The Best Lasagna

If you must feed zillions of people during the holidays, you want something uncomplicated, popular, and make-ahead-able. And you can't serve turkey or roast beef because that's what you'll be giving everybody three days from now. The solution? Lasagna. You can prepare it 24 hours in advance, store it in the fridge, and bake it just before you need it. This lasagna is not only delicious but very easy. It's even easier if you use your favorite premade pasta sauce.

Hands-On Time: 35 minutes
Ready In: 90 minutes
Yield: 6-8 servings

Ingredients

    1 pound ground beef or ground turkey (or cooked chicken, Italian sausage, seafood, andouille, etc.)
    2 cloves garlic, minced
    1 teaspoon dried basil
    1 teaspoon dried oregano
    26 to 28 ounces (about 3 cups) pasta sauce
    Salt and pepper
    2 tablespoons red wine (optional)
    1 cup chicken stock
    8 ounces cream cheese, softened
    2 tablespoons white wine (optional)
    12 ounces (3 cups) freshly grated mozzarella
    6 to 8 no-boil lasagna noodles
    2 cups cooked, well-drained broccoli, spinach, peas, or other vegetables (optional)
    1 cup (about 4 ounces) freshly grated parmesan

Directions

  1. Heat oven to 400. Grease a 9-by-13-inch pan. Thoroughly cook the ground beef, garlic, and herbs in a large skillet, stirring frequently and breaking up the meat. Stir in pasta sauce and bring to a simmer for about 2 minutes. Season to taste and add the red wine, if using. Set aside.
  2. In a medium saucepan over medium heat, bring chicken stock to a boil. Add cream cheese, turn heat to low, and whisk until smooth, about 6 minutes. Season to taste and add the white wine, if using.
  3. Spoon half the meat sauce into the pan as evenly as possible. Sprinkle 1 cup grated mozzarella over the meat mixture. Top with 3 or 4 lasagna noodles. If using vegetables, toss them evenly over the noodles.
  4. Pour the cream-cheese sauce over the noodles and cover with another cup of grated mozzarella. Arrange 3 or 4 lasagna noodles over the cheese, then spoon remaining meat mixture over noodles as evenly as possible. Top with the rest of the mozzarella and the grated parmesan. Bake until brown and bubbling, 35 to 45 minutes. (You'll need the longer cooking time if you have made and chilled the lasagna in advance.) Let cool for 10 to 15 minutes or it will be too gloppy to cut well. That would drive you crazy this late in the game.

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