I’m a creature of habit. So when I crave comfort food, my mom’s Italian Sausage Three Cheese Lasagna recipe is in order.
I’d venture to say that helping my mother layer the noodles for this Italian Sausage Three Cheese Lasagna recipe is one of my first memories in the kitchen, and these days it’s what I make when comfort food is in order.
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; then I have to play at least one Dino or Frank song, preferably while the sauce is simmering.
The Origin Of This Italian Sausage Three Cheese Lasagna recipe
This is a lasagna recipe that my mother has made our whole life be it for a Sunday family meal or to feed a crowd when we’d descend on her house for Coachella. I first got this recipe down on paper for my show Ask Aida, and it continues to be one of the highest-rated food network lasagna recipes.
My mother has been making this Italian Sausage Three Cheese Lasagna recipe for so long that she doesn’t recall where the recipe first originated except that it’s a variation on a recipe her mother taught her. These days you will find many similar styles: as in lasagna made with meat ragu and Italian cheeses — across the web.
A Classic Italian American Recipe
To be clear, this Italian Sausage Three Cheese Lasagna recipe is not an authentic Italian recipe but rather my family’s take on an Italian-American sausage cheese lasagna recipe.
This Italian-American lasagna is made by layering three kinds of cheese — ricotta, mozzarella, parmigiano-reggiano —sweet Italian sausage, ground pork, and an easy homemade tomato sauce.
When it comes to homemade lasagna, this is the top easy lasagna recipe (no béchamel to speak of) you’ll find. If you use store-bought pasta sauce and don’t pre-cook the noodles, it makes it even easier!
Variations On This Italian Sausage Three Cheese Lasagna Recipe
This Italian Sausage Three Cheese Lasagna Recipe is made with less than 12 everyday ingredients and 3 different kinds of cheese. But here are a few variations:
- Vegetarian: Make it vegetarian by nixing the meat.
- Vary The Cheese: Add in smoked provolone instead of the mozzarella for another layer of flavor.
- Sauteed greens: Stir garlicky sautéed greens like kale or spinach into the ricotta.
- Go Green: Or add a few dollops of basil pesto to the top before serving.
Just don’t make it overly complicated because the beauty of this recipe is that it’s simple, straightforward, and reliably delicious.
What Is The Secret To A Great Lasagne?
Balance is the secret to great lasagna (or lasagne, if we’re being grammatically proper!). Too often, we find versions that are gut bombs with too much cheese, too heavy a meat sauce, and just too much.
A great lasagna should have a bit of it all — cheese, meat sauce, noodles — in every bite. And it should leave you wanting more, not feeling the regret of how heavy a dish you just ate!
How To Make Cheese Lasagna
After making numerous lasagne, I’ve picked up more than a few tips.
Don’t Overstuff The Layers
Follow our recipe guidelines and add a touch of each ingredient to each layer. The result is a balanced lasagna that’s a perfect mix of pasta, ragu, and cheese.
Use The Right Size Baking Dish
To bake the lasagna, you’ll want a pan that is a heavy-duty material — stoneware, glass, metal — that can go from the oven to the table.
We opt for a traditional lasagna pan, usually around 14 ½ to 15-inch x 9 to 10-inch x 3-inch like this baking pan from Crate & Barrel. If you don’t have a pan that size, you can use a standard 13-inch x 9-inch baking dish but know you will not quite fit all the ingredients in the pan, and you’ll have a touch leftover.
Let It Rest Before Serving
Once the lasagna is done baking, let it rest for 30 minutes before serving it. That will make it easier to cut and serve. If you cut it before then, you risk having the layers fall apart.
Make It Ahead
You can make any or all recipes (as in the meat sauce or the whole assembled lasagna) ahead of time. The easy tomato meat sauce takes less than 30 minutes to make (and is great as is on pasta, FYI). But also, it gets better the longer it sits, so make it up to two days ahead.
Which Lasagna Noodles To Use?
Do a google search for “lasagna noodles,” and you’ll see all thoughts on which kind of noodles to use and if cooked or uncooked lasagna noodles are better.
We’ve made this recipe with all kinds of noodles — as in, no-boil noodles, dried lasagna noodles that are pre-boiled, fresh lasagna that is pre-boiled, and even dried and fresh lasagna sheets that are not pre-cooked. The result? Anything works for this recipe!
It makes 10 cups of meat sauce to handle any noodle situation you throw at it. However, the uncooked noodles will absorb more of the sauce, while the precooked noodles don’t.
We prefer to pre-cook fresh noodles (you can do it up to 3 days ahead!) so that the final result is a saucy (but not overly so) casserole.
Does Lasagna Require Eggs?
Just as a PSA: the only time you find eggs in classic Italian lasagna recipes is in a traditional Neapolitan recipe where whole-boiled eggs are layered.
Many Italian-American lasagna recipes will have you combine the cheese and add an egg to bind it all together. We skip this step to save time and because we prefer to have the cheeses layered across the lasagna so you get a bite of each flavor as you eat.
What Cheese Is In Lasagna?
The most common types of cheese used in Italian-American lasagnas are ricotta cheese, mozzarella cheese, and parmigiano-reggiano cheese. We prefer the combination of these three kinds of cheese as they’re a great mixture of textures and flavors.
- Ricotta Cheese: Do your best to find high-quality whole milk ricotta cheese (or make homemade ricotta cheese). We like the Bellwether Farms cheese if you’re in California. Otherwise, we feel Organic Valley Ricotta Cheese is a great option.
- Mozzarella Cheese: Seek out low-moisture mozzarella over something with more water like buffalo mozzarella or burrata. Though those are delicious, they will make the lasagna watery.
- Parmigiano-Reggiano: Please don’t use parmesan cheese and opt for the real deal here. The meat and cheeses make this dish so use only Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese!
However, recipes call for anything from cottage cheese to Provolone or even Asiago or Romano.
How to Freeze Lasagna
You can freeze the assembled, unbaked lasagna or bake it all the way through and then freeze it to serve it up to one month later.
If baking it from the freezer, factor in 90 minutes to 2 hours of baking (so about twice the time listed in the recipe). Make sure it’s fully warmed through in the middle and that the cheese and sauce is bubbly at the edge; otherwise, it needs more time!
How to Reheat Lasagna
Honestly, how to reheat this easy lasagna recipe is a personal preference. If you have a piece or two and want it super hot and molten, pop it in the microwave or toaster oven for a few minutes.
If you have a large amount to reheat, place it in an oven proof container in a medium-low oven (about 250°F) until it’s heated through, anywhere from 10 to 20 minutes.
What Are Good Sides for Lasagna
You’ll want to serve this with something that’s bright, and light so it can complement and contrast with the tomato and cheese in the lasagna. That could be sauteed spinach, roast broccolini, or roast mushrooms,
But we feel that a salad with spicy greens and/or a vinegary dressing is the best pairing. Here are a few we’d recommend:
- Escarole and Mandarin Salad with Rosemary Balsamic Vinaigrette Recipe
- Arugula Avocado Hearts Of Palm Salad Recipe
- Parmigiano-Reggiano and Walnut Celery Salad Recipe
Italian Sausage Three Cheese Lasagna Recipe
For The Easy Tomato Meat Sauce:
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 medium yellow onion peeled and finely chopped
- 10 garlic cloves peeled and thinly sliced
- Kosher salt and Freshly ground black pepper
- 1 pound uncooked sweet Italian sausage remove from casing and crumbled
- 1/2 pound lean ground pork or ground beef or ground turkey (use dark meat)
- 1/2 cup dry red wine
- 2 (28-ounce) containers crushed tomatoes
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1 teaspoon dried parsley
- 1 medium bay leaf
For Assembling The Lasagna:
- 2 (16-ounce) packages fresh lasagna sheets
- 24 ounces whole-milk ricotta cheese
- 1 pound low-moisture mozzarella cheese thinly sliced
- 2 cups finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese (about 2 ounces)
Make The Tomato Meat 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 and the onions are translucent. 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 all the tomatoes, 1 tablespoon kosher salt, parsley, 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. Taste the sauce and add in a pinch of sugar if needed to balance it out. TIP: The sauce can be made up to three days ahead of time and refrigerated until ready to use. This recipe makes 10 cups of sauce, which is enough for this lasagna or for about 4 to 5 pounds of pasta shapes or noodles.
Cook The Lasagna Noodles:
- If you are using dried store bought lasagna noodles (not fresh lasagna as called for the in recipe or no-boil noodles), we'd recommend you cook the noodles Otherwise, if using fresh lasagna sheets or no-boil noodles, you can skip ahead to "Assemble the Lasagna."Bring a pasta pot filled with heavily salted water to a boil over high heat. Prepare an ice bath by filling a bowl halfway with ice water. Also keep a rimmed baking sheet and some olive oil nearby. Drop a few sheets of the pasta into the boiling water and let cook until they’re just pliable, about 30 seconds to 1 minute for fresh pasta and 2 to 3 minutes for dried pasta. Using tongs or a spider, remove the pasta sheets and plunge it into the ice water bath. Remove each lasagna sheet, spread it out on a baking sheet and drizzle with olive oil. Repeat to cook all the lasagna noodles. TIP: The noodles can be boiled up to two days ahead of time. Store covered in the refrigerator until ready to use.
Assemble The Lasagna:
- Spread a thin layer of cooking spray or olive oil on the inside of a lasagna baking dish or a 13-by-9-inch baking dish. Spread 2 cups of the sauce in a thin layer over the bottom. Now do the following to make one layer of lasagna: you will repeat this in its entirety to make 4 complete layers.For one lasagna layer: Layer lasagna sheets side-by-side over the sauce until you have completely covered the sauce and made one flat layer of noodles. Trim the noodles with scissors as needed to fit flat into the dish. Top with 2 cups of sauce and spread it evenly over the noodles. Evenly dollop one-quarter of the ricotta across the sauce, top with one-quarter of the mozzarella and sprinkle evenly with one-quarter of the Parmigiano-Reggiano. Repeat with the remaining ingredients, for a total of 4 layers (the top layer will be a mix of meat sauce and cheeses).TIP: The lasagna can be fully assemble and frozen up to one month ahead. Place the frozen lasagna in the oven and bake until warm throughout and the cheese is bubbling (this may take an additional 30 minutes or more). Alternatively, it can be refrigerated for two days before baking.
Bake The Lasagna:
- Heat oven to 375°F and arrange rack in middle. 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 into 15 pieces and serving.TIP: The lasagna can be fully cooked up to two days ahead of time. Store covered in the refrigerator until ready to serve. Warm in a low (about 200°F) oven before serving.