I'm not usually one to pick lasagna over other pasta dishes, but as the weather starts to cool off I can't deny the comfort that can be found in this hearty mix of tender noodles and rich sauce. This winter I'm vowing to give lasagna the respect it deserves and I plan on making it in all of its delicious forms. We've rounded up 12 of our favorite lasagna recipes, from meaty lasagna Napoletana and the ultimate spinach lasagna to vegan takes on lasagna alla Bolognese and Italian-American lasagna. If it's still warm where you live, we've even got a couple summery varieties for you.
A couple notes: many of our lasagna recipes call for ricotta, and store-bought ricotta is almost universally terrible. Your best bet is to use cottage cheese or whip up some homemade ricotta, which is actually really easy. Additionally, leftover lasagna can lose some of its most appealing qualities when it's reheated—the contrast between tender but firm pasta and the creamy sauce, for one—but you can jazz up your leftovers by slicing your lasagna into thin slabs and frying the slices up in a skillet until crispy on the outside and gooey on the inside.
Rather than the thick layers of ricotta and mozzarella typical in an Italian-American lasagna, lasagna alla Bolognese is made with slow-cooked meat sauce, creamy béchamel, and Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese. To make an especially traditional lasagna alla Bolognese, try using spinach pasta instead of plain egg noodles.
This lasagna walks the line between a traditional lasagna alla Bolognese and an Italian-American version—we keep the ragù and béchamel, but melt some mozzarella into the béchamel and also layer in fresh ricotta. To up the umami we turn to an ingredient that you don't usually find in any version of lasagna: Asian fish sauce.
Lasagna Bolognese isn't the only game in town. Move south to Naples and you will find this decadent lasagna made with red sauce, small meatballs, slices of sausage, and four different types of cheese. Unlike our ragú Bolognese, which is made with either all beef or a mixture of beef, pork, and veal, we make our ragú Napoletana with just pork ribs.
Here in Los Angeles it's finally starting to feel like summer is fading into fall, and this recipe bridges the seasons with a garlicky mixture of eggplant, carrot, onion, and prosciutto. Since we're already throwing tradition to the wind, we make the lasagna with a mixture of mozzarella and Gruyère to give it a slight nutty flavor.
We want our spinach lasagna to be as spinach-y as possible. To achieve this we sauté the spinach (rather than blanching or microwaving it) for the best flavor and chop it finely in the food processor so that it ends up in every bite. Be sure to drain your spinach thoroughly before chopping it—no one wants a waterlogged lasagna.
If you're looking for a vegetarian lasagna but miss the heartiness of a meat sauce, try this version that pairs the spinach with rich mushroom duxelles. We melt some grated mozzarella and Parmesan into the bèchamel to make the sauce extra creamy.
We use mushroom duxelles in this lasagna, too, pairing the mushrooms with creamed Brussels sprouts. While you can slice the sprouts by hand, we prefer to use a food processor because finer shredding means the sprouts will both brown better and break down into the sauce more completely. Lest you hear Brussels sprouts and mushrooms and think this is health food, we also layer in plenty of cheesy béchamel.
If you just layer fresh eggplant, summer squash, and zucchini into a lasagna, you're going to end up with something closer to a soup than a casserole. Summer lasagna is all about moisture control, so we sauté the vegetables before assembly, which drives out excess moisture and intensifies the flavor of the veggies. Finishing with fresh basil adds a final summery touch.
Moving from summer to fall, this lasagna is made with the autumnal flavors of squash and sage. We incorporate the squash two ways: roasted and puréed with cream cheese, nutmeg, and cinnamon and sautéed with apples and sage. We layer both squash preparations with a Gruyère béchamel, though you could also use Fontina or low-moisture mozzarella in the sauce.
Lasagna alla Bolognese isn't the easiest dish to make vegan given that its three main components—egg noodles, ragù, and béchamel—all contain animal products. The noodles are easy—you can get perfectly good lasagna noodles that are made with just flour and water. The other two ingredients are trickier—we use a vegan ragù made with mushrooms and seitan and a béchamel made with coconut oil, flour, and almond milk.
Italian-American lasagna is even harder to veganize than lasagna alla Bolognese because it's made with several types of cheese. Mozzarella is hard to imitate, so we just replace it with vegan béchamel. As for the ricotta, we mimic its mild creaminess and slightly grainy texture by blending firm tofu into a cauliflower purée.
If you think lasagna has to be made with noodles, think again. Polenta pasticciata is an Italian dish that translates to "messed-up polenta" and is basically polenta lasagna. To make it all you need to do is layer polenta with ragù and Parmesan cream. We use our vegan mushroom ragù here, but ragù Bolognese works just as well.
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