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50-Layer Lasagna

madonna + child
Cook Time:
1 hr 30 mins
Prep Time:
45 mins

Chef notes

This lasagna is what my family and I consider to be a real holiday dish. Forget the ham and the turkey — as Italian Americans, we eat lasagna on the holidays. My family adores my recipe — the best part is when the crazy uncles fight over the corner pieces!

Technique tip: Make lasagna the day before serving. After the first cook, press the lasagna overnight first laying a clean, damp cloth on top of the lasagna followed by a sheet pan. Add tomato cans to the sheet pan to compress the lasagna layers.

Swap option: You can use ready-made, no-cook lasagna sheets instead of blanching your own.


Tomato Sauce
  • 1/4 cup sliced garlic
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 cup chopped Spanish onion
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt
  • 3/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 3/4 teaspoon oregano
  • 1/2 tablespoon granulated garlic
  • 1/2 cup double concentrated tomato paste
  • 2 (28-ounce) cans crushed tomatoes
  • fresh (not dried) lasagna sheets
  • nonstick cooking spray
  • tomato sauce (recipe above)
  • 2 pounds whole-milk ricotta
  • 1 pound shredded mozzarella
  • 1 pound sliced or shredded provolone cheese
  • 2 cups grated pecorino romano
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 1 (1/4-pound) block Parmigiano-Reggiano, for shaving


For the tomato sauce:


In a heavy-bottomed sauce pot over medium heat, toast the garlic in the olive oil until golden.


Add onions and cook until soft. While the onions cook down, add salt, pepper, oregano and granulated garlic to release aromatics. Then add the tomato paste and cook until the bright red color turns to a lighter rust color.


Add the crushed tomatoes, bring to a boil, then simmer for 3 hours.

For the lasagna:


Preheat oven to 375 F for the first round of cooking.


Blanch pasta sheets: In order to avoid being gummy and too heavy, the pasta sheets need to be quickly blanched and placed on clean, dry kitchen towels for the layering process. Using a sauté pan filled with water, blanch pasta one sheet at a time, leaving each sheet in the boiling water for approximately 30 seconds.


Spray a 10- by 13- by 3-inch casserole dish with a nonstick cooking spray to avoid having the pasta stick to the pan and spoon some tomato sauce on the bottom.


Start the layering process: The order of layering ingredients should be as follows: sauce, pasta sheet, dollops of ricotta, shredded mozzarella, shredded provolone, grated pecorino cheese, then salt and pepper to taste. Continue layering the ingredients until the dish is full, being sure to press down the ingredients after each layer using a large metal spatula, and making sure to reserve enough pasta sheets for a final layer that you will place as a cap over the other ingredients. Once the final layer of pasta sheets is added, top with remaining sauce and sprinkle with grated cheese.


Cover the casserole with foil and bake in a shallow water bath. I use sheets pans and keep an eye on the water, refilling as needed. Bake for 45 minutes.


Increase the oven temperature to 475 F to 500 F, remove the foil from the pan and continue baking for an additional 15 to 20 minutes.


After removing from oven, the lasagna must sit and rest to avoid having a soupy casserole on your hands. I typically make my lasagna the day before serving and cool overnight in the fridge with a little pressure on the top to help all those layers compress into deliciousness! I recommend putting a damp cloth over the top of the lasagna, laying a sheet pan on top of that and then weighting it down with tomato cans which are nice and heavy. The next day, I place the lasagna in a 350 F oven for about 1½ hours or until heated all the way through.


When hot, remove from oven, cut into square portions, serve with additional tomato sauce and get ready to shave the Parmesan!