Homemade lasagna isn’t as time consuming as you would think. I’ve broken it down into a few simple steps for any night of the week.
From Fancy Meal to Everyday Meal
Admittedly, growing up we didn’t eat lasagna all the time. It was reserved for special occasions or birthday requests, probably because although it doesn’t require much time, it does require a little bit of planning ahead. Mostly because our family tomato sauce takes a couple of hours to simmer, and it had to be made ahead if you didn’t want to spend the entire day in the kitchen on the day of whatever we were celebrating. And trust me when I say that there was absolutely no way any other sauce would be used in our homemade lasagna.
Just the thought of it would likely send the designated cook into a frenzied “Storebought sauce? Jarred sauce??? Why don’t we just go ahead and buy a frozen lasagna from Schwan’s then? What do you need me for anyway?” (This is also extremely ironic, by the way, because in my grandma’s later years she purchased Schwan’s regularly. Probably even the lasagna.)
But I consider planning and prepping ahead to be somewhat of a superpower of mine. So I’ve mastered the art of getting this lasagna out on a weeknight, and you can too. Promise.
Let it be known that I can be a stickler with some things (one of which I will cover in a later section over ricotta in lasagna – get ready). But there are some things I have just chosen to be more flexible on in the kitchen than my mom ever was when I was a kid. One of these things is that cursed jarred pasta sauce.
I remember it becoming known as “cheater sauce” at some point. She didn’t buy it. She didn’t use it. I don’t think I had even tasted any until maybe high school at a friend’s house? All I know is that it wasn’t at home.
But as an adult and mom of seemingly constantly starving boys, I’ve broken the sacred rule and used jarred sauce. There. I said it. I’ve used storebought sauce. For pasta, for lasagna, for homemade pizza (does that help make up for it?). It feels so good to get that off my chest. Whew!
And if you truly don’t have the time to make our family tomato sauce ahead of time, so what? Get that jarred sauce and make this lasagna anyway. Your family will still love you – and so will I!
What you need for homemade lasagna:
- Our Family Tomato Sauce or favorite jarred sauce
- ricotta cheese
- shredded mozzarella
- dried basil, oregano, and parsley
- salt and pepper
- lasagna noodles
A few notes on ingredients:
Ok, remember I said I’m a stickler on some things but not others? Here’s a perfect example: lasagna noodles. I remember having to cook them, cool them, hoping they were cooled enough to handle them, fighting to keep them from ripping, etc. The only time I felt like it was worth it is when we took it even a step further and made homemade lasagna noodles. Amazing. I recommend it at least once in your life. Great kitchen activity for the family and nothing compares to homemade pasta. A few times a year we get the pasta maker out and really enjoy the process, usually it’s Milo who appreciates it the most. And my dad. A great time of working and talking together in the kitchen. Totally worth it.
That is most definitley NOT a regular routine for us during the week. And after discovering the magic of oven-ready lasagna noodles, I’m all in for that time saver. It’s just one more way we can make this Sunday-worthy meal a reality on a weeknight.
Now although I have made concessions in the sauce and noodle department, there is one I will not. Here it comes. Are you ready?
Please, for the love of all things holy and the preservation of Italian cooking, do not substitute cottage cheese for ricotta cheese. Ever. I know we’ve Americanized things, and it’s easy to accept the idea that cottage cheese is just the American version of ricotta; and if ricotta happens to be out of stock, it’s tempting to make that switch. But please. Just don’t. I actually love cottage cheese – just not in place of ricotta. That’s all I have to say about that.
Assembling homemade lasagna:
It’s all about the layers. First, rub olive oil inside your 9×13 baking dish or spray with cooking spray. Then spoon some tomato sauce to cover the bottom of the pan. Be generous here.
Next, layer your noodles. It’s important that your noodles are layered directly after your sauce so that they have some liquid to help them cook in the oven (since we’re using the oven-ready kind). Break the noodles to fit if neccessary, just be sure you layer them in the same direction on each layer for ease of cutting portions at dinner.
On top of your noodles, spread a few dollops of the ricotta filling (ricotta, shredded mozzarella, spices, egg, and pepperoni) over them. Then top the ricotta with another layer of sauce and repeat the process of “sauce, noodles, ricotta” until you reach the top of your dish (usually 3-4 times).
Top the entire thing with enough sauce to cover it and sprinkle with shredded mozzarella. Cover with foil and bake at 400 degrees for about an hour, until bubbly. I usually place my baking dish on top of a baking sheet in case anything drips down.
All that’s left is maybe a salad and some bread!
Think you can pull this meal off on a regular weeknight? Let us know how it goes!
This post may contain affiliate links, which means I make a small commission at no extra cost to you. Thank you for supporting our family in this way!
- Our Family Tomato Sauce or 2 of your favorite jarred sauces
- 30 oz. ricotta cheese
- ¼ cup shredded mozzarella + ½ cup for topping
- 1 egg
- 1 tsp. dried basil
- 1 tsp. dried oregano
- 1 tsp. dried parsley
- salt and pepper
- 3.5 oz. pepperoni chopped
- oven-ready lasagna noodles
- Mix the ricotta, ¼ cup of mozzarella, egg, spices, and pepperoni in a bowl. Set aside. Spray a 9×13 baking dish with cooking spray or rub with olive oil. Spoon enough sauce to cover the bottom of the pan. Begin layering the lasagna in this order: sauce, noodles, ricotta filling, sauce, noodles, ricotta filling, and so on, until you’ve reached the top of the pan (usually 3-4 layers). Top the lasagna with another layer of sauce and ½ cup of mozzarella. Cover with foil and bake at 400 degrees for about an hour, until bubbly.