Homemade Lasagne: using pre-cooked pasta sheets, assembly, and cooking techniques

Ever the ambitious home cook, my fiancé usually manages to think of something delicious that she doesn’t quite know how to make.

And luckily for her, she has me 😉

Don’t be fooled by a fast forwarded Instagram video. Lasagna takes time, patience, thought, and preparation.

Here’s your roadmap to success. These are the high level steps:

  • preheat oven to 400 degrees
  • make the sauce
  • cook the insides of the lasagna (meat)
  • assemble

These are the ingredients that go into lasagne

  • 1 lb ground meat (pork, beef or veal are most common)
  • 16 oz bag of spinach
  • fresh mozzarella cheese
  • shredded mozzarella cheese
  • grated parmesan cheese
  • homemade tomato sauce
  • pasta (lasagna) sheets
  • 16 oz tub of ricotta cheese

How to make the sauce

You can use a pre-made, canned sauce if you like. No shame in that for something like this.

If you make your own sauce, be sure to toss in: onions, garlic, canned tomatoes, red wine, chili flakes, thyme, oregano, parsley, salt & pepper (you can also read my post about it here).

TIP: When cooking anything that has tomato in the pot, make sure to continuously stir so it doesn’t burn, and on low heat, so it doesn’t splatter.

How to cook each, inside layer of lasagne

Like most pasta, a great thing about lasagne is all the different things you can put in it.  Here, I’m layering in ground pork and spinach.

Cook this off before assembling your lasagne.  Otherwise the natural juices will leak out, making your lasagne runny and sloppy.

Get a pot really hot, and pour in olive oil. Add as much spinach as the pot will take, and stir it fast while it’s cooking. Add a pinch of salt and a squeeze of lemon juice, then throw a little water in (when done during the cooking process, it cools the bottom of the pot, and steams the spinach at the same time).

Transfer to a sheet tray to cool.

A 16 oz (1 lb) tub will shrink down to this:

In a hot skillet, brown the ground pork in a bit of oil to start.  Make sure it’s all cooked through, at which point, remove the skillet’s content into a strainer.

Return to the spinach. Wring out spinach over the sink and transfer it to a bowl for now.

Strain the meat over a colander just to get the juice and fat out and transfer it to the sheet that previously contained the spinach.

The meat should meanwhile be coming close to room temperature.

Assembly: “what order do I layer lasagna?”

Thinly slice a log of fresh mozzarella cheese.

Put a thin layer of sauce on the bottom of a casserole dish. Here, I’m using a 12″x18″glass pyrex.  Make sure to use cooking spray or olive oil to line the bottom and sides of the dish.

Here it is important to note that ordinarily, you must cook your pasta sheets in salted, boiling water, then submerge in cold water, then dry.  While at the store shopping for the elements for this lasagna, I saw a pasta sheet product that said it didn’t need to be cooked and would turn out perfectly in your lasagna if put in dry.  I’d never heard of such a product before, but I was curious, and tried it out.  It actually worked great and there’s a picture of it at the bottom of this post if you’d like to try it too.

For the first layer of pasta, you want it to cover as much surface area as possible.  I got a little cute after trying out three sheets, but you don’t have to break the pasta sheets up this much. Just use the sheets to cover most of the surface area.

That being said, the biggest X factor in lasagna is how things are layered: by that I mean, the order in which they get layered. I like to layer in cheese in each layer, but as the last thing before the next layer of pasta is put down.  This way, while cooking, the cheese melts and sinks into the filling.

Moving on.

Next, lay down the first layer of pork.

Layer on some sauce.

Tip: put down small dollops instead of drizzling a bunch of sauce for this layer. You don’t want it to be super saucy and runny.

Now add a layer of cheese. I’m using a blend of various shredded Italian cheeses.

Another layer of pasta. Getting better at the coverage technique.

Add the layer of ricotta cheese. I’m using a pastry bag to make it easy but you can also use a spatula.

Fully cheesed:

Add a layer of spinach; using all of the spinach.

Now a light layer of pork

Add a tiny bit of sauce. Save enough for the top. And, of course, more cheese.

Add a layer of pasta. As you can see, this is essentially the final layer.

Now, how many layers you can add is directly related to how deep your dish is (fiancé giggles).

Over the pasta, add the final layer of sauce and the fresh mozzarella slices and dust in parmesan. Use a spatula or spoon if you have to to spread the sauce around.

Fresh mozzarella always needs a bit of sea salt.

This is what your creation will look like going into the oven.

I recommend covering the dish with tinfoil to cook (roughly 40 min at 400 degrees). You want it to be hot all the way through so the cheese melts.  This can be determined really well by using a cake tester, or a knife, to stick into the center of the lasagna, wait five seconds and pull it out.  If it’s hot to the touch, your dish is cooked all the way. Then removing the foil covering and letting it sit under the broiler to finish.

TIP: spray the underside of the tinfoil with a non-stick spray so that it doesn’t stick to the cheese. Boom.

Here it is removed from the oven:

Let it sit under the broiler for 5 minutes then get ready to enjoy lasagna greatness.

Home chef approved 🙂

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