Homemade Lasagna is the king of pasta casseroles. The layers of noodles, the ricotta cheese, and an easy bolognese sauce, crowned with a layer of melted cheese. It never fails to please!
If you’d rather skip my essential cooking tips and tricks and get straight to this delicious recipe – simply scroll to the bottom of the page where you can find the printable recipe card.
CLASSIC HOMEMADE LASAGNA
Lasagna is a word loaded with meaning. The word refers to a particular type of noodle, the lasagne, in its plural form.
However, the noodle is so well known for the classic Italian noodle casserole, it also means the layered dish known the world over.
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HOMEMADE LASAGNA INGREDIENTS
- lasagna noodles
- ground beef
- tomato paste
- olive oil
- italian seasoning
- ricotta cheese
- tomato sauce
Noodles – Use regular lasagna noodles not the oven ready ones. They are ok but because they are meant to go in the oven uncooked, they tend to be very thin. This gives them a weird texture and won’t hold up well with the thick layers.
Ground beef – I like to use a lean ground beef (93/7%) but you can also use ground turkey.
Tomato sauce/paste – Use your favorite tomato sauce (I like an arrabbiata sauce) and tomato paste.
Onion – A yellow onion has a nice flavor but feel free to us a sweet one if you prefer.
Italian seasoning – I like to use homemade Italian seasoning but if you don’t have any, you can use a combination of oregano, basil, and rosemary. I also add a bay leaf while cooking the meat sauce.
Ricotta cheese – I prefer whole milk ricotta because it is creamier and not as watery but use your favorite. You can also use cottage cheese, and if you do, use the large curd. You can also pulse the cottage cheese in a food process to smooth out the texture if you want.
Cheese – This recipe uses a combination of shredded mozzarella and non-smoked provolone slices.
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HOW TO MAKE HOMEMADE LASAGNA
ONE: Prepare the lasagna noodles by boiling them according to package directions until they are “al dente” or just slightly firm. Do not over cook! Drain, rinse, and set aside.
TWO: Prepare the meat sauce by cooking the onion, garlic, and meat in a large skillet over medium heat. Add in the spices and tomato paste and cook until the meat is no longer pink.
Set aside until ready to assemble the lasagna.
HOW TO LAYER LASAGNA
THREE: Assemble the lasagna by adding a small amount of sauce in the bottom of a large deep baking dish. Add a layer of noodles by slightly overlapping them. Top with the meat mixture (minus the bay leaf) and spread evenly. Top with provolone cheese slices.
FOUR: Add another layer of noodles and top with more sauce. Add all the ricotta cheese, spreading it over the entire layer. Top with 1/2 the mozzarella cheese.
FIFTH: Add another layer of noodles and top with the remaining sauce and mozzarella cheese. Bake at 350F for 30-40 minutes or until bubbly and the cheese is melted. Remove the homemade lasagna from the oven and enjoy!
For the full recipe and detailed baking instructions, please see the recipe card at the end of this post.
HOW MANY LAYERS IS BEST FOR LASAGNA?
I believe that 3 layers of noodles is best for lasagna. You want to start and end with noodles to hold everything together. That leaves one layer of noodles to separate the meat and cheese layers.
A lot of recipes will call for the same number of noodle layers but combine the meat and cheese in between them. I like to keep mine separate. It is the way my mom used to make it for the restaurant and I think it makes a prettier presentation.
Another reason is that a box of lasagna noodles usually contains between 15-18 noodles. With 5 on each layer, you would need to make more than one box.
WHAT IS THE PROPER WAY TO LAYER LASAGNA?
Some like to make a meat sauce, by combining the meat and extra tomato sauce in one. This would mean that you could add 1 cup of meat sauce and ricotta cheese in a single layer, then continue to repeat the layers until all the ingredients are used.
I believe this isn’t really the issue. Have layers with ingredients that you like, but in terms of the actual layering process, here are some rules.
- Be sure that you have enough noodles, by overlapping if necessary, to cover the whole layer of each dish. You don’t want a bite that doesn’t have any noodle in it.
- Place sauce under the first layer of noodles so the bottom doesn’t stick to the baking dish.
- Start and finish the layering with noodles to hold all the goodies in.
- Top off the top layer of noodles with additional sauce, to keep them from drying out.
- You can add a layer of cheese on the top at the beginning of the cooking process or you can wait until half way through and add it so it doesn’t get too browned.
IS HOMEMADE LASAGNA BETTER WITH COTTAGE CHEESE OR RICOTTA CHEESE?
If you are trying to keep it authentic to Italian style, then you definitely need to go with ricotta cheese. Ricotta cheese is creamier in texture and has less water. It also has more calories.
Cottage cheese is lighter but has a different texture. It also has more water, so be careful with too much sauce or the lasagna will be soupy.
HOW TO STORE IT
Store any leftovers wrapped tightly in the fridge for up to 4 days.
HOW TO REHEAT IT
Reheat the lasagna but heating the entire dish in a 350F oven for 15-20 minutes or until heated through.
You can also reheat slices in the microwave. You might need to add additional sauce if you like.
CAN I MAKE IT AHEAD OF TIME?
You can assemble the lasagna up to 2 days ahead of time. Just wrap the dish with plastic wrap first and then with aluminum foil tightly and store in the refrigerator until ready to bake.
You can also freeze it at this point. Thaw overnight and then bake as directed.
CAN I FREEZE IT?
Lasagna is a great freezer meal. You can assemble it and then freeze it. Or you can make it, bake it, cool it completely, wrap tightly, and freeze it for up to 3 months.
Allow it to thaw overnight in the refrigerator before reheating it.
WHAT DO YOU BAKE LASAGNA IN?
Because of the layers, you want to make sure you have a dish that is big enough, and deep enough, to hold it all in.
A traditional 9×13 pan (like you make for a cake) is not deep enough. You need one that is at least 2.5 inches deep to accommodate all the yummy layers.
I like this pan the most! Don’t be tricked into buying an oversize pan because the noodles will not be long enough or wide enough and you will need to make a second box of noodles.
WHY IS MY HOMEMADE LASAGNA WATERY?
- You have cooked the noodles too long and they have taken on too much water that is released when baking.
- The noodles are not drained enough and have too much water on them when layering.
- There is too much sauce to your layers. My meat layer is a very thick meat sauce and I this recipe uses very little sauce in addition to that. I feel you can always add more sauce to your individual slice when serving.
TIPS FOR NO LEFTOVERS
- Let the lasagna rest for 10-15 minutes after removing from the oven to allow the layers to set and keep them from running out of the noodles. Trust me it will still be hot. When reheating, you don’t need to let it sit.
- You can add a beaten egg to the ricotta cheese to make it thicker if you like, but it is not necessary. If you are using a low fat ricotta or cottage cheese you might want to add an egg to thicken it up.
- If the top layer is browning too quickly, you can cover it with foil until baking is done. Remove the foil when removing from the oven so the cheese doesn’t stick to it.
- You can use fresh herbs instead of the dried seasoning. Just be sure to use double the amount.
- Baking times can vary from 30 minutes to 45 minutes depending on dish size and oven temperatures.
- You can prep the meat sauce and noodles up to 2 days in advance and keep stored in the refrigerator until ready to assemble the lasagna.
- Classic lasagna actually calls for a white sauce, known as a béchamel sauce. This is a simple sauce made from flour, butter, and milk. However, many people familiar with American style lasagnas think of it having a red tomato based sauce.
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This homemade lasagna recipe is a family favorite and I know it will quickly be one of yours. Made just like my mom used to at the family restaurant, the thick layers of rich meat sauce and creamy ricotta cheese, will fill your belly and your heart!
MORE EASY RECIPES
- Garlic Knots
- No Bake Chocolate Lasagna
- Southern Baked Spaghetti
- Italian Chopped Salad
- Homemade Italian Meat Sauce
- 7 Layer Salad
- Creamy Cannoli Dip
- Ground Beef Recipes
- Tiramisu Cups
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