Lasagna was a Christmas Eve tradition growing up. My parents never made it themselves, but instead ordered it from a local pasta shop called Deer Park Ravioli. They would order a tray of lasagna and eggplant parmesan and pick it up the day before Christmas Eve. Then my grandparents and my aunt and uncle would all come over our house, my parents would put the trays in the oven on a delayed start, and then we would all go to Christmas Eve mass. When we came back from mass, we ate. It was probably the only time during the entire year we had lasagna, and every time it was delicious.
When my wife and I were first married, we moved to Pennsylvania. Italian Markets were available to buy things like fresh ricotta and mozzarella cheese, but local pasta shops didn't exist. In fact, I think Deer Park Ravioli was one of the few pasta shops on Long Island. So we started making our own lasagna and offered to have that Christmas Eve, especially when we went over to my parents. My wife's parents were more into Pierogi, so we started making those with homemade pasta dough.
Over the years we have made many trays of lasagna. One of the first times we made it I remember buying fresh mozzarella cheese. I figured since all of the other cheeses were fresh, it made sense to use fresh mozzarella. At least that was the theory, but in reality it actually works against you. Fresh mozzarella has a very high water content, and all of this water spreads out into your lasagna, thins out all of your sauce, and turns it more into lasagna soup. Not texturally appealing, so lesson learned - used shredded mozzarella instead to reduce moisture content. But as far as the other cheeses, fresh is best. The fresher the cheese, the lighter and fluffier the lasagna. By far, using fresh ricotta cheese is the most important ingredient.
Don't be tempted to use oven-ready lasagna noodles. While it may sound convenient, it has a completely different texture than using the noodles that you boil. You want your lasagna to have a slight bite to it, and you cannot achieve that texture with oven-ready noodles. Don't sacrifice time for convenience - your taste buds will thank you later.
Video Tutorial (Season 1, Episode 5)
Our kids love making homemade lasagna. Sometimes I think they enjoy eating the left over scrap pieces of the lasagna noodles instead of the actual lasagna itself.
Here is a link to the recipe made in this video: https://www.ardolinoskitchen.com/the-kitchen-table/italian-staples/family-secrets-homemade-lasagna
Tips, Tricks, and Essentials
For tips and tricks cooking with children, read our post here: https://www.ardolinoskitchen.com/the-kitchen-table/tips-tricks/cooking-with-children
Looking for kitchen equipment? Like what you see in our videos? Check out our recommendations for your kitchen: https://www.ardolinoskitchen.com/kitchen-essentials