adore that lasagna now, but I honestly think I spent probably the first 15 years of my life avoiding it like the plague; don’t ask me why – all I know is that I had an unhealthy obsession with chicken fingers just about until the day I graduated from high school. So, it took years for my mother’s lasagna to worm its way into my stomach and my heart, and although it’s delicious, I always finish eating a slice wishing it had more…of something. I’ve never been able to put my finger on what’s missing or what there needs to be more of, but I’ve always wanted to try a different lasagna recipe and see what else is out there. Well, this is the lasagna recipe to end all other lasagna recipes – sorry, Mom.
This recipe is appropriately called Cinque Formaggi Lasagna, which in Italian means “five cheese” lasagna. There actually are huge amounts of five different types of cheese in this recipe, along with two types of meat (or more, if you want to be adventurous), and tons of fresh vegetables. The finished product is an amazing melt-in-your-mouth blend of creamy, warm, deliciousness. But be warned – this recipe is costly because of all the cheese, and it’s literally enormous. This is not something you throw together on a weeknight and serve to a small crowd; this is meant for a big dinner party. Thankfully, if you have the time, you can make the sauce in advance and refrigerate it, then just warm it up on the stove top when you’re ready to assemble the actual lasagna. I also think the lasagna might be best on the second day, so you could probably bake the whole thing, cover it with foil, leave it in the refrigerator overnight, and then warm it up in the oven right before serving to your guests. Good tip I picked up on the Internet – slice the lasagna when it’s chilled, makes for much better-looking plates.
If you’re going to tackle this mammoth recipe, there are a few things you need to know up front:
1) Yes, you really do need a deep-dish, aluminum lasagna baking pan. Your everyday 9 x 13 inch casserole dish just will not cut it.
2) Yes, all of those cheeses really do need to be grated and most of them will be sold from the store in solid hunks. I recommend using a food processor if you have one (we don’t unfortunately) or a large stand-alone cheese grater.
3) Yes, you can choose whatever meats you’d like for the sauce. The original recipe calls for a blend of ground beef, veal, and pork, but I love the kick imparted by the spicy sausage. If you want to make this a little lighter on the calories (which is crazy, because this is lasagna, by the way), you could just as easily use ground turkey or chicken.
4) No, you don’t have to boil the noodles before baking the lasagna. The sauce has enough liquid to cook the noodles during the baking process.
* You should be careful with your sauce usage, because if you come to the final layer and don’t have a sufficient amount of sauce to cover the top layer of noodles, that final layer will be a little crunchy. I would suggest going easy on the sauce that you put in the baking dish before anything else to have plenty left at the end to coat the top. *
5) If you have the space in your freezer, I would suggest making a double batch of the sauce and freezing it for use later on. Because it takes awhile to simmer down to its ultimate deliciousness, and the fact that most meat you buy will come in amounts much larger than what’s called for, you can go ahead and easily kill two birds with one stone. The sauce is amazing by itself, so you could serve it as-is over noodles, or tackle another lasagna with it as well.
6) Feel free to add more tomato sauce, beef broth, or water to your meat sauce once it’s simmered for 2 hours. I found that mine was a little too chunky at first, but I’m sure that’s variable depending on how much juice you have in your cans of tomatoes and how much liquid is released by your meat mixture.
7) If you make this and love it, please let me know!
2 cups fresh ricotta cheese [770 calories]
8 ounces Provolone cheese, grated [800 calories]
8 ounces Mozzarella cheese, grated [640 calories]
8 ounces Romano cheese, grated [900 calories]
8 ounces Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, grated [880 calories]
1 egg [70 calories]
¼ cup whole milk [40 calories]
1 tablespoon dried basil
1 tablespoon garlic, chopped
Freshly ground black pepper
1 recipe of Meat Sauce, shown below [2380 calories]
1 package of dried lasagna noodles [1680 calories]
2 tablespoons olive oil [240 calories]
½ pound ground beef [560 calories]
½ pound ground spicy Italian sausage [660 calories]
Freshly ground black pepper
2 cups Vidalia onions, finely chopped
½ cup celery, finely chopped
½ cup carrots, finely chopped
2 tablespoons garlic, chopped
2 28-ounce cans of diced tomatoes (with juice) [490 calories] (we used Hunt’s Fire-Roasted Tomatoes)
1 small can tomato paste [150 calories]
4 cups low-sodium beef stock [60 calories]
2 sprigs of fresh thyme
2 bay leaves
2 teaspoons dried oregano
2 teaspoons dried basil
¼ teaspoon of crushed red pepper
2 ounces Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, grated [220 calories]
Deep dish lasagna pan at least 9 x 13 inches in size and 2.5 inches in depth (Trust me, this will not fit into your everyday 9 x 13 inch glass casserole dish…you can easily find these disposable aluminum pans at the grocery store)
Makes 20 large slices
Calories per serving: 410
Heat a large saucepot over medium heat on the stovetop, then add the olive oil. In a medium mixing bowl, combine the ground beef and ground sausage with your hands, then season with pepper.
When oil is hot, add the meat mixture to the pot and brown for about 5-7 minutes. Once the meat is evenly browned, add the onions, celery, and carrots. Season with freshly ground black pepper. Cook for ~ 5 minutes, or until the vegetables become soft.
Add the chopped garlic and the cans of tomatoes, then cook for ~ 3 minutes. In a medium bowl, whisk together the beef broth and the tomato paste until smooth. Add broth/paste mixture to the sauce, then add thyme, bay leaves, oregano, basil, and red pepper. Mix well.
Raise the heat to high, bring the sauce to a boil, then reduce heat to medium-low and allow sauce to simmer for 1 ½ hours. Stir occasionally and add more liquid (water, beef broth, or tomato sauce) if your sauce is not “saucy” enough. After 1 ½ hours, taste the sauce and season with pepper if desired. Add the grated cheese, stir well to combine, then allow sauce to continue to simmer for another 30 minutes. Set sauce aside to cool while you assemble the other components of the recipe.
Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees F.
In a large mixing bowl, combine the ricotta, Provolone, Mozzarella, Romano, Parmigiano-Reggiano (3/4 of the full amount), egg, milk, basil, and garlic. Mix well with a whisk or large fork, then season with freshly ground black pepper.
To assemble, spread about 1 ½ cups of the sauce on the bottom of the lasagna pan. Cover the sauce with ¼ of the cheese mixture. Assemble lasagna noodles on top (about 5 per layer). Repeat 3 more times, ending with a layer of noodles. Spread at least 1 cup of the sauce on top of the upper noodle layer, then sprinkle with the remaining amount of Parmigiano-Reggiano.
* You are not supposed to cook the noodles before baking the full dish; the sauce has enough liquid to cook the noodles during the time in the oven. You need to be careful to make sure you have enough sauce for the topmost layer because if you don’t, the upper layer of noodles will come out a little crunchy. For each layer of noodles, I was able to use about 5 individual noodles that I layered slightly overlapping. *
Bake lasagna for about 1 hour, until golden and bubbly on top. Let lasagna sit at least 20 minutes before slicing for ease.
This recipe was adapted from the original recipe by Emeril Lagasse. Emeril is such a fan of lasagna that he devoted an entire episode of his show, Emeril Live, on Food Network to the dish. If you’d like to see the original version, it can be found here