Hearty Baked Lasagna Casserole

This hearty cheese and beef and noodle casserole will satisfy the appetite.
This hearty cheese and beef and noodle casserole will satisfy the appetite. | Source

The Secret is in the Sauce

Making a marinara sauce from scratch seems to be unique to each person that cooks with each recipe having its own unique blend of ingredients known only to the chef. My husband finally shared his secret sauce recipe with me after just a few short years of marriage. He allowed me to watch the entire preparation process including the types and amounts of spices he put in it. Since that time, I've been making the sauce, mostly.

Source

The basis for making a good lasagna casserole is the sauce.The secret of the sauce is letting it simmer long enough to develop a good flavor while finding the proper balance of spices, type of added sausage and meat and one or two special ingredients that change the flavor for the better.The sauce can be used in many different recipes including Manicotti, Ziti, Rotini, Rigatoni and with any other pasta. It works well with regular spaghetti, too.

Clemenza's recipe for sauce

Secret Ingredients

If you watched the movie, "The Godfather" you might remember when Clemenza was cooking spaghetti for twenty guys and he added his secret ingredient to the sauce. His secret was adding a bit of sugar and a splash of wine to the sauce while it simmers.

Hot out of the oven, it needs to rest about five minutes before serving.
Hot out of the oven, it needs to rest about five minutes before serving.

Prepare this Dish Ahead of Time and Bake Later

Making lasagna at home can take a little time but the end result is well worth the effort. Usually, I make lasagna to serve on Christmas Eve or on the day before Thanksgiving since that's when most guests visit our house. The casserole can be made ahead of time, refrigerated and baked on the day it's to be served making it the ideal meal for a family gathering.

It can also be frozen for later use, however, I would recommend using a metal baking pan rather than a glass pan when freezing the casserole. It's possible to line the pan completely with aluminum foil so that the foil package can be taken out of the pan to conserve freezer space and free up the use of your baking pan.

Ingredients for the Sauce

  • Two tablespoons of Olive oil
  • One TBSP Minced onion
  • Four 16 oz. cans of tomato sauce
  • One 12 oz. can of tomato paste
  • One pound of mild Italian sausage
  • One pound of ground beef chuck or sirloin
  • One tsp. oregano, garlic powder, seasoned salt to taste
  • Two teaspoons of sugar

Marinara Sauce Ingredients

We make so much pasta, we buy our tomato sauce by the case.
We make so much pasta, we buy our tomato sauce by the case.
Making a large batch and freezing some for future use makes meal preparation easy.
Making a large batch and freezing some for future use makes meal preparation easy.

Does your spouse cook meals for the family?

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5 stars from 4 ratings of Homemade Spaghetti Sauce

Instructions

Start by warming a couple of tablespoons of olive oil in a large pot. Add the powdered garlic and minced onions. When they start sizzling and become transparent, add the ground beef and cook until thoroughly done. Sometimes I remove the cooked beef into a separate dish and drain it on paper towels if it's especially fatty.

Cook the mild Italian sausage until browned and drain off any excess fat. Return the cooked ground beef to the pan and add all four cans of tomato sauce. Add in the tomato paste and one teaspoon (or two) of granulated sugar along with the seasoning spices.

Cover the mixture and simmer over low heat stirring occasionally for one hour or more. While this is cooking, you can begin preparing the ingredients for layering in a casserole dish.

Ricotta, Parmesan, Mozzarella

Cheese sauce for layering the casserole
Cheese sauce for layering the casserole | Source

Cheese Mixture

Sixteen ounces of Ricotta, eight ounces of Mozzarella and a cup of shredded Parmesan cheese with two eggs.
Sixteen ounces of Ricotta, eight ounces of Mozzarella and a cup of shredded Parmesan cheese with two eggs.

Three Cheese Mixture

Preparation of the three cheeses can be done while the sauce is simmering. Often, I buy block Mozzarella cheese and shred it myself or ready-made shredded cheese works as well.

I scramble two eggs in a medium sized bowl and add the 16 oz. container of Ricotta cheese, then stir in the Parmesan and Mozzarella cheese. Some recipes call for parsley but I don't always add it to the cheese mix. Cover this mixture with cellophane wrap and return it to the refrigerator while the noodles finish cooking.

Add the Shredded Parmesan Cheese and Mozzarella
Add the Shredded Parmesan Cheese and Mozzarella

Cooking the Noodles

I like to add the noodles to a pan of boiling water one at a time.
I like to add the noodles to a pan of boiling water one at a time.

Lasagna Noodles

Cook the noodles according to the package directions in a large pan with boiling salted water. I usually cook them a couple of minutes less than the box calls for so they're easier to handle when preparing the casserole.

Drained and Cooked Lasagna

Stage the cooked noodles on a greased cookie sheet
Stage the cooked noodles on a greased cookie sheet

To Prepare the Casserole

Start by spooning a layer of sauce into the casserole dish, enough to cover the bottom of the dish.

First, a layer of sauce, then, a layer of noodles.
First, a layer of sauce, then, a layer of noodles.

Next, add a layer of the Ricotta, Manicotti and Parmesan Cheese mixture by spooning small amounts on the noodles and smoothing it over with a spatula.

Start with a layer of sauce, then noodles, then cheese
Start with a layer of sauce, then noodles, then cheese

Instructions for Assembling

Assemble the casserole starting with a layer of the sauce on the bottom of an oven proof casserole dish.

Place one layer of cooked noodles lengthwise over the sauce overlapping the side edges slightly.

Spoon a small amount of the cheese mixture over the top of the noodles in several places and spread it evenly.

Repeat this entire process ending with a layer of sauce on top.

Assembling the casserole
Assembling the casserole

Bake the Casserole

Bake the casserole in a 350 degree oven for around forty-five to fifty-five minutes until it becomes bubbly all the way through. Remove it from the oven and cool the dish for at least ten minutes before cutting it into servings.

If you're preparing it ahead of time for cooking later, cover the lasagna tightly with cellophane wrap and refrigerate. Cooking time is slightly longer if it has been refrigerated.

Ready to Bake

Bake in a 350 degree oven for 40-50 minutes until bubbly
Bake in a 350 degree oven for 40-50 minutes until bubbly

After baking, remove the dish from the oven and allow the lasagna to rest for about ten minutes before cutting to serve. I like to use a serrated knife and a spatula to dish out the servings.

Add a side salad and garlic bread to top off the meal.

Leftovers can be refrigerated and warmed up to serve the next day for a quick meal.

Ready to eat
Ready to eat

Make Enough Spaghetti Sauce for an Army

I usually make a large batch of sauce and after the first night of use, I freeze the rest in meal sized portions. My old Tupperware containers come in handy for this purpose. After the sauce cools, I ladle it into the containers, burp out the excess air and pop them into the freezer.

A warm, hearty meal can be prepared as quickly as you can boil water and prepare any type of pasta; usually less than twenty minutes. I pop the frozen sauce out into a microwave safe dish and cover it with wax paper. While the noodles are boiling, I microwave the sauce for one minute at a time, stirring between each minute until it reaches the temperature desired. That makes the entire dinner preparation time less than twenty minutes and is an easy way to serve your family real food after a long day at work.

I hope you'll try out some of these recipes soon.

© 2015 Peg Cole

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Comments 57 comments

DJ Anderson 21 months ago

Looks good, smells good, and I wish I had a fork to taste it.

Great tutorial for preparing lasagna or sauce for other dishes.

My favorite part is the cheese on the edge that forms a crust!!

Tell me that the Italian sausage has fennel seeds and I will show

up for dinner tonight!!

Great job on this article!

DJ.


Sunshine625 profile image

Sunshine625 21 months ago from Orlando, FL

A slice (or two) of Lasanga is good for the soul (and tummy!) Manicotti is too! Thanks to your husband for sharing his secret recipe! :) Delicious hub!


bravewarrior profile image

bravewarrior 21 months ago from Central Florida

Peg, I make my own sauce, too (I have no hubby to do it for me), but mine takes four hours to cook. I use whole tomatoes, tomato sauce and 4 small cans of tomato paste. I add minced garlic, salt, pepper, red pepper flakes, oregano, and basil to the whole tomatoes, sauce and 2 cans of the paste, bring mixture to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for two hours. Then I brown Italian sausage links and add them to the pot along with the remaining cans of paste. Bring to a boil and reduce again, simmering for two more hours. I remove the sausage and serve it on the side, as I'm not a big fan of meat sauce but love the flavor sausage adds to it.

When I make lasagna, I add spinach to the cheese mixture. I also use ready-to-cook lasagna noodles. They soften as the dish bakes. I find these noodles much easier to work with than the kind you cook before hand. I always had a problem with them tearing or sticking during the boiling process.

Your husband's sauce sounds good, too. Now I have a hankering for lasagna! That's the only downfall of delicious recipe hubs - they make me hungry! :-)


billybuc profile image

billybuc 21 months ago from Olympia, WA

Well, I do love lasagna, so I'll be trying this one. Thanks for the recipe, Peg.


Victoria Lynn profile image

Victoria Lynn 21 months ago from Arkansas, USA

Oh, this is making me hungry! I watched the video--was the secret ingredient the wine? :-) Great recipe!


PegCole17 profile image

PegCole17 21 months ago from Dallas, Texas Author

Hello DJ, We need smell-a-vision computers. Thanks for stopping in to look at this recipe. I'm pretty certain the sausage has fennel seeds. I use the Johnsonville bulk type not in casings. It's easy to cook and gives a great taste. I'm saving you a large portion of lasagne.


DJ Anderson 21 months ago

Yes, and garlic toast, please.


always exploring profile image

always exploring 21 months ago from Southern Illinois

Peg, this looks soo good. I make my own sauce for spaghetti using about the same ingredients. I've never made lasagna but I will after seeing this. and the best part is the garlic toast as you say DJ. Hee.. You put so much work in all your hubs. Bravo!


PegCole17 profile image

PegCole17 21 months ago from Dallas, Texas Author

Hello Sunshine, Glad you came by to check this out. The hubby finally lets me cook the sauce after years of doing it himself. I love comfort food and lots of home cooking. Double serving for me, please.


PegCole17 profile image

PegCole17 21 months ago from Dallas, Texas Author

Hi Bravewarrior, Oh my, your sauce sounds delightful. I love the idea of using whole tomatoes and cooking it longer. Crushed red pepper flakes sounds good, too. I would add spinach to the cheese but someone (hint, hint) doesn't like it in there. He's quite particular. And no, he doesn't cook the sauce much anymore. I'll have to remind him about that. I hope you teach your son to cook. That's the way J won my heart by wooing me with his Manicotti dinner.


PegCole17 profile image

PegCole17 21 months ago from Dallas, Texas Author

You're welcome, Billybuc. Hope that you enjoy this recipe. Thanks for the visit.


PegCole17 profile image

PegCole17 21 months ago from Dallas, Texas Author

Victoria Lynn, I never tried adding the wine like Clemenza did. But the recipe I learned from the hubby called for the other ingredient, a small amount of sugar to take away the bitterness of the tomato paste. We watched the movie, "The Godfather" today as we were snowed in. This scene always makes me hungry.


PegCole17 profile image

PegCole17 21 months ago from Dallas, Texas Author

DJ, pass the garlic bread, please.


PegCole17 profile image

PegCole17 21 months ago from Dallas, Texas Author

Always, come on over. Dinner is served at six. I hope you'll try this out. It works well for a large group or for a church dinner. I also freeze individual portions for quick lunch meals.


MsDora profile image

MsDora 21 months ago from The Caribbean

The manicotti looks so tempting. I'm sure the lasagna is great too, but alas the gluten will get me. I can still share the recipe. Thank you, Peg.


Jackie Lynnley profile image

Jackie Lynnley 21 months ago from The Beautiful South

Mm yum and that manicotti looks good too; I will have to try that soon! Thanks for sharing!


PegCole17 profile image

PegCole17 21 months ago from Dallas, Texas Author

Hi Ms. Dora, sorry about the gluten. Thank you for coming by.


FlourishAnyway profile image

FlourishAnyway 21 months ago from USA

Oh, boy, does this make me hungry! I will be preparing lasagna in the very near future, with hot buttered garlic rolls and iceberg wedge lettuce salads. Your recipe sounds fabulous. It's funny how people sometimes do keep their special recipes to themselves.


mckbirdbks profile image

mckbirdbks 21 months ago from Emerald Wells, Just off the crossroads,Texas

As it happens, I had baked lasagne for lunch today (a Restaurant) and the leftovers for dinner. Yours looks so much better. What a great way to spend a cool winter day, in the heated kitchen and with such a meal as the reward.


travmaj profile image

travmaj 21 months ago from australia

This looks delicious - I often make pasta dishes but haven't made lasagne - I'll be bookmarking your recipe. Mmmm - definitely makes me hungry just looking at the photos...


Frank Atanacio profile image

Frank Atanacio 21 months ago from Shelton

simply loving it.. damn I can almost smell it... feeling biting off the corner of my tablet.. five stars ... the poll should say does your spouse cook.. right? LOL bless you


marcoujor profile image

marcoujor 21 months ago from Jeffersonville PA

LOVE the clip from The Godfather...mustn't forget that last ingredient...and then back to business.

For me, the business is having some of this lasagna! I am passing this right to Chef Geoff with a big fat hint for what to cook up this weekend...

Voted UP and UABI and sharing too! Yummy work...Love, Maria


tillsontitan profile image

tillsontitan 21 months ago from New York

Great minds think alike my friend. I did a hub on a "Lasagna Alforno Recipe". Of course mine is better for those in a hurry, yours is just plain better! Nothing beats making your own tomato sauce no matter how you slice it!

Great recipe I'll have to try the next time I want to make lasagna.

Voted up, useful, awesome, and interesting.


PegCole17 profile image

PegCole17 21 months ago from Dallas, Texas Author

Jackie, The Manicotti is easier if you start off with the noodles uncooked. Stuff them with the same cheese mixture and then add one cup of water to the pan before baking it. The noodles will soak up the water. Yummo. I learned this from the spousal unit, too.


PegCole17 profile image

PegCole17 21 months ago from Dallas, Texas Author

Hi FlourishAnyway, Oh do take some photos of your lasagna when it's done and post to FB or Pinterest. It will inspire me to make this again. I was visiting Mom at the home recently and they served up what they called lasagna. It was interesting to say the least.


PegCole17 profile image

PegCole17 21 months ago from Dallas, Texas Author

Oh, Mike, the best restaurant for lasagna that I've found is Maggiano's. It is simply divine. Not sure if you have them in your area or not. They give you a take out portion after your meal that can be baked at home later. Mmmm. I also love Olive Garden's lasagna and the dish at a little place called Campari's in Plano. It's lots less expensive to make it myself at home, though.


PegCole17 profile image

PegCole17 21 months ago from Dallas, Texas Author

Hello Travmaj, Thanks so much for the comments about the photos. The hubby always asks me, "Are we gonna' eat this or just take pictures?" Hmmm. Anyhow, I hope you do try this out.


PegCole17 profile image

PegCole17 21 months ago from Dallas, Texas Author

Frank, You are so right about the poll. My question is so politically incorrect. Oh boy. And there are already votes, so I can't change it without losing the results. Just pretend it says "spouse", if you want to vote. Sorry about that. Here, have a dish of lasagne and some garlic bread.


Genna East profile image

Genna East 21 months ago from Massachusetts, USA

Ohhh… I almost didn’t read this article, Peg, because I love Italian food but I’m tryin to watch my calories. I was afraid I would succumb to a delicious recipe. And I have. Sosh also cooks, so I have printed this out for him to make. That way, I’m off the hook. I can always shovel snow to burn the calories…goodness knows we a lot of it outside right now. Thank you (I think), dear Peg. It looks scrumptious.


PegCole17 profile image

PegCole17 21 months ago from Dallas, Texas Author

Marcoujor, dear friend, sorry it took so long to get back to your lovely comment. I hope that Geoff will make a big batch for your dinner soon. Love you and thanks so much for the visit.

I love "The Godfather" too.


PegCole17 profile image

PegCole17 21 months ago from Dallas, Texas Author

Mary, I can't wait to read your Lasagna Alforno recipe. I've never heard of that and I always like to try a different version with pasta. I like fast and easy ways of cooking, too, when I'm in a hurry.

Thanks so much for the votes and shares.


PegCole17 profile image

PegCole17 21 months ago from Dallas, Texas Author

Hello Genna, Sorry you've had such a rash of bad weather. Staying inside during the winter can really slow down the calorie burning. I'm in the same boat still trying to take off a few pounds from the Christmas feasting. It's much easier to put on pounds than take them off.

Looking at a recipe won't cost you any extra calories, though, and I'm glad you dropped in. Hope that Sosh will make this for you. After all the snow shoveling, you'll need some food.


sgbrown profile image

sgbrown 21 months ago from Southern Oklahoma

I love lasagna! Hubby is my lasagna maker. I can my own pasta sauce using our fresh tomatoes and puts everything together. LOL This sounds so delicious, I'm thinking it is about time for hubby to make some more!


PegCole17 profile image

PegCole17 21 months ago from Dallas, Texas Author

Hi Sgbrown, It really does sound good right about now with all our cold weather. I like baking oven meals during the winter to help warm up the house. Using your delicious canned tomatoes would really make this recipe great.


Peggy W profile image

Peggy W 21 months ago from Houston, Texas

We have various spaghetti sauce recipes and some of them take hours and hours to prepare. Yours sounds really good and simple but flavorful. You mentioned old tupperware. We still use it also and I love making big batches of things like soups and then freezing it in small portions for future easy meals. After reading this I realize that it has been a long time since we have eaten lasagna. Might have to make it soon! Thanks for your recipe.


PegCole17 profile image

PegCole17 21 months ago from Dallas, Texas Author

Hi Peggy, The really great spaghetti sauces do cook for longer. I often let this one simmer for more than the hour shown in the recipe. It seems to get better on the second warm up too. Don't you just love your Tupperware? I have containers that are decades old and still as good as new. I do the same thing with soups since I make enough for a small army and freeze the leftovers.


aviannovice profile image

aviannovice 21 months ago from Stillwater, OK

This reminds me that I need to go out for some gluten free noodles and GET TO WORK! Thanks for the reminder and I will give yours a try, this time.


PegCole17 profile image

PegCole17 21 months ago from Dallas, Texas Author

I've wondered if the gluten free products taste the same, Deb. I'm seeing much more variety in them now. I always fall asleep shortly after eating pasta. Perhaps I need to investigate gluten free.

Hope you give this recipe a try.


aviannovice profile image

aviannovice 21 months ago from Stillwater, OK

Yes, you do, Peg, and you may not realize that you are allergic to wheat, until you live without it. Yes, gluten free is just as tasty, if not better. I buy organic gluten free. I also deal with mail order, and I could steer you the right direction if you are interested, so e-mail me.


PegCole17 profile image

PegCole17 21 months ago from Dallas, Texas Author

That would make an interesting article, Deb. My niece has discovered that she has gluten sensitivities and has started using all gluten free products. She's also drinking infusions of herbs, too. I'm not quite ready to go there. Thanks for the guidance. I'll send you a post.


jandee profile image

jandee 21 months ago from Liverpool.U.K

Peg,I love the way you show us all the pictures in your recipes.

Enjoyed,

best from jandee.(Peg,gluten free taste better,I don't eat wheat)


PegCole17 profile image

PegCole17 21 months ago from Dallas, Texas Author

Hi Jandee, I'm going to look into the gluten free brands and test them out. The hubby loves his pasta.


jandee profile image

jandee 21 months ago from Liverpool.U.K

Thanks! Happy searching ... Clue: Jamie Oliver ! Ha...


pstraubie48 profile image

pstraubie48 21 months ago from sunny Florida

Yes please..it is after the dinner hour but leftovers are always yummy when its lasagna. The secret's in the sauce...did you see Fried Green Tomatoes? If not...watch it please and come back and let me know what you think....the secret was 'in the sauce' there too.

thanks for visiting..and yes, my Milo is a love bucket...he is lounging on my bed at the moment.

Angels are on the way to you this evening ps


PegCole17 profile image

PegCole17 21 months ago from Dallas, Texas Author

I sure did, Pstraubie, and it's one of my very favorite movies. I love the line when Twanda runs her car into the one that took her parking space. "Face it girls, I'm older and I have more insurance". And the secret was in the sauce that's for sure. I sure love Idgie and her beekeeping talents.

I will be back to visit you soon. Thanks so much for sending Angels.


cam8510 profile image

cam8510 21 months ago from Columbus, Georgia until the end of November 2016.

Who doesn't love a good lasagna? Next time I make it, this will be my recipe and guide. Thanks, from an underfed bachelor.


PegCole17 profile image

PegCole17 21 months ago from Dallas, Texas Author

Sending a hearty portion your way via Internet, Cam8510. Along with an entire loaf of garlic bread. Let me know how yours turns out?


poetryman6969 profile image

poetryman6969 20 months ago

It not far from lunch time so this is making me hungry.


PegCole17 profile image

PegCole17 20 months ago from Dallas, Texas Author

Saved you a large slice, poetryman.


peachpurple profile image

peachpurple 20 months ago from Home Sweet Home

i love your homemade sauce, brilliant and the pics are mouth watering


PegCole17 profile image

PegCole17 20 months ago from Dallas, Texas Author

Thank you so much Peachpurple. I appreciate your visit and kind words.


Faith Reaper profile image

Faith Reaper 20 months ago from southern USA

Oh, my! My mouth is watering and my tummy is saying I want that now. Your photo is tantalizing and makes one crave the lasagna immediately. I love manicotti too. Well, I love all pasta. You're right, the secret to all of it is the sauce. Thank you for sharing your husband's secret. That is a great touch to add that scene from the Godfather.

Peg, I don't know how I missed this scrumptious recipe, unless it was published during the time for a couple of days I did not receive any HP emails?

Up ++++ tweeting, pinning, G+ and sharing

God bless

Oh, I see you have another one!


PegCole17 profile image

PegCole17 20 months ago from Dallas, Texas Author

Hi Faith, Yes, a big portion of fresh hot lasagna sounds like just the thing for a weekend dinner meal. I'm glad you liked the photos and the video from The Godfather. That is one of my favorite movies.

Thank you for the tweet, pin, G+ and for sharing this recipe. I hope you enjoy some lasagna soon. God bless you, Faith.


teaches12345 profile image

teaches12345 14 months ago

I haven't had lasagna in ages but after reading this -- I'm ready for some right now! With the chilly weather coming upon us this will be such a comfort food any night of the week. Thanks for sharing the secret recipe sauce. I'm drooling over the photos!


PegCole17 profile image

PegCole17 14 months ago from Dallas, Texas Author

Hi Teaches12345, I'm happy that the weather is cooling down so I can make more oven meals. This is one of our regular favorites. I'm getting hungry for it, too.


vespawoolf profile image

vespawoolf 4 months ago from Peru, South America

I agree that the key to great lasagna is homemade marinara sauce. This sounds similar to mine, but I´d love to try yours! Everyone has their own touch. Just reading the recipe makes my mouth water. I´m glad it´s almost dinner time.


PegCole17 profile image

PegCole17 4 months ago from Dallas, Texas Author

I'm hungry for a large portion of lasagna, too, Vespawoolf. It's been too long since I made one. Thanks for dropping in and for reading this recipe. Fall will be here soon and I can start baking again.

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    Peg Cole (PegCole17)1,335 Followers
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    Peg Cole is a self-taught cook who shares favorite recipes and methods used during decades of cooking and baking.



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