Mess Level: High
Yield: 8 Servings
Prep Time: 40 min
Cook Time: 1 hr
- 2 lbs Ground Beef (80/20 is a good fat ratio)
- 24 oz can Diced Tomatoes
- 14 oz can Tomato Sauce
- 6 oz can Tomato Paste
- 1 box Oven-Ready Lasagna Noodles
- 2 lbs Cottage Cheese
- ½ lb (8oz) Mozzarella Cheese
- ¼ lb (4oz) Parmesan
- ½ Gallon Whole Milk
- ¼ Cup Distilled Vinegar (or 1 Lemon)
- 3-5 Cloves Garlic
- 2 Tablespoons Oil
- 2 Eggs
- 3 Tablespoons Fresh Parsley (or 2 Dried)
- 2 teaspoons Black Peppercorns
- 2 teaspoons Fennel Seed (optional)
- 1 teaspoon Coriander Seed (optional)
- 1-3 Tablespoons Crushed Red Pepper Flakes (optional)
- Salt to taste
- 1 Serrano or Jalapeno Pepper (optional)
Note: If baking immediately preheat the oven to 350 Fahrenheit
To make the Ricotta Cheese:
- Place the Milk in a saucepan over medium heat with a whisk close by. You want to heat it till it starts to steam and froth, stirring occasionally. When it is frothy and steaming, turn off the heat and add the juice of one lemon or 1/4 cup vinegar, stir and then let it sit for 10 minutes. (If after 5 minutes there are no curds, add another few tablespoons of acid and wait.)
- Once all the curds have separated, place cheesecloth or a kitchen towel over a mesh strainer. Pour the milk and curds through the strainer and let it sit and drain for 5 minutes. Once most of the visible liquid has drained off, bring up the corners of the cloth around the cheese and squeeze the cheese to expel extra liquid. Twist the top of the cloth to tightly compress the cheese and let it sit for another 5 minutes.
- Full Tutorial with Pictures Here
To make the Red Sauce:
- Mince the garlic and saute with the oil in a large skillet over medium heat about 30 seconds or until fragrant. Try not to let it brown.
- As soon as you smell the garlic, add in the ground beef and break it up. Cook over medium heat until the beef is no longer pink.
- Add in all three cans of tomato product and stir until mixed in. Then add Salt to taste (start with 2 teaspoons) and the red pepper flakes.
- Bring the mixture to a simmer and then hold on very low heat until ready to assemble the lasagna.
- Meanwhile, in a dry pan, toast the coriander, black peppercorn, and fennel seed until fragrant and slightly brown, about 2 minutes. Grind finely in a spice grinder and add to the red sauce (You may use pre-ground spices and skip the toasting if necessary)
To make the Cheese Mixture:
- Finely dice the serrano pepper if using.
- In a large bowl, mix the strained ricotta cheese, cottage cheese, eggs, parsley, and serrano together. Set aside.
- Grate the parmesan and mozzarella cheese, set aside. (I like to do this using the grater attachment on my food processor, it takes about 30 seconds to grate all the cheese)
To assemble the Lasagna:
- In a 9x13 baking dish add a layer of lasagna noodles then spread half the red sauce on top.
- Take ½ the ricotta mixture and scatter small spoonfuls over the red sauce. Spread out as evenly as possible. Don’t worry if it doesn’t cover the whole surface, it will spread while baking.
- Scatter half the mozzarella and parmesan cheese over the lasagna.
- Repeat all the steps ending with the mozzarella and parmesan.
- Bake at 350 for 35-60 minutes until the lasagna is bubbly around the edges and the cheese is toasty brown.
- OR cover and refrigerate for up to 2 days before baking. Enjoy!
Did You Make It? Tag Us!
Are Farmer's Cheese, Ricotta and Paneer interchangeable?
- I wouldn't get into an argument with a Wisconsinite, but...
Yes, they are. They will give you slightly different taste profiles, but overall give you similar consistencies and flavor.
Can I keep homemade cheese in my fridge?
- Eat it quick!
Not longer than 2 days usually, it doesn’t hold very well so plan to use it quickly.
Why should I toast and grind whole spices?
- Savor the flavor!
It releases more flavor! But don’t worry, if you have pre-ground spices your dish will still be delicious.
Why should I Salt to taste?
- Because you can never take salt out.
When you’re cooking, you should be using all your senses: Hearing, taste, sight, smell. You should salt it until it tastes good. Same with the other spices, if the dish is bland, add more spice.
Why does the bake time range from 35-60 minutes?
- Ovens are fickle beasts!
Always start with the lowest cook time and work your way up from there, you can assume things like if the lasagna was chilled, it will take longer to bake. Use your senses - Can you smell it? Does it look brown and bubbly? Does it taste good? Pull it out when your senses tell you it’s done.
Ramblings of a Line Cook
Steve Jobs once said, “Give the hardest job to the laziest person and they will find the easiest way to do it.” Bless that man for turning laziness into a virtue and bless the lazy genius who invented oven-ready lasagna noodles. Having spent my fair share of time trying to unstick starchy, cooked noodles and make them lie flat, oven-ready noodles are like a gift from the gods.
Making your own lasagna is a bit of an undertaking but if you’re up for the challenge, you’re in for something delicious! I LOVE making the lasagna a day or two ahead of time and letting it sit in the fridge before I bake it. This gives all the flavors time to mingle and get comfy together, just like a social gathering, it gets better after an hour and a few glasses of wine.
Lasagna can be expensive so I opted to make my own ricotta cheese rather than spend $4 bucks on the store-bought kind. All you need is 20 minutes, a half gallon of milk and a lemon or vinegar. The fresh cheese is so good, so easy to make and a heckuva lot easier than trying to handle sticky, cooked lasagna noodles. So grab a box of Oven-Ready pasta, a gallon of milk and let’s get cooking!