Meat Sauce and Ricotta Lasagna Recipe (Lasagne con la ricotta)

Lasagne with ricotta cheese
Lasagne with ricotta cheese. Fullerene/Getty Images
  • 115 mins
  • Prep: 75 mins,
  • Cook: 40 mins
  • Yield: 6-8 servings
Ratings (7)

I was always rather taken back by the ricotta that I found in lasagna in the U.S.; there wasn't any ricotta in the lasagna I had eaten growing up in Tuscany. This is because putting ricotta in lasagna is a Southern Italian tradition that reaches its apex with the elaborate lasagne con la ricotta made during Carnival time in Naples. 

Immigrant families from Southern Italy brought ricotta lasagna with them when they arrived in the New World, and here's an Italian-American version drawn from "Preserving Our Italian Heritage," a wonderful collection of recipes assembled by Rose Marie Boniello for the Grand Lodge of Florida, Order Sons of Italy. The recipe is by Katie Copuzelo. I thank them for giving me permission to print it. 

It's a unique recipe in that a whole pork shoulder is used in making the tomato-based meat sauce, but it is removed before assembling the lasagna and served as a second course. So you get both a primo (pasta first course) and secondo (meat second course) out of one recipe!

[Edited by Danette St. Onge]

What You'll Need

  • For the Meat Sauce:
  • 2-4 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 pound (450 g) pork shoulder
  • Fine sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 1 medium onion, sliced
  • 3 garlic cloves, sliced
  • 1 1/2 pounds (600 g) ground beef
  • 1 large can tomato puree
  • 1 (6-ounce) can tomato paste
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 3 tablespoons sugar, optional
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda, optional​
  • For the Filling:
  • 2 pounds (900 g) fresh ricotta cheese (look for a high-quality cheese made without stabilizers)
  • 1 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
  • 1 tablespoon chopped flat-leaf parsley
  • Fine sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • For the Lasagna:
  • 1 pound (450 g) dried lasagne noodles
  • 1/2 pound (225 g) firm mozzarella, sliced

How to Make It

Make the sauce:

Heat the oil in a pot, add the pork, season it with salt and pepper, and brown the meat thoroughly on all sides.

Remove the meat to a platter, leaving the drippings in the pot.

Add the onion, garlic, and ground beef, season the mixture with salt and pepper, and cook until the beef is well browned.

Add the tomato puree, tomato paste, water, sugar (if using), and baking soda (if using).

Stir and simmer for 5 minutes.

Add the pork and continue simmering for 1 hour, or until the pork is fork-tender.

Prepare the filling:

Combine the ricotta with the grated Parmigiano cheese and the parsley, season the mixture to taste, and set it aside.

Assemble the lasagna:

Boil the lasagna a few sheets at a time in lightly salted water until they are al dente, remove them with a strainer, and drain them; while they're cooking, preheat your oven to 375 F (180 C).

Remove the pork from the sauce and set it aside (it will be served as the second course, after the lasagna). Coat the bottom of a baking dish with 1/2 cup of the sauce, put down a layer of pasta and a layer of ricotta, and continue alternating the pasta with sauce and ricotta. Cover the last layer of pasta with sauce and then the mozzarella slices. Bake about 35-40 minutes, or until the mozzarella on top is melted, bubbly and somewhat browned.

Serve the pork as a second course.


You can also make tiny meatballs, drop them in the sauce, and layer them in the lasagna.