Extra Easy Lasagna

3.6
(10)

We found all the shortcuts that don't sacrifice any of the flavor.

Extra Easy Lasagna
Photo: Caitlin Bensel; Food Styling: Torie Cox
Active Time:
15 mins
Total Time:
1 hrs
Servings:
6

You know the feeling: Your energy is running low, your family's hunger is running high, and dinner should have been on the table an hour ago. That's when you reach for this easy lasagna recipe.

For those nights when you're lacking in time and motivation, pull out this no-fail recipe. It'll save the day—or night. This recipe has everything you expect in a classic lasagna: ground beef, tomatoes, noodles, and a delicious selection of cheeses (mozzarella, cottage cheese or ricotta, and Parmesan). But the method is where this recipe stands above others.

We tasked our recipe pros with finding ingredients and shortcuts that cut down on the work of putting this lasagna together but don't sacrifice any of the flavor. Browning the ground beef, perhaps the longest task besides baking, takes just 5 to 7 minutes. Once all the sauce ingredients are added to the beef, you'll only need to simmer a few minutes, not hours like the typical lasagna recipe.

No need to boil lasagna noodles either; we're calling for the no-boil kind that soften while the pasta dish bakes. In short, you're only slowed down by the speed at which you can layer all the ingredients.

Add this easy lasagna recipe to your dinner rotation, or save it for a family Sunday supper when you need to impress but not stress. Plus, there's one more important thing to remember about this recipe: freezable leftovers.

Ingredients for Extra Easy Lasagna

If we had to guess, you likely have many of the ingredients for this easy lasagna recipe already in your fridge or pantry, which will make this faster and easier to make.

- Ground beef: We like using ground beef for this recipe, but you could substitute in ground turkey if it's what you have or like. Even ground venison would be nice if you have some in the freezer.
- Canned tomatoes: Don't bother stewing your own; the tomatoes in the can are plenty good enough. If you have one of those 28-ounce cans of whole tomatoes, use it instead of the two smaller cans in the ingredients list. Just grab your kitchen shears, and chop up those tomatoes into nice 1/4-inch pieces.
- Sauce ingredients: Making the sauce for this easy lasagna recipe is actually quite simple and fast. To the ground beef, we'll add tomato paste, a few classic spices like Italian seasoning and garlic powder, and crushed red pepper flakes for just a hint of heat.
- No-boil noodles: If you have the regular lasagna noodles on hand and want to use them up, by all means boil some water, and pop those sheets of noodle in to cook. But to save time, we like the no-boil noodles which will tenderize while the rest of the dish bakes.
- Cheeses: We have a trio (or quartet if you're creative) of cheeses that truly lift this dish beyond basic. First, the shredded mozzarella, ricotta or cottage cheese, and Parmesan cheese are spooned between the layers of pasta and sauce. Then, a final layer of fresh mozzarella slices is added just before the dish goes into the oven.

Frequently Asked Lasagna Questions

Lots of home cooks are wondering about these burning lasagna questions:

Which is the better cheese for lasagna: ricotta or cottage?

To be honest, this is entirely a personal choice. Both cheeses work well in lasagna; some even call for both. Cottage cheese will retain some texture, where the ricotta will be more smooth.

How do I layer lasagna?

In this recipe, to keep things simple, we chose to layer our lasagna as pasta on bottom, then meat mixture and cheese then back to the pasta and repeating. Finally, we finish with the sauce and a few slices of fresh mozzarella cheese.

But you can mix things up if you want. Just don't make the sauce layer too thick. The lasagna might not hold together well without the structure of the noodles.

How long to bake lasagna?

In almost all cases, lasagna will bake for 35 to 45 minutes. Rarely will the dish need to go longer than that. In this recipe, we found the everything was ready in that timeframe. Look for the top layer of mozzarella cheese to be golden and bubbling before you pull the pan from the oven.

Why should lasagna rest for a bit before serving?

It's vital you let lasagna rest for 10 to 20 minutes before you scoop in. The brief bit of cooling gives time for the sauce and cheeses to firm up so the lasagna isn't overly runny. That way, it's easier to slice and serve.

Ingredients

  • 1 pound ground beef

  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil

  • 2 (14-ounce) canned chopped tomatoes

  • 2 (6-ounce) cans tomato paste

  • 1 teaspoon salt

  • 2 teaspoons Italian seasoning

  • ¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

  • ¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes

  • ¼ teaspoon garlic powder

  • 1 (8-ounce) package no-boil lasagna noodles

  • 1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese

  • 1 cup ricotta or small curd cottage cheese

  • ¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese

  • 6 slices fresh mozzarella cheese

  • Chopped parsley, for garnish

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F.

  2. Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Cook the ground beef, stirring to crumble, until browned, 5 to 7 minutes. Drain off the fat.

  3. To the skillet of ground beef, add the tomatoes, tomato paste, Italian seasoning, salt, black pepper, red pepper flakes, and garlic powder. Simmer for 5 minutes.

  4. Place half of noodles in a lightly greased 12- x 8- x 2-inch baking dish, slightly overlapping lengthwise edges. Spoon one-third of the meat mixture over the noodles; add half of the shredded mozzarella, ricotta or cottage cheese, and Parmesan cheeses. Repeat layers, and spoon on the remaining meat mixture. Arrange the mozzarella slices on top. Cover the baking dish with foil. Bake at 350°F for 35 to 45 minutes. Remove the foil, and continue to bake for an additional 10 minutes.

  5. Let the finished dish rest for 10 minutes before serving. Top with chopped parsley, if desired.

Related Articles