“Honey, this is the best lasagna you’ve ever made.” In my family, that phrase means so much more than a simple compliment – it’s a phrase that takes me back to the early years of our family, to starting family traditions, tasty Italian meals, love, and a heritage of living well together.
Starting New Family Traditions
It’s a tradition my grandfather started years ago, back when he and Grandma were first married. And it quickly became a running joke – every time Grandma made lasagna, Grandpa would say “This is the best one you’ve ever made!” He didn’t do it with anything else, just lasagna. And he never missed the opportunity.
My father has continued the tradition – Grandma taught Mom how to make lasagna, and pretty soon, Dad started telling her it was the best one she had ever made for our family. Things got a little tricky when Grandma or Mom made lasagna for the extended family, but as long as everyone complimented the right chef, it worked out okay!
Now I get to make lasagna – both Mom and Grandma taught me their favorite tricks and tips. I learned how to mix the cheeses just so, and choose the perfect sauce, and where to skimp when making a more budget-friendly lasagna (and how to splurge for special occasions!). More importantly though, my man quickly caught onto the family tradition . . . and every time I make lasagna, it’s “the best one” I’ve ever made. And we have learned about starting new family traditions for our family as well, adding onto the ones we’ve had for so long!
It might seem like just a silly tradition, but traditions like this are what demonstrate the beautiful love found when you mix family, fresh food, and fun. Just like the lasagna gets better every time, so love grows deeper and sweeter each passing year. And even when it doesn’t feel that way in the moment – even when the pasta is a little overdone or Mom forgot to add the Parmesan cheese – you still say it.
So today, I encourage you to embrace tradition! Start a new one, if your family doesn’t have many. If you need inspiration, check out Viva Bertolli for 150 ways to bring tradition and love to your family table . For 150 years, Bertolli has been making and selling delicious Italian inspired products. Their latest product, Bertolli Riserva Pasta Sauces are perfect for creating that special lasagna of your own, and creating your own new and unique traditions!
Here is my go-to recipe for lasagna. It’s sure to be a crowd-pleaser, and I’ve included some of my favorite tips on preparing it, as well as budget-friendly and time-saving tricks!
Classic Family Lasagna (serves 8-10)
- 1 Jar Bertolli Riserva Pasta Sauce (choose from 4 amazing flavors!)
- 1 lb. Italian Sausage (use ground beef, or mix 1/2 of each for a budget meal)
- 1 onion, chopped
Tip #019: To prevent tears when cutting onions, refrigerate them for 30 minutes before use.
- 1 eight-ounce container Risotto Cheese (skip this to save money, and add more cottage cheese)
- 1 eight-ounce container Cottage Cheese
- 1 cup Parmesan Cheese or block of Parmigiano Reggiano. (feeling fancy? Check out. . .
Tip #011: A microplane is a great way to grate hard cheese, such as Parmigiano Reggiano. Hold the cheese firmly and use small quick strokes. The end result? A fluffy pile of delicious cheese.
- 1-2 cups Shredded Mozzarella Cheese (reserve about 1/2 cup for the top)
1 package Lasagna noodles (typically a single box makes a 9×13 pan – buy ones that don’t require boiling to save time on meal prep)
Tip #029: Italian for “to the tooth,” al dente means cooking until pasta until it is just firm. When cooking al dente, you can verify doneness by cutting a piece of pasta and seeing a thin, uncooked inner layer.
Putting it together:
Start by browning your sausage and/or beef mixture with the chopped onions. You can toss some garlic in too, but the Bertolli Sauces are so flavorful, you really don’t need much! Mix the sauce in with the meat when it’s fully cooked, and set aside.
Prepare your lasagna noodles. If you brought the ready-to-go ones, all you have to do is take them out of the box! Otherwise, follow the instructions on the packaging to boil them – don’t forget the pinch of salt in the water! Otherwise, those beautiful noodle sheets will stick together and get clumpy and your lasagna will look sad.
Shred and mix up your cheeses. Use a spoon, or your hands. I always use my hands when I can. It feels more authentic.
Final step – layer away! I normally do oil or some sauce (without meat) on the bottom of the pan, to prevent sticking. Then, noodles – sauce – cheese. Noodles – sauce – cheese. Noodles – sauce – cheese. And at the end, do a layer of noodles, topped with sauce, then topped with just Mozzarella.
Cover with foil and bake at 375 degrees for 45 minutes. Take the foil off in the last 10 minutes to let the cheese get a little brown. Let set for 10-30 minutes after baking so the juice can really soak into those noodles.
Making the table beautiful for a date-night lasagna? Don’t forget the fresh flowers!
Tip #070:Centerpieces bring any dinner to life. Keep them healthy by adding a sugar cube to provide nutrients and a penny to fight bacterial growth in the water.