What makes this homemade lasagna recipe better than the rest? Al dente lasagna noodles, the most flavorful ricotta cheese mixture, homemade tomato sauce, and gooey layers of cheese. Absolutely bursting with flavor, this hearty lasagna will feed a crowd – or leave you with delicious leftovers.
Why you’ll love this Lasagna Recipe
Reader Denise says: “This is the best lasagna I have ever made! I made it yesterday and baked it today for Christmas, my family loved absolutely loved it! I followed the recipe exactly. This will be the only lasagna I make now on.”
This is my absolute favorite lasagna recipe! Here’s why I think you’ll love it too:
- No soggy lasagna noodles! I give you the perfect cook time so your noodles stay al dente… even after baking in tomato sauce and layers of cheese.
- My ricotta cheese mixture packs a punch! A punch of flavor, that is. I don’t suggest subbing cottage cheese, but some readers have commented they’ve has success doing so.
- The meaty tomato sauce is to-die-for delicious! We always have a batch of this in our freezer.
- Plenty of gooey layers of cheese thanks to ricotta cheese, mozzarella cheese, fontina cheese, and Parmesan. Cheese lovers unite!
- You can assemble the lasagna up to 2 days before you need to cook lasagna! Or you can freeze lasagna for 2 months.
- Lasagna is THE perfect comforting recipe for bitter cold Winter nights or large festive gatherings. I make one every Christmas and it basically flies out of the baking dish! Especially when I serve it with a side of my famous easy baked meatballs and garlic knots (so much better than garlic bread IMO).
Last Sunday, I decided it was high time I shared this epic lasagna recipe with you! So I opened a bottle of wine, cranked on the Sinatra, and spent the entire day in the kitchen. Sipping, stirring, and shooting a ton of photos (apologies in advance… this post is picture heavy lol). It was not a bad way to spend a rainy day!
Make the Tomato Sauce
You’ll start with this step because it’s the most time consuming. Here’s why you’ll love this sauce, and make it over and over again:
- This flavorful sauce is make-ahead friendly! You cake the marinara sauce up to 2 days in advance and store it in the fridge until you’re ready to assemble the lasagna! Or freeze it for up to 2 months. If you freeze it, you’ll want to thaw it in the fridge the night before you plan on making this recipe.
- Extra hearty (and loaded with protein) thanks to ground beef, sausage, and pancetta. If you can’t find pancetta, use diced bacon instead.
- Bursting with flavor thanks to fresh herbs like chopped fresh parsley, basil, and oregano. Do not sub dried herbs in this recipe! If you can’t find fresh oregano, you can simply omit it.
- To balance the meat, we’ll use 2 cans of crushed tomatoes and tomato paste. This ensures our tomato sauce has plenty of tomato flavor, too.
- Red wine and beef stock thin the sauce out while adding tons of flavor! You want the sauce to be saucy enough… because the noodles will absorb a lot of liquid while the lasagna bakes.
The Best Lasagna Noodles?
- I suggest using dried wavy lasagna noodles for this recipe, like these or similar. I love the wavy noodles because they look pretty, give the dish height, and slice better than flat noodles.
- Do not use fresh pasta for this recipe! This recipe has a ton of liquid in the sauce, and using fresh pasta will yield in a mushy lasagna. Trust me, I’ve tried and it’s not pretty.
- While I don’t suggest using no-bake noodles, some readers have used them and enjoyed the results. In my recipe testing, I found no-bake noodles to be underwhelming and inconsistent. Specifically, they either got too mushy or stayed too hard, which is why I suggest the method listed below.
How to Get Al Dente Lasagna Noodles
- You’re not looking to cook the noodles as much as you’re looking to soften them and remove some of the starch.
- You’ll cook the noodles by bringing a large pot of salted water to a boil and then adding the noodles.
- Be sure to set a timer, because you’ll only “cook” them for 4 minutes. The noodles should still be hard and hold their shape after cooking. We under cook them because they’ll continue to cook in the oven.
Prevent Your Noodles from Sticking
How do you prevent your precious noodles from sticking together? Let me show you the way:
- Place a long piece of parchment paper across your countertop.
- Drizzle olive oil on top of the parchment and use a pantry brush to coat the entire piece of paper with the oil.
- Place the drained noodles on the paper, side by side, not letting them touch.
How to Assemble the Lasagna
The first thing I’ll say here is PLEASE don’t let the layering process stress you out! If you skip a step of miss a layer, it’s not the end of the world. That being said, here’s how I suggest layering your lasagna recipe:
- Start with a good scoop of meat sauce on the bottom of your 9×13 baking pan.
- Layer 5 noodles on top. Add the cheese and more sauce. Then repeat two more times.
- So basically pasta noodles, sauce, and cheese – then repeat! But don’t get yourself worked up on these layers being too perfect! They’ll all melt together once in the oven and it’ll taste delicious no matter what.
How to Cook Lasagna
- Make the Meat Sauce: You can do this the day you plan on cooking, or days in advance. As mentioned in other places of this post, the sauce will keep in the fridge for 2 days or in the freezer for 2 months.
- Make the Ricotta Cheese Mixture: You can make this up to 2 hours in advance and store it in the fridge until needed.
- Cook the Pasta: Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and cook for 4 minutes. You want even harder than al dente pasta, so do not over cook the noodles!
- Assemble: A glass or ceramic baking pan works best. Layer the sauce, noodles, and cheeses as best you can. Don’t worry if you mess up a little here, it’ll still taste delicious even if the layers aren’t perfect.
- Time to Bake: Cover your assembled lasagna with aluminum foil and pop it your oven. Bake with the aluminum foil on top for 30 minutes, then remove it and continue baking. This lets the mozzarella cheese get gooey, melty, and slightly browned.
Don’t Touch for 15 Minutes
Want perfect slices of lasagnas? I have three words of advice: let it rest! As tempting as it is to dig right in, if you cut in as soon as it comes out of the oven, it’ll be super messy. And the layers of cheese will likely slip right off! Let it cool for 15 minutes, then it’ll firm up and cut into clean pieces!
Can I make Lasagna Ahead of Time?
You can and you should! Making lasagna ahead of time makes life so much easier. And it actually enhances the taste of the lasagna, too! Making this in advance allows the flavors to meld together and soak into the noodles.
Feel free to assemble, cover, and store in the fridge for up to 24 hours before baking. Want to make it even further in advance? Follow my instructions below!
Can I Freeze Lasagna?
One of the most commonly asked questions is can you freeze lasagna? The answer is a resounding yes. Homemade lasagna freezes beautifully and is a great option when you want to plan ahead for a special holiday meal.
You can freeze it for up to 2 months. Then when you’re ready to cook lasagna, just pull it out of the freezer, remove the plastic wrap, cover with foil and bake!
How to Freeze Lasagna
- To Freeze Unbaked Lasagna: Wrap the entire baking dish with several layers of saran wrap. Then wrap it again with several layers of heavy duty foil. When prepared like this, it will keep, stored in the freezer, for up to two months. Since it’s not ideal to loose a baking dish for a few months, you may want to use a disposable 9×13 foil pan in this case!
You can also freeze baked lasagna using the same method as above! Just make sure the lasagna has completely cooled before wrapping and transferring it to the freezer.
How to Thaw Frozen Lasagna
- Remove from the Freezer: 24 hours before you plan on baking, remove the casserole dish from the freezer. Place the lasagna in the fridge and let it thaw.
- Time to Bake: Unwrap the lasagna and discard the plastic wrap. Cover the top of the pan tightly with aluminum foil and bake at 325 degrees for 45 minutes. Then remove the foil and finish baking at 375 degrees for 30 minutes, or until cooked through.
- Let it Cool: Place the baking dish on a wire rack and let it cool for 15 minutes. This will allow the cheeses and sauce to firm up a bit. And will allow you to slice nice and neat pieces.
What to Serve with Lasagna?
So many side-dishes go well with lasagna, but here are a few of our favorites:
- Rosemary Focaccia
- Spinach Salad with Goat Cheese and Prosciutto
- One-Bowl Herbed Ricotta Cheesy Bread
- Roasted Tomato Caprese Salad
- Italian Sausage Meatballs
- Sicilian Braciole
And if you’re looking for something like this recipe but a little lightened up, go check out my lightened up chicken parmesan lasagna! Not as indulgent as this classic recipe, but still super delicious.
More Baked Pasta Recipes:
- Best Ever Baked Ziti Recipe
- Baked Rigatoni with Beef
- Crazy Good Classic Stuffed Shells
- Elevated Macaroni and Cheese with Bacon and Gruyere
- Baked Rigatoni Fra Diavoli with Sausage and Zucchini
The Best Homemade Lasagna Recipe
For the Meat Sauce:
- 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 5 ounces pancetta, diced into small bits
- 1 pound hot Italian sausage
- 1 pound ground beef
- 6 cloves garlic, crushed and chopped
- 1 cup onion, chopped
- 3 Tablespoons tomato paste
- 1 cup dry red wine (use something you’d enjoy drinking)
- 1/2 cup beef stock
- 2 (28 ounce) cans crushed tomatoes
- 2 teaspoons sugar
- 1/2 cup fresh basil, chopped
- 3 Tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped
- 2 Tablespoons fresh oregano, chopped
- Salt and pepper, to taste
For the Ricotta Layer:
- 16 ounces ricotta cheese
- 5 ounces fontina cheese, grated
- 1 large egg plus 1 egg yolk
- 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
For the Lasagna:
- 15 lasagna noodles
- 8 ounces mozzarella cheese, shredded
- 1/2 cup parmesan cheese, finely grated
For the Meat Sauce:
- Place a large saucepan or pot over medium high heat. Add oil and pancetta cook for 2 to 3 minutes, or until browned. Add in the sausage and beef and use a wooden spoon to break the meat up into pieces. Continue cooking until meat is browned and no pink remains, about 5 minutes.
- Add garlic and cook for 1 minute, or until fragrant. Add in the onion and continue cooking, stirring occasionally, for 6 to 8 minutes, or until onion has softened and is almost translucent. Stir in the tomato paste.
- Add in the wine and stir to combine. Cook for 5 minutes. Then stir in the stock and crushed tomatoes, stirring well to combine. Bring sauce to a boil, then reduce to medium low and continue cooking for at least 40 minutes.
- Stir in the sugar, basil, parsley, and oregano. Cook for another 5 minutes. Taste and add salt and pepper as needed.
- Remove from heat allow to slightly cool before using it in the lasagna.
For the Ricotta Layer:
- In a large bowl combine the ricotta, fontina, egg, egg yolk, and nutmeg, mixing until well combined. Set aside until needed.
For the Lasagna:
- Place a long sheet of parchment paper (about 16″) on you countertop. Lightly brush with olive oil.
- Bring a large pot of water to a rolling boil. Add a pinch of salt, then add in the lasagna noodles. Cook for 4 minutes, then use tongs to remove the noodles, placing them side by side on the prepared parchment paper.
- Shred mozzarella cheese and set aside until needed. Grate the parmesan cheese and set aside until needed.
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees (F). Lightly grease a 9×13-inch casserole dish.
- Pour 1 cup of meat sauce on the bottom of the casserole dish. Then layer 5 noodles on top of the sauce. Top with 3/4 cup of the ricotta filling, 1 and 1/2 cups of the sauce, and 1/4 cup of the parmesan cheese. Repeat 2 more times.
- On the top layer, add the remaining sauce and mozzarella cheese.
- Cover with aluminum foil and bake for 30 minutes. Remove foil and continue baking to 15 to 20 minutes, or until cheese is melted and bubbling.
- Remove from oven and let the lasagna rest for at least 15 minutes before slicing.