Lasagna – what to do with the tomato sauce?


Now that we’ve mastered the art of the can opener by making the tomato sauce, the next basic skill a master chef must acquire is opening the box. Then the answer to the question, “What to do with the tomato sauce?”  is, lasagna.

9 lasagna noodles – count them, not one more and not one less
1 pot tomato sauce – see previous post
1 15 oz container ricotta cheese
1 lb mozzarella cheese – pre-sliced or pre-shredded will save you a little work
some grated Parmesan cheese


I prefer to stay away from the newer varieties of  lasagna noodles (does anyone really call them noodles?), staying with the  traditional supermarket  lasagna  made with durum and semolina wheat (read the ingredients on the box).  If you insist, you may put from 3/4 to 1 pound of cooked ground meat in the sauce.  Make sure you cook the ground meat first.  Let it meld with simmering sauce about 20 minutes to get some flavor into the meat.

Cook the lasagna according to the package directions, but for about 1 minute less than the box says.  Remember, nine (count  ’em) noodles.  I usually hit the cooked  lasagna with a quick spray of cold water while they’re draining in the colander to; stop them from cooking, remove any stickiness, and to make them easier (cooler) to handle.


Coat the bottom of a  roughly 8 by 12 by 2  inch microwave safe baking dish with a really thin layer of the sauce.  Yes, lasagna sacrilege is about to take place in a few more sentences.  If you haven’t figured it out, the correct cooking vessel for this is the old glass baking dish that’s stored at the bottom of your stove or hidden in the back of a closet or that possibly your husband borrowed to drain the oil from his motorcycle.  In the later case, clean well or buy a new one.  And, go easy on the husband.

Place 3 (count ’em again,  three) cooked lasagna side by side in the bottom of the baking dish, the long way.  Fluff up the ricotta cheese with a fork and take 1/3 of the ricotta and spread it out as evenly as possible over the lasagna in the baking dish.  Take a 1/3 of the sauce and spread it out over the ricotta.  Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese.  Spread 1/3 of the mozzarella over the  sauce.

Second layer, same as the first: 3 lasagna, 1/3 ricotta, 1/3 sauce, sprinkle Parmesan, 1/3 mozzarella.

Third layer, is an exception.  Add the third layer just as the second layer, but hold the final 1/3 of the mozzarella.

Now the sacrilege.  Take the microwave safe baking dish with the layered lasagna, cover with plastic wrap, cook in the microwave for about 10 minutes on high.  Remove the dish from the microwave, remove the plastic wrap, spread the remaining 1/3 mozzarella  over the top layer.  Cook again in the microwave for about 2 minutes (no plastic wrap this time) to melt the top layer of mozzarella.  Let it cool and set up for about 10 minutes.  This allows easier cutting and helps keep the ingredients from running out from between the lasagna.  I usually cut into 8 pieces.   Slice once down the middle, the long way.  Then 3 equal cuts the short way.   Use your chef’s knife.  Remember the chef’s knife?  A small 2 inch wide spatula helps get the slices out of the dish keeping the layers intact.  Why keep the layers intact?  Because they look so good.

More Notes:

The cooking time here assumes all items will be prepared at the same time and combined in the layers while still hot (sauce and lasagna).  If you prepare some in advance, adjust accordingly.  Traditionally lasagna is baked in the oven at about 350 degrees for about 45 to 50 minutes, instead of heating in the microwave.  Aside from the S&M among us, why torture others and yourself by waiting so long?

Lessons Learned:

1.  How to open a box.  The lasagna box in this case.

2.  Another use for a chef’s knife.

3.  Another use for that old glass baking dish and why it’s always been hidden somewhere.

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