Lasagna used to take hours to make. With sauce to make and simmer, noodles to cook and cool, cheese filing to mix, plus building this classic Italian casserole, it could take a of couple hours. That was until I discovered no-boil noodles. Now my whole wheat lasagna is a bit lighter and faster, thanks to the noodles and using pre-cooked chicken sausage. This trims the process to about one hour. Never made lasagna? Just follow my step by step directions. Your family will love you!
Whole Wheat Lasagna
Working outdoors on folding tables plating lunch for 130 hungry guests I almost froze. With cool weather and breezes, then sun and warmth, then cold gray clouds threatening rain all in the space of a few hours, nature couldn’t make up it’s mind whether it’s winter or spring. At home, I was happy to have homemade whole wheat lasagna waiting in the fridge for a warming, hearty dinner.
I used to use traditional lasagna pasta noodles, but discovered no-boil noodles and will never make it any other way. I used them in this lasagna recipe with great results. By using whole wheat, no-boil noodles, chicken sausage for the meat sauce and Ricotta, the lasagna is delicious and faster than my older recipe.
You can make this lasagna in about 1 hour. With another hour in the oven to bake, you can have homemade lasagna on the table in less time than it used to take just to make it. This recipe can also be made ahead in the morning, resting in the refrigerator until baking time. It even freezes well.
No-boil lasagna noodles must be one of the best things ever invented. With no cooking required, they are ready to use out of the box. With a texture more like thick crepes, the final dish is lighter. Add good crushed organic tomatoes, herbs and cheese and you have rich and satisfying yet lighter lasagna.
Quick, Delicious Sauce
The quick sauce for my lasagna might be juicier that you expect, but the no-boil noodles need liquid to rehydrate. I start with pre-cooked chicken sausage. Pulse the sausage in a food processor to grind it up, then add to sautéed onions, garlic, fennel and wine.
Next, add the crushed tomatoes and simmer the sauce for a few minutes to incorporate the flavors. Cool before building the lasagna. If you are in a hurry, just use the sauce as is without simmering (skip the wine). Your lasagna will still be wonderful.
Building the Lasagna
Get your sub-recipes and prep done ahead of starting to build the lasagna. Choose an 8″x8″ (2/1 2 – 3″ deep) casserole dish. Follow the photos for how to build your lasagna and read the recipe before you start. Sauce>noodles>cheese>sauce>noodles>cheese (4 layers total).
After baking, let the lasagna sit for a few minutes before cutting. It will be easier. Freeze any leftovers in single portions or save for a meal the next day. For another filled pasta recipe that’s less work, try these kale stuffed pasta shells.
This is one recipe I definitely miss as an occasional treat since going gluten-free. I’ve made it with gluten-free noddles and it was as tasty but not quite the same texture. It was juicier and looser than making it with the whole wheat no-boil noodles. I’ll have to work on that and report back.
Lighter Whole Wheat Lasagna
- 8"x8" casserole dish
- 1 tablespoon olive oil 15 ml
- ½ medium onion chopped
- 3 large garlic cloves chopped fine
- ¾ teaspoon ground fennel seed or wild fennel pollen
- 6 ounces pre-cooked chicken sausage usually 2 links
- 1/3 cup dry red wine optional
- 28 ounces organic crushed tomatoes
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 pinch red pepper flakes optional
- 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
- 15 ounces Ricotta cheese
- ¼ cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
- ¼ cup fresh finely chopped basil leaves or 1 tablespoons dried
- 2 tablespoons fresh finely chopped oregano leaves or 1/2 tablespoons dried
- 1 large egg
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
Noodles and Cheese
- 8 ounces Whole wheat no-boil lasagna noodles
- 8 ounces fresh style mozzarella, grated
- 1/3 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
- With a small sharp knife, slice down two sides of the sausage links. Peel off the casing and discard. Chop the sausage into chunks. In the bowl of a food processor, pulse the sausage chunks until fairly finely, about 12 pulses.
- Heat olive oil in a large saucepan (4-5 quarts) over medium heat. Add onion and cook until softened, stirring. Add garlic and cook 30-60 seconds, then add the fennel, sausage and red wine. Stir and cook a few minutes until the wine is almost gone, then add the tomatoes, salt and peppers. Swirl a little water in the tomato can to wash it out and pour into the pan. Simmer for a few minutes. Set aside and cool.
- In a large mixing bowl combine the ricotta, Parmesan, herbs egg and seasoning. Set aside.
Lasagna Assembly (4 layers)
- If serving right away. Pre-heat the oven to 400 degrees. Place about ½ cup of the sauce in the bottom of an 8×8 stoneware or glass baking dish.
- Place two noodles on the bottom. Top with 1/3 of the ricotta mixture. Layer on 1/3 of the mozzarella. Top with ½ cup of sauce. Next two layers, repeat with noodles, ricotta, mozzarella, and sauce. For the top layer, place the last two noodles, cover with the remaining sauce and top with Parmesan.
To Bake Now
- Spray a piece of foil with non-stick spray and cover the baking dish. Place dish on a rimmed baking sheet and bake for 30 minutes covered. Then remove foil and bake another 30 minutes. Allow to stand for 10 minutes before slicing and serving.
To Bake for Later
- Spray a piece of foil with non-stick spray and cover the baking dish. Place in the refrigerator for a few hours until ready to bake. Two hours before serving, remove the dish from the refrigerator and allow to come to room temperature. Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees. Bake 30 minutes covered with foil and 30 minutes without foil. Allow to stand 10 minutes, then slice and serve.