Beginner's Choice: Chicken Sausage Lasagna
Maggie Brooks, an avid cook and former professional baker, is in the process of teaching a friend how to cook — follow along as she shares simple recipes and pointers.
When my friend C. asked me for that one, easy recipe that she could master right away, I started her on something simple but with lots of personalizing options. Lasagna is a great beginner dish because a) it’s hard to screw up and b) there are hundreds of combos to make it fit your tastes. If you’re just starting out, focus on the method (lasagna = sauce, cheese combination, assembly). As for ingredients? Anything goes.
Chicken Sausage Lasagna
2 tbsp. olive oil
1 1/2 c. onion, diced small
1/2 c. carrot, diced small
1 lb chicken sausage, removed from casings (spicy, plain, or sweet; whatever you like)
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp. dried thyme
1/4 c. dry white wine
2 28oz cans diced tomatoes (I like fire roasted)
1 c. basil, chopped, divided
1 15oz container whole milk ricotta
3 rounded cups (15oz) mozzarella (either freshly shredded or packaged)
1 1/2 c. grated Parmesan cheese
2 tbsp. fresh oregano, chopped
16 (1 box) no-boil lasagna noodles (best things ever)
1 box frozen spinach, thawed and thoroughly drained
1 jar roasted red peppers, thinly sliced
For the sauce:
Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium high heat until shimmering. Add the onion and carrot and cook until tender, about 5 minutes. Add sausage, garlic, and thyme and cook until the meat is brown, breaking it into pieces, about 8-10 minutes. Deglaze the pan with the white wine, scraping any browned bits from the bottom of the pan. Stir in tomatoes and bring to a boil. Lower the heat to medium low and allow sauce to thicken, 10-12 minutes. Add 1/2 cup basil and season with salt and pepper.
While the sauce is simmering, in a separate bowl combine ricotta, mozzarella, 1 cup Parmesan, oregano, and the remaining 1/2 cup of basil. Season with pepper (the cheese adds plenty of salt).
Preheat oven to 375. Spread 1 cup of sauce over the bottom of a 13 x 9 x 2 inch dish. Cover with 4 noodles so that they’re slightly overlapping. Drop 1/4 of the cheese mixture on the noodles and use a spatula to evenly spread the cheese to cover the noodles. (It will not be completely covered.) Take 1/4 of the spinach and red peppers and scatter over the cheese. Top with another cup of the sauce and 4 more noodles. Layer another 1/4 of the ricotta cheese mixture and 1/4 of the vegetables on top followed by sauce and noodles; repeat 2 more times ending with noodles. Top with remaining sauce and spread out to cover any dry spots. Finish with remaining 1/2 cup Parmesan and bake, uncovered, until the sides are bubbling and the lasagna is heated through, about 50-55 minutes. To make sure the lasagna is hot in the middle, stick a paring knife into the center and then touch the knife to see if its warm. Let rest for a few minutes before serving.