Fill a large pasta pot with water and place over high heat. Add a generous amount of salt and bring to a boil. Cook the lasagna noodles for only 8 minutes; they should still be somewhat firm, as they will continue to cook when you bake the lasagna. Drain the noodles in a colander and rinse them quickly under cool water to stop the cooking process. Drizzle with some olive oil so the sheets donâ€™t stick together, then set aside.
Heat a large skillet over medium heat and drizzle with a 2-count of olive oil. SautĂ© the onion, garlic, and bay leaf for a couple of minutes, until the onions are translucent and smell sweet. Add the ground beef and pork, stirring to break it up, and cook until the meat is thoroughly browned, about 10 minutes. Drain out the excess fat. Combine the fennel seeds, red pepper flakes, brown sugar, and dried oregano in a spice mill or clean coffee grinder; give it a whirl, and sprinkle on the browned meat. Stir in the tomato paste until well blended; season with salt and pepper. Take the pan off the heat.
In a large bowl, combine the ricotta and Parmigiano cheeses. Fold in the parsley, basil, and eggs, season with salt and pepper, and mix well.
Preheat the oven to 350Â°F. Take inventory of the components you should now have: slightly cooked lasagna noodles, seasoned meat mixture, ricotta cheese filling, 2 pounds of shredded mozzarella cheese, a pot of sauce, and a 1339-inch glass or ceramic baking dish. Let the layering begin.
Start by ladling enough sauce into the dish to cover the bottom; in my experience, this prevents the lasagna from sticking. Layer 1â€”the noodles: Slightly overlap 4 lasagna noodles lengthwise so they completely cover the bottom with no gaps. Here is a little tip I swear by: If you take 2 lasagna noodles and line the short ends of the pan, they will act as brackets or a wall to give the lasagna support when you cut it. Layer 2â€”the meat: Spread half the meat mixture on the top of the noodles with a spatula. The meat mixture, being the most solid element, will act as a foundation. Layer 3â€”the cheese: Spread half the ricotta cheese mixture over the meat, smooth out with a spatula, and then sprinkle a third of the shredded mozzarella evenly over the ricotta mixture for that stringy cheese pull that you know and love. Layer 4â€”the sauce: Top with a full ladle of tomato sauce, about 1 cup; smooth it out with a spatula. Repeat layers 1 through 4. Finish with a final layer of noodles, tomato sauce, and the remaining mozzarella. I like to tap the pan lightly on the counter to force out any air bubbles and compress the layers. Bake for 11/2 hours, until golden and bubbling. Allow the lasagna to sit for 20 minutes so it doesnâ€™t ooze all over the place when you cut it into squares. Pass tomato sauce and grated Parmigiano around the table.
In a large pot over medium heat, heat a 3-count drizzle of oil until hot. Add the onion and garlic and sautĂ© for 5 minutes, or until the onions begin to appear translucent. Hand-crush the tomatoes and add them, along with their liquid, to the pot. Toss in the herbs, red pepper flakes, and sugar; season with salt and pepper. Lower the heat and simmer for 45 minutes, uncovered. Stir occasionally.
Edited: October 14th, 2009