The Unique Cheeses To Try In Your Next Lasagna, According To A Chef

The most famous and comforting Italian casserole on earth, lasagna features layers upon layers of pasta sheets and saucy veggies or proteins glued together with copious amounts of rich, gooey cheeses. Mozzarella, ricotta, and a sprinkling of parmesan cheese are the go-to cheeses that most lasagna recipes call for. However, an Italian cuisine expert argues for the addition of other unique cheeses to try in your next lasagna.

Tasting Corner asked Jasper J. Mirabile Jr., owner of Kansas City's Jasper's Italian Restaurant and host of the "Live! From Jasper's Kitchen" radio show, about the best types of cheese to add to different lasagna recipes. While chef Mirabile recognizes that mozzarella and often ricotta are indispensable ingredients, he recommends augmenting them with cheeses like pecorino romano, taleggio, fontina, and gorgonzola. If you're planning on a bolognese lasagna or any recipe that uses a red sauce, Mirabile thinks that taleggio, a semi-soft, subtly tangy, and aromatic Italian cheese "gives a nice flavor and melts very well." To instill creamy ricotta with salty nuttiness, Mirabile says, "I also always mix a little bit of grated Pecorino Romano cheese with the ricotta."

Gorgonzola, the most unusual and intense of the bunch, is optimal for white lasagnas. Mirabile says, "Gorgonzola becomes very creamy, and the blue veins give it such a bite." Yet another way to upgrade a white lasagna is by "shredding some fontina ... in the layers for lasagna prepared with a béchamel sauce." Fontina melts nicely and brings nuttiness to dairy-rich béchamel sauces.

More cheesy lasagna tips from chef Mirabile

Alternative cheeses aren't the only recommendation Chef Mirabile has for lasagna lovers. He also weighed in on the best practices for the tried-and-true ricotta and mozzarella cheeses as well. When asked whether to use fresh mozzarella for lasagna, Mirabile said that its juicy, melt-in-your mouth texture is not baking material. He says, "Low moisture mozzarella is much better when baking because it does not make the lasagna watery."

While Mirabile likes to use pecorino romano cheese in his ricotta filling, he keeps any other seasonings to a minimum. According to Mirabile, salt alone is the only seasoning he would use to highlight ricotta's natural palate. He also recommends straining your ricotta if it's American made. That said, he divulged that his restaurant's ricotta supplier is Grande Cheese, a Canadian cheese company whose product he has never had to strain. On what to look for in good ricotta, Mirabile says, "The smooth, superfine texture and a fresh, clean flavor is ideal for using in lasagna and baked pasta dishes."

Mirabile concluded with a layering tip to avoid a burnt top. While shredding or slicing cheese facilitates melting, Mirabile says to only "place slices or shreddings on the second or third layers." If you top lasagna with shredded cheese, it's likely to burn. With this mistake, Mirabile explains, "You lose 75% of the flavor."