I’ll preface this recipe by saying: there is no diet lasagna. Fat is flavor. So are herbs, but this is lasagna, not some wimpy chicken recipe!! Go all out. Anyway, here are a few of my suggestions: a) shred your own cheese (at least your mozzarella because it makes your lasagna extra gooey), b) use spicy pork sausage, c) do thinner layers on the bottom to ensure you have enough for the top layers, and d) allow your kitchen to be a gigantic mess for about 3 hours. If you’re going to make lasagna for a crowd, do it ahead of time unless you don’t care if the crowd sees your kitchen looking horrendous.
2 lbs pork sausage
3/4 c white onion, diced
5 cloves garlic, crushed and chopped
2 15-oz cans tomato sauce
1 6-oz can tomato paste
1/2 c fresh basil, chopped*
2 tbsp fresh oregano, chopped*
1 tsp fresh rosemary, chopped*
1 1/2 tsp agave nectar OR 3 tsp sugar
2 c ricotta
1 c small-curd 4% milk fat cottage cheese
1/2 c shredded Swiss cheese
1/2 c grated Parmesan cheese
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp black pepper
3 c shredded mozzarella cheese
13 oz whole wheat lasagna noodles
Working in two batches, cook lasagna noodles in boiling, salted water about 5 minutes, reserving the hot water. Set drained noodles aside, covering with a damp towel. In a large saucepan or skillet, cook the pork sausage over medium heat, chopping the meat into small pieces. When meat is half-browned, add onions and continue cooking until onions are soft and meat is no longer pink. Do not drain the fat. Stir in garlic, tomato sauce, and tomato paste. Reduce heat and simmer for 20 minutes, stirring frequently. Turn off heat and stir in agave/sugar and all but 1 tbsp total of the chopped herbs. Taste sauce and adjust seasoning to taste.
In a large bowl, whisk together ricotta, cottage cheese, eggs, Swiss cheese, Parmesan cheese, salt, pepper, and 1 tbsp chopped herbs.
Check noodles; if slightly dry, plunge briefly in reserved pasta water and drain thoroughly.
The lasagna is now ready to assemble.
In a lightly-greased 13x9x2″ pan, begin layering with noodles. Arrange a single layer of pasta, slightly overlapping to ensure the bottom is totally covered. Spread a thin layer of meat sauce on top of noodles and follow with half the ricotta mixture. Use a rubber spatula to spread layers to the edges of the pan. Sprinkle ricotta layer with 1/2 c mozzarella cheese. Do another noodle layer, a thicker meat layer, and the remainder of the ricotta; sprinkle with 1/2 c mozzarella. Top with a final layer of noodles and the remainder of the meat sauce. Sprinkle meat sauce with the remaining 2 c mozzarella cheese. Bake, uncovered, at 350 degrees for 45 minutes. Increase temperature to 450 degrees and bake an additional 5-10 minutes or until cheese is browned. Allow to stand at room temperature for at least 15 minutes before cutting and serving.
*If you don’t have fresh herbs, use about 1 1/2 tbsp dried Italian seasonings in lieu of the fresh herbs in the sauce and 1/2 tbsp in the ricotta mixture.