Lasagna from Scratch

“Twirl and Taste” is the food blog of Libby Murphy, a home cook from Tennessee. It is “A Collection of Recipes, Tablescapes, and Party Tidbits To Help You Twirl – or Enjoy Life to the Exponential!” I don’t know about twirling, but I certainly do enjoy Libby’s Lasagna recipe from Scratch. It is the most delicious lasagna recipe that lets you know the difference between homemade and… everything else (warning: once you've made and tasted this lasagna, you will never be able to go back to the frozen ones!). Like Libby, I enjoy lasagna on a cold weather day and with winter quickly approaching, what better time to try Lasagna from Scratch! And, if you're like Libby and enjoy serving this dish during the Christmas holidays, the timing couldn't be more perfect.

Lasagna refers to wide flat-shaped pasta (possibly one of the oldest types of pasta), whereas lasagna refers to the dish made with layers of lasagne sheets, alternated with sauces and other ingredients. Lasagna originated in Italy, most likely in the city of Naples where the first modern recipe was published in Liber de Coquina (The Book of Cookery). Since then it has become a traditional Italian dish. Traditional lasagna is made by layering pasta with sauce, made with ragu, béchamel and Parmigiano-Reggiano, however outside of Italy it is common to find lasagna made with ricotta, mozzarella and even cottage cheese, tomato sauce and meats such as chicken, ground beef or pork.

For Libby’s Lasagna from Scratch, you will need a whole slew of ingredients, from sweet Italian sausages and ground beef to crushed tomatoes, tomato paste and tomato sauce. You will also require a number of herbs and spices, as well as ricotta, mozzarella and parmesan cheeses, so it’s best to take a look at this recipe so you can pick up all of the extra ingredients you’re going to need to make the best lasagna you’ve ever made!

If you’re anything like me, you are not a cheese connoisseur. I’m good with mozzarella and cheddar. But for this recipe you’ll be adding ricotta cheese, which is an Italian Whey cheese that is traditionally made from sheep milk whey (but can also be made from cow, goat or Italian water buffalo milk whey as well). Ricotta literally means “recooked”, and that is essentially how this cheese is made (the whey is allowed to become acidic through fermentation and then heated to near boiling). Ricotta curds are creamy white in appearance and have a slightly sweet taste. It is very similar to cottage cheese, though much lighter and highly perishable (so don’t purchase it too far in advance of using it in your lasagna).

One of the stranger ingredients in Libby’s Lasagna from Scratch is fennel seeds. But after doing a bit of research, I discovered that in many parts of India and Pakistan, roasted fennel seeds are consumed as an after-meal digestive and breath freshener. With all of the onion and garlic in this recipe, a bonus breath freshener isn’t a bad idea! It is very similar to the anise spice (and could be substituted in a pinch).

I find it interesting that lasagna is one of Libby’s Christmastime traditions. Every year during the Christmas holidays, she prepared this dish as the star attraction and serves it with a Romaine salad tray buffet. While a deviation from the traditional holiday foods, it remains a hit year after year. I think I might just have to start a new tradition…

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