1 pound sweet Italian sausage, casings removed
12 ounces lean ground beef
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½ cup minced white or yellow onion
2 cloves garlic, coarsely chopped or minced
1 can (28 ounces) no-salt-added crushed tomatoes and their juices
1 can (12 ounces), no-salt-added plain tomato paste
1 can (13 ounces) no-salt-added plain tomato sauce
½ cup water
2 tablespoons sugar
1½ teaspoons ground dried basil
½ teaspoon fennel seed
1 teaspoon Italian seasoning blend
2 teaspoons kosher salt, plus more for the cooking water
¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
¼ cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley, plus more for garnish
12 pieces dried lasagna pasta (each 2½-3 inches wide and about 13 inches long)
1 pound part-skim ricotta cheese
1 large egg
12 ounces low-fat mozzarella cheese, sliced
¾ cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, plus more for optional garnish
Heat the sausage in a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Cook 4-6 minutes, using a spatula to break up any large clumps, until the meat is browned with no trace of pink. If desired, drain and discard the fat. Add the ground beef, onion and garlic, stirring to combine; cook until the beef is thoroughly browned and the onion has softened, breaking up any clumps as needed.
Stir in the crushed tomatoes and their juices, tomato paste, tomato sauce and water, then add the sugar, basil, fennel seed, Italian seasoning blend, 1½ teaspoons salt, the pepper and half of the parsley, stirring to incorporate. Cover and cook for about 1½ hours, stirring occasionally. The yield is about 6½ cups.
Meanwhile, bring a large pot of water to a boil over high heat. Add a generous pinch of salt and then the lasagna. Cook not quite as long as the package directions indicate, so the noodles are al dente. Drain and rinse under cool water; separate them and lay them on a clean surface.
Combine the ricotta, egg, the remaining parsley and the remaining ½ teaspoon of salt in a mixing bowl until well incorporated.
Heat the oven to 375 degrees.
Spread 1½ cups of the sauce evenly over the bottom of a 9-by-13-inch baking dish, then arrange half of the cooked lasagna noodles lengthwise so they completely cover the sauce, overlapping them a bit. Use an offset spatula to spread half of the ricotta mixture over the noodles, then use half of the mozzarella slices to completely cover the ricotta layer. Spread 1½ cups of the sauce over the mozzarella, then scatter half of the Parmigiano-Reggiano evenly over the sauce.
Next, repeat the layers using the remaining lasagna noodles, the remaining ricotta mixture and the remaining mozzarella slices. Top with 1½ cups of the sauce, spreading it to cover the mozzarella, then scatter the remaining Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese evenly over the sauce.
Use cooking oil spray to coat the underside of a piece of aluminum foil large enough to cover the lasagna; seal the foil tightly around the edges of the baking dish. Bake for 25 minutes, then remove the foil and bake for 25 minutes so the lasagna's top layer of cheese is nicely browned on top.
Cool for 15 minutes before serving. If desired, garnish with parsley and Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese.
Make ahead: You'll have leftover sauce, which can be refrigerated for up to 3 days or frozen for up to 3 months. The unbaked lasagna can be refrigerated for up to 2 days, or it can be wrapped well and frozen for up to 3 months. Defrost in the refrigerator before baking.
Nutrition values per serving: 530 calories, 15 g fat (8 g saturated), 63 g carbohydrates, 4 g dietary fiber, 9 g sugar, 33 g protein, 100 mg cholesterol, 760 mg sodium.
Adapted from AllRecipes.com member John Chandler of Dallas