A good lasagna should have al-dente noodles that are crisp at the edges yet tender enough to cut with a fork; a simmered-all-day meaty Bolognese sauce; a creamy layer of ricotta peeking from between the layers, mellowing the sharpness of the tomatoes; and cheese, browned and golden on top but gooey throughout.
Special occasions call for devoting a weekend to this classic dish, but it is possible to hit the high points with a few smart shortcuts. This is real-life lasagna — the lasagna you make when you have a full pantry but are short on time.
5-Ingredient Lazy Lasagna: Watch the Video
How to Shop for Easier Lasagna
The trick to this speedy supper takes place well before you step foot in the kitchen. For this lazy lasagna, the grocery store does most of the heavy lifting, so scour the shelves for the best-quality, most-flavor-packed ingredients you can find. Here's how I do it.
- The noodles: With a box of no-boil noodles in your cart, you are saved from parboiling before layering with sauce and cheese. Flat noodles fit like puzzle pieces in the baking dish, while those with fluted edges are ideal for achieving those most-desired crunchy bits on top. A quirk of no-boil noodles is they are thirsty for sauce, so be sure not to skimp on the sauce while building the lasagna or your casserole will be dry.
- The sauce: Bolognese-style sauce options are surprisingly slim, despite the towering wall of pasta sauces available at your local grocery store. Still, Bertolli's Italian Sausage with Garlic & Romano pasta sauce is the one I reach for. It has a long-simmered herb-forward flavor, while the sausage provides the meaty heft I love in a lasagna. Despite the curious lack of meaty bits, the sausage flavor is present. Since sausage is packed with herbs and spices, this gives me a shortcut to a more dynamic sauce without having to open spice jars or chop herbs.
- The cheese: I reach for the classic combination of ricotta and mozzarella cheese. Although an egg and a sprinkle of nutmeg are classic additions, they are not essential when time is of the essence. Fresh spinach sprinkled over the layers quickly wilt into the creamy pockets of ricotta with no need to precook on the stove.
The grocery store comes to the rescue when your deepest desire is simply snuggling up to a comforting bowl of gooey noodles and sauce on a weeknight.
3 More Takes on Lazy Lasagna:
5-Ingredient Lazy Lasagna
Serves 8 to 10
whole-milk ricotta cheese
shredded mozzarella cheese (1 1/2 pounds), divided
freshly ground black pepper
(24-ounce) jars meat sauce (about 5 cups)
no-boil lasagna noodles
baby spinach (about 2 packed cups)
Arrange a rack in the middle of the oven and heat to 375°F. Place the ricotta, 1 cup of the mozzarella, salt, and pepper in a medium bowl and stir to combine.
Spread about 1/2 cup of sauce on the bottom of a 9x13-inch baking dish. Lay 4 noodles in a single layer over the sauce (it's OK if the noodles overlap slightly). Spread 1 1/2 cups of the sauce over the noodles, then top with 1/2 of the ricotta mixture. Sprinkle 1 1/2 cups of the mozzarella over the ricotta, and top with half of the spinach. Repeat the layers: noodles, sauce, ricotta, mozzarella, and spinach. Top with the remaining noodles. Spread the remaining sauce over the noodles and top with the remaining mozzarella.
Spray one side of a piece of aluminum foil with cooking spray. Cover the lasagna with the foil, greased-side down. Bake until heated through, about 50 minutes. Uncover and bake until the cheese is melted and light golden-brown, 5 to 10 minutes more.
Make ahead: Lasagna can be assembled up to 1 day in advance and may need a few extra minutes of baking time.
Storage: Refrigerate leftovers in an airtight container for up to 3 days.