Lasagna a’la Papa

lasagnaThree – Four Layer Lasagna a’la Papa

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Papa Calarco’s  Three Layer Lasagna


3 Tbsp Olive Oil
2 cups Chopped Onion
4 Garlic Cloves
2 Lbs. Sweet Italian Sausage (Out Of Casings)
2 Large 28oz Cans Crushed Italian Tomatoes
1 6oz Can Tomato Paste
1 16oz Can Tomato sauce
¼ cup Chopped Parsley
16 oz, Merlot wine
2 tbsp dried oregano
½ cup Chopped fresh Basil Leaves
1 Tsp Sea Salt
¾ Tsp Pepper
1/4 cup crushed walnuts

1or 2 Boxes Lasagna Noodles
3 Lb Whole Milk Ricotta Cheese
2 cups Grated Parmesan/Asiago Cheese
2 Extra Large Eggs
1 1/2 Lb Whole Milk Mozzarella Cheese (chopped fine) (do not add to cheese filling)
1 cup Parmesan Cheese For Sprinkling At End

Tip: calculate how many layers can be achieved before soaking the noodles, and calculate batches.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F and position the oven rack in the middle.

Prepare the Gravy:   (yes, it’s gravy…not sauce)
Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan. (we call it the gravy pan) Add the onion and cook over medium-low heat until translucent (about 5 minutes). Then add the sausage and cook over medium-low heat. Breaking it up to small pieces, with a wooden spoon until fully cooked and no longer pink. Add the garlic and let brown, then mix well with meat.   Add oregano, basil and freshly ground black pepper and blend well.  Add the crushed tomatoes, tomato sauce, tomato paste,. (do not add parsley) Simmer uncovered over medium-low heat for 25 minutes. Extract at least 1 1/2 cup liquid from gravy using slotted spoon and set aside.  Gravy should be medium thick when you are building the lasagna, you can add unused liquid back to the gravy for pouring over cooked lasagna.

Drink 8 oz. of the Merlot while you soak the needed number of lasagna noodles in hot tap water for 25 minutes

Prepare the Cheese Filling: In a large bowl, combine the ricotta, 2/3 of grated cheeses, the beaten eggs, chopped parsley, sea salt, 1/2 the chopped walnuts and freshly ground black pepper. Should be firm. Sort into batches for layers.

Prepare the Cheese Mix:  Mix well and Sort the chopped Mozzarella/ParmesanAsiago and chopped walnuts into batches for layers

Prepare the Casserole:  Ladle enough strained gravy to lightly cover the bottom of  a 9”x 12”x 2” casserole or baking pan. Spread over the bottom of the dish. Then add the first layer and set in place.  Drink the rest of the Merlot.
Each layer atop noodles is added: gravy – cheese filling – cheese mix.
Spread top layer with strained gravy and cheese mix

Tip: Use bottom of a large spoon moistened with gravy to smooth cheese mixture into a level layer. Before sprinkling cheese mix.

Bake:  uncovered for 35 minutes, or until the sauce is bubbling.

Place extra gravy in gravy bowl and set on table

Serve:  With Italian salad, garlic bread and red wine.  Best if let to stand and cool, cut into servings and warmed, second day.  But who can wait that long after all that work?

Tip for batching:

A 3 layer lasagna requires 4 layers of noodles and

3 batches of cheese filing
At least 4 batches of gravy
4 batches of cheese mix

Added Tweaks: You like Spinach?  Chop it up and add it to the cheese mixture
Walnuts?  Wondering why?  It’s a three-generation secret, but it makes it easy to handle the cheese, and it adds a woodsy flavor when the top layer gets toasted.  Yes, you can mix hot and mild sausage.  Yes, you can add ground beef to Italian sausage.  Smal, tiny chopped green peppers can add a different flavor, but mix in one small hot pepper and the whole presentation changes.

Have fun. Lasagna is a great way to play with your food.


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