Pure comfort food, this tasty Lasagna with Ricotta Cheese and Sausage makes for a fabulous meal. This is one entree the whole family adores.
Super cheesy, with a hint of spice from the mild Italian sausage, and layers of flavor from the slow cooked tomato sauce, this Ricotta Lasagna is a winner suitable for any gathering.
Lasagna with Ricotta Cheese
My mom used to make lasagna with cottage cheese. I guess that’s the way it was done in the Midwest way back when. Ricotta cheese was not readily available, unless she’d venture to Des Moines to an Italian market. But with 4 young girls, that wasn’t going to happen!
It wasn’t until a dinner party at some dear friends’ house that I first tasted this fabulous lasagna recipe made with ricotta cheese. Since that time, this Italian sausage lasagna is my go-to recipe.
What is Ricotta?
Ricotta translates to recooked in Italian, since it was originally made from the whey. Whey is the liquid leftover liquid after milk is used to make something else, like cheese. An acid and some milk is typically added to the whey to help coagulate the proteins and form ricotta. Now, in the US, ricotta is made with whole milk instead of whey, but using the same technique to make the curds which become a fluffy ricotta cheese.
Creating homemade ricotta is really quite easy, but it’s even easier to buy it at the market! Besides lasagna, ricotta can be used in stuffed shells, manicotti, on pizza, as a smear instead of cream cheese, in dips and to dollop on soups.
Adding cooked Italian sausage slices or bulk Italian sausage is a way to incorporate more flavor into every bite. Since my mostly vegetarian daughter does not enjoy meat in her lasagna or spaghetti sauce, adding slices is easier for her to pick around.
Instead of adding raw sausage, cooking it first helps intensify the flavors through the browning process, something known as the Maillard reaction. By way of cooking, the amino acids in the meat and the reducing sugars have a chemical reaction giving the distinct, delicious flavor of browned meat. So make sure to get a little color on the sausage while sauteing for the best outcome.
How to Make Lasagna with Ricotta Cheese
Simmering a flavorful sauce for 2+ hours provides a delicious foundation for your lasagna. Using crushed tomatoes makes for a nice sauce consistency.
The addition of cooked sausage or ground beef adds that unami, or layer of meaty flavor.
Use either shredded or sliced mozzarella for the cheesy component. This time, I used shredded.
My preference is whole milk ricotta. It’s difficult to spread over the sauce, so I disperse spoonfuls of ricotta over the sauce.
Bake with greased or non-stick foil covering the lasagna. At the end of the baking time, remove the foil and broil for a couple minutes or let the heat of the oven brown the cheese a bit, if desired.
PRO-Tip: For a meatless lasagna, or a Lasagna with Spinach, eliminate the sausage. Then mix the ricotta with a defrosted, squeezed dry 9-ounce box of frozen chopped spinach along with an egg, 1/4 cup grated Parmesan, 1 teaspoon dried basil, 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper. Layer this mixture in place of the plain ricotta.
There are so many different versions of lasagna, but for this ricotta lasagna, add these ingredients to your shopping list:
- Cans of crushed tomatoes
- Tomato paste
- Italian sausage, mild or spicy depending on your preference
- Whole milk ricotta
- Shredded or sliced Mozzarella cheese
- Lasagna noodles
- Check your pantry for olive oil, brown sugar, salt, dried oregano, thyme, and a bay leaf
More Pasta Recipes You’ll Love:
- Sausage Pepper Mushroom Fettuccine
- Classic Italian Meat Sauce
- Sun-Dried Tomato and Sausage Pasta with Broccoli
- Easy Spinach Lasagna
- Spaghetti No-Knife
- Straw and Hay Pasta
- Plus a bonus recipe if you prefer the alternative version, Lasagna with Spinach, you might also love this Spinach Casserole
- More Pasta Recipes
This recipe was originally shared in December, 2011. Photos and text were updated in 2019.Print
Ricotta Lasagna with Italian Sausage
A fabulous lasagna with flavorful sauce, dabs of ricotta cheese, mild Italian sausage plus gooey mozzarella!
- Prep Time: 30 minutes
- Cook Time: 3 hours
- Total Time: 3 hours 30 minutes
- Yield: 8 servings 1x
- Category: Entree, Pasta
- Method: Simmering, Baking
- Cuisine: Italian, Italian-American
1 cup chopped onion
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 cloves minced garlic
1 28-ounce can crushed tomatoes
1 16-ounce can diced tomatoes
1 6-ounce can tomato paste
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoons oregano
1/4 teaspoon thyme
1 bay leaf
1 stalk of celery, cut in half
2 cups water
4 links Italian sausage (1 1/2–2 pounds), sliced and cooked
1 pound ricotta cheese
1 1/2 pounds mozzarella, grated
8 ounces lasagna noodles, soaked in warm water for about an hour or no boil lasagna noodles
In a large pan, saute onion in olive oil till translucent. Add garlic and saute till fragrant. Add tomatoes, tomato paste, brown sugar, salt, oregano,thyme, bay leaf, celery and water. Simmer for 2-3 hours. Remove celery and bay leaf.
Soak dried lasagna noodles in warm water for about an hour. No need to boil using this method. Or use no boil lasagna noodles.
Cook sausage in a saute pan till browned on both sides and cooked through. Add to sauce.
Preheat oven to 350º. Grease 9 x 13 inch pan. Put a small amount of sauce (without sausage) on bottom of dish.
Start layering with half the noodles, then half the sauce, half the ricotta, and half the cheese. Repeat. Cover with a greased piece of foil or non. Bake for 1 hour. May remove foil for last 15 minutes to brown the cheese if desired.
Cool about 15 minutes before cutting and serving.
Lasagna can be frozen, then baked straight from the freezer. Baking time will need to be extended to 1 1/2 hours or until hot throughout.
Adapted from Creme de Colorado.