Christmas is this weekend. I can barely wrap my head around that fact. I feel like I still have one billion and one things to do before the day arrives; clean the house, wrap presents, try not to lose my mind while listening to “Frosty the Snowman” for the umpteenth time this month. At least I have my Christmas dinner planned out and ready to go. This meal is something that I make almost every year and it has become synonymous with Christmas at my house.
Christmas Goat Cheese Lasagna
Lasagna is the perfect Christmas dinner. I began making this recipe when I was a teenager and learning to cook for my large family. I loved lasagna but often felt that it was too heavy. I experimented with different cheeses in my recipe and found my perfect addition: goat cheese. Goat cheese has a tang and creaminess that ricotta lacks and thus gives the lasagna a beautifully balanced flavor and texture. Prepare to never look at lasagna the same way after you try this recipe.
Begin your lasagna by soaking your noodles in the hottest water that you can get from your tap. You can use water from a kettle or from the stove, but you don’t want it to be boiling or it will cook the noodles too quickly and they will become mushy in the oven. Keep checking the noodles as you prepare the sauce to make sure they’re completely covered in water. They will soak for approximately 25 minutes.
In a large sauce pan over medium heat add your olive oil and chopped onions with a pinch of kosher salt. Once the onion is translucent and fragrant add in your chopped garlic. Let cook for a few more minutes and add your chopped Italian parsley, basil, tomato paste, and one and a half cans of crushed red tomatoes to your pan.
Stir together and let simmer over medium-low heat while you prepare your meat.
In a separate stock pot combine your ground beef and turkey sausage that you have removed from the casings. Season your meat with 1 tsp salt and 1 tsp red pepper (optional). Cook over medium heat until browned, 5-6 minutes.
The reason I prefer to cook my meat separately from my sauce is that I like to drain the extra fat out the meat to keep my lasagna lighter tasting. To do this, line a large colander with three layers of paper towels and place it in your sink. Pour your browned meat into the colander and let sit for 5 minutes to let the fat drain.
Once drained, stir your browned meat into your tomato sauce and let sit on the stove, without heat, while you prep your cheese and start to assemble your lasagna.
Grate your fresh parmesan and slice your mozzarella into 1/4″ thick pieces, set aside. In a large bowl combine ricotta, goat cheese, and one large beaten egg.
Remove your noodles from the water and dry on a few layers of paper towels. This step is important because whisking the surface moisture away from the noodles will allow them to absorb as much flavor from the sauce as possible
Time to layer: start by spraying your casserole dish down with a heavy coat of cooking spray. Place a layer of sauce and meat mixture into the bottom of your 9×12 glass baking dish. Top with an even layer of mozzarella, parmesan, and a layer of noodles. Put 4-5 noodles short ways, trimming the excess length, and 2 lengthwise using the trimmed ends to fill in any gaps. We want noodles in every single bite.
Top your noodles with your ricotta mixture and more of your sauce. Continue layering with mozzarella, parmesan, noodles, sauce, etc. Finish your third layer with all of your leftover sauce, ricotta mixture, mozzarella, and a heaping handful of parmesan cheese (which is where the gorgeous golden crust will come from).
Pop your lasagna into a pre-heated 350 degree oven for 45 minutes until the top is golden and bubbly and full of cheesy-meaty deliciousness. Let the lasagna sit for at least 10 minutes to set. Otherwise all of the sauce will begin to spill all over the plate the second you cut it.
Holy Heaven above, is there any sight prettier than a homemade lasagna? I think not. It is even the colors of the holiday. Serve your lasagna with a good bottle of red wine, a simple salad, and garlic bread.
Lasagna is one of those meals that everyone loves, including the pickiest child. It is a perfectly impressive meal without having to cook a billion sides and a main course, leaving you more time to just enjoy Christmas. What a concept, huh? I hope that your Christmas is a beautiful time and you get everything your heart desires: world peace, peace among your crazy family, or a pair of diamond earrings. No judgement: those items are all on my Christmas list, as well. Buon Natale!
Christmas Goat Cheese Lasagna (Serves 6)
- 9×12 glass backing dish
- 3 tbsp olive oil
- 2 lb. meat (we used 1 lb lean beef and 1 lb sweet turkey sausage), but you can use whatever you prefer
- 1 medium yellow onion, chopped
- 3 tbsp coarsely chopped garlic
- ¼ cup basil
- ¼ cup parsley
- 6 oz tomato paste
- 1 and a half 28 0z cans crushed tomato puree
- 15 oz ricotta
- 3.4 oz goat cheese
- 1 beaten egg
- 1 heaping cup parmesan
- ½ lb fresh mozzarella
- 2 tsp salt
- 1 tsp red pepper flakes
- 1 tsp black pepper
- 1 lb lasagna noodles- you can use this with any type of noodle to make baked ziti, manicotti, etc
- non-stick cooking spray
Soak your noodles in hot tap water for 25 minutes and preheat oven to 350 degrees.
In a large sauce pan over medium heat sweat your onion with olive oil and pinch of salt until translucent. Add in chopped garlic, basil, parsley, tomato paste, and crush tomato puree to pan and stir. Let simmer while your prepare the meat.
In separate soup pot combine your meat, a pinch of salt, and red pepper flakes. Brown the meat, stirring occasionally. Once browned, line a large colander with three layers of paper towels and place in sink. Pour browned meat into colander and let sit for five minutes or until most of the excess fat has drained out of the meat.
Combine your meat and tomato sauce and prep your cheese mixture. In a large bowl combine your goat cheese, ricotta, and a large, beaten egg. Set aside.
Lay your soaked noodles onto a layer of paper towels and blot extra moisture from it. Rinse your 9×12 cooking dish and spray with a generous layer of cooking spray.
To assemble lasagna: place layer of tomato and meat sauce at bottom of dish. Top with mozzarella and a big handful of parmesan, then a layer of noodles. Put 4-5 noodles short ways, trimming excess as you go, and 2 long ways, using the trimmed off pieces to fill in gaps on the ends. Continue with a layer of the ricotta mixture then more of the sauce and meat. Repeat this two more times until you have three layers of noodles and the very top of the lasagna has layer of meat sauce, ricotta mixture, and a heaping handful of parmesan cheese.
Put your lasagna into oven for about 45 minutes or until the noodles are tender and the top of the lasagna is golden brown and bubbling.