Diving Deep into Lasagna
DALL·E 2 - OpenAI

Diving Deep into Lasagna

Have you ever asked yourself what would happen if someone crawled the internet for every lasagna recipe in existance, ran it through data science analysis then summed up the findings in a digestable peice of content? Well, we're glad we found you. Lets get to it.

The Cheese

Lets start with cheese. Generally speaking lasagna uses ricotta, parmesan and mozzarella. These three cheeses comprimse most of what people drool over when looking for a good lasagna recipe.

While adding parmesan and mozzarella to a recipe gave it a marginal better rating, adding ricotta showed no real difference. More exotic cheeses (in the context of lasagna) such as provolone and gruyère did quite well when added, however cheeses like fontina did not. Surprisingly, cottage cheese in lasagna did very well. Pretty consistently too. Almost every recipe utilizing cottage cheese scored above average even when taking into account other factors. Who knew?

So is just adding more cheese better? Well, no. While cheese should be added, don't over do it. The sweet spot for cheese, if one believes the math, is around 7-8oz of parmesan and 5-6oz of mozzarella for 6 servings. It's worth considering one of the highest rated recipe (in our normalized rankings), the NY Times Mushroom Lasagna used a garlic and shallot béchemel with only 4oz of parmesan for the entire dish.

The Sauce

A critical part of lasagna is the sauce, and choosing the right tomatoes is important. San marzano or plum tomatoes whole (not as a sauce) performed well as did tomato paste. Using other type of tomatoes (beefsteak, roma or unspecified) consistently rated lower. Oddly, recipes leaving out tomatoes entirely and relying on just tomato paste did quite well too.

When adding meat to a sauce consider italian sausage. Beef performed fine, but not nearly to the extent as pork did in ragu's. Even for recipes which called for both, recipes with only italian sausage did the best.

Finally, recipes that used premade pasta sauces did much better than making one. There could be some oddity to this, as perhaps some are more likely to rate a recipe higher if it's easier to make. If using a store bought pasta sauce, Delallo (not a sponsor) ranked very well.

The Spices

With a dish heavy in fat and acid, spices are essential to elevate it. Spices did seem to fare better when added directly to fat, presumably this increased their fragrence and perhaps brought out more flavor. Be sure to add them before adding any liquid ingredients.

Consider adding red pepper flakes to the sauce. The bite of it adds a wonderful depth to the dish, aim for adding enough so it's just barely noticable and certainly before it gets hot. A teaspoon for 6 servings was the sweet spot.

Italian seasoning is another great addition. Try and find one that adds sage or crushed fennel seeds. The amount of italian seasoning was correlated to the rating of a recipe with a 95% confidence interval and a rank coefficient above 0.85! That is, well, one could safely assume adding more italian seasoning to a marinara or bolognese will up its delicious factor. Of course, there's probably a point where one could use too much, but none of the recipes seemed to have crossed it.

Finally, it also might be worth trying cinnamon, this ingredient was added to quite a few vegeterian based lasagnas and did quite well, it might be just as successful in non-vegetarian versions as well.

The Variations

A traditional lasagna is great, but some variations like a savory mushroom or brown butter butternut squash lasagna are equally delicious.

Mushroom lasagna is a popular variation on the traditional, avoid combining mushrooms with a marinara sauce as it did not rate well. Instead, use a shitake or porcini mushroom as the star, then saute or roast the mushrooms with shallots and garlic. Combine the mushrooms with wine, thyme, butter and stock then reduce it to a glaze. The classic combo of parmesan and mozzarella were popular, but unlike traditional recipes, lean more to parmesan than mozzarella.

Butternut squash was another popular variation, typically roasted or sliced thin then fried. Like mushrooms they don't score well when combined with a marinara sauce. Instead combine them with pine nuts, panchetta, sage, brown butter and nutmeg. Using cheeses such as provolone, gruyere or just parmesan were all popular and rated well.

Variations that included marinara usually added eggplant. When roasted it goes well with a bright tomato sauce and mozzarella.

Finally, a traditional lasagna can be lightened up by adding spinich. While adding it neither contributed nor inhibited its rating it did add a healthier component.

Read the Lasagna Recipe created by artificial intelligence.

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Recipe Breakdown

olive oil
parmesan cheese
lasagna noodle
mozzarella cheese
ricotta cheese
all purpose flour
black pepper
pasta sauce
ground beef
tomato paste
tomato sauce
red pepper flake
italian sausage
white wine
bay leaf
italian seasoning
heavy cream
red wine
fontina cheese
ground pork
provolone cheese
cayenne pepper
red pepper
butternut squash
chicken broth
fennel seed
cottage cheese
garlic powder
cherry tomato
basil pesto
bell pepper
lemon zest
nutritional yeast