Recipe Review

I Had High Hopes for Giada de Laurentiis’ Over-the-Top Lasagna

published Oct 25, 2020
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Credit: Photo: Joe Lingeman | Food Stylist: Cyd McDowell | Design: The Kitchn

Giada de Laurentiis is one of the many people I have to thank for my deep love of Italian food. As a teenager enamored of the Food Network, I watched her show regularly. She was one of the first chefs who taught me some of the basics of the cuisine — my well-worn (and signed!) copy of Giada’s Family Dinners is proof of her influence.

Today, I still trust her as an authority on Italian cooking. The internet appears to as well, because her lasagna recipe has a solid five-star rating and over 450 positive reviews. The recipe is a unique combination of Italian and Italian-American elements. Traditionally, Italian lasagna relies on a bechamel sauce and Italian-American lasagna opts for cheese like ricotta and mozzarella. Giada’s decadently calls for all three. Would this combination of ingredients and traditions prove to be the best — or would it simply be too much? I headed into my kitchen to find out.

Credit: Photo: Joe Lingeman | Food Stylist: Cyd McDowell | Design: The Kitchn

How to Make Giada de Laurentiis’ Classic Italian Lasagna

I’ll be honest: Giada’s recipe is a project. To save yourself from spending the whole afternoon in the kitchen, break up the steps over a day or two. You’ll start by making a simple marinara sauce from scratch. I actually tried out this sauce recipe last year, as it’s a popular and solid recipe on its own, so I went in already knowing how to make it. While easy, it does require an hour of simmering on the stovetop.

Once the tomato sauce is done, you’ll make a bechamel sauce by melting butter in a pot, adding flour and milk, and whisking until the mixture is thick and creamy. When finished, you’ll stir in 1 1/2 cups of the tomato sauce and a pinch of ground nutmeg. You’ll then brown a pound of beef while the tomato-bechamel sauce cools.

Next, you’ll combine ricotta with a few eggs and boil a pound of lasagna noodles until they’re al dente. After you drain the noodles, you’ll start assembling the casserole. You’ll spread a third of the tomato-bechamel sauce into the bottom of a 9×13-inch baking dish. Then, you’ll add a layer of lasagna noodles, all of the ricotta mixture, and frozen chopped spinach that’s been thawed and squeezed dry. Another layer of noodles is added, followed by all of the ground beef, 1 1/2 cups of shredded mozzarella cheese, more tomato-bechamel sauce, another layer of noodles, and finally, the rest of the sauce, mozzarella, and some grated Parmesan cheese. The lasagna is then topped with cubes of unsalted butter, covered, and baked for 30 minutes. Lastly, it’s uncovered and baked for 15 minutes more, so that the top gets nice and golden.

Credit: Photo: Joe Lingeman | Food Stylist: Cyd McDowell

My Honest Review of Giada de Laurenttis’ Lasagna Recipe

Truthfully, there was just too much decadence going on with Giada’s lasagna. The combination of bechamel and three types of cheese, all which were used abundantly, just made the whole thing excessively rich and overwhelming to eat. I had hoped the chopped spinach would provide some balance, but while I loved the layer of green, it got a little lost among everything else.

While I totally get that lasagna is comfort food, this one was just too heavy and over-the-top. To add to it, the recipe was a whole lot of work. I could have done without a couple of the layers, which would have also trimmed down the workload and resulted in a tastier lasagna.

If You’re Making Giada’s de Laurentiis’ Lasagna, a Few Tips

  1. Make the tomato sauce the day before. The sauce can be made up to a few days ahead of time and it’s a good idea to do this, so you won’t be so overwhelmed in the kitchen the day of. Also, the sauce recipe makes double of what you’ll actually use for the lasagna. Freeze the rest to toss with spaghetti for a simple dinner another day.
  2. Use a deep-dish pan, if you have one. Definitely follow Giada’s advice for placing the casserole dish on top of a foil-lined rimmed baking sheet, as it does run the risk of bubbling over. If you have a deep dish pan, use that, too.
  3. You may have a few extra lasagna noodles. As diligent as I was with layering, I had a few cooked lasagna noodles left over, which felt like a waste. If you do, too, consider tearing them into bite-sized pieces and making an impromptu pasta salad for lunch.
  4. Skip the butter on top. While I hoped the pats of butter on top would assist in browning, it actually just left unappealing puddles of grease on the lasagna. Skip it and instead turn the broiler on in the last few minutes of cooking to achieve a golden-brown top.

Rating: 6/10

Have you ever made Giada de Laurentiis’ lasagna recipe? Tell us what you thought!

Credit: Photo: Joe Lingeman | Food Stylist: Cyd McDowell | Design: The Kitchn