This week Dana got a year older.  For her sake, we will not divulge the exact age.  However, her only request was to have lasagna made with beef and not Italian sausage.  So I whipped up some homemade noodles and put together her Birthday Lasagna.  It was a great little lasagna.  I may not be Italian, but I made some awesome pasta.

Birthday Lasagna

  • 1 pound sheet (lasagna) noodles, fresh (recipe below) or dried
  • 32 oz marinara sauce (recipe here), or two jars of your favorite red sauce
  • 2 pounds ground beef
  • 1 yellow onion
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 tbs basil
  • 3 tbs olive oil
  • 4 cups mozzarella cheese
  • 2 cups Parmesan cheese
  • 16 ounces ricotta cheese
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 tbs fresh parsley, 2 tbs dried
  • salt and pepper

Homemade Pasta

  • 2 cups semolina flour
  • 2 cups all purpose flour, plus extra for rolling
  • 1 cup cold water
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 tbs oil
  • 1/2 tsp salt

The Pasta – Step 1

The first step is to make the pasta.  If you are using dried pasta skip this step.

Mix together the eggs, water and oil in a mixing bowl.  In a separate bowl mix together the semolina, all-purpose flour and salt.  Slowly mix the wet ingredients while slowly adding the dry ingredients.  Mix until combined.  I used my kitchen aid mixer with the flat paddle blade.

Mix up the noodle dough

Then roll the dough out onto a floured surface and knead it until it is no longer sticky.

Cut the dough into four portions and then roll it out using a pasta roller.  If you do not have a pasta roller, roll up your sleeves as it is going to take some good ole fashioned strength to roll out the pasta.

Using a pasta roller make flat sheets

Dust the pasta lightly with flour and set aside.

The Sauce – Step 2

In a large saucepan or dutch oven over medium/high heat, add the olive oil and sweat the onions until they are translucent.  Add the garlic, basil and ground beef.  Add a dash of salt and pepper.  Brown the meat over medium/high heat, approximately 6-8 minutes.

Brown the beef

Turn the heat down to medium and then add the marinara sauce to the pan.  Mix the beef into the sauce, lower the heat and let it simmer for 10 minutes.  Taste to see if it needs extra seasoning.  It may need a little salt depending on your sauce.

Add the red sauce

While the beef is getting all saucy, boil the dried noodles if you opted to not make your own.  They need to be partially boiled according to the box directions.  If you made fresh noodles, no need to boil them.  You are good to go.

The Cheese – Step 3

No lasagna is set without cheese.  In a medium bowl combine the ricotta, egg, parsley and 1/2 tsp salt.  Mix it till the egg and ricotta are one.

Ricotta Mixture

Assembly – Step 4

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

Grease the bottom of a 9×13 casserole dish or your dedicated lasagna pan.  I am not ashamed, I have a dedicated lasagna pan.

Add a layer of sauce to the bottom of the pan.  Roughly 1 1/2 cups of sauce.

Start with the sauce

Then add a layer of noodles.

Add the noodles

Top the noodle layer with a layer of the ricotta mixture.  Top the ricotta with a couple of handfuls of mozzarella and a dusting of the Parmesan cheese.  You may need a rubber spatula to help you distribute the ricotta over the noodles.  It can be a little hard.  If you can’t get it just right, it will be fine.  When it heats up, it will distribute itself.

Then start the layers again using the sauce, noodles, ricotta, mozzarella and Parmesan.

All layered up

I then ended my lasagna with a layer of noodles and topped it off with cheese.  I would recommend that you save a tad bit of sauce for the top so that the noodles do not dry off too much.  I went a little overboard with the sauce early on and had none leftover for the top.  Keep that in mind when you make it.  However, I did love the crispy top.  It is up to you.

Baking – Step 5

Cover the pan with aluminum foil and bake for 30 minutes.  Make sure that the foil does not touch the cheese.  If you feel the foil might touch the cheese, grease the bottom side of the foil with non-stick spray.

Once the 30 minutes are up, remove the foil from the pan and cook for another 25-30 minutes or until the cheese starts to brown.

Fresh out of the oven

Remove from the oven and let sit for 5-10 minutes before serving.  This way you will be able to get perfect slices.

Perfect Slices

I loved the lasagna.  It was tasty and the noodles were perfect.

Birthday Lasagna

Although I did not put a tiny layer of sauce over the noodles, I ended up loving it.  The top was crispy and added a nice texture to the dish.

Homemade Lasagna

Homemade noodles are the way to go.

Rex is an avid griller, barbecuer and bacon enthusiast. He is the Pitmaster for the Rex BBQ competition team. Rex was also featured on the TV show American Grilled. If you have any questions or wish to have Rex decode your favorite dish, click on the ASK REX link in the menu above.


  1. I grew up with ground beef lasagna. Now I have to have Italian sausage in mine or it seems like it is missing something. What does Dana have against Italian pigs? (ha ha, just kidding, preferences are preferences)

  2. Chris, I love all piggies, including Italian pigs….just not in my lasagna !

  3. I agree Chris, but Dana likes what she likes. Plus, it was her birthday. I'll make you a sausage lasagna for your birthday, you just need to get to Richmond.


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