Make the marinara: Heat the oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant, 3 minutes. Add the tomatoes, crushing through your fingers as you pour them in the pan. Add the bay leaves, dried thyme, and basil and cook until the sauce thickens, about 30 minutes, crushing the tomatoes further with a wooden spoon to help them break down. Season with the salt and pepper. Pull out and discard the bay leaves and basil. You should have about 4 cups/960 ml of sauce. Reserve 2 1/2 cups/600 ml of sauce for the lasagna, and freeze the remaining 1 1/2 cups/360 ml of sauce for your next pasta dinner.
Make the lasagna: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F/180 degrees C/gas 4.
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Cook the lasagna noodles until al dente, about 12 minutes. Drain.
Heat a large skillet over medium heat and add the beef. Cook, stirring occasionally, until browned through. Transfer to a bowl with a slotted spoon, leaving excess fat behind.
In a medium bowl, mix together the cottage cheese, eggs, and 1/4 cup/30 g of the Parmigiano-Reggiano, and season with a pinch of salt and a few grinds of black pepper.
Slice the fresh mozzarella as thin as possible with a sharp knife, season lightly with salt, and drain on paper towels/absorbent papers.
Lightly brush a 9-by-13-in/23-by-33-cm ovenproof pan with olive oil. Line the bottom with drained noodles. Add a third of the sauce, and half the cottage cheese mixture. Sprinkle on half of the meat and top with a layer of shredded mozzarella. Repeat with remaining noodles, another third of the sauce, and the rest of the cottage cheese mixture and meat. Finish with any remaining sauce and finally the slices of fresh mozzarella, sprinkling on the remaining Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese.
Cover with aluminum foil and bake for 20 minutes. Remove the foil and continue baking until the cheese bubbles and the lasagna is warmed through, 20 minutes more. Remove from the oven and let cool about 15 minutes before slicing. Serve immediately.
P.S. You can use no-boil lasagna noodles to save yourself a step. Keep the lasagna covered for the first 30 minutes of cooking so the steam can soften and cook the noodles.
Make it Meatless:
This lasagna is light and delicious with sliced zucchini/courgette instead of the meat. Slice 1 large zucchini/courgette into long, thick slices. Salt them well and drain between layers of paper towels/absorbent papers to release the moisture for at least 30 minutes. Layer into the lasagna along with the cheese mixture and top with regular (not fresh or buffalo, since it will make the zucchini/courgette version too wet) mozzarella. Bake as instructed in the regular recipe.
Reprinted with permission from The Newlywed Cookbook by Sarah Copland, Chronicle Books copyright (c) 2012
Photograph by Sara Remington