Lasagna / baked pasta

About this dish

  • Serves: 4-6
  • Time: 1 hr 15 minutes – 2 hours
    • 30 minutes prep
    • 30-60 minutes when baked
    • 15 minutes to cool before serving
  • Method: range top / baked when ready to serve

There are tons of variations on baked pasta (lasagna, baked ziti, manicotti, stuffed shells). Some change the pasta shape (flat, little tubes, big tubes, …), others vary whether the pasta is layered in a baking pan or single-layer on a broiler/baking dish.

NOTE: this freezes very well! However, if you do, you then need to thaw it in the fridge BEFORE baking it!

Ingredients

  • ¬†1 lb pasta dried pasta works better than fresh
  • 1 pint pasta sauce it can include anything you like!
  • 1 lb ricotta full-fat or ‘lite’ is OK
  • 1 lb mozarella shredded. ‘full-fat’ melts nicely
  • 1.5 C grating cheese we use pecorino romano (Locatelli is the brand we used growing up), but parmesan or romano is fine
  • 2 eggs
  • 3 T parsley flakes or fresh parsley, chopped up
  • salt and pepper
  • garlic powder or garlic salt (optional)

Equipment

You will also need 2-3 baking pans (for lasagna, baked ziti, or stuffed shells) or oven/broiler-safe plates (for manicotti. You can make lots of little pans or one big pan.

Instructions

NOTE: you can also add other stuff with the filling, including meats and vegetables.

NOTE: you can add lightly sauteed vegetables, e.g., zucchini, mushrooms, spinach (cook it first and dry it in paper towels!), etc.

NOTE: you can also add *cooked* sausage, meatballs, or even something like deli ham or prosciutto, chopped up.

NOTE: you can also add pepperoni or salami, but make sure to lightly cook it in a pan or microwave first to melt out some of the fat and blot it with paper towels

NOTE: stop reading all these notes! You can add anything you want as long as it’s not too wet, not too greasy, and you would like to eat the result!

NOTE: hah – got you! another note!

Cook the pasta, but not all the way (they can still be a little crunchy inside).

Prepare the filling by mixing the following together well¬†all of the ricotta, eggs, parsley flakes, HALF of the mozarella, and one cup of the grated cheese add a little salt and pepper (like you’re seasoning the eggs, then add more pepper to season the cheese – about 1/2 teaspoon)

For lasasgna or baked ziti:

  • Put a thin layer of olive oil around the bottom and sides of the baking pans to prevent stuff from sticking.
  • Fill the pan in layers. It helps if you put the filling in a plastic bag and pipe it in, but you can dollop it in too – it doesn’t have to be in a flat layer:
    • sauce first (otherwise the pasta sticks)
    • then pasta
    • then cheese mixture
    • then meats or veggies (if desired)
  • Repeat until you come within about 3/4″ of the top of the pan – then put one last sauce layer. Make sure all the pasta is “covered” (at least lightly) with sauce.

For stuffed shells and manicotti:

  • Prep the pan the same way with oil oil and sauce.
    • Fill the shells with the cheese mixture.
    • Place the shells in the pan and coat with a thin layer of sauce.
    • The shells can be more than one layer deep and you can add meat/veggies inbetween.
    • The tubes are typically one layer deep.
  • Sprinkle the remaining mozarella on top, then dust it with the remaining grating cheese. Finally, sprinkle the top lightly with garlic (use less if it’s garlic salt).

At this point, if you want you can cover these and freeze them.

I strongly recommend using a layer of waxed paper first, then tin foil. Try to remove all the air on top – i.e., press the waxed paper down. That will reduce freezer burn. These pans can be frozen for 2-6 months easily – but REMEMBER TO THAW THEM IN THE REFRIGERATOR (typically at least overnight) **BEFORE** baking them. Make sure the pan can go from the fridge to the oven (pyrex, Corningware, or metal).

Bake at around 325-350 for 30-60 minutes – depending on the size of the pan and how deep the layers are – until the inside reaches 150F (to make sure the egg is cooked – everything else is already cooked). The cheese on top should be slightly browned at the edges and the sauce may bubble (a cookie sheet helps catch the drips).

When ready, take it out and let it cool for at least 15 minutes before trying to eat it (it will “set” a little and be easier to spoon out).

Serve either as is or with a little extra sauce…