Lasagna: The King of Winter Casseroles

Piece of lasagna on plate
When it comes to winter cuisine, the hearty lasagna reigns supreme! It’s cheesy, warm, filling, cheesy, versatile, freezable, and did we mention cheesy? True, it can take a little time to put together, but on the plus side, you can usually dine on a single pan for days—or freeze individual slices for quick dinners or a yummy homemade lunch at the office. 

A lasagna’s building blocks can vary widely: meat-lovers or a slew of veggies; red sauce, white sauce, or pesto; dollops of cottage cheese or ricotta; a dash of nutmeg definitely (or not ever!); and boiled noodles or the no-boil variety that go straight from box to pan. We’ve shared leads for 7 unique and tasty versions below, but first, check out our own super simple, kid-friendly recipe here. We sneak a little spinach into the red sauce and our white sauce has an addictively delicious cream cheese base. It’s also yummy with sautéed veggies (try peppers, zucchini, mushrooms, and/or carrots) layered on top of the white sauce. Dig in!

Cooked lasagna in pan on table

Grannie Mac’s Secret Lasagna

INGREDIENTS

For the red sauce:

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, chopped fine
  • ½ to 1 pound fresh spinach leaves, roughly chopped (it will look like a lot, but significantly reduces in size when cooked)
  • 3 (6-ounce) cans tomato paste
  • 1 (29-ounce) can tomato sauce
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • 3 cloves garlic, chopped fine
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon dried basil
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • Salt and pepper to taste

For the white sauce:

  • 1 stick (8 tablespoons) butter
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon pepper
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 1 (8-ounce) package cream cheese, cut into 8 cubes

For the noodles:

  • 1 (12-ounce) box no-boil/oven-ready lasagna noodles (note: you might not use them all)

For the cheese:

  • 12 ounces mozzarella (regular/low-moisture, not fresh), shredded
  • 8 slices thin, deli-style sliced provolone, cut in half
  • 1 cup Parmesan, shredded

DIRECTIONS

  1. Start by making the red sauce. Add 2 tablespoons of olive oil to a large saucepan and heat on medium-high until the oil is shimmery and flows like water. Add the onion to the pan and sauté until browned, about 5 minutes, stirring regularly.
  2. Add the spinach to the onion in small batches, stirring constantly until all the spinach is just wilted.
  3. Add the tomato paste, tomato sauce, brown sugar, garlic, garlic powder, basil, and oregano. Stir all together and then season with salt and pepper to taste. Reduce heat to low and let the sauce simmer.
  4. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease a 9x13 baking dish and set aside.
  5. Next, make the white sauce. Melt the butter in a medium saucepan on low heat. Add the flour, salt, and pepper, and stir until smooth and bubbly.
  6. Remove the pan from the stove to stir in the milk, and then return to the stove and heat the mixture to boiling, stirring constantly. Boil and stir for 1 minute—the mixture will begin to thicken.
  7. Add the cream cheese and stir until smooth. If the sauce is too thick, add a little more milk. Note: It’s important to move quickly once you’ve made the white sauce to prevent it from becoming gummy.
  8. Assembly! Add just enough red sauce to cover the whole bottom of your baking pan (should be about 1 cup). Top the sauce with a layer of noodles, placed side by side. Spread half the white sauce over the noodles and sprinkle with a third of the mozzarella cheese. Drizzle 1½ cups of red sauce over the top.
  9. Add another layer of noodles and top with the remaining white sauce. Sprinkle with another third of the mozzarella cheese and another 1½ cups of red sauce.
  10. Add another layer of noodles. Layer 8 halves of provolone over the noodles, and then cover with another 1½ cups of red sauce. Add a second layer of provolone and then sprinkle the Parmesan and remaining mozzarella on top.
  11. Loosely cover the lasagna with foil and bake for 50 minutes, or until bubbly. Remove the foil and continue to bake until the cheese has browned a little, about 10 minutes. Remove the lasagna from the oven and let sit for at least 10 minutes before cutting into it, but ideally for 30 minutes to an hour to let the flavors and layers meld. For even better results, make it the day before and reheat before eating. Enjoy!

7 More Lasagnas to Love!

  1.  Need dinner on the table now? Try Taste of Home's skillet lasagna—you use exactly one pan and it only takes 45 minutes!
  2.  Food & Wine's verdant pesto lasagna loaded with fresh greens.
  3.  Giada De Laurentiis’s impress-your-friends butternut squash lasagna—the squash purée that you use in place of red sauce features crushed amaretti cookies!
  4.  Meat lovers rejoice! This Lasagna Napoletana from Serious Eats is stuffed with sausage and meatballs, as well as four kinds of cheese.
  5.  Veg-heads, we have one for you, too: Ina Garten’s roasted vegetable delight.
  6.  File this puppy away for next year—the Kitchn’s Thanksgiving leftovers lasagna is a unique twist on the leftovers sandwich.
  7.  Okay, maybe this is pushing the lasagna definition a little too far, but if you’re looking for a special treat, the Kitchn’s roundup of dessert casseroles is hard to beat!
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