Meat Sauce and Ricotta Lasagna Recipe

Lasagne with ricotta cheese
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  • 115 mins
  • Prep: 75 mins,
  • Cook: 40 mins
  • Yield: 6-8 servings
Ratings (10)

Adding ricotta to lasagna is popular in the United States and it stems from a Southern Italy. This tradition reaches its apex with the elaborate lasagne con la ricotta which is enjoyed often, especially during Carnival time in Naples.  It is a distinctly different approach than the lasagna preferred in Tuscany and other northern areas of the country. 

Immigrant families from Southern Italy brought ricotta lasagna with them when they arrived in the New World. This recipe is one of those Italian-American variations.

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

What You'll Need

  • For the Meat Sauce:
  • 2-4 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 pound/450 grams pork shoulder
  • Fine sea salt (to taste)
  • Black pepper (freshly ground, to taste)
  • 1 medium onion (sliced)
  • 3 cloves garlic (sliced)
  • 1 1/2 pounds/600 grams ground beef
  • 1 (29 oz.) can tomato puree
  • 1 (6 oz.) can tomato paste
  • 1/2 cup water
  • Optional: 3 tablespoons sugar (white)
  • Optional: 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • For the Filling:
  • 2 pounds/900 grams ricotta cheese (fresh, preferably high-quality without stabilizers)
  • 1 cup Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese (freshly grated)
  • 1 tablespoon parsley (flat-leaf, chopped)
  • Fine sea salt to taste
  • Black pepper to taste (freshly ground)
  • For the Lasagna:
  • 1 pound/450 grams lasagna noodles
  • 1/2 pound/225 grams mozzarella (firm, sliced)

How to Make It

Make the Sauce

  1. In a pot, heat the oil. Add the pork, season it with salt and pepper, and brown the meat thoroughly on all sides.
  2. Remove the meat to a platter, leaving the drippings in the pot.
  3. Add the onion, garlic, and ground beef. Season the mixture with salt and pepper and cook until the beef is browned.
  4. Add the tomato puree, tomato paste, and water, as well as the sugar and baking soda (if you're using those).
  1. 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

  1. Combine the ricotta with the grated Parmigiano cheese and parsley.
  2. Season the mixture to taste with salt and black pepper, and set it aside.

Assemble the Lasagna

  1. Preheat the oven to 375 F (180 C).
  2. 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.
  3. Remove the pork from the sauce and set it aside.
  4. Coat the bottom of a baking dish with 1/2 cup of the sauce, put down a layer of pasta, then a layer of ricotta. Continue alternating the pasta with sauce and ricotta.
  5. Cover the last layer of pasta with sauce and then the mozzarella slices.
  6. Bake about 35 to 40 minutes, or until the mozzarella on top is melted, bubbly, and somewhat browned.
  7. Serve the lasagna as the first course and the pork as a second course.

Variations

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

Recipe Courtesy: Katie Copuzelo from "Preserving Our Italian Heritage," assembled by Rose Marie Boniello for the Grand Lodge of Florida, Order Sons of Italy. Reprinted with permission.