Today I’m sharing my solution for feeding a pack of hungry boys within an hour of arrival on our annual family summer vacation. After years of traveling with a big family I quickly learned that heading to a small town in the mountains without a plan for dinner is not a good idea.
It is so worth the effort to put this lasagna together in advance and have a warm, wholesome, comforting meal for your tired family after a long road trip. Or, just to have a meal on hand for a night when no one feels like cooking. It is a snap to put together using no-boil pasta sheets and is frozen before baking. See below for the step-by-step instructions on how to put it together and transport it safely to your destination.
Barilla Oven-Ready Lasagne. I say Lasagna…you say lasagne. Lasagna, lasagne…. However you spell it, this stuff is zee best!
I love this Jennie-O Hot Italian Turkey Sausage. Don’t believe Jennie, it’s not really very hot at all but it is packed with flavor and far lower in fat than the traditional variety of Eye-talian sausage. If you’re completely unafraid of fat and calories, go for the traditional variety. Sometimes you just gotta go for it! You’ll also need a couple of jars of your favorite basic marinara sauce. I’m a fan of Trader Joe’s Tomato Basil Marinara and keep it in my pantry to uncomplicate my life.
First things first. Remove the casings from the sausage by slicing through it, length-wise, with a sharp knife. Pull it off and repeat with the remaining sausage.
Drizzle about 1 tablespoon of olive oil into the bottom of a heavy skillet. Cook the sausage over medium heat, breaking it up with a spoon as it cooks.
When no pink remains, drain off as much of the grease as possible and add the minced garlic. Season with a touch of salt and fresh ground pepper to taste. Cook for another minute or two and then remove the pan from the heat and set it aside.
In a medium bowl combine ricotta, egg, salt, and fresh basil.
Coarsely chop your cremini mushrooms. Mushrooms add a great meaty layer to lasagna but if they don’t do it for you, replace them with the veggie of your choice. Zucchini and summer squash are a great choice. Or, just leave them out altogether.
Shred up 8 ounces of fresh mozzarella. I find this to be plenty but if you want a very cheesy lasagna, feel free to up the amount. Fresh mozzarella will almost crumble as you shred it but don’t be concerned. Fresh is the best!
The lasagna assembly line. Place all your ingredients within easy reach.
And, here we go. Pour enough marinara sauce into the bottom of a freezer safe 13″ x 9″ pan just to lightly coat it.
A note about the pan. This is not my most beautiful lasagna dish but is is my favorite pan to use when I’m freezing meals. It’s a very inexpensive 13″ x 9″ metal cake pan that came with a plastic cover. The metal is good for keeping it very cool when it’s in transit and the plastic cover can be placed on top to keep any leftovers fresh in the fridge.
Back to the lasagna…
Place four of the uncooked pasta sheets over the sauce, overlapping slightly, to fit the pan. Top the pasta sheets with 1/3 of the ricotta mixture and spread it out over the top with a knife.
Next we’ll add 1/3 of the the cooked sausage and chopped mushrooms. I like to deliberately sprinkle some of the mushrooms into the sauce around the edges of the lasagna as well.
It’s time for cheese! Top the layer with 1/4 of the mozzarella and Parmesan. You can skimp a bit in the layers but be sure to leave a good amount for the top of the lasagna.
More marinara. Don’t drown it.
Then we start the whole layering process over again with four more pasta sheets, ricotta, and all the remaining ingredients exactly as shown above for a total of three layers.
After adding the last four pasta sheets, pour enough marinara over the top to generously coat the lasagna. Spread the sauce out to the edges with a knife. You may not need to use the entire contents of two jars of pasta sauce to accomplish this. If you’ve got some left, just hang on to it for another purpose.
Be sure the entire surface of the lasagna is coated with sauce.
Sprinkle the surface with the remaining mozzarella and Parmesan and that baby is done! See those luscious layers? It’s going to be good.
Coat the bottom of a sheet of heavy duty foil generously with non-stick cooking spray. This will help prevent the cheese from sticking to the foil as it cooks. You think of this kind of stuff when you love cheese.
Cover the lasagna with the prepared foil and then wrap the entire pan in another sheet or two of heavy duty foil. It’s ready for the freezer.
It will keep well in the freezer for three to four months and bake up beautifully whenever you’re ready for it. Just knowing one of these is in my freezer brings peace to my life.
If you’re planning to take and bake your lasagna, keep it frozen until you are ready to depart and then place the frozen lasagna between some ice packs in a cooler. I usually add a bagged salad mix and any other items I want to transport that need to stay cool. Pack it up and hit the road! Don’t forget the loaf of French bread and the bottle of red wine.
Our road trip took about six hours and the lasagna was still a bit icy on arrival but it will cook up just fine. Just be aware that if it is not completely defrosted when it goes in the oven, you’ll have to increase the cooking time.
If you are cooking the lasagna for a regular dinner at home, remove it from the freezer the previous night and allow it to defrost completely in the refrigerator overnight. Do not be tempted to allow it to sit out on the counter to defrost. It is better to err on the side of safety and just cook it partially frozen.
Bake it, covered, at 375 degrees for 50 minutes. Hurray for vacation rentals with full kitchens!
Remove the foil and cook another 10 or 15 minutes till heated through and bubbly around edges.
Dinner is served. Quick, easy cleanup. Everyone is happy. Job done.
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 (16 ounce) package Jennie-O Hot Turkey Italian Sausage
- Salt and fresh ground pepper, to taste
- 1 teaspoon minced garlic
- 1 (15 ounce) container part-skim ricotta cheese
- 1 egg
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/3 cup chopped fresh basil
- 10 cremini (brown button) mushrooms, coarsely chopped
- 2 (approximately 24 ounce) jars marinara sauce (I use Trader Joe's Tomato Basil Marinara)
- 1 (9 ounce) package Barilla Oven Ready Lasagne
- 8 ounces fresh mozzarella, shredded
- 1 cup shredded or shaved Parmesan cheese
- Coat the bottom of a large skillet with the olive oil and place over medium heat. Remove turkey sausage from the casings by slicing through one side with a sharp knife. Discard casings and place turkey sausage in heated skillet. Cook and stir, breaking up the sausage, until no longer pink. Drain as much grease from the pan as possible and return pan to heat and add garlic. Season with salt and fresh ground pepper, to taste. Cook and stir for another minute or two and then remove the pan from the heat and set aside.
- In a small mixing bowl, combine ricotta, egg, salt,and chopped basil. Set aside.
- Coarsely chop mushrooms and set aside.
- Lightly coat the bottom of a deep freezer safe 13" x 9" pan with marinara sauce. Place 4 lasagna sheets over the sauce, slightly overlapping to fit pan. Spoon 1/3 of ricotta mixture over the lasagna sheets and spread out evenly with a knife. Sprinkle 1/3 of cooked turkey sausage over the ricotta. Top with 1/3 of chopped mushrooms, purposely allowing some to fill in edges of pan around the lasagna. Sprinkle with 1/4 of both the mozzarella and Parmesan and then pour a scant amount of marinara over the top.
- Layer as above for a total of 3 more layers.
- Top with remaining 4 lasagna sheets and top with a good amount of marinara sauce. Use a knife or spatula to smooth out the sauce to the edges of the pasta sheets. Sprinkle with remaining mozzarella and Parmesan.
- Generously coat the bottom of a large piece of heavy duty foil with non-stick cooking spray. Cover the lasagna with the foil, crimping edges of foil around the pan. Wrap the covered pan completely in one or two more sheets of foil.
- Place pan in freezer.
- Defrost completely in refrigerator overnight or follow directions below for transport.
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Bake covered lasagna for 50 minutes. Remove foil and continue to bake another 10 to 15 minutes until heated through and bubbly around edges.
To take and bake your lasagna, keep it frozen until you are ready to depart and then place the frozen lasagna between some ice packs in a cooler.
Lasagna will keep well in freezer for 3 to 4 months.