When someone says “Sunday Supper,” what do you think of? Well if you’re like me, you think MTV’s Jersey Shore Italian feasts. Or you think just Italian food, like most people probably. Either way, lasagna should be at the top of your list for Sunday suppers. Ideally, Sunday supper usually entails several hours of cooking, too much food, and plenty of leftovers for the week. This lasagna does not disappoint. DJ Snugglemonster and I used hot Italian sausage for a bit of a kick (and there was, trust me) and bison for a little craziness. You could just as easily use mild Italian sausage and ground beef, or any combination of meats you prefer. Definitely don’t do ground pork instead of sausages…the sausages add extra flavor and mean less work for you.
Timing: 3 hours
Servings: A whole 9×13 pan of lasagna…you be the judge how many of your people that would serve
- Olive oil
- 1 lb. (5 links) Italian sausage, squeezed out of the casing (mild or hot…up to you!)
- 3/4 lb ground bison (or other meat of your choice; if all your supermarket has is 1 lb., that works too!)
- 1/2 cup minced onion (small as you can get them!)
- 4 cloves garlic, crushed and mashed into a paste (see instructions below)
- 1 28-oz can crushed tomatoes
- 2 6-oz cans or 1 12 oz. can tomato paste
- 2 6.5-oz cans or 1 12 oz. can low-sodium tomato sauce
- 1/2 cup water
- 2 tablespoons white sugar
- 1 1/2 tablespoons dried basil leaves
- 1 tablespoon fennel seeds
- 1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
- 1 tablespoon salt plus 1/2 teaspoon salt for garlic paste
- 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
- 2 tablespoons dried parsley
- 12 lasagna noodles, cooked three quarters of the way (will cook completely when you bake it)
- 15-16 oz. ricotta cheese (depends on what your grocery store carries)
- 1 egg
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon pepper
- 1/2 tablespoon garlic powder
- 2 tablespoons fresh Italian parsley, chopped
- 1-1/2 bags shredded mixed Italian cheese bags
To make a garlic paste: Peel and mince your garlic as you normally would. Get the garlic as small as you can possibly get it. Add the 1/2 teaspoon salt right on top of the minced garlic. Using the back/flat part of your knife, with one motion, press down and away on the garlic. You are really looking to smash and scrape the garlic until it forms a paste. The salt acts like an abrasive and breaks the garlic down. Set aside.
Now you should get your sauce going. In a large dutch oven/seriously big pot, heat some olive oil over medium heat. Add the ground bison, sausage meat, onions, and garlic. Cook until well browned and cooked through. Add in your spices – sugar, basil, fennel seeds, Italian seasoning, salt, pepper, and dried parsley. Stir for another 2 minutes to let the spices cook and develop. Add all of your tomato cans (paste, sauce, crushed) and water. Simmer, covered, for 1 1/2 hours, being sure to stir it every 20-30 minutes. You could make your sauce plenty of time in advance – you could keep it simmering for a few more hours (up to two I’d say), or cool down completely and refrigerate until you need it. You could even freeze it for up to three months. If you want some leftover sauce, set aside 1/4-1/3 now for later use.
Mix up your cheese filling. In a medium bowl, mix the ricotta, egg, fresh parsley, garlic, salt, and pepper. Add in about a handful of your shredded cheese.
Preheat your oven to 375 degrees. Start assembling! Pour a small amount of the sauce in the bottom of a 9×13 glass baking dish. This will help keep your noodles from sticking and not have to use any unnecessary ingredients/grease. Add in a row of noodles, shingling as you go lengthwise, and using one as an end piece. Then layer in 1/2 of your sauce evenly over the noodles, 1/2 of your ricotta mixture spread evenly over that, and then sprinkle with shredded cheese in a layer over that (go thick on it if you’re like me and can never have enough cheese or just enough to cover the ricotta layer if you aren’t as much of a cheesehead). Start with the noodles and repeat for one more layer, making sure no parts of the noodles are showing. Be extra generous with this layer of shredded cheese. Sprinkle a bit of salt and pepper on the cheese. Spray some non-stick foil with PAM/cooking spray on the non-shiny side (because, honestly, sometimes things stick to non-stick foil) and cover the dish. Bake for 25 minutes, then remove the foil and bake for another 25 minutes. Remove from the oven and let sit for about 15 minutes (if you don’t, when you cut it, it will go everywhere and you won’t be able to eat it because of the molten heat of it anyway). Then cut and serve! Guaranteed leftovers await!