3 Cheese Loaded Lasagna with Herb and Garlic Cheesy Bread
Let me start by saying this isn’t an authentic Italian lasagna. It’s just one that I have been making for years and me and hubby love it and it’s my go to recipe that I use whenever I’m making it for a crowd or for company. I make it a lot and I know it seems like a lot of ingredients and steps but really I have made it so much that I don’t even notice, I sort of have a system down when I make it and it doesn’t seem like too much effort. If I’m making it for just us then I will make two and freeze one to have in a pinch at a later day. If I’m tight for time the day I want to make it for company I will make the sauce the night before and refrigerate it until I need it and that saves me a ton of time and then I just have to remember to thaw the frozen spinach. If you don’t want to use frozen spinach then definitely use fresh and just chop and sauté it with the mushrooms.
It’s rich and filling and so full of goodness. There’s a lot of hidden veggies in it and I have had people who hate greens have a piece and say they love it not evening taking note of any greens in it. So this might even be a hit with some of those picky eaters you may be feeding. My husband loves all the different textures and layers and I have to agree. You get the creaminess from the ricotta layer and then saucy and meaty and some stringy cheese action as well. Let me give you the low down on the different parts to prepare.
Let’s start with the ricotta part. Leaving the ricotta plain with just the egg and nutmeg is totally acceptable but I love to add the spinach and mushrooms for a little veg and also a little extra flavour in it. So it’s up to you if you want to add them in or not, but we love the extra veggies in it. You can lose the egg too if you’re completely opposed to adding it, but I always find that the egg makes the ricotta layer fluffier and it helps it hold up as a layer.
Next up is this sauce. This is basically how I make my bolognese and we love it. You can make the recipe without the carrots and celery if you want it to be strictly meat, but let’s get real, a little extra veg never hurt nobody plus they add tons of flavour to the sauce. Greeks love to add clove and cinnamon to their meat sauce and thats how I have always made my bolognese. It gives the sauce an extra little dimension of flavour. If thats to much spice or one too many dimensions of flavour for you then definitely leave them out. The longer the sauce stews and simmers the better it gets so I put one hour for it to simmer in the recipe but longer and up to 2 hours is great if you have the time. If I have extra remaining after assembling the lasagna, I freeze it for a future pasta night or I eat it right out of the pot while the lasagna is baking — because that is how I roll folks!
The pasta. I love oven ready pasta especially for the convenience, but I find that if your sauce isn’t saucy enough the pasta absorbs all the moisture and you get a drier lasagna. I don’t know about you but I like a little bit of sauce in mine. The lasagna doesn’t have to be swimming in sauce but it should still be sort of moist. So I found a way to use the oven ready but still achieve a moist (for lack of a better word) lasagna. We all know that you need to go heavy with the sauce when using oven ready lasagna but I also like to soak my pasta sheets in hot water for a few minutes while I’m assembling the pasta. This allows them to absorb a little moisture and soften up a bit. I have found that a few minutes of soaking really makes a difference in my lasagna. Just a little tip. If you’re using fresh sheets than you don’t even have to worry about all that and good for you!
Assembling. I describe below how I assemble mine and you can tell from the pictures how I layer mine and with how many layers, but it’s really your choice how you want things layered. The one rule that I have for layering is that you must start and finish with meat layers and that’s it.
This a great little recipe that I love and make a lot and it’s about time I added it to the blog. I have a béchamel one I make but not as often but I will share that one soon too. Hope you love it as much as we do! We always like to have it with the herb and garlic cheesy bread. It’s just the best!!
Makes 1 large dish of lasagna or two smaller 8X11 ones
- 1½ cups of full fat ricotta
- ½ cup frozen spinach strained or 1 packed cup of fresh
- 1 cup of mushrooms of your choice cleaned and chopped
- 1 egg beaten
- 1 tbsp of olive oil
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Pinch of nutmeg
- 3 tbsp olive oil
- 2½-3 lbs of ground meat of your choice- this one is with ground beef
- 2 small onions finely chopped
- 2 small carrots finely chopped
- 2 stalks celery finely chopped
- 4-6 cloves of garlic finely minced
- ¾ cup of red wine - optional
- 2 cans crushed tomatoes
- 4 tbsp tomato paste
- 1 tsp of cinnamon
- 1 tbsp of oregano
- 1 tsp of ground clove
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 ½ cups of broth or water plus more if needed
- Salt and pepper to taste
- One 500 gram box of Barilla oven ready pasta sheets - or your choice of pasta, oven ready, fresh or boil first pasta
- 1 large bowl of hot water -optional and details in directions (this is only if you’re using oven ready pasta)
- 1 cup mozzarella cheese
- ¼-½ cup of Parmesan cheese
- ½ cup fresh herbs like parsley and basil to garnish each piece with
Herb and garlic cheesy bread
- 1 loaf of your favorite bread cut in half length wise
- 1 ½ sticks of butter softened
- 2 cloves of garlic grated
- ¼-½ cup Parmesan cheese
- 2-3 tbsp chopped fresh herbs of choice - I used parsley for this one but you can do a combo of herbs and chives too
- Salt and pepper to taste
In a Dutch oven heat oil to medium/high and sauté onions, carrots and celery for 5 min or until veggies are starting to get tender
Add the garlic and sauté for another minute then add the meat and brown meat until mostly cooked then add the wine and continue to cook meat until most of the liquid has evaporated
Then add crushed tomatoes, tomato paste, clove, oregano, bay leaves, cinnamon, broth or water and bring to a boil and then reduce to a simmer, cover and let simmer for an hour, stirring periodically and adding more broth or water if needed
After the hour remove lid and let it continue to simmer another 15-20 minutes or until sauce is nice and thick. Set aside or if making ahead let cool for an hour and refrigerate overnight.
While the sauce is simmering prepare the ricotta. In a medium frying pan or skillet, heat up the oil to medium and sauté the mushrooms until they are golden and tender. Season them with salt and pepper and set aside to cool
In a large bowl combine the ricotta, beaten egg, spinach, salt, pepper and the mushrooms once they have cooled a bit. Should be a nice creamy mixture.
Optional step - Place your noodles In a large bowl of hot water while you assemble and this will help them soften and by doing this I have found that the pasta doesn’t absorb as much of the sauce. It helps prevent the lasagna from being overly dry.
Preheat oven to 350 ° F
Place a generous layer of sauce at the bottom of your dish or pan then a layer of pasta (no mozzarella over the first layer of sauce) followed by a layer of the ricotta mix
Then a layer of pasta and a generous layer of meat sauce then sprinkle with a little mozzarella and then layer again with pasta and ricotta and repeat with meat and mozzarella and until you run out of ingredients remembering that the final layer of lasagna sheets need a thick layer of sauce over them to end with.
Sprinkle the top layer of meat generously with the remaining mozzarella and all of the Parmesan cheese. Tent with a layer of parchment/baking paper (this pervents the cheese from sticking to the foil) followed by wrappping tightly with a layer of foil. Then bake for 30 minutes, remove parchment and foil and continue baking for another 15-20 minutes or until golden and bubbling
Remove from oven when done (keep oven on for cheesy bread) Let stand for 20 minutes before cutting to allow it to set a bit which makes it easier to serve
While the lasagna is ‘resting’ make your garlic and herb cheesy bread
In a small bowl combine the softened butter, garlic, herbs, salt and pepper and spread cut side of each bread with the butter mixture and sprinkle both evenly with cheese
Place them on a baking sheet and bake open faced until bread is crispy, golden and cheese is bubbling
Let cool for a couple minute and then slice and serve with lasagna and a big salad and enjoy!