Classic Lasagna with Italian Sausage, Ricotta, Mozzarella, and Homemade Marinara
Great lasagna is aaaalllll about the sauce. This Classic Lasagna starts with plenty of Perfect Homemade Marinara Sauce (so good you’ll want to bathe in it) then layers in Italian Sausage, seasoned ricotta cheese, tons of parmesan and mozzarella, and no-boil noodles to keep it simple.
Awesome Lasagna is All About the Sauce
Classic Lasagna is pretty basic – meat sauce, ricotta cheese, mozzarella and parmesan, and noodles. Layer it up and throw it in the oven. What separates the super amazing lasagna from the mediocre is the sauce. Awesome lasagna is all about the sauce, people.
That’s why this recipe starts with my absolute favorite, have-it-on-hand-at-all-times homemade marinara sauce. Oh, friends. This sauce is the bomb. My friend Judy, the “Pasta Queen” who taught me how to make homemade pasta, said this marinara sauce was “the best I’ve ever made, and perhaps the best I’ve ever eaten.”
The sauce only takes about 15 minutes of hands on time, then you just let it simmer away on the stove top for a couple of hours while it makes your house smell so crazy good. If comfort has a smell, it’s this sauce on the stove.
Marinara sauce is seriously one of those things I like to have on hand at all times. The recipe makes a pretty large batch, about 11 cups, and it freezes really well. This lasagna will use up about half of it, which means you’ll have at least 5 cups leftover. Use the leftover sauce to make Indian Shrimp and Rice, Homemade Pizza, or Sausage, Marinara, and Provolone Sandwiches. OR, freeze the leftover sauce for another day.
Honestly, I make a double batch of homemade marinara about every 6 weeks, freezing what doesn’t get eaten that week because having it in the freezer is a godsend on those nights when you don’t really feel like cooking but still want to eat a delicious home cooked meal.
When possible, make the marinara in advance.
When possible, make the marinara sauce the day before because as awesome as this sauce is right after you cook it, it’s even better the next day. Plus, with your marinara sauce already made, assembling the lasagna will only take about 20 minutes. Knowing that I am only 20 minutes away from putting an amazingly delicious lasagna in the oven – THIS is a big deal to me and one of the reasons I almost always have some marinara sauce in the freezer.
If I don’t have any sauce in the freezer, I usually make a big pot of marinara, serve it with pasta for dinner that evening, and save the rest for lasagna the next day.
Having said that, making the sauce in advance is totally not necessary. Just get a pot of marinara going in the morning or early afternoon, letting it cool for an hour or so before assembling and baking a pan of lasagna. The sauce is super awesome the same day you make it – it just gets a bit better by the next day.
Cheese and noodles is a combination I could never get tired of.
Cheese and crackers, good bread and cheese, pasta and cheese – these are a few of my favorite things. And, quite honestly, I don’t understand anyone who feels otherwise.
This lasagna recipes calls for plenty of cheese, because, well… cheese is one of the main points of lasagna. If you want to get skimpy with cheese, lasagna isn’t the place to do it. On the other hand, you don’t want too much. (I know. It’s hard to imagine how there could ever be too much cheese, but it’s true.) I’ve found that about 1 cup shredded mozzarella (plus layers of ricotta) is enough to drape each bite in decadent cheesiness without overkill.
Speaking of ricotta….
Season it. Sometimes this gets overlooked, but it’s pretty important. Unseasoned ricotta is pretty bland, and bland is not something we’re going for here. Adding some parmesan in there along with salt, pepper, and Italian seasoning ensures that every bite will be packed with flavor. Hooray for flavor!
No-boil noodles are awesome! (But, it’s ok to use traditional noodles.)
I absolutely LOVE no-boil lasagna noodles. Whoever created these – I adore you. Open up the package and layer them right in the pan, no cooking required. This saves a considerable amount of time and hassle. If you can’t find no-boil noodles, it’s ok. You’ll just need to make sure to follow the package instructions to boil yours for a bit before assembling your lasagna.
If you’re using traditional lasagna noodles, be sure to toss the cooked noodles with a bit of olive oil so they don’t stick together. As the noodles begin to cool in the colander, they will stick together unless you coat them with a bit of oil. Trying to unstick a glob of lasagna noodles is no fun and should be avoided.
Also – if you’re using traditional lasagna noodles, be careful to not overcook them. You want them to be super al dente – tender, but not cooked through. Typically, this means cooking them for only about two minutes.
Meal Plans that Include The Best Classic Lasagna with Sausage and Marinara:Print
Great lasagna is all about the sauce. This Classic Lasagna starts with plenty of Perfect Homemade Marinara Sauce (so good you’ll want to bathe in it) then layers in Italian Sausage, seasoned ricotta cheese, tons of parmesan and mozzarella, and no-boil noodles to keep it simple.
- 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- 1 lb ground Italian sausage, spicy or mild or a combination of both
- 5 1/2 cups perfect homemade marinara sauce
- 2 cups whole milk ricotta cheese
- 2 1/2 cups grated parmesan cheese, divided
- 1 large egg
- 1 tbsp Italian seasoning
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1/2 tsp ground black pepper
- 12 no-boil lasagna noodles (*see note)
- 16 oz (4 cups) shredded mozzarella cheese
- Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
- Heat olive oil in a large skillet set over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add the sausage and cook until no pink remains, using the spoon to break the sausage up into small pieces as it cooks. Dump the sausage into the marinara sauce, stir, and set aside.
- Add the ricotta, 1 & 1/2 cups grated parmesan, egg, Italian seasoning, salt and pepper to a bowl and stir to combine.
- Ladle about 1/4 cup of the marinara sauce into a 9 x 13 rectangular baking dish and spread it out so it covers the entire bottom of the dish. Lay 4 lasagna noodles over the sauce, across the bottom of the pan. They will overlap a bit. Spread 1/3 of the ricotta mixture over the noodles into an even layer. Ladle 1 & 3/4 cups of marinara sauce and sausage over the ricotta mixture, spreading it out into an even layer. Top the sauce with 1 cup grated mozzarella.
- Repeat this layering process two more times: 4 noodles, 1/3 of the ricotta mixture, 1 & 3/4 cup marinara sauce, and 1 cup mozzarella cheese. With each layer, gently press the noodles down with your hands or the back of a spatula to compact each layer into the pan.
- Sprinkle the remaining 1 cup of grated parmesan over the final layer of mozzarella cheese.
- Spray a sheet of aluminum foil with non-stick baking spray and loosely cover the pan of lasagna. Set the pan on a baking sheet (to catch any drips) and bake for 35 minutes (*see note). Remove the foil and bake for another 20-30 minutes, until the cheese on the top is completely melted and just beginning to brown and the lasagna is bubbly around the edges.
- Remove the lasagna from the oven and let rest for 15 minutes before serving. Letting it rest is important – it will be “soupy” and difficult to serve straight from the oven.
- If you’re using traditional lasagna noodles, instead of the no-boil variety, be sure to toss the cooked noodles with a bit of olive oil so they don’t stick together. Also, be super careful to not overcook them. You want them to be super al dente – tender, but not cooked through. Typically, this means cooking them for only about two minutes.
- The cook time in this recipe is based on using cold marinara sauce. If you’re using hot marinara sauce to assemble your lasagna, this will probably shorten the baking time by 10 – 15 minutes.
- Category: Pasta
- Cuisine: Italian