I’m a creature of habit. So when I make tomato sauce, there’s a rhythm and order of things or it’s not quite right – like sauce superstitions of some sort. It starts by opening a bottle of red wine and pouring myself a glass before adding some to the onions; I have to slice the garlic paper thin like when they cooked in prison in Goodfellas (remember?); then I have to play at least one Dino or Frank song, preferably while the sauce is simmering.
And, when it comes to making lasagna, I have approximately 19,000 versions but my happy place is my Mom’s version, this Sweet Sausage and Three Cheese Lasagna. It’s ridiculously easy (no béchamel to speak of) but still really comforting – especially since it’s got loads and loads of cheese. I mean, high-quality ricotta and a well-made tomato sauce is my Kryptonite, people!
remove from casing and crumbled
For the sauce: Heat oil in a Dutch oven or a large, heavy-bottomed pot over medium-high heat. When it shimmers, add onion and garlic, season well with salt and freshly ground black pepper and cook until just softened. Add sausage and ground pork and stir to break up meat. Cook, stirring occasionally, until meat starts to color, about 8 to 10 minutes. Add wine and cook, scraping bottom of pan to incorporate browned bits, until the alcohol smell is cooked off.
Add tomatoes, 1 tablespoon salt, basil, oregano, bay leaf, and season well with freshly ground black pepper. Stir until well mixed and tomatoes start to simmer. Reduce heat to low and simmer, stirring occasionally, until flavors meld, at least 10 minutes and up to 1 hour.
Sauce can be made up to 3 days ahead of time; store refrigerated in an airtight container until ready to use.
For the lasagna: Heat oven to 375 degrees F and arrange rack in middle.
Spread 2 cups sauce in a thin layer over the bottom of a 13 by 9-inch baking dish. Layer 4 noodles over sauce, top with 2 cups sauce and spread it evenly over the noodles. Evenly dollop 1/4 of the ricotta across the sauce, top with 1/4 of the mozzarella, and sprinkle evenly with 1/4 cup Parmigiano-Reggiano. Repeat with remaining ingredients. Cover with foil and bake until liquids are bubbling and noodles are beginning to soften, about 40 minutes.
Remove foil and continue baking until top is golden brown and noodles are completely tender, about 20 minutes more. Allow to rest at least 30 minutes before cutting.
Make sure you let the lasagna rest otherwise it will fall apart when you cut into it. I often make it up to 1 hour before I plan on serving it because it still stays warm but is much easier to cut.
Food styling and photography by Aida Mollenkamp