This post was updated on February 22, 2021 and was originally published on December 5, 2017. This lasagna recipe is the best one ever! It’s my mom'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 noodles (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 my mom’s added touch – cinnamon!
How to make the meat sauce filling
- Brown the meat. In a shallow Dutch oven, brown the venison (or beef) and sausage together. Then drain the fat.
- Add the tomato sauce and paste. Put a little glug of brown soda the sauce jar and swish it around to get all that saucy goodness out. This not only ensures you’ll get your money’s worth, but the soda acts as a much-needed sweetness counterbalance to the acidic tomatoes.
- Add the seasoning and cinnamon. Add the salt, pepper, Italian seasoning, and cinnamon. Yes. Cinnamon. Listen to the angels sing.
And that’s the perfect meat filling for lasagna! It’s also delish over spaghetti noodles.
How to assemble lasagna
- To start – DO NOT 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 uncooked lasagna noodles,
- Add a layer of meat sauce. And then cheese.
- Repeat this process once more. In a layer of noodles, meat sauce, and then cheese.
- Create the final layer. You’ll instead do a layer of meat sauce, then noodles, then the Swiss cheese. And finally, the remaining shredded mozzarella. It makes all the difference.
- Bake the lasagna. But first, cover the whole pan with tinfoil that’s been coated in baking spray. This will keep the melty cheese from sticking to the top of the foil.
- Melt the cheese. For the last 15 minutes, remove the foil to get the cheese all bubbly and golden brown before serving!
Lasagna is one of those dishes that just gets better the next day. And freezes beautifully!
The entire pan: Bake the lasagna through as directed in the recipe. Cool the lasagna completely to room temperature. Wrap the dish in plastic wrap and cover with foil. Freeze for up to six months.
Sometimes there are only a few pieces left that won’t get eaten right away. When that’s the case, I like to individually freeze pieces of lasagna to make quick on-the-go lunches for my husband!
Individual pieces: Wrap refrigerated pieces of lasagna in two layers of tinfoil and then place in a freezer-safe, zip-top bag. Freeze for up to six months.
To thaw and reheat the entire pan: Thaw the pan in the refrigerator overnight. Preheat oven to 350. Remove the plastic wrap and recover the pan with the tinfoil. Reheat lasagna for 25 – 30 minutes, or until heated through.
To thaw and reheat individual pieces: Remove a wrapped piece of lasagna and place in the refrigerator overnight (or in a lunch bag in the morning). Unwrap lasagna and place on a microwave safe plate and cut into bite sized pieces before heating until warmed through.
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!)
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Mom's Best Ever Lasagna Recipe
- 2 pounds ground venison
- 1 pound sweet Italian sausage
- 2 24 ounce jars of your favorite tomato sauce
- 4 oz. tomato paste
- ¼ cup Dr. Pepper or other dark soda
- ½ teaspoon cinnamon trust me
- Salt, pepper, Italian seasoning to taste
- 1 ½ 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 over 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 them around, to get all the saucy goodness out. Pour into the pan. Add the 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 ⅓ of the sauce and spread to the edges. Cover with ⅓ of the mozzarella cheese.
- Repeat this process again with noodles, sauce, and cheese. On the final layer, go meat sauce first, then noodles, followed by the Swiss cheese, topped with the remaining 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 15 – 20 minutes more, or until cheese is golden brown and melted on top.
- Remove from oven and allow to stand for 15 minutes before serving.
- This is actually a dish that tastes better the next day, much like chili or soup, and freezes beautifully, either as a whole pan or in individually wrapped squares. Refer to post for notes on serving and reheating.