Ever since I was little, I have loved pasta. I could eat pasta every single night. Lasagna is my favourite pasta dish, but not just any lasagna. My lasagna recipe has been worked on since 1968 when my grandmother was first shown by an Italian how to make authentic lasagna. Since then, my father and I have worked together to tweak the recipe and I have 100% confidence saying this is the best lasagna you will ever eat.
For my celiac buddies, here is what a gluten free lasagna can look like:
Makes 2-3 lasagnas depending on pan size
- 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 2 large Spanish onions, diced
- 2 pounds lean ground beef
- 3 28-ounce cans chopped/diced tomatoes*
- 4 28-ounce cans strained/puréed tomatoes*
- 2 ½ 4.5-ounce tubes tomato paste**
- ½ 4.5-ounce tube chili pepper paste**
- 4 tablespoons dried oregano
- 1 bushel basil, finely chopped
- 8 cloves garlic, minced
- Salt to taste (if on a low-sodium diet, use red wine vinegar powder)
- 12 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 18 tablespoons all-purpose flour (to make gluten-free, use Cup4Cup flour)
- 6 cups milk
- Garlic powder, onion powder, and salt to taste
- Fresh lasagna sheets (to make gluten-free, use Barilla Gluten Free Oven Ready Lasagna Noodles and parboil for two minutes, then put in cold water to hold until layering)
- 2-pound block extra-sharp Cheddar cheese, grated***
- 2 or 3 8-ounce containers grated Parmesan cheese****
*In my opinion, Pomi offers the best tasting option for chopped and strained tomatoes.
**I use Amore tomato paste and chili pepper paste.
***Cabot Cheddar cheese is my favourite cheddar brand available on the market.
****If you want, you can use fresh Parmesan cheese, but the lasagna turns out better using the bottled Parmesan cheese.
- Heat extra-virgin olive oil in a sauté pan and cook onions until translucent.
- While onions are cooking, begin to cook ground beef in large saucepan over medium heat. Make sure to break up the ground beef into small pieces while it is browning.
- Once the onions and beef are fully cooked, add onions to large saucepan containing ground beef.
- Add chopped tomatoes, strained tomatoes, tomato paste, chili pepper paste, and spices to large saucepan. Mix thoroughly.
- Cover sauce and bring to a boil over medium heat. Once sauce is boiling, reduce heat to medium-low and allow sauce to simmer (while covered) for at least 4 hours, stirring ever 20-30 minutes. The longer the sauce cooks, the deeper the flavour will become.
- Near the end of the cooking time for the tomato sauce, begin to make the béchamel sauce. In a medium-sized pot, melt butter over medium heat.
- Once the butter is melted, add flour and allow flour to toast for at least 5 minutes, stirring frequently. The flour and butter will have the consistency of wet sand. The stirring is key as it prevents the mixture from burning.
- While whisking the mixture, slowly pour in all the milk. Make sure to whisk for long enough to remove all lumps from the béchamel sauce. After all the lumps are gone, you can transition to using a wooden spoon to stir.
- Add in garlic powder, onion powder, and salt to taste after whisking all the lumps out after the milk addition.
- Allow the béchamel to thicken. This will take time and requires constant attention and stirring. It usually takes 20-30 minutes to get to the proper consistency. Before you remove the béchamel sauce from the heat, it should coat the back of a spoon and begin to boil.
- When both the tomato sauce and béchamel sauce are complete, add the béchamel sauce into the tomato sauce and stir to combine. This will create a pink sauce to be used during the lasagna assembly. This sauce is also delicious over any type of pasta.
- Begin lasagna assembly with a layer of enough sauce to cover the bottom of the lasagna pan.
- After the sauce, begin layering lasagna sheets followed by more sauce and then Cheddar and Parmesan cheeses. The layers should be sauce, pasta, sauce, cheese, pasta, sauce, cheese, pasta, sauce, cheese, etc. Aim for at least 5 layers and the top layer of the lasagna must always be Parmesan and Cheddar cheese.
- Tent the lasagna with aluminum foil and bake at 350°F for one hour.
- After one hour, remove the aluminum foil and bake for half an hour until cheese browns slightly.
- Before serving allow the lasagna to sit for at least 45 minutes. This allows the lasagna to set and prevents the layers from collapsing on themselves when cut into pieces.