Sunday Supper: Lasagna edition

In a couple weeks I will be cooking for my literary group. In the past we have read all of Dante’s Divina Comedia, Milton’s Paradise Lost, a large percentage of the works of T.S. Eliot, a great share of G. M. Hopkins and we are set to move on to some of the Metaphysical Poets.

We read aloud and then comment. At the end of our work, we eat.

I will make lasagna from the group and so I am getting it back under my fingers now, in a smaller version.

Start by making a simple tomato sauce. I used a couple cloves of garlic, an onion, some celery and carrot. Into a dutch oven it goes with olive oil on a medium heat.

Be sure to grind in some pepper and salt. The pepper of flavor changes with heat in oil.


Cook until translucent about 10 minutes.

I added a couple large cans of good tomatoes and a couple bay leaves.


This now has to reduce for a while.

Meanwhile, I browned ground beef and extracted most of the fat.

I will let this cool.


Meanwhile, I am thawing a couple packages of frozen spinach.

When the tomato sauce is reduced, I will make a mess of bechamel and then blend them together.

More later.


Time to make my roux.

Melt butter, about a half stick, and add your flour, about a half cup.


Blend it together and let it cook for a few minutes.


Ad milk, a bit at a time.


You couldn’t see there, but the whisk is whisking!


When all the milk is added, I put in some nutmeg.


After removing most of the reduced tomato sauce to small containers for the freezer, I put the bechamel into the tomato sauce pan. Why? It is a little larger and with a larger surface exposed, it will cool faster.



To heck with waiting! Out it goes into the big freezer for a while.


Now I wait for a while and post this.


More later.

Drink a glass of wine and watch football.


More later.

UPDATE 16 Jan 0029 GMT:

I am building it up.  Today I chose a purchased pan.  Having measured the sheets of pasta, I choose the 13×9 incher.


Just build it up, criss cross if you wish.


Build it up.


Layers of bechamel, ricotta with egg, beef, spinach.

Shredded “provolone” and “mozzarella” on top with grated “parmiggiano”.


I put a sheet of foil beneath, upon the baking sheet.


I covered it with another sheet of foil.

I will bake it at 375F for 30 and then uncover it and bake it until it looks right.

More later.

UPDATE: 15 Jan 01:45:




About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
This entry was posted in "How To..." - Practical Notes, Fr. Z's Kitchen and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.


  1. Inigo says:

    We had lasagna for sunday dinner too. One question: how thick should the layers be? Ours got a little too thick I think, but my wife disagrees.
    Dry or pre-boiled noodles?

  2. Inigo: Some people like to layer in dry sheets of pasta. I usually cook them half way. How thick the layers? Hard to say. Depends on the size of the pan, I suppose. You want them close enough that the whole thing doesn’t slide apart.

  3. Dax says:

    Looks delicious, Father. I trust your mise en plas was orderly, right down to the bay leaves and ground pepper.

    [Everything was out, and set up, and ready. No surprises, as in “Oops, I forgot the….” I did, however, leave the ground pepper unground inside the grinder until I needed it.]

    Ici mange bien. [Hic manebimus optime necnon cenabimus!]


  4. mibethda says:

    No Italian sausage meat with the ground beef? [Nah… not this time. I don’t think this needs a cheater.]

  5. philologus says:

    The nutmeg is an interesting touch.

  6. AnAmericanMother says:

    Ditto on the Italian sausage. That was my first thought when I saw the ground beef.

    Our local grocery store makes it themselves – yum!

  7. I don’t see why a pan of lasagne has to have Italian sausage in it.

  8. filioque says:

    Mmmm, bechamel in the tomato sauce. Never thought of that. Yes, nutmeg (freshly ground, like the pepper) in the bechamel always, unless you are going to put in shredded cheddar or other cheese, which makes it optional. But what am I saying? You can do anything you like except add water to acid. This is not “Say the black, do the red.”

    I’m a dry noodle lady, myself. You are going to use ricotta, yes? I’m being impatient, but I am on the East Coast and it’s getting awfully close to dinner time.

  9. APX says:

    @Fr. John Zuhlsdorf
    I don’t see why a pan of lasagne has to have Italian sausage in it.

    Me neither. I don’t get the whole Italian sausage thing. I’ve been going through my variety of Company’s Coming cookbooks lately, and it seems like every second or third recipe has Italian sausage in it.

    I am not familiar with the complexities of how you make your lasagna. I make mine by the giant foil pans at a time using Ragu, ground beef, noodles, and lots of mozzarella cheese. Super simple. Super delicious. Super convenient for meals for the next month or so.

  10. scholastica says:

    We just finished a Sunday supper of lasagne too using canned tomatoes from the garden. My lasagne is always a bit different, but the best lasagne I ever made used Italian sausage made by a dear Italian friend from his own pig. Try it! You’ll like it.

  11. NoTambourines says:

    I’ve never heard of Italian sausage in a lasagna. That seems like it would be flavor-overload, though I know people are passionate about what constitutes authenticity in a recipe (I’m told my grandparents used to argue over their family potato salad recipes).

    In my upbringing, the One, True Lasagna was about 5 layers of lasagne noodles held together with ricotta mixed with egg, sliced mozzarella (or provolone), and a ground beef/Ragu sauce, topped with Parmesan cheese.

    Italian? Nah-uh. But it’s How Mom Made It, and that trumps all in authenticity! [Do I hear an “AMEN!” for Mom’s Way?]

  12. Ben Yanke says:

    What good tastes… lasagna AND the packers!

  13. Kathleen10 says:

    I was surprised by the nutmeg too. Never heard of that used in lasagna. Gosh I haven’t made that in so long! I tend to make American Chop Suey (quick) or Spaghetti and meatballs (I am working on perfecting this until it tastes like Mom’s. It’s a process.)

    My mother-in-law, of the Farno Farina’s and Benvenuti’s, made a killer chicken and sauce dish. I mean, GOOD. I never knew it was just chicken pieces simmered in Ragu! Honestly, if you just take chicken pieces and let those bad boys simmer in jar sauce, you will not believe it when you eat it. Add water, and let it cook down for say, an hour or a bit more. Buon appetito! (I may be off on that)

  14. jesusthroughmary says:

    Father, PLEASE publish a cookbook. You would get 1,000 preorders easily.

  15. I love this! 14 comments so far, but 8 on my commentary on the Collect.


  16. APX says:

    Honestly, if you just take chicken pieces and let those bad boys simmer in jar sauce, you will not believe it when you eat it.

    I *heart* Ragu! I buy it in bulk and keep jars and jars of that stuff on hand. It’s so versatile. The other amazing thing, Cambell’s mushroom soup.

    I got a Kitchenaid 5 litre cast iron dutch oven on sale for 75% off, so it was like super cheap, only $50. Best kitchen investment everrr! It’s like magic. You can throw chicken parts in it with the most random ingredients (ie: salad dressing, french onion soup mix and three fruit marmalade), throw it in the oven for an hour or so and it will turn into something delicious every time.

  17. philologus says:

    That is also a very thick roux. My roux is usually more like a peanut butter consistency as opposed to mashed potatoes. Then again I only really make roux for the beef burgundy which needs a darker roux. This recipe has inspired me – I’m going to try putting celery in my sauce.

    [Be careful. It can overwhelm.]

  18. Norah says:

    Nutmeg is traditional in the bechamel of Greek Pastitsio.

    How many grams is a stick of butter? or how much in tablespoons?

  19. APX says:

    How many grams is a stick of butter? or how much in tablespoons?
    A stick of butter is 1/2 cup. So if you have a one pound brick of butter, divide it in half, and cut one half in half. No clue what it is in tablespoons. Anything more than 1/4 cup of butter, I measure in cups.

  20. jilly4ski says:

    A stick of butter is 8 Tablespoons = 1/2cup. So half a stick would be 4 Tablespoons.

  21. JayDeee says:

    Looks marvelous!

    Here’s my super-quick version.
    1. Buy frozen ravioli – there are some very good brands. They are pre-cooked, so no need to cook again before you make this recipe. Use frozen.
    2. Buy _fresh_ mozzarella
    3. Buy your favorite spaghetti sauce in a jar

    Layer ravioli – spaghetti sauce – mozzarella (repeat, ending with layer of mozzarella, and maybe with parmesan sprinkled on top). Bake at about 350 degrees for 30 or 40 minutes.

    Nowhere near as good as Fr. Z’s though, I’m sure! :-)

  22. kat says:

    Oh my does that look good. I have no idea what roux is though. Couldn’t figure out why you were making a white sauce for lasagne. I always use tomato sauce. But, can I come over and taste it??

  23. mibethda says:

    But Father, but Father, Italian sausage is not added to lasagne as a ‘cheater’ – well, yes, perhaps in part it is a convenient way to add toasted fennel seeds and anise to the recipe – but it incorporates ground pork as well as ground beef to the dish. And not just any pork, but those parts of the hog that are often not available in the average supermarket today – the snout, ears, jowls, tail and lots of that item of culinary royalty, pork fat.

  24. Lucas says:

    Next time you need to do it the Calabrese way and all sliced hard boiled eggs to it. MMM

  25. Looks delicious Father!

    I’ve been making lasagna for years, but I’ve never seen it done this way. I just found a recipe for Lasagna with bechamel sauce, so now I have something to try!

    I often use a mixture of ground beef and Bob Evans sausage. The last time I made it, a week ago, I realized too late I’d forgotten to get any meat! Thankfully, I’d planned to make a couple of chickens, so the meatless Lasagna seemed no problem. The Sicilian retired priest in my parish won’t touch anything from Northern Italy.

  26. I could just picture the local wildlife helping itself to that pot when it was outside. Got bears?

  27. teomatteo says:

    I like using the ‘no cook’ lasag. Noodles. It seems to be easier(no boiling), and the resulting lasagna is firmer when served. My grandmother refused to use ital. Sausage cuz she said it made the taste too complicated. I think she meant too many flavors hitten you at once…

  28. jesusthroughmary says:

    Is the proper ratio for a roux 1:1 or 3:2?

  29. Will D. says:

    I will make lasagna from the group

    Remind me never to join your book club, Father.

  30. Henrietta says:

    Looks great!….but spinach in lasagna?

    Perhaps we Aussies are missing out!

  31. Nutmeg and bechamel! Yum. Just like they used to make it during the two years I lived in Bologna. Sounds like the hometown dish. Sigh.

  32. Pingback: Ordinary Goodness: Pinterest, Age and Ordinary Time | Quicksilver to Gold

  33. Grabski says:

    Father Your commentary on the collect teaches. On lasagna, you providing pointers. I s’pose!

    You raised a question I face in the supermarket: what are ‘good tomatoes’? I usually purchase boxed or the most expensive cans. Can you or other readers give some pointers, please!

  34. Rob Cartusciello says:

    Lasagna Bolognese has its merits, but I am partial to the multi-day product that is Lasagna Carnevale from my family’s region of Campagna. This is a large scale culinary venture and not for the faint of heat.

    It entails a pot of Ragu Napolenta with sausage (no pork ribs), tiny, marble-sized meatballs and beef braciole with pine nuts & currants. The meat is dredged out of the sauce and sliced, then layered down with mozzarella, ricotta, ground locatelli cheese and sliced egg. It’s rich and worth doing at least once a year the Sunday before Lent as a giant “Carne Vale!”

  35. irishgirl says:

    I’m usually not a ‘fan’ of lasagna (drove my mother nuts when she made it-I was the only one who wouldn’t eat it, and had spaghetti instead), but this past Thanksgiving I went to the house of one of TLM chapel members for dinner, and they had it in addition to the usual ‘Turkey Day’ fixin’s.
    I got a bag of leftovers to take home with me, and one of the containers had a large slab of lasagna. It had a good layer of ground beef on top, and surprisingly, I ate it and I liked it! It was delicious!
    My host told me that he cooked it in the way his daughter liked it!
    Too bad about the Packers losing, though…hey, I’m from New York (UPSTATE!), and I was happy that the Giants won!

  36. jesusthroughmary says:

    Will D. –
    If I had the canonical authority to award a Gold Star of the Day, you would have it. +1.

  37. SegoLily says:

    Lovely looking recipe with the bechemel sauce added to the marinara. I’m going to try that next time. And by all means, the nutmeg would add a nice touch–I believe the Italians add it to ricotta and spinach stuffed manicotti as well. I agree with some that Italian sausage would detract from the classic lasagna taste.
    Why oh why didn’t we go metric (when I was in 4th grade and there was a major hulabaloo over the matter!) to avoid all this culinary measurement confusion. We medical people know that there are 5 mls in a teaspoon and 30 mls in an ounce and this goes a long way in making recipe conversion easy.

Comments are closed.