Our family relishes Italian food especially Lasagna. Today, I am posting the recipe for lasagna using oven ready lasagna sheets (noodles), ricotta cheese, spiced minced meat, mozzarella and parmesan cheese. I prepare lasagna using oven ready lasagna sheets that my sister very lovingly brings me from the US along with a horde of hard-to-find ingredients (in India). 🙂
Lasagna with Ricotta cheese
It does take some time to prepare lasagna but its worth the effort. While preparing lasagna or any type of pasta recipe, I try to stay close to authentic Italian pasta recipes. Sometimes the lack of an ingredient calls for substitution which does not alter the original flavor drastically. Sourcing ricotta cheese is difficult in my part of the world hence I resort to preparing it at home. Of course, it does not come close to the flavor of authentic Italian ricotta cheese but its a substitute. The preparation for lasagna begins the previous day with the making of ricotta cheese. I usually make this a day ahead so that the flavors meld in the fridge. You can find the recipe for homemade ricotta cheese in the ‘Tips’ below. I used Amul mozzarella cheese which is easily available in most grocery stores. You will find parmesan cheese in speciality gourmet stores. If you cannot find parmesan cheese, you can substitute with grated Amul cheese. I hope you enjoy making this recipe for lasagna which always gets 5 stars from family and friends.
1: Heat 3 cups of water and bring to a boil. Turn off heat. Pour the hot water into a rectangular baking dish. Place 9 lasagna sheets in the hot water for 5 mts. Drain the water and lay the lasagna sheets on a tray.
2: Heat olive oil in a heavy bottomed vessel. Add crushed garlic and saute for few secs. Add finely chopped onions and saute for 6 mts. Add black pepper powder and fennel seeds powder and mix.
3: Add chopped tomato and cook on low to medium flame for 6 mts. Add tomato puree and tomato sauce and cook for another 6 mts. Add mincemeat and mix on high flame. Cook for 5 mts, mixing once in a while. Reduce flame, place lid and cook for 20 mts. Add 2 cups water, salt and Italian seasoning and place lid and simmer till the meat is cooked and you have a nice saucy mincemeat. It should take approx 40 to 45 mts to cook over stove top. Once the mincemeat is cooked, turn off heat. Add chopped parsley and mix. Keep aside.
4: Start layering the lasagna in a oven dish (9X13 inch). Spread 2 ladles of minced meat in the dish.Over the mincemeat, place 3 lasagna sheets next to each other with 1/2" gap between each sheet. The lasagna sheets should not touch the walls of the oven dish (keep a gap of 1/2" all around). The lasagna sheets expand on cooking and hence we need to place them at a distance from the walls of the oven dish.
5: Spread 1 cup of minced meat over the lasagna sheet. Over the mincemeat layer, place dollops of ricotta cheese with a spacing of 2" to 3". Next place mozzarella slices evenly and finely sprinkle a little parmesan cheese. Repeat the same process by a second layer 3 lasagna sheets, topping again with mincemeat, ricotta cheese, mozzarella cheese slices and little parmesan. Repeat with a final layer of 3 lasagna sheets, topping again with mincemeat, ricotta cheese, mozzarella cheese slices and a generous layer of parmesan on top.
6: Cover the baking pan with aluminum foil taking care that the foil does not touch the lasagna sheets and cheese.
7: Bake in a pre-heated oven at 180 C for 25 mts with foil and remove the foil and bake for another 25 mts.. Cool for 15 to 20 mts and serve.
I have used no boil (oven ready) whole wheat lasagna noodles. Even though it mentioned that they are pre-cooked, I went ahead and soaked in a wide pan (with plenty of room for the noodle to lay flat) of very hot water for 5 mts. They should be pliable.
There are two types of noodles - one is pre-cooked and other is the old fashioned pasta that needs to be boiled before layering. Whether the sheets/noodles should be cooked or not, just follow the directions on the box of noodles. Adding plenty of sauce during the layering process should cook the noodles and not make them dry.
You can substitute the mincemeat with vegetables like zucchini and eggplant. You can use the vegetables of your choice.
Fresh basil can be used instead of parsley. Dry basil can also be used.
How to make Homemade Ricotta Cheese - Bring 6 cups of full fat milk and 1 1/2 cups fresh cream to a rolling boil in a stainless steel vessel. Stir once in a while. Add 4 tbsps of distilled vinegar and salt and mix. Turn off heat. You will find that it will curdle. Place lid and let it sit for 30 to 40 mts. Strain through two layers of cheese cloth such that the whey drains completely and you are left with the ricotta cheese. It should take about 30 to 35 mts or so to drain. Do not squeeze the cheese to drain. Let it drain naturally. Do not throw away the resulting whey/liquid. Use the whey to knead roti dough or bread dough. Place ricotta cheese in a bowl and add 1/2 tsp nutmeg powder and mix. Cover with plastic wrap and place in fridge till use. (I added nutmeg to flavor the ricotta cheese for lasagna). Use it within 4 to 5 days. This is not the authentic Italian ricotta cheese recipe but just a substitute since it is not available in my part of the world in India.
You can make the preparation a day ahead and refrigerate. Remove from fridge an hour before assembling and then bake.
By Sailu Published:
Easy recipe for Lasagna using ricotta cheese and minced meat. Learn how to make lasagna using oven ready lasagna sheets, a gem among Italian pasta recipes.