With its rich filling and forkfuls of gooey goodness, lasagna may be the ultimate crowd-pleasing casserole. If you're looking to whip up this delicious meal for the family, you may be wondering what the best cheeses are for lasagna. Well, grab your baking dish and cheese grater! We've chomped into the research and have mouth-watering answers for you!
While you can certainly make your pasta any way you choose, certain cheeses provide an unparalleled depth of flavor. For lasagna, these include ricotta, mozzarella, parmesan, romano, and provolone. Fresh, whole-milk versions of these ingredients (when possible) are recommended for a creamier, richer taste.
So, why do these particular cheeses work so well? Can you make lasagna without cheese? What cheese can you substitute for ricotta? Continue reading to learn some yummy tips on picking the best dairy for your Italian cuisine!
Scrumptious Italian Cheeses
Did you know that Italy boasts over 2,500 varieties of cheesy wonders? Whoa. Set your mind at cheese, though, because we're going to stick with the five best-suited for your lasagna!
Fluffy, creamy, and full of moisture, ricotta is the perfect base for the filling in any pasta dish. The creaminess is a wonderful binding agent. Since it isn't a hard, aged cheese, the fresh factor is always present in spades! Most all classic lasagna recipes call for this ingredient. The whole-milk version is preferred for extra smoothness.
Mozzarella is a white curd cheese with a mild taste. It has a dense, springy consistency and is common in Italian cuisine because it pairs so beautifully with tomato and basil. When melted, it becomes stringy and savory. Choose a shredded whole-milk variant rather than part-skim for increased melting ability.
Part of the hard-grating family of cheeses, parmesan possesses a very distinct, sharp essence. It is aged for up to two years to help create that intense flavor, and any lasagna will gain a better bite from using it. Skip the pre-grated bottles at the store. Instead, buy a fresh chunk and grate it yourself at home for better results.
Romano cheeses are made from the milk of cows, sheep, or goats. Like parmesan, they're a thick, crumbly cheese with complex flavor profiles and are extremely popular in Italian cooking. They also have a high sodium content that can accentuate other flavors in the dish. Look for a brand that's aged over eight months for a sharper kick.
Though often only thought of as deli slices for sandwiches, provolone is versatile with excellent melting properties. Similar to mozzarella, it's a stretched curd-based cheese. Depending on how long it was aged, the taste can vary from mild to sharp. Add this to your lasagna for an even gooier experience!
Now, it wouldn't be very admirable if we mentioned all these tempting ingredients and didn't follow up with a handful of recipes. Prepare to have your taste buds tantalized!
- Taste of Home provides a mouth-watering Six-Cheese Lasagna we simply can't forget.
- The Best Classic Lasagna can be found on The Wholesome Dish's fantastic website.
- In a time crunch? Spend with Pennies has a spiffy recipe for Easy Homemade Lasagna.
Pardon us while we wipe the drool from our keyboards.
Is lasagna better with ricotta or cottage cheese?
Classic lasagna preparation favors ricotta in the filling. This is because it provides such a deep taste and creamy consistency. However, cottage cheese's mild essence is akin to ricotta and can be used as a substitute. Your mixture won't be quite as fluffy, though. It does contain less fat and fewer calories, so it's a great option if you're more health-conscious. Small-curd works best, as larger curds tend to be lumpy.
What cheese can you substitute for ricotta?
There are several viable alternatives to using ricotta. We've already talked a bit about cottage cheese, but let's go over a few others you may not know.
Although it has a sharper tang to it, mascarpone is similar enough to be a substitute for ricotta. Keep in mind that it needs other intense flavors by its side to not overpower the dish. For example, consider including spicy Italian sausage rather than beef if using this cheese.
Despite its name, cream cheese contains less fat than ricotta, so it's not as rich and creamy in comparison. That being said, its properties are still definitely close enough to make it a good alternative. You'll have to use a bit more cream cheese because of the consistency difference than you would ricotta.
Goat cheese is another phenomenal melter with a bit of oomph behind it. Not everyone likes its distinct taste, so you might want to try it beforehand. It's often fresh and silky since it's not an aged cheese. With these qualities, plus good moisture content and a bit of salt, you could do worse than this as a ricotta substitute.
Tofu is a soy product made as a vegan alternative to meat. It is sold in blocks or cubes, and to replace ricotta; you'll want the soft (or silken) variation. Regular tofu won't work in this case because it's simply too dense. Its taste is completely neutral, so it tends to absorb the flavors it's cooked with. This is a great option if you happen to be lactose intolerant.
Can you make lasagna without cheese?
If you are interested in dairy-free or vegan options, you have some non-cheese options. Nutritional yeast, zucchini cheese, pesto, tofu, hummus, and sweet potato sauce can all be used instead of real dairy. We found a few great recipes to give you some ideas!
- Check out Hummusapien to see instructions for a drool-worthy Best Vegan Lasagna.
- The Vegan Zucchini Lasagna from Healthy Midwestern Girl is full of plant-based ingredients.
- Run over to Mama Knows Gluten-Free for an amazing Gluten-Free Lasagna (Dairy-Free Option).
How many layers should lasagna have?
Traditional lasagna needs a minimum of three layers. You can have up to six sheets, especially for a large party of mouths to feed. However, anything more starts to be overkill. The food begins to fall apart while serving and eating. Of course, the number of layers possible also largely depends on the recipe and the size of the baking dish being used.
To find out more about this topic, check out this post: How Many Layers Should a Lasagna Be? Here’s the Answer!
Can you put cheese in the middle of lasagna?
You can layer your cheeses throughout the lasagna as you see fit, but we recommend following the instructions the recipe you're utilizing suggests. That will ensure the best results possible for your pasta masterpiece! You don't want burnt or runny cheese in the middle of your dish, nor do you need for the whole thing to collapse from its own weight due to too much filling.
Cheesy come, cheesy go
We've established that the best lasagna cheeses are mozzarella, parmesan, ricotta, romano, and provolone. You've learned great ricotta substitutes and some dairy-free options. We listed terrific recipe examples. So, it's time to say goodbye for now. But don't be sad! The end of this article means you get to make that perfect Italian dinner even sooner!