Sausage Lasagna with Smoked Mozzarella

I wouldn’t have known Monday was National Lasagna Day if Albert had not pointed it out to me.  Thankfully, lasagna is an easy dish to throw together so I didn’t need much advanced notice to celebrate.  But boring, standard lasagna doesn’t really say “celebration” so I wanted to update the recipe – something that’s easy to do if you take a shortcut with jarred sauce and make a few fresh tweaks with the other ingredients:

First, instead of ground beef, I removed fresh sausage links from the casing, crumbled them, and browned them in a pan.  I used a one to one ratio of hot and sweet Italian sausage but that came out pretty spicy so you may want to use more sweet than hot if your palate prefers the mild.  Once it was cooked, I added some of that jarred sauce to the pan to heat through and then used some of the meat mixture as the first layer in my lasagna pan.  Next comes a layer of noodles, followed by fresh ricotta that I mixed with shredded mozzarella (whatever cheap bag you find in the refrigerator aisle) and torn basil (fresh herbs add so much great flavor).  I repeated each layer a few times until the ingredients were used up and then topped with the whole thing with slices of smoked mozzarella.  It went into the oven at 350 til it was nice and bubbly (about 30 minutes).

Italian sausage makes for an entirely different tasting lasagna.  I could taste all the fennel seeds and hot pepper that went into their preparation.  The smoked mozzarella makes a huge difference.  The flavor seeps through the whole dish and really makes it stand out from other lasagnas out there.  One bite and everyone will know it’s homemade – in the good way, not in the nobody-wants-to-eat-the-weird-cupcakes-at-the-bake-sale way.