Lasagna is a classic Italian dish that typically consists of layers of pasta, meat sauce, tomatoes, and cheese. The cheese plays an important role in lasagna by adding flavor and giving the dish its characteristic melted, gooey texture. But with so many different types of cheese to choose from, it can be difficult to know which one works best in lasagna. The key considerations when selecting cheese for lasagna include flavor, texture when melted, and ease of use.
In this article, we will compare some of the most popular options for lasagna cheese, including mozzarella, ricotta, Parmesan, and cheddar. We will evaluate each type based on the criteria mentioned above to determine which cheese or combination of cheeses delivers the best results in lasagna. Read on to learn which options have the right balance of taste, meltability, and convenience to make perfect, cheesy lasagna every time.
Mozzarella is one of the most common choices for lasagna cheese. Here are some key points about using mozzarella in lasagna:
- Mild flavor pairs well with acidic tomato sauce and seasoned meat
- Melts smoothly due to high moisture content
- Traditional option for Italian-style lasagna
- Lowest calorie of traditional lasagna cheeses
- Comes in many forms including fresh, shredded, or sliced
- Whole milk or part skim varieties available
The mild flavor and excellent meltability of mozzarella make it a natural choice for lasagna. Whole milk versions will deliver creamy, soft texture when melted. Lower moisture part skim mozzarella has a firmer, slightly rubbery melted texture. Overall, it’s hard to go wrong with regular mozzarella as a base cheese in lasagna.
Here are some key characteristics of using ricotta cheese in lasagna:
- Soft, fresh Italian cheese made from whey
- Mild, milky flavor
- Light and fluffy texture
- Adds moisture and richness
- Traditionally used as a filling between lasagna layers
- Lower fat than most cheeses
The fluffy texture and fresh dairy flavor of ricotta cheese make it a perfect complement to lasagna noodles and tomato sauce. Blending ricotta with eggs, herbs, and spices is a simple way to make a tasty cheese filling. Unlike mozzarella, ricotta maintains its shape when baked in lasagna instead of melting into strings. Using ricotta as a creamy lasagna filling provides contrast to the chewy pasta and melted mozzarella.
Here is some background information on using Parmesan cheese in lasagna:
- Hard Italian cheese made from cow’s milk
- Tangy, nutty, and salty flavor
- Granular texture that can be grated
- Adds bold, savory flavor
- Can use grated Parmesan on top of lasagna layers
- Also works when blended into cheese fillings
- Can use cheaper grated “Parmesan” style cheese instead of authentic Parmigiano-Reggiano
The distinctive flavor of Parmesan gives lasagna a tasty savory boost. Grating and sprinkling Parmesan between the layers is a simple way to add extra flavor. Blending some grated Parmesan into the ricotta filling also infuses lasagna with savory umami. Authentic Parmigiano-Reggiano offers complexity, but less expensive grated Parmesan-style cheeses work perfectly fine in lasagna.
Here is some key info about using cheddar cheese in lasagna:
- One of the most popular cheeses worldwide
- Sharp cheddar provides bold, tangy flavor
- Mild cheddar offers smooth, mellow flavor
- Melts smoothly when young; gets crumbly as ages
- Cheddar adds rich cheese flavor to lasagna
- Not a traditional Italian lasagna cheese
- Can use white or orange cheddar varieties
The range of cheddar flavors from mild to sharp makes it a versatile lasagna cheese. Young, melty cheddar provides cheesy richness without overpowering other flavors. Aged, sharper cheddars can stand up to robust meat sauces. While not traditional, cheddar blends nicely with Italian cheeses like mozzarella and Parmesan when used in moderation. For best results, stick with cheddar for up to one third of the total cheese.
Comparing Nutrition of Lasagna Cheeses
The calories and fat content differs between lasagna cheese options. This comparison table helps show the nutrition profiles of these commonly used lasagna cheeses.
|Mozzarella part skim||85 cal/oz||5g fat/oz|
|Mozzarella whole milk||99 cal/oz||8g fat/oz|
|Ricotta part skim||39 cal/oz||2.5g fat/oz|
|Parmesan||111 cal/oz||7g fat/oz|
|Cheddar||115 cal/oz||9g fat/oz|
As the table shows, part skim ricotta is the lowest calorie lasagna cheese option, while cheddar and Parmesan contain the most calories per ounce. Whole milk mozzarella and cheddar also have the highest amounts of fat per serving compared to the other cheeses.
Best Cheese Combinations for Lasagna
Based on taste, texture, and ease of use, here are some of the best cheese combinations for perfect lasagna:
- Mozzarella layered between lasagna sheets
- Ricotta cheese filling
- Grated Parmesan on top
This traditional trio provides the classic lasagna cheese experience – mozzarella for stringy melted texture, ricotta for a creamy element, and Parmesan for a final layer of flavor. Feel free to use part skim or whole milk for the mozzarella and ricotta based on your preference.
- 1/3 mozzarella
- 1/3 cheddar
- 1/3 Parmesan
For lasagna with an extra cheesy richness, use a blend of melted mozzarella, gooey cheddar, and flavorful Parmesan. Combine the shredded cheeses and scatter evenly between lasagna layers. The cheese trio delivers a powerful punch of complementary cheese flavors.
Low Fat Combo
- Part skim mozzarella
- Part skim ricotta
To lighten up your lasagna cheese, go with all part skim options. The reduced fat content cuts calories without sacrificing too much texture or flavor. Make sure to drain excess liquid from the part skim ricotta as well.
- Shredded mozzarella
- Cottage cheese
For a quick and hassle-free lasagna cheese option, use shredded mozzarella layered with cottage cheese instead of ricotta. The cottage cheese doesn’t provide the same richness, but its neutral flavor won’t clash with the other lasagna components.
While personal taste preferences can dictate what goes into lasagna, some key guiding principles can help inform the best cheese choices. Seeking balance between melted texture, rich flavor, and convenience will lead you to cheese combinations that work.
Overall, the classic trio of mozzarella, ricotta, and Parmesan satisfies on all fronts. Alternatives like cheddar and cottage cheese can also substitute nicely when used thoughtfully. Whatever you choose, the right cheese blend is vital for bringing luscious, cheesy delight to every bite of lasagna.