Lasagna is a big-crowd pleaser that is easily made days ahead of a big dinner and leftovers can be popped right in the freezer if they last that long.

Kathy Whyte/ WNBF News

Classic Meat Lasagna (prep. Time: about 1 hour to prepare and assemble plus 1 hour to bake if made in advance.  Serves 12-15)

1 large (36 oz.) container Ricotta cheese

1 pkg. mozzarella cheese, sliced into ¼ inch-thick planks *

1 C. Parmesan cheese

1 large can diced tomatoes

1 large can crushed tomatoes

4 cloves garlic, finely diced or crushed through a garlic press

1 small onion, diced (you can also add diced green pepper, mushroom or even eggplant to make the sauce your own creation)

2 tsp. red pepper flakes

1 TB each oregano, basil and parsley

2 lb. 80% lean ground beef

1 tsp. cracked black pepper

Large pinch of salt

3 Tb. granulated sugar

9 lasagna noodles (cooked per package instructions)

In a large saute pan, heat olive oil over medium-high heat.  Stir in diced onions and cook until tender. Stir in garlic, red pepper flakes and herbs. Saute for only about 1 minute. Be careful not to let the garlic brown or burn.  Stir in tomatoes, salt and pepper.  Turn heat to medium-low and allow to simmer for about 15 minutes.  Once it starts to thicken, stir in sugar until you get the desired sweetness.  This is also a good time to adjust salt, pepper or herb flavors to your liking. Save out about a cup of the meat-less sauce. In a separate pan, brown the ground beef and stir into the tomato sauce.

Once the pasta is cooked to al dente, drain and cool until it can be handled.  Spray non-stick cooking spray a 9X12 inch pan (I used aluminum so I don’t have to clean it). Spread the tomato sauce without meat around the bottom of the pan. It will help keep your pasta from sticking.  Line the bottom of the pan with three sheets of lasagna noodles. Spoon about a third of the meat sauce evenly on top.  Spoon dollops of ricotta evenly on top of the sauce.  Lay mozzarella planks on top (slicing the cheese into planks ensures even coverage).  Sprinkle about a third of the parmesan on top.  Repeat with the remaining layers of pasta, sauce, ricotta, mozzarella and parm.  You can stop there, cover the lasagna and refrigerate until ready to bake.

Kathy Whyte/ WNBF News

Let the lasagna come to room temperature if made ahead.  Preheat oven to 400. Put the lasagna pan on a foil-covered cookie sheet. It will bubble-over!  Bake covered lasagna on lower rack for about 24 minutes.  Uncover and move to top rack to finish baking and browning for another 15 minutes or more until the cheese on top is melted and the dish is bubbling.

Allow to stand for at half hour before cutting into it.  The lasagna is boiling hot and will just gush all over the place if you don’t let it cool enough to re-set. But, hey, if you can’t wait, you can’t wait. I totally understand. No judgement, right?

Serve with tossed salad and hot garlic bread.