December 7, 2011

when in doubt, add more cheese: how to make lasagna.

cheese. 'nuff said.

I don’t need to give you a recipe for fantastic lasagna.  Your grandmother can do that.  Or your celebrichef of choice.  Really, the best lasagnas are non-recipe lasagnas.  If you read this blog with any regularity you know I’m a fan of non-recipe recipes.  Just use what you’ve got and be creative.  As long as you’ve got the sauce, pasta, filling, sauce, pasta, filling method down, it’s pretty hard to mess up lasagna.  However, I do have a few tips for making lasagna unbelievably good. 
·    Don’t use the ‘no boil’ pasta.  Just don’t.  I’m all about cutting corners, but I’m just not sold on this one. 
·    That said, undercook the pasta like crazy.  If the cook time on the box of lasagna is 8 minutes, cook it only 4.  If you’re going to make the lasagna in advance & bake later, cook it even less.  This will make the pasta a perfect al dente at the time you serve it, as it continues to cook in the sauce.
·    Put a layer of sauce down first so the pasta doesn’t stick. 
·    While we’re on that, make your own sauce.  It’s so easy to do and worth the extra effort.  If you’re a meat eater, put Italian sausage in your sauce, if only for the flavor.  If you can find one, put a pork neck bone in there.  That’s the ‘secret’ to my family’s Sunday gravy. 
·    When you place the top and final layer of pasta, have the curly edges overlap the edge of the pan a little.  When it bakes, they’ll crisp and caramelize, and when paired with the broiled, melty cheese (we’ll get to that), holy goodness it is incredible. 
·    When in doubt, use more cheese.  I’m a ricotta purist.  I’m a bit leery of the cottage cheese in lasagna thing, but to each his/her own.  I mix the big container of ricotta with a hefty handful of parmesan & two eggs.  And then sometimes I use more cheese.  And a little more after that.  I love cheese.
·    However, skip the mozzarella.  Trust me on this.  I just don’t think mozzarella has the flavor needed to stand up to a hearty dish like this.  I learned a trick from my friends at The Palm, and I never looked back.  Top the lasagna with lots (and lots) of Muenster cheese.  Like, a double layer of it over the entire top.  Typically what I do is bake the lasagna covered in foil for an hour or so, then uncover, add the (gargantuan amount of) cheese, and broil it.  It’s ridiculously good.  In fact, I now use Muenster on many dishes – homemade pizza, chicken parm, etc. 
·      Let the lasagna rest a good 15 minutes after removing from the oven.  The slices will hold together better, and the flavors will be incredible. 
If you have a favorite lasagna recipe, please share it.  If you have one that resembles a nachos lasagna (think beans, tomatoes, cheddar cheese layered with the pasta), I must know about it immediately.
If you’re making lasagna for dinner anytime soon, I must also immediately know about that so I can invite myself over.


  1. ooh munster cheese is my fav! love that idea!

  2. First of all, I thought I invented the term celebrichef, so I expect the reference in the Oxford English Dictionary 2020 edition if it takes off.

    But the Muenster suggestion is much more brilliant than making up a word.

    Lastly, Lisa's mom made it to the Pillsbury bake off finals with a Mexican lasagna, and the recipe is yours for Xmas. Thanks for the great post!

  3. And likewise, when you are making this amazing lasagna at your house, let me know and I will invite myself over.

  4. Mmm... I'm making lasagna for Christmas Eve dinner. I have both a chicken pot pie lasagna recipe and a Mexican chicken lasagna with chiles and black beans. And cumin. Lots of cumin...

  5. As I mentioned previously, I'm with ya on the cottage cheese thing. Ick.

    Love the thought of Muenster cheese! I never feel like mozzarella has enough flavor, so I can't wait to try this.

  6. Lovely! I couldn't agree more with the making of your own sauce. That is the key.

    I actually mix cottage cheese with ricotta, shredded mozzarella and freshly grated parmesan for my cheese filling. Totally gonna try muenster next time. Thanks for the fabulous post:)

  7. great tip on under cooking the pasta! I'm with you on the cottage cheese - I think it is an ingredient substitution that got started in Magazine recipes - My McCall's cookbook (circa 1984) calls for it probably because year's ago small town grocery stores would not have carried ricotta.
    Also - have you ever made lasagna with Gruyere, Fontina and Gorgonzola? Unbelievable.

  8. Can I just, essentially, use any combination of cheeses or do they have to be a certain consistency? I'm making this for Christmas and I'm now really nervous it's going to suck if I don't follow the exact cheeses you suggested but I also don't want to spend a ton... Help?