I’ve made this recipe twice in the last month, so I figure that I know it well enough now pass it along. 🙂

As many of you know, I don’t really measure anything. I think measuring sucks. It’s why I tend to avoid baking. Ratios are the most important thing, so I do try to be mindful of how much-to-how much I’m actually putting in. All measurements are really guesswork on my part.

Putting pepperoni on top of lasagna is not a stroke of genius I can claim as my own. I actually saw Guy Fieri do that on his show, Guy’s Big Bite. However, the rest of it was something I threw together. Enjoy!

To make this you’ll need
2 lbs ricotta cheese
About 1- 1 & 1/2 cup chopped, drained spinach (look through it for tough stems before using)
8-12 oz shredded mozzarella cheese (Kraft has a kind out now that incorporates a bit of Philly cream cheese. It’s super creamy and delicious)
1/4 lb thinly sliced sandwich pepperoni (the BIG pepperoni)
1 sleeve Jimmy Dean’s sage sausage (I know it may sound weird, but it’s perfect for this. And this is seriously the best all-purpose sausage I’ve seen out there. Of course, you could use Italian instead.)
1 lb lasagna noodles (I don’t use no-bake for this)
3-5 cups quality spaghetti sauce (homemade or good jar brand like Classico)
Garlic powder, salt, pepper, cayenne pepper, oregano/Italian seasoning.
Wooden Spoon.
Wide bowl.
10-12″ frying pan.
1 Tbsp. Olive oil.
9x 13 baking dish.

To begin with, start a big pot (I use my largest, maybe 6-8 quart) of water for boiling. Add a good bit of salt (not too much). Set to high and cover. It’ll save time, but it will still take a while to come to a boil.

In a wide bowl, mix the ricotta cheese with about 2-4 ounces of the mozzarella. I like to do this because it gives the ricotta filling a stringy, cheesy texture which my husband likes. It’s kind of “something extra.” Add in the spinach, crumbling it into smaller clumps. Stir to make sure it’s well-incorporated. Add garlic powder, salt, pepper, cayenne, and oregano to taste (and I do mean taste…it’s one of my favorite parts of making lasagna!). Set aside.

In a wide (10-12″) pan, heat olive oil on medium-high heat. Add sage sausage (whole sleeve for the whole lasagna pan, or half for just half the pan. I usually do just half because I don’t like meat in my lasagna. My half is veggie.) With a wooden spoon or very stiff spatula, break up the sausage as much as possible during cooking, making the crumbles small so it doesn’t dominate your lasagna layers. Season as you like with garlic, oregano, cayenne, etc. I usually don’t use salt. When sausage is lightly browned and no longer pink, remove from heat and set aside (I just put the pan on a trivet and let it cool. There usually isn’t a lot of fat from this sausage, which is why I add olive oil. It won’t be swimming in grease.)

When water has come to a boil, add lasagna noodles, one at a time, inserting them on a clockwise rotation (12 o’clock, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, etc.) to minimize sticking. Cook according to “al dente” package directions (you want it firm—otherwise it will be soggy after oven cooking), stirring VERY gently to insure proper flow and separation. When done, remove from heat and pour off majority of water. Fill pot back up with cold water. Pour off again. Repeat until noodles are cool enough to handle, and remaining water is minimal. I don’t like to use a colander here, as it can damage pasta.

You can transfer pasta from pot to an impeccably clean tea/dish towel to lay flat and dry. Just pat with towel to remove excess water.

This is when I like to preheat my oven to 400 degrees. If you have a convection oven, I’d recommend 375.

In a 9×12 baking dish, add about a cup of sauce to coat the bottom (this prevents tragic noodle stickage.) Add a layer of (patted dry) pasta, overlapping them slightly.
Cover with some of ricotta mixture. Add desired amount of sausage (approx 1/3 – 1/4 of pan). Add approx. 1/2 cup of sauce over pan (not too much or it will be runny. Think “dry.”).

Continue layering, up to 4 layers. Cover remaining layer with pasta, sauce, and remaining mozzarella cheese.

The final step is to layer pepperoni on top of lasagna.

Bake for approx. 35-40 minutes at 400. But if you have a convection oven, start lower and keep an eye on it (pepperoni cooks and curls quickly in convection ovens. Ask me how I know?) 🙂