As much as I love cooking, I just as much love being cooked for. Why does it always taste better when someone else makes it?! Fact. And even if by ‘cooking’ I just mean being poured a bowl of cereal...it’s still the best! Whether it’s a hearty dinner or something simple and thrown together, it just always feels special. It sounds strange, but I so look forward to a day of having little munchkins running around my house who might one day decide to make me breakfast or something special for Mother’s Day—I think I’ll find it the absolute sweetest thing on earth.
Anyway, Jon makes a great lasagna, and it’s one of my very favorite home-cooked, indulgent comfort foods. It’s great during the colder winter months, and it’s been a go-to for my New Year’s Day birthday dinner. He’s made it countless times, and this last time I tried to wrangle him in and learn the process. Although this is always difficult because he’s not a measurer, and to my 1-part perfectionist he’s 1-part fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants, I think we still managed to nail it. Just keep in mind that seasoning is important with lasagna. Taste your sauce for seasoning, and taste your ricotta for seasoning. You don’t want to under-season with salt, pepper, and spice.
PS: this lasagna makes the BEST leftovers and is even better reheated a second (or third) time. Fun fact: last time we made this, we cooked it early on a Sunday, only to reheat it at dinner time for a twice-baked effect. It was so, so right.
Jon’s Four-cheese lasagna
2 T olive oil
1 Spanish onion, diced
5 cloves garlic, minced
About 1 T salt (or more if needed), divided throughout preparation
Freshly cracked black pepper
32 oz ground beef (we like 80% lean Angus beef)
¼ tsp dried oregano
Pinch of red pepper flakes
1 cup dry red wine
48 oz marinara sauce
8 oz beef stock
2 bay leaves
2 cups ricotta cheese
¼ cup chopped parsley
¼ cup chopped basil (plus extra for sprinkling before serving, if you'd like)
One 9 oz box no-boil, oven-ready lasagna noodles (we use Barilla)
1 lb fresh mozzarella cheese, sliced
1 cup shredded fontina cheese
½ cup shredded Parmesan cheese
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. You will begin by making the meat sauce. In a large pan or Dutch oven, heat olive oil over medium-high heat. Sautée onions until soft, about 5-7 minutes. Season with a little salt (maybe ¼ tsp) and pepper. Add in garlic and cook for another minute until garlic is fragrant. Then add the ground beef to brown it. Add dried oregano and red pepper flakes and stir well. When ground beef is cooked, carefully pour in red wine to deglaze. Let simmer for at least five minutes while wine cooks off. Pour in marinara sauce and beef broth, toss in the bay leaves and about 1 tsp salt (or more), and stir to combine. Reduce heat to a simmer and cook until sauce thickens quite a bit, about 15-20 minutes. Taste for seasoning, and add more salt and pepper if necessary, or more red pepper flakes if you’d like a little more heat. (Note: you won’t use all of the sauce in this lasagna dish, so don’t fret if you have a cup or two leftover—it freezes and makes great meat sauce for pasta!)
Meanwhile, in a mixing bowl, combine the ricotta with the parsley and basil, as well as about ½ tsp of salt and some freshly cracked pepper. Set aside next to other cheeses.
Construct in a deep 13x9-inch baking dish (I prefer clear glass so I can see what’s going on in there!). Start by spreading a layer of sauce in the bottom of the dish. Then add a layer of noodles, with a bit of sauce sprinkled on top. Then top with a layer of the ricotta mixture (about half). Cover with sauce, and add another layer of noodles. Sprinkle noodles with a bit more sauce. Now add a layer of half the mozzarella. Cover with sauce, and add another layer of noodles. Sprinkle with a bit of sauce and top with second half of the ricotta mixture. This time, sprinkle the shredded fontina overtop. Add more sauce, and another layer of noodles. Sprinkle noodles with more sauce. And now for your top cheese layer, add slices of mozzarella, followed by the shredded Parmesan. Top with a pinch of salt and freshly cracked black pepper, for good measure.
Cover with foil and bake on the middle rack in oven, following the box directions of your lasagna noodles. For ours, we cook with foil on for 25 minutes, and then remove foil and cook for another 5-10 minutes. For an extra crispy top, you can broil (watching carefully) for a few minutes at the end.
Let sit for at least 10 minutes before cutting and serving. Sprinkle with chopped basil if you'd like. And drink with red wine if you want to feel the most cozed.