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Homemade Lasagna with Ground Turkey Meat Sauce

Avoiding red meat? This cheesy and meaty homemade lasagna is lightened up with a ground turkey meat sauce. It’s so flavorful, you won’t miss the beef.

Overhead shot of baking dish full of cheesy lasagna.

Lighten up: ground turkey is delicious. Promise.

There are proud meat-eaters out there who balk anytime beef or pork is swapped out for turkey or chicken. I get it—there IS a difference in flavor and texture; I’ll never lie in order to sell the idea that poultry can offer up the same fatty flavor and juiciness that beef and pork can. But sometimes we’re looking for a healthier option, even if it’s just once in a while. And I love to be the one with that trick up my sleeve. This lasagna allows for the dreaded meat swap, and with all of this cheesy saucy deliciousness, you can’t not end up with a killer lasagna.

Tips for making a homemade lasagna.

  • No-boil oven-ready noodles are best.

    Sure, there are purists out there who would like to see my head roll for saying that, but I don’t care; I said what I said. Fresh lasagna noodles become a little mushy after being cooked and then baked, and the dried noodles tend to feel too thick for my taste. The no-boil noodles are thin and absorb the sauce nicely as they cook, leaving us with a nice bite and still somewhat sturdy texture. Also: you don’t have to cook your noodles—an annoying step completely taken out of the equation. High five.

  • Cheese matters.

    It’s easier to grab a bag of shredded part-skim mozzarella and sprinkle that into your layers, but you just won’t get that rich dairy flavor that makes lasagna so damn good. I highly recommend getting yourself a fresh ball of mozzarella, some fresh Pecorino-Romano, and then a bag of shredded Italian blend cheese for the top of the lasagna. We can work with that.

  • Strain the ricotta.

    It’s super important to strain your ricotta in order to get that creamy texture you’re after. Skip straining it, and you may end up with a watery mess. Straining ricotta is simple: place a cheesecloth over a sieve or strainer, and place that over a bowl. Dump the ricotta into the sieve, and let it sit in the fridge overnight or for at least 8 hours to get the majority of the water out.

  • Beware of watery vegetables.

    I’m all about adding a vegetable or two to a lasagna, but be very careful when it comes to water-rich veggies like zucchini, peppers, or fresh tomato slices. Using an abundance of these can also turn your lasagna into a sloppy, watery mess.

  • Give it a few minutes under the broiler.

    My last tip is to give your lasagna a quick sit under the broiler, uncovered, before taking it out to cool. This will give you some nice crusty peaks and really make that top cheese layer bubble to golden goodness. Just be sure to keep a close eye on it. All broilers are different, and you don’t want to char your beautiful lasagna.

Side shot close up of baked cheesy lasagna.

Overhead close up of cheesy baked lasagna.

Layering Homemade Lasagna with Ground Turkey Meat Sauce.

A lasagna is all in the way you layer it. My go-to layering method is from Lidia Bastianich. Her Italian-American recipes cookbook taught me well, and I’ve never looked back.

Collage of lasagna being layered step by step.

  1. Ladle about 3/4 cup of the meat sauce into a 11.5 x 8-inch baking dish. (These are the dimensions of the pan I used. You can use something close to that.) Spread the sauce over the bottom to cover as much as you can—it doesn’t have to be perfectly even.
  2. Arrange noodles lengthwise, side by side, to cover the bottom of the baking dish. Spoon about 2 cups of meat sauce over the noodles to cover the noodles in an even layer. Sprinkle the sauce evenly with ½ cup of the grated cheese.
  3. Place a single layer of noodles, now crosswise, over the cheese.
  4. With a spatula, spread the ricotta mixture evenly over the noodles.
  5. Again, arrange a single layer of noodles, lengthwise, over the ricotta.
  6. Distribute the sliced mozzarella in an even layer over the noodles.
  7. Spread 1 cup of the meat sauce over the mozzarella, then sprinkle 1 cup of grated cheese over the sauce.
  8. Cover the cheese with a layer of noodles arranged lengthwise.
  9. Spoon enough meat sauce, about 2 cups, over the noodles in an even layer and sprinkle the sauce with the remainder of the cheese.

And there you are! Layering a lasagna definitely looks tedious on paper, but it’s super simple, goes by quickly, and is well worth it in the end. I find this layering method gives the best cheese-to-noodle-to-sauce ratio. (Thanks, Lidia!)

As for getting saucy…

If you have your own go-to meat sauce, you can easily use that and just substitute your usual ground meat for ground turkey. I like to use my Instant Pot Turkey Bolognese because it’s so easy, quick, and tasty. If I’m already preparing a homemade lasagna, I like to cut myself some slack elsewhere. So if you have an Instant Pot, 10/10 do recommend. If you don’t have an Instant Pot, the ground turkey meat sauce listed in the recipe card below is great. Just let it simmer away on the stove for a few hours and kick back until it’s lasagna time.

Overhead shot of cheesy lasagna cut into squares.

Hope you enjoy!

If you plan on making this recipe, be sure to snap a pic and tag us on Insta! @killing__thyme.

Other popular ground turkey recipes:

Homemade Lasagna with Ground Turkey Meat Sauce

Avoiding red meat? This cheesy and meaty homemade lasagna is lightened up with a ground turkey meat sauce. It's so flavorful, you won't miss the beef.
Course Main Course
Cuisine Italian
Keyword ground turkey, lasagna
Servings 6 servings
Author Dana Sandonato

Ingredients

Lasagna.

  • 1 lb whole-milk ricotta cheese, strained *See notes.
  • 1/8 tsp kosher salt
  • 1 TBSP olive oil
  • 1 lb no-boil (oven-ready) lasagna noodles
  • 1 large egg
  • 2 cups grated fresh Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
  • 8 oz fresh mozzarella, sliced very thin

Ground Turkey Meat Sauce.

  • 1 35 oz can of Italian plum tomatoes
  • 1 TBSP extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 medium yellow onion, diced (about 1 cup)
  • 6 cloves of garlic, smashed, peeled, and minced
  • 1 lb ground turkey
  • 2 Bay leaves
  • 1 TBSP chopped fresh oregano
  • 1/4 cup dry red wine
  • 1/4 cup tomato paste
  • 1/2-1 cup chicken broth
  • Kosher salt and cracked black pepper, to taste

Instructions

To make the ground turkey meat sauce.

  • Pass the tomatoes through a food mill fitted with a fine disc over a large mixing bowl. Or, you could simply place the tomatoes and their juices into the large mixing bowl and crush them very well with your hands, leaving the sauce a little chunkier.
  • Heat the olive oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add the onions to the pot and simmer, stirring occasionally, until slightly golden brown—about 5-7 minutes. Add the garlic to the pot and stir until the garlic has softened and is aromatic—about one minute.
  • Transfer the ground turkey to the pot and season it lightly with a few pinches of salt. (You can always add more salt later if needed.) Bring to a simmer, stirring the meat and breaking it down as it cooks, until the meat has changed color and the water from it has evaporated—about 8-10 minutes.
  • Add the bay leaves and oregano, then add the wine. Bring to a simmer and scrape away any brown pan bits with a spoon or spatula. Simmer until the wine has fully evaporated.
  • Add the tomatoes and tomato paste, and stir until the tomato paste has completely melted into the sauce.
  • Add another pinch of salt, bring the sauce to a boil, and let it simmer uncovered for about 2-3 hours. By this time, the sauce should be deep red in color.
  • Add a bit of broth at a time as necessary to maintain the level of liquid for the length of time the sauce cooks. You could also use water, but I find broth brings on more flavor.
  • When ready, taste the sauce and adjust the seasoning to your preference.
  • This sauce will keep in the fridge, in an airtight container, for up to five days and in the freezer for three months.

To make the lasagna.

  • Preheat the oven to 375º F.
  • Ladle about 3/4 cup of the meat sauce into a 11.5 x 8-inch baking dish. (These are the dimensions of the pan I used. You can use something close to that.)
  • Spread the sauce over the bottom to cover as much as you can—it doesn't have to be perfectly even.
  • Arrange noodles lengthwise, side by side, to cover the bottom of the baking dish. Spoon about 2 cups of meat sauce over the noodles to cover the noodles in an even layer. Sprinkle the sauce evenly with ½ cup of the grated cheese.
  • Place a single layer of noodles, now crosswise, over the cheese.
  • With a spatula, spread the ricotta mixture evenly over the noodles.Again, arrange a single layer of noodles, lengthwise, over the ricotta.
  • Distribute the sliced mozzarella in an even layer over the noodles.
  • Spread 1 cup of the meat sauce over the mozzarella, then sprinkle 1 cup of grated cheese over the sauce.
  • Cover the cheese with a layer of noodles arranged lengthwise.
  • Spoon enough meat sauce, about 2 cups, over the noodles in an even layer and sprinkle the sauce with the remainder of the cheese.
  • Loosely cover the lasagna with tin foil and bake for 25 minutes.
  • Remove the foil and bake for another 5 minutes to brown the cheese; you could also give your lasagna a few minutes under the broiler to really brown the cheese and give youa. few crispy noodles on top.
  • Let the lasagna rest for 15 minutes before serving. Garnish with chopped fresh parsley.

Notes

To strain ricotta, place a cheesecloth over a sieve or strainer, and place that over a bowl. Dump the ricotta into the sieve, and let it sit in the fridge overnight or for at least 8 hours to get the majority of the water out.
This recipe yields 6 servings, but doubling this recipe with a larger pan is easy: just double all of the ingredients. The cooking time should remain the same.
 
*Inspired by Lidia Bastianich, Lidia's Italian-American Kitchen

 

 

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