This post was updated on April, 14 2020 and was originally published on December 5, 2017. This lasagna recipe is the best one ever! It’s Melba’s. And it’s been tested and tried and perfected over many years and many family dinners. Try it for yourself and see what you think!
What goes into lasagna?
Making the best lasagna isn’t complicated. And certainly doesn’t require ricotta or cottage cheese (seriously, eww)! It only requires a few necessary items and one surprise ingredient:
- Lasagna noodz (the regular kind, not the oven ready. Trust me.)
- Ground Venison (or beef, we just always use venison.)
- Ground Italian Sausage (sweet, preferably.)
- Jarred Tomato Sauce (ain’t nothing wrong with store bought!)
- Tomato Paste (for depth of flavor)
- Brown Soda (like Dr. Pepper, mmmkay?)
- Cinnamon (Yes. Cinnamon.)
- Shredded Mozzarella (pretty common in most lasagnas.)
- Sliced Swiss Cheese (pretty uncommon in most lasagnas.)
Yes! Really! I know it sounds crazy, and lots of people are shocked to find out that it’s in the sauce but it seriously makes the lasagna! It wouldn’t be the best lasagna recipe without Melba’s added touch – cinnamon!
How to make the lasagna
- Make the sauce: This starts off by browning the venison (or beef) and sausage together. Then drain the fat. Next, you’ll add the tomato sauce and paste. Put a little glug of brown soda into the sauce jar and swish it around to get all that saucy goodness. This not only ensures you’ll get your money’s worth, but the soda acts as a much-needed sweet counterbalance to the acidic tomatoes. Sprinkle over some cinnamon and listen to the angels sing.
- Assemble the lasagna: Don’t cook the noodles. Don’t do it. You’ll be tempted to. You’ll be wrong. Put some water in the bottom of your pan. Then a layer of noodles, followed by meat sauce, then cheese. Repeat this process once more – noodles, meat sauce, cheese. Then! Do a final layer of meat sauce, then noodles, then more mozz and finally the swiss cheese. It makes all the difference.
- Bake the lasagna: Covered with tinfoil that’s been coated in baking spray because melty cheese sticks everywhere. Let it hang out in the oven for awhile. That’s how the noodles cook, the cheese melts, and those flavors meld. Remove the foil to get a crispy, golden-brown top.
- Save the lasagna: Everyone knows that lasagna is better the next day! I like to make pans of this and freeze it, or wrap individual (cooked) squares in foil and pack them in Seth’s lunch for him to take to work!
Tell me – does your momma make something better than anyone else? (Aside from lasagna, because we already know my mom’s recipe is the best!)
Melba's Best Ever Lasagna Recipe
- 2 pounds ground venison
- 1 pound sweet Italian sausage
- 2 24-oz. jars of your favorite tomato sauce I like Prego
- 4 oz. tomato paste
- ¼ cup Dr. Pepper or other dark soda
- ½ tsp. cinnamon trust me
- Salt, pepper, Italian seasoning to taste
- 1 1/2 boxes lasagna noodles
- 2 pounds shredded mozzarella cheese
- 8 slices Swiss cheese
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
- In a large, heavy bottomed skillet brown the beef and the sausage on medium-high heat. Drain the fat. Lower heat to medium-low and pour in the jars of sauce, then pour a splash of dark soda into the jars and swirl around, to get all the saucy goodness out. Pour into the pan. Add in tomato paste. Sprinkle on the cinnamon, salt, pepper, and Italian seasoning. Stir to combine and warm through – about five minutes.
- Line the bottom of a 9x13 pan with one row of lasagna noodles slightly overlapping one another. (You may need to add one noodle laying in the opposite direction to ensure the entire bottom of the pan is covered.)
- Pour in ½ cup of water so that it covers the bottom of the pan but does not go over the noodles, rather it should be just touching the underside of them.
- Ladle in 1/3 of the sauce and spread to the edges. Cover with 1/3 of the mozzarella cheese.
- Repeat this process again with noodles, sauce, and cheese. On the final layer, go meat first, then noodles, followed by the Swiss cheese, topped with the shredded mozzarella.
- Spray a large piece of tinfoil with baking spray and cover the pan (so the cheese doesn’t stick when baking!).
- Bake in preheated oven for 60 minutes before removing tinfoil and cooking 10 – 15 minutes more, or until cheese is golden brown and melted on top.
- Remove from oven and allow to stand for 15 minutes before serving.