Are you really hungry? Do you have a lot of people to feed? Do you like to experiment with new ingredients? Just feel like a nice, yummy, warm comforting meal? If you answered yes to any of those questions, this recipe is for you. It’s a nice twist on the classic lasagna, adding no boil brown rice noodles, turkey Italian sausage and smoky fontina cheese.
Let’s face it, lasagna is a weekend recipe. It’s not difficult, but there are a few steps involved, so when you feel like spending some time in the kitchen this is a great recipe. I love the convenience of the no boil noodles. They save time and also mean there is one less pot to wash!
If you haven’t tried them yet, brown rice noodles really do turn out well in the finished dish. I used gluten-free brown rice noodles because I saw a box of them and couldn’t resist trying them out, but you can use regular no boil noodles as well. Because the noodles are basically being hydrated by the tomato sauce and the heat of the oven, you should use more tomato sauce than you would in a traditional lasagna. This way the lasagna won’t feel too dry when it’s done.
I’ve tried other types of gluten free noodles, and I really like the consistency of the brown rice noodles the best. The other types, like quinoa or corn noodles, can get mushy really quickly. Brown rice noodles hold their shape and have a nice chew to them, similar to a regular wheat noodle.
For the ricotta mixture, try to buy the full fat ricotta, not the low or non-fat kind. Using the full fat version will help keep the ricotta from feeling grainy after it’s cooked. Now, I’m not Italian, and please forgive me if you are, but another option is to use full fat cottage cheese instead of ricotta – weird, right? Maybe it’s a Midwestern thing. For people who don’t enjoy the taste or texture of ricotta, or can’t get it at their local grocery store, you can substitute cottage cheese with good results!
I’ve used my Quick Fire Roasted Tomato Sauce in the recipe because I like it, and because it goes really well with the smokiness of the fontina cheese. Fontina melts really well and I think it’s a good combination with the mozzarella. A word about pre-shredded cheese, I usually don’t buy it when I want the cheese to melt. They put some sort of powder on the cheese to keep it from clumping in the plastic bags. So shred your own cheese if you can.
I chose to use turkey Italian sausage because it’s less greasy than the traditional pork variety, but that would also be good! Lasagna is such a nice dish for flexibility because you can really change the ingredients to suit your own tastes, or to use up what is already in your refrigerator. You can also add fresh spinach, roasted red peppers or mushrooms to the saute pan when you add the onions.
Once you have your ricotta mixture together, the sausage sauteed and added to the tomato sauce, and your cheese shredded, you are ready to start layering. After that, it’s just a matter of baking the lasagna until the noodles are cooked and the top is nice and browned and bubbly. Your house will smell divine. The hardest part is waiting 15 minutes or so after the lasagna comes out of the oven to cut into it. You will save the roof of your mouth from certain pain though, so please wait. I like to serve the lasagna with a green salad with arugula and red wine vinaigrette to help balance the richness of the pasta.
- 1 box no boil brown rice lasagna noodles, or any kind of no boil noodles you like, or heck, boil some noodles if you like, you're in charge!
- 1 recipe Quick Fire Roasted Tomato Sauce, or jarred marinara sauce, about 6 cups
- 2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
- 1 lb Italian turkey sausage
- ½ yellow onion, about 1 cup
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- ½ teaspoon Kosher salt
- ¼ teaspoon black pepper
- 15 oz tub of full fat ricotta cheese
- 1 egg
- ½ teaspoon Kosher salt
- 14 teaspoon black pepper
- 1 tablespoon fresh parsley, chopped
- 1 tablespoon fresh basil, chopped
- 3 cups smoked fontina cheese, shredded
- 1 cup mozzarella cheese, shredded
- 1 cup Parmesan cheese, shredded
- Heat oven to 350 degrees. Spray a 9x13 pan with cooking spray and set aside.
- Shred the mozzarella and fontina cheeses and mix together.
- In a medium bowl, mix together the ricotta, egg, ¼ cup of Parmesan, parsley, basil and salt and pepper.
- Saute the Italian sausage in 1 tablespoon of olive oil over medium heat until cooked through, drain fat from the pan and place sausage in a bowl.
- Using the same pan, saute the onion (and spinach or roasted red peppers, if using) until softened, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and saute for another 30 seconds.
- Add the sausage back to the pan along with ½ teaspoon Kosher salt and ¼ teaspoon ground black pepper. Stir to combine, then add all but 1 cup of tomato sauce to the pan and heat through. Remove from heat.
- Start layering the lasagna: spread the reserved cup of tomato sauce on the bottom of the baking pan to keep the noodles from sticking. Then layer 3 lasagna noodles over the sauce. Next layer half of the meat sauce over the noodles, followed by half of the fontina/mozzarella cheese. Repeat the layers one more time: noodles, meat sauce, ricotta, shredded cheese.
- Finally, sprinkle the remaining ¾ cup of Parmesan on top and bake covered (I used tin foil) for 50 minutes.
- Uncover and bake for another 15-20 minutes until the top is browned and the lasagna is bubbling. Let cool for 10-15 minutes before serving.
- adding chopped fresh spinach to the sausage mixture
- adding roasted red peppers to the sausage layer
- substituting full fat cottage cheese for the ricotta if you can't find it, or don't like it