Recipe Review

Ina Garten Has a Clever Trick for Making the Best Lasagna Ever

published Oct 28, 2020
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Credit: Photo: Joe Lingeman | Food Stylist: Cyd McDowell | Design: The Kitchn

When ground turkey gained popularity a handful of years ago, my health-conscious dad went all in. Gone were the days of hard-shell beef tacos and simple burger patties. Instead, everything he cooked that was once made with ground beef was now made with ground turkey. It would have been fine, except for the fact that he’d buy the leanest packages he could find, which often resulted in dry, sandy-textured dinners.

I frequently cook with ground turkey in my own home, but I’ve learned how to cook it right to ensure it’s never as dry as the dinners from my youth. When I came across Ina Garten’s turkey lasagna, though, I wasn’t immediately sold. Was it just a health gimmick? Would the use of turkey detract from the overall deliciousness of lasagna? I had to give it a try to find out.

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

How to Make Ina Garten’s Turkey Lasagna

You’ll start by making the meat sauce. Sauté chopped onion in a large skillet and add garlic and bulk turkey sausage. Once the sausage is broken-up, browned, and cooked through, you’ll add a can of crushed tomatoes, tomato paste, chopped fresh basil and parsley, and salt and pepper. The mixture is simmered until thickened, 15 to 20 minutes.

While the sauce simmers, you’ll fill a large bowl with hot tap water, add 1/2 pound of dry lasagna noodles, let them soak for 20 minutes, and drain it. You’ll also combine ricotta, crumbled goat cheese, grated Parmesan cheese, an egg, chopped parsley, and salt and pepper in a bowl.

When you’re ready to assemble the lasagna, you’ll spread some of the meat sauce into a 9×13-inch baking dish, then add a layer of noodles, thinly sliced fresh mozzarella, and the ricotta mixture. You’ll repeat these layers once more, then top the lasagna with the rest of the sauce and grated Parmesan cheese. Finally, you’ll bake the lasagna, uncovered, until bubbling, about 30 minutes.

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

My Honest Review of Ina Garten’s Lasagna Recipe

I am a purist when it comes to many things, including lasagna, so as much as I love goat cheese, I was dubious it would be any good here. I should have trusted Ina more heading into the kitchen, though — because one bite in and I immediately changed my tune. The goat cheese made every forkful of lasagna more luscious, but it didn’t compete with the other cheeses. Instead, it complemented them, lending a subtle tang that was welcomed among the creamy richness.

Turkey lasagna conjures up images of a dry casserole using bland ground turkey. For that reason, I wish this recipe was called turkey sausage lasagna, because the juicy sausage lent so much flavor to the sauce, you’d never guess it was ho-hum turkey.

What absolutely sealed the deal here, though, was Ina’s smart tip to soak the dry lasagna noodles in hot water. This means you don’t have to bother bringing a large pot of water to a boil to pre-cook them. And since they’re soaked, they’ll cook faster in the oven than if you used noodles that were completely dry. Plus, the soaking doesn’t add any more time to the recipe because it’s done while the sauce simmers.

Credit: Sheela Prakash

If You’re Making Ina Garten’s Lasagna, a Few Tips

  1. Use pork or chicken sausage, if you prefer. What makes this sauce special is the flavor it gains from Italian sausage. While Ina calls for Italian turkey sausage, Italian pork or chicken sausage would work just as well. I also think I’ll use hot Italian sausage next time, for a little kick.
  2. Soak the lasagna noodles in the baking dish you’ll be using. Ina calls for soaking the dry lasagna noodles in a large bowl of hot tap water. The long, flat shape of the noodles made this a bit awkward so instead, I soaked the noodles in the 9×13-inch baking dish I planned to cook the lasagna in. After draining, I simply wiped the dish dry and began assembly.
  3. Adjust the amount of salt to taste. Ina’s known for being a bit heavy-handed when it comes to salt, and this recipe is no different. Since the goat cheese is salty and you’re using a generous amount of salty Parmesan, plus sausage that is already well-seasoned, I felt the 2 teaspoons of salt was too much. Next time, I’d use half the amount, taste, and season with additional salt as needed.

Rating: 10/10

Have you ever made Ina Garten’s lasagna recipe? Tell us what you thought!

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