Monday, November 29, 2010

Turkey Sausage Lasagna

I hope everyone had a nice Thanksgiving holiday.  Today I have a recipe that uses turkey, but don't worry, it's definitely not the Thanksgiving variety!

Are you planning a small dinner party during this holiday season?  If so, I highly recommend serving Turkey Sausage Lasagna.  It tastes great, the leftovers are delightful, and it can be assembled in advance so you have more time to mingle with your guests.  It's a win/win for everyone.  Bonus:  most people like lasagna.

This lasagna serves at least 6 adults.  I will not prepare this meal unless I have at least 4 people coming for dinner because E and I just don't need this much food.  I'm sure we could freeze it, but I don't think the fresh cheeses would retain their flavor and consistency after a trip to the deep freeze, so I recommend eating this dish fresh.

The superstars in this recipe are lean Italian turkey sausage, which provides all the flavor of Italian sausage with less grease, fresh basil, and fresh mozzarella.  Fresh basil and mozzarella aren't cheap, especially in November, but they are worth it because they make this dish.  The mozzarella melts to a perfectly goey consistency and the basil adds a note of freshness that can't be replicated with dried herbs.  Trust me.

I've had many types of lasagna, but I find that the best ones have the right ratio of sauce to noodles and are moist in the center and crunchy around the edges.  I use no-boil lasagna (from Barilla) because it's so much easier than boiling noodles), I also have a strict system for layering that provides the best consistency, easiest removal from the pan, and ideal taste.  I start with a thin layer of meat sauce...

Top it with noodles...

Top the noodles with sliced fresh mozzarella...

Top the mozzarella with ricotta...

Top the ricotta with more meat sauce, then repeat until you reach the top of your pan.  I only end up with two layers.  The real secret?  The top layer needs to be meat sauce, not cheese or noodles.  It keeps everything moist.  You can sprinkle a little fresh parmesan on top of the last layer of meat sauce, but not too much... nobody likes burnt cheese. (Well, some people do, but it's not ideal.)

Lasagna can be time-consuming, but I've simplified this recipe to the point that I can get it in the oven within 35 minutes of starting the process.  If you're really ambitious you can mix the meat sauce the day before and just assemble everything cold before you bake it.  If you're really, really motivated you can assemble the entire lasagna up to 24 hours in advance and slide it into the oven one hour before company arrives.

Once you're tired of traditional Thanksgiving leftovers, give this recipe a try!

Turkey Sausage Lasagna
Inspired by Ina Garten, improved by Keeley

About one pound of Italian turkey sausage (I use Shady Brook Farms, 15 ounce package), removed from casing
About 30 ounces (4 cups) low fat ricotta cheese
8 ounces fresh mozzarella cheese, sliced thin (about 1/4 inch)
1/2 cup fresh shredded parmesan cheese, plus more for topping
1 egg
2 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon garlic powder
2 (24 ounce) cans crushed tomatoes
2 Tablespoons tomato paste
1/2 cup dry red wine (optional)
1 large onion, diced
6 cloves garlic, minced
2 Tablespoons dried oregano
1 Tablespoon dried basil
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 cup freshed basil, chopped

In a wide saute pan, heat oil over medium/low heat and saute onions for 5 minutes, or until translucent.  Crumble the sausage into the pan and increase heat to medium high.  Break up the sausage as it cooks.  Add in garlic and cook for one minute.

Once sausage is cooked, add in crushed tomatoes, fresh garlic, oregano, dried basil, black pepper, wine, and tomato paste.  Stir, bring to a simmer, then reduce heat to low.  Let sauce simmer for at least 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Stir in fresh basil when sauce is done.

While the sauce cooks, mix together the ricotta, garlic powder, parmesan, and egg.  Set aside.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

When sauce is ready, assemble the lasagna.  Use a 9" by 13" pan that is at least 3" deep.  Start with a thin layer of sauce on the bottom (about 25% of the prepared sauce), then add a layer of noodles, a layer of mozzarella, and a layer of the ricotta mixture.  Repeat using a half of the remaining sauce for the next layer.  End with a layer of tomato sauce.  Top with a handful of Parmesan.

Bake lasagna for about one hour, or until top is browning and edges are bubbling.  Let sit for at least 20 minutes before slicing and serving.

You can absolutely assemble the lasagna up to 12 hours before baking, just keep it in the refrigerator.  That's why this is a perfect party dish!


  1. This looks and sounds amazing!

  2. i actually forgot to eat lasagna at thanksgiving, and i'm mad about it! I haven't made lasagna since I lived with my mom because it was so time consuming. but this looks doable, i'll be adding it to my mental roladex

  3. I like burnt cheese. Well, not burnt exactly but crisp. Your lasagna looks delish and I love how you said "inspired by Ina and improved by Keeley!"

    Hope you had a delicious and blessed Thanksgiving!

  4. Mmmmmmm sausage lasagna. This looks so great! I need to make a lasagna. I'm craving it big time!

  5. This looks amazing - I love that you used turkey sausage too and I will have to try this. Yum!


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