I've experimented with this sauce over the years, and this week, I made a surprising discovery! My discovery was that the sauce hinges ENTIRELY on the inclusion of carrots and celery, and using diced tomatoes instead of crushed. Really?! You say? Well, yes, and this is how I found that out- With my regular sleep deprivation and general Mommy brain, I went to the grocery store to buy the ingredients for this dish. Carrots and celery did not make it into the cart. I decided to go ahead and make the sauce anyway. I also hadn't paid much attention to what kind of canned tomatoes I had in the pantry, it was crushed, instead of whole or diced. I used crushed. Well, the sauce was edible. That's how I'd describe it. When my husband came home from work and asked what was for dinner I said, 'Well, there's some meat sauce.' He looked at me a little confused. 'Is it good?' He asked. 'It's edible,' I shrugged. Who knew carrots and celery were the key. Go figure! (And the crushed tomatoes are a) too acidic and b) too much liquid vs. the diced tomatoes, where the liquid simmers off and you're left with a lovely, complex sauce that hasn't become overly tomato.) Anyhow, THAT sauce wasn't used for this lasagna. I went back to the store and got the correct ingredients and here they are- just in time for fall.
This is roughly enough for 8-10 people. I make two lasagnas, a large one in a 10x14 dish and a smaller one in a 3x6 dish that I freeze.
1 Tbsp olive oil
2 pieces raw bacon, cut into 1/4" pieces
1 yellow onion, finely chopped
3 stalks celery, finely chopped
2 whole carrots or 10-15 baby carrots, peeled and finely chopped
1 clove garlic, through a press or finely chopped
1 lb. sweet Italian pork sausage
1 lb. ground beef, 80 or 85% lean
1 tsp sea salt
freshly ground black pepper
1 Tbsp tomato paste (from a tube, sometimes labeled 'double concentrated')
1 cup red wine
1 or 2 cans (28 oz each) diced tomatoes (1 can for a less tomato focused sauce, 2 for more tomato flavor and content) If diced tomatoes aren't available, get whole tomatoes and cut them in pieces, then add both the tomato pieces and the juice to the sauce.
2 lb. fresh mozzarella
1 cup freshly grated Parmesan
1 cup freshly grated Pecorino Romano
1 15 oz. container whole milk ricotta
1 box lasagna noodles (I usually use about 15-17 noodles)
|Bacon, onions, carrots and celery|
|Finished meat sauce|
|Partially boiled lasagna noodles in moist towels|
To assemble the lasagna, you'll need to slice your fresh mozzarella into pieces- I can never get them thinner than about 1/4" thick since the texture is so soft, that's fine- also, go ahead and grate your cheeses. You do want to grate them as opposed to buying them grated, the flavor is superior. Now we'll go through your layering steps- and while you put the lasagna(s) together, go ahead and preheat your oven to 400 degrees.
Step one- a layer of sauce- as you can see, the sauce is very chunky and not much of a 'sauce,' this is partially because this example used only one can of diced tomatoes. If you use two, it will appear a little differently. In addition, I was assembling with cold sauce, so it appears thicker and to have less liquid than it really does.
|Step one, layer of sauce|
|Step two, layer of noodles|
|Step three, ricotta|
|Step four, Parmesan and Pecorino Romano|
|Step five, Mozzarella|
|Step six, layer of sauce|
|Step seven, layer of noodles|
|Final step, Mozzarella and grated cheese|