The three-ingredient dinner: Ravioli lasagna

This is one of the quickest, easiest meals I have ever made, but its simplicity was deceptive at first. The first two times I made it, there were problems—sauce problems, which are pretty important when you’re making lasagna. Sure, the first two lasagnas were okay, but I had a hunch there was a way to make it better than okay; I just had to figure out what it was. I could see lots of options, but I also didn’t want to make a simple meal complicated.

The problem was the water. The original recipe called for adding 1 ½ cups water to a 26-oz jar of pasta sauce (unable to find 26 oz-ers, I’ve been using 24-oz jars of sauce). This part of the recipe has a (currently re-trending) element of thrift—you add the water to stretch the sauce, I figured, which saves you the trouble of buying two jars. The results weren’t terrible, but the sauce was so watered down, it was soupy.

The next time around, I didn’t add the water at all, but had the opposite (and probably predictable) problem: the sauce was too thick to spread easily, and it covered a lot less square footage. So, feeling like Goldilocks, I hoped the third time would be the charm. I added half the water—¾ cup—and this one was just right. The sauce covered the ravioli, but wasn’t runny, and I got to be thrifty without sacrificing taste, which I count as a success for most home-cooked meals.

The ravioli underwent some changes as well. The first version contained a bunch of tiny ravioli, and the composition was more like ravioli with red sauce (runny, at that) than a lasagna that happened to have ravioli in it. But the second time, my mom purchased larger ravioli, which were surprisingly less expensive (thriftiness runs in the family). The result: a true ravioli lasagna, with layers of chewy pasta stuffed with ricotta, surrounded by bubbling mozzarella and tomato sauce.

That’s really all there is to it. What makes this meal so simple is that it contains only three ingredients—three amazing, indispensable ingredients that you probably already have on hand. But even dead-simple meals aren’t perfect the first time. You don’t need to make things complicated—goodness knows I had to hold myself back from adding this and that—but even the simplest things can sometimes take time.

Ravioli Lasagna
Source unknown (see note)

Notes: I can’t locate the original source of this recipe—I clipped it from a magazine ages ago and have lost the original clipping. This recipe, from Taste of Home, is very similar.
The original recipe called for turkey meatballs, but I opted for a vegetarian (and even thriftier) version. Feel free to add them if you want.

One 24-oz jar tomato sauce
18 oz refrigerated or frozen ravioli
2 cups grated mozzarella

  1. Set out ravioli to thaw, if using frozen. It’s fine if they’re still a little bit frozen when they go in the lasagna, but they should be most of the way thawed.
  2. Heat oven to 375 degrees. In a large bowl, mix ¾ cup water with tomato sauce. Spread ¾ cup of the sauce on the bottom of a shallow 2 ½ quart casserole dish. Arrange half the ravioli on top. Spread with another ¾ cup of the sauce. Sprinkle with 1 cup cheese.
  3. Repeat layering with remaining ravioli, sauce, and cheese. (The overall layering should be sauce, ravioli, sauce, cheese, ravioli, sauce, cheese)
  4. Cover lasagna with foil, and bake for 35 minutes. Uncover, and bake for five minutes, or until the cheese and sauce are bubbling.
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