Grandma’s Lasagna

As for the Lasagna, it gets served at all Lofaso family holidays. For example at Thanksgiving, there would be turkey…and then lasagna and tons of other Italian food. I always thought it looked so out of place as a child, but my grandparents were trying their best to adopt American traditions without giving up their own.

Serves: 6 to 8
Total time: 85 minutes

Sauce Ingredients

  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • ¼ cup chopped garlic (about 8 cloves)
  • 3 (16-ounce) cans of peeled, whole plum tomatoes
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon sugar

Lasagna Ingredients

  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • 1 ½ pounds ground turkey (dark or white meat, or a mixture of both)
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons dried Italian seasoning, or 4 teaspoons fresh marjoram or oregano
  • 1 (9-ounce) package of no-boil, oven-ready lasagna noodles
  • Sauce (from above)
  • ½ cup shredded or grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
  • 2 cups whole-milk ricotta cheese
  • 4 cups shredded whole-milk, mozzarella cheese
  • 3 Roma tomatoes, sliced into 6 to 8 slices each
  • 12 medium to large fresh basil leaves


For the sauce, head the olive oil in a 4-quart saucepot over medium heat. Add the chopped garlic and just as it starts to brown around the edges, throw in the canned tomatoes. You don’t want the garlic to burn, so have the cans open and ready to go beforehand.

Add the salt and sugar and whisk it all together. Let the sauce simmer on medium-low for 40 minutes while you prep the other ingredients. If any foam rises to the top of the sauce, skim it off. That’s the acid from the tomatoes, and your sauce will taste better without it. Using a hand blender or counter top blender, blend on medium until smooth.

Preheat oven to 375 F. In a 10-inch sauté pan heat the olive oil on medium-high. Add the ground turkey and the salt. Cook the turkey for about 5 minutes, until it’s browned throughout. Just as it’s finishing the cooking process, stir in the Italian seasoning. Drain any excess fat or liquid from the pan.

Cover the bottom of a 13 x 9-inch baking pan with 3 sheets of pasta. Ladle 1 cup of sauce over the noodles. You don’t want the sauce to soak through, so you don’t need to overdo it. Layer on half of the meat, followed by half of the Parmigiano-Reggiano, and half of the ricotta cheese. Sprinkle on one-third of the mozzarella and arrange one-third of the fresh tomatoes on top of it. Top with one-third of the basil.

Repeat the process for the next layer: 3 sheets of pasta, a cup of sauce, the rest of the meat, the rest of the Parmigiano-Reggiano, the remaining ricotta, a third of the mozzarella, a third of the fresh tomatoes, and another third of the basil. The last layer is your presentation layer, so make it pretty. Add three more sheets of pasta. Top the noodles with the last of the sauce, mozzarella, fresh tomatoes and basil.

Bake uncovered for 40 minutes, rotating halfway through. The top should be a crispy golden brown when the lasagna is done, and the pasta sauce around the sides of the dish should be thick, not runny. Let the lasagna stand for 10 to 15 minutes before serving. If you cut into it while it is still piping hot, it will fall apart.