Metro-East Living

Lasagna gets its own day Friday

Lasagna Classico from Olive Garden.
Lasagna Classico from Olive Garden.

It was a dark and stormy Tuesday afternoon and I was stuck in Olive Garden in Fairview Heights.

That’s really not such a bad thing, though. The rain had come down in torrents unexpectedly, I’d left the umbrella in the car and I was enjoying a cup of coffee with my Kindle and a mini dessert of sponge cake and limoncella cream. I didn’t mind waiting out the storm.

While I was there, a reader came over to talk to me and we got to chatting about favorite Italian foods, including lasagna.

The next day, an email popped up from Olive Garden: July 29 is National Lasagna Day, it said. Let’s celebrate. For just a second I thought there had been a hidden camera in the Parmesan cheese on my table the day before. Interesting coincidence.

Anyway, included with the email was a recipe for the restaurant’s Lasagna Classico. Bert, this recipe’s for you. See other recipes at

Contact me at, 618-239-2664 and follow me on Twitter @BoyleSuzanne. Write to 120 S. Illinois St., P.O. Box 427, Belleville, IL 62222-0427.

Olive Garden’s Lasagna Classico


2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

1 onion, finely chopped

2 garlic cloves, finely chopped

1/2 pound ground beef

6 ounces Italian sausage, removed from the casings and crumbled

2 (16-ounce) cans crushed tomatoes

1/4 teaspoon dried basil

1/4 teaspoon dried oregano

Salt, to taste

Pepper, to taste


16 ounces whole-milk ricotta cheese

1 cup mozzarella cheese, shredded

1/2 cup Romano cheese, grated

1 tablespoon parsley, chopped

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/8 teaspoon freshly-ground black pepper

1 tablespoon basil, chopped

1 tablespoon fresh oregano, chopped

1 egg, lightly beaten


12 cooked or no-boil lasagna noodles

Cooking spray

1 cup mozzarella cheese, shredded

1. Make the sauce: Heat the olive oil in a large sauce pot. Add the onion and garlic and cook about 5 minutes, or until softened and translucent. Add the ground beef and sausage, and cook 10 minutes over medium heat, stirring occasionally.

2. Add the tomatoes, basil, and oregano, and stir to combine. Simmer for about 20 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper, then chill.

3. Make the cheese mixture: Mix together the ricotta, mozzarella, and romano cheeses, parsley, salt, pepper, basil, oregano and egg in a large mixing bowl.

4. Build and bake the lasagna: Spray the bottom of a 9-by-13-inch baking dish with cooking spray.

5. Spread 4 ounces of the meat sauce on the bottom of the pan.

6. Layer 3 lasagna noodles over the meat sauce (they may overlap slightly).

7. Spread 1 cup of the cheese mixture over the noodles.

8. Spread 1 cup of meat sauce onto the cheese mixture.

9. Repeat the layers of noodles, cheese, and meat sauce two more times.

10. Top with 3 lasagna noodles, the remaining meat sauce, and shredded mozzarella.

11. Spray a large piece of foil with cooking spray and wrap the pan tightly with it, sprayed side down. Bake at 325 degrees for 45 minutes to an hour, or until the internal temperature is 165 degrees.

12. Turn the oven off and allow the lasagna to set up in the warm oven for 30 minutes.

13. Cut into squares 2 rows long by 4 rows wide. Plate and garnish with fresh basil.