I made this lasagna for Bryan on our third date. That was three years ago. What can I say, the lasagna works. A few nights ago we made this together for the first time since that third date. I have no idea why we waited so long to return to this dish that had been a regular in my kitchen since the late 90’s.
I like lasagna a lot. I find that I am constantly saving recipes for it— recipes with butternut squash, or bechamel sauce, or roasted vegetables. They all sound good and I imagine that I will make them all. But I don’t. I return to this recipe over and over again. It is the best lasagna I have ever eaten. It is made with turkey sausage which really lightens it up which, I think, makes all the difference. I particularly love this dish because Bryan and I are able to get 4 (!!!) meals out of this. No cooking for the rest of the week! And, it gets better each subsequent day. I don’t even like eating leftovers and I find myself excited to go home for dinner every night that this is in the fridge.
It was fun to to make this together and think that when we first ate this meal, we didn’t know each other. Time sure does fly. I like the way in which important people in our lives influence our relationships with food. This recipe didn’t originally call for red pepper flakes but Bryan has fostered my appreciation for heat. I associate hot sauce, celery and bitters with Bryan. Bacon with Katie. Oysters with Ashley. Cheese with Tini. Crepes with Molly. Stuffing with Erikka. And too much to list with the the other Katie, whom I credit with teaching me about food. These associations are nice reminders of our friends and of past meals.
Ina Garten’s Turkey Lasagna (adapted)
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 cup chopped yellow onion (1 onion)
- 3 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 1/2 pounds sweet Italian turkey sausage, casings removed
- 1 (28-ounce) can crushed tomatoes in tomato puree
- 1 (6-ounce) can tomato paste
- 1/2 cup chopped fresh basil leaves
- crushed red pepper flakes, to taste (I use about half a teaspoon)
- 2 teaspoons kosher salt
- 3/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1/2 pound lasagna noodles
- 15 ounces ricotta cheese
- 3 to 4 ounces creamy goat cheese, crumbled
- 1 cup grated Parmesan, plus 1/3 cup for sprinkling
- 1 extra-large egg, lightly beaten
- 1 pound fresh mozzarella, thinly sliced
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
Heat the olive oil in a large (10 to 12-inch) skillet. Add the onion and cook for 5 minutes over medium-low heat, until translucent. Add the garlic and cook for 1 more minute. Add the sausage and cook over medium-low heat, breaking it up with a fork, for 8 to 10 minutes, or until no longer pink. Add the tomatoes, tomato paste, the basil, red pepper flakes, 1 1/2 teaspoons of the salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. Simmer, uncovered, over medium-low heat, for 15 to 20 minutes, until thickened.
Meanwhile, fill a large bowl with the hottest tap water. Add the noodles and allow them to sit in the water for 20 minutes. Drain.
In a medium bowl, combine the ricotta, goat cheese, 1 cup of Parmesan, the egg, remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Set aside.
Ladle 1/3 of the sauce into a 9 by 12 by 2-inch rectangular baking dish, spreading the sauce over the bottom of the dish. Then add the layers as follows: half the pasta, half the mozzarella, half the ricotta, and one 1/3 of the sauce. Add the rest of the pasta, mozzarella, ricotta, and finally, sauce. Sprinkle with 1/3 cup of Parmesan. Bake for 30 minutes, until the sauce is bubbling.