The absolute best homemade ricotta lasagna recipe that you’ll find anywhere – and that’s a promise. Not only is it rich and full-bodied, but also very simple to make. What a perfect combination!
I made it again today and it was a good opportunity to update my recipe and add in some new photos, as well as better explain some of the procedures. On the recipe card – and in my kitchen today – I used a package of ready-made instant lasagna sheets. They’re absolutely fine for my family, but if you have access to fresh lasagna, then by all means use those in place of the store-bought variety.
Ground beef – I bought 1 pound (equivalent to 500g) of ground beef from my local butcher. I try to buy quite lean beef because you’ll probably find enough oil in some of the other ingredients, like the sausage and cheese. Keep in mind that you can substitute the beef for ground pork, lamb, chicken, or turkey.
Sausages – I use 4 big fat chorizo sausages cut in half lengthwise like in the picture below, but you can use whichever full-flavored sausages you can find at your local butcher or store. Sometimes my local store has a great special on Italian sausages – sometimes with a little bit of spice in them – and they work really well, too.
Spaghetti sauce – You can use any tomato-based spaghetti sauce – homemade or store-bought. Today I used two jars of store-bought bolognese sauce, and they were easy and delicious. When I have more time, I do like to make my own sauce, but that just wasn’t an option for me today! If you want to try, have a look at this gluten free pasta sauce recipe (but ignore the extra ground beef).
Lasagna sheets – I already mentioned that I used store-bought instant lasagna sheets today – just 1 packet – but if you have access to homemade pasta, then certainly feel free to use that.
Cheese – This is the grated cheese that will be sprinkled on top just before you bake the lasagna. You really can use whichever cheese you already have in your refrigerator, or whichever your family prefers. My local store sells a bag of grated cheese that they call ‘pizza cheese’ which is a combination of mozzarella (for the lovely stretchiness), cheddar (because it browns nicely in the oven), and parmesan (because it’s got a slightly stronger flavor that my family and I enjoy). This recipe calls for half a pound (equivalent to about 250g). If you really like cheese, you can add in a bit extra…
Ricotta cheese – Traditional lasagna calls for a béchamel sauce (also known as a white sauce), but in this recipe we’re using ricotta cheese instead. It’s just as delicious – but easier, which is why I like it. I used ricotta today. If you do not have ricotta, you can substitute cottage cheese here.
Onion/ garlic/ spring onions/ herbs – Feel free to add these flavors as you like. When I’m really busy I can leave out the onion and garlic because they take extra time to chop, but today I used several lengths of spring onions and three cloves of garlic. You can also add some dried Italian herbs, if you have them, or – better yet – a few crushed fresh leaves of basil.
Salt & pepper – Add freshly ground black pepper and some salt according to your own tastes. I used about a teaspoon of each.
Start by cutting the four sausages in half lengthwise, and add them to a heavy-bottomed skillet over a medium heat on the stove. I used chorizo sausages which have enough natural fats in them that I didn’t need to use any olive oil in my pan. Just keep an eye on them because you’re wanting to part-cook them – brown them – but not over-cook them. This should take about 5 minutes.
When the sausages have browned a little, cut them into bite-sized chunks and add them to a large saucepan. Don’t drain the fat from the skillet – you can use it to cook the ground beef in. Set the saucepan to one side because you’ll add the ground beef and pasta sauce to it in a few minutes.
So go ahead and add the ground beef to the skillet. If you’re wanting to use chopped onion/ spring onion/ garlic/ dried herbs, you can add them to the pan at the same time. Brown the beef, but don’t let it cook so much that it dries out. Remember that the ingredients will be combined over the stove for an hour (or two), so they will continue cooking then, and then the whole lot goes into the oven for close to an hour, so everything will cook some more in there.
Keep stirring to prevent the beef (and garlic, if you’re using it) from sticking to the bottom.
When it’s browned, add it into the large saucepan with the cut up sausages. Also add in the spaghetti sauce, and set the saucepan over a low heat on the stove. Give everything a good stir to make sure it’s all well combined, then cover it with a lid and leave it to simmer over a very low heat for an hour – or two, if you have enough time to do so. During this process, the flavors will develop, so if you can spare two hours, that’s going to yield a bolder flavor than just one hour.
When the sauce is ready, preheat your oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit (180 degrees Celsius).
I have a lovely large, rectangular baking dish that I use to make lasagna. I know there are specialty lasagna dishes around, but you can use whatever you have available (even a cake tin will do!).
Spread a very thin layer of just spaghetti sauce (no sausage pieces) over the base of the lasagna dish. This is really just to add some juice to the bottom of the lasagna so that the first layer of pasta doesn’t stick.
Then lie sheets of instant lasagna pasta over the saucy base to cover it. Try not to overlap the sheets of lasagna. You might need to break/ cut some sheets in order to fill any gaps.
Using a large scooping spoon or ladle, add half the sauce (including sausage this time) over the top of the lasagna sheets. Make sure to spread the sauce out to all the edges and corners.
Using a spoon, dollop about half of the ricotta/ cottage cheese on top of the spaghetti sauce. Try to spread it around as much as you can. (However, that might be a little difficult because the spaghetti sauce moves around a bit as you try to spread!)
Sprinkle a handful of grated cheese over the ricotta/ cottage cheese, then add another layer of lasagna sheets. (Same rules as before: no overlapping, and break/ cut some into smaller pieces if you have any gaps to fill.)
Spread MOST of the rest of the spaghetti sauce on top of the sheets. Just leave a very little bit of the sauce only (no sausage pieces) to smear over the next layer – about as much as you used to spread on the very base of the dish.
Add the remaining half of the ricotta/ cottage cheese to the top of the spaghetti sauce in dollops – just like you did a minute ago – and try to spread it around as well as you can.
Now place the third and final layer of lasagna sheets over the top of the ricotta/ cottage cheese layer. Use the last of the sauce to spread over the top of the lasagna sheets, then sprinkle the grated cheese evenly over the top.
Cover your lovely lasagna with aluminum foil and bake it in your preheated oven for 30 minutes. After that time, take it out, carefully remove the foil (you don’t want to pull any cheese off!), and keep the foil to one side – you’ll use it again at the end. Then return the dish to the oven for a further 20 minutes, or until the top of the lasagna is a gorgeous golden brown color.
Remove the lasagna from the oven and cover it with the foil you removed 20 minutes ago. Your lasagne needs to rest for 15 minutes, and the foil will trap in some of the heat. Those 15 minutes will be DIFFICULT because your lasagna will smell SOOOOO good that you’ll be eager to get straight to the eating part, but I promise that waiting a little while will make it much easier to cut and serve. Be patient!
Finally, if you’ve used a large rectangular baking dish like I did today, cut your lasagna into six equal portions (see my photo) and serve.
Homemade Ricotta Lasagna Recipe
- large, heavy-bottomed skillet
- Large saucepan/ pot
- lasagna dish (rectangular, deep-sided baking dish)
- 4 fat Italian sausages
- 4 cups spaghetti sauce (store-bought or you can make your own, whichever tickles your taste buds)
- 1 pound lean ground beef/ mince (500g)
- 1 package instant lasagna sheets (large)
- ½ pound mozzarella cheese (shredded)
- ½ pound cottage or ricotta cheese
- Cook sausages in frying pan until mostly cooked.
- Cut up into small, bite sized pieces.
- Brown ground beef (minced beef) in a large, heavy-bottomed skillet.
- Add both the sausages and mince meat to the jars of spaghetti sauce in a large pot.
- Mix well and let simmer for 1 to 2 hours (depending on how much time you have, but 2 hours is better).
- When sauce is ready, preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit (180 degrees Celcius).
- Spread a very thin layer of just spaghetti sauce (no sausage) over the base of your lasagna dish – really just to add some juice to the bottom of the dish.
- Then spread instant lasagna sheets over the saucy base to cover the base. You might need to break/ cut some in order to fill gaps. Do not overlap the lasagna sheets.
- Pour half of the sauce on top of the sheets.
- Then spread half the cottage/ ricotta cheese on the sauce.
- Layer with another set of lasagna sheets.
- Then spread most of the rest of the sauce on top of sheets. (Leave a very little bit to spread over the next layer of lasagna sheets.)
- Spread the remaining half of the cottage/ ricotta cheese onto the sauce.
- Place the third and final layer of lasagna sheets over the cottage/ ricotta cheese.
- Spread the last of the spaghetti sauce over the top layer of lasagna sheets.
- Sprinkle grated/ shredded mozzarella cheese evenly over the top.
- Cover with aluminium foil and bake for 30 minutes.
- Remove foil – but keep it!
- Return lasagna to the oven and and bake for a fruther 20 minutes, or until the top of the lasagna is golden brown.
- Allow the lasagna to rest (covered in the foil you removed earlier) for 15 minutes.
- Slice into 6 even portions and serve.