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This is hands down the Best Lasagna Recipe ever! Easy, cheesy, meaty and so so delicious! It’s the quintessential recipe for feeding a large family or bringing to a potluck. Layer up the hearty meat sauce, different cheeses, and lasagna pasta and then bake until hot and bubbly. So delicious with some Homemade Garlic Bread or Cheesy Breadsticks.
Lasagna | My Favorite Comfort Meal
So happy to be sharing this epic Lasagna Recipe with you today! This recipe is easy, cheesy, can be made in advance, baked right away and comes out perfectly every time! My family will lick their plates clean when this is on the dinner menu. This recipe is not dry, not soupy, cuts perfectly, holds together, and tastes amazing!
Like I mentioned above, this is the quintessential lasagna recipe that you need in your recipe box. Make this once and never need another lasagna recipe again. It’s meaty, cheesy, decadent and the perfect Italian dinner.
Below are lots of tips and tricks for creating the best lasagna ever which are reflected in the recipe card at the bottom of this post. Follow these guidelines and you too will have success with this recipe.
Main Ingredients Needed
While this isn’t the complete list, it definitely covers the basics. And don’t forget: when it comes to lasagna, the better quality the ingredients, the better the finished product.
- Lasagna Pasta Sheets: I used Barilla brand, but any other kind is fine, too. No, I don’t like the oven ready pasta. I find those give you a more starchy lasagna that doesn’t taste very good (in my opinion).
- Ground Beef: for that yummy meat sauce. You can absolutely substitute sweet or hot Italian Sausage in place of the ground beef if that is your preference.
- Onion + Garlic: a great base for that slow cooked tomato sauce.
- Tomato Sauce + Diced Tomatoes: This helps make up the sauce. Use a good brand that you know and trust.
- Ricotta, Mozzarella and Parmesan Cheese: Use whole milk cheeses for the ricotta and mozzarella and grate the parmesan cheese yourself. If you can find it, absolutely use Parmigiano Reggiano. You’ll recognize it because it’s name is stamped on the rind.
Cottage Cheese vs Ricotta
Classic Italian Lasagnas are typically made with a blend of Ricotta, Parmesan and Mozzarella cheeses.
If you don’t like using ricotta cheese because of the taste or texture, you can definitely substitute cottage cheese in its place 1:1. Everything else in the recipe will stay the same.
How to Make Lasagna
Lasagna is essentially a layered Italian casserole made up of three parts: meat sauce, cheese mixture, and pasta sheets.
Step 1: Make the Meat Sauce
Give yourself a good couple hours (or more!) to make the meat sauce because this is a big part of why Lasagna is so good! In a large heavy-bottomed pot, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add in onion and saute. Add in garlic and ground beef. Break meat apart as it browns. Pour in diced tomatoes, tomato sauce, water, bay leaves, dried basil, sugar, Italian Seasoning and salt. Bring to boil, then reduce heat to a gentle simmer. Cook sauce 1-2 hours or until very thick. You may have to add more water as you go to ensure it doesn’t scorch which is totally normal.
Step 2: Make the Cheese Filling
Classic Lasagna Recipes call for ricotta cheese, mozzarella and parmesan. I don’t recommend using fresh mozzarella because all different brands have different moisture levels and it can affect the finished product. If you DO want to use fresh mozzarella, be sure to slice it thin and press out all the extra moisture in paper towels.
Step 3: Cook the Lasagna Pasta Sheets
Regardless of the brand of lasagna you’re using, be sure to check out the packaging and cook it for two-thirds of the recommended time. Since you will be baking the entire lasagna in the oven after you layer it, your pasta will continue cooking, so give it a place to go! Overcooked pasta does not a good lasagna make.
Step 4: Layer the Lasagna
Start with a bit of meat sauce in the bottom of a large casserole dish or a plain 9×13 and line the bottom with pasta. Top with the cheese mixture and meat sauce. Add another layer of pasta, cheese, and sauce and then top with more pasta, more sauce and a sprinkling of cheese. So, basically, here are your layers:
- Meat Sauce (just a little so the noodles don’t stick to the bottom)
- Cheese Filling
- Meat Sauce
- Cheese Filling
- Meat Sauce
- Meat Sauce
- Mozzarella Cheese
Step 5: Bake + Serve
Cover your layered lasagna with foil that has been lightly sprayed with nonstick cooking spray and bake, being sure to pull the foil off the last few minutes of cooking to brown the top: 375 degrees for 45 minutes, then remove the foil and finish cooking for 15 more minutes.
Pro Tips for the Best Lasagna Ever
The best lasagna you’ve ever eaten is only steps away. Here are my golden rules for creating the best-finished product.
- Cook your meat sauce for a long time. This not only concentrates the flavors, but it reduces the amount of liquid. If you want to cut perfect slices and not have a soupy mess on your hands, cooking your sauce for an hour or two until its very thick is a big step in the right direction. Bonus points for making the sauce 12-24 hours in advance. Red sauces of any kind always taste better the next day…in my opinion. Reheat the sauce before layering it up in the lasagna for quicker baking time.
- Boil your pasta for two-thirds of the time, according to package directions. Most lasagna pasta will cook for 9-11 minutes. I pulled mine out at around 7 minutes. I don’t want to cook the noodles all the way through because once they hit the oven for baking, they can get mushier than al dente. So, draining them early means they will soak up any extra liquid in the sauce and after the hour in the oven, your pasta will be perfectly cooked, not mushy and help hold those beautiful layers together.
- Don’t use fresh mozzarella. While I big puffy heart eyes love fresh mozzarella, I feel the added moisture isn’t worth the taste. Instead, reach for a block of sturdier mozzarella cheese and grate it yourself. If you think this is sacrilegious and would prefer the fresh mozzarella, be sure to cut it into thin slices and press it in between paper towels to get out as much moisture as possible. And please please please don’t use the pre-grated mozzarella cheese.
- Let your Lasagna rest 20-30 minutes. Again, when trying to achieve those perfect slices, you have to let everything settle and rest before digging in. It will stay plenty hot, but the rest time really gives your lasagna those last few minutes to soak up that moisture and let the cheese firm up a touch.
Have Leftovers? Here’s How to Store Them.
Half the fun of eating lasagna is being able to eat it AGAIN the next day. Store any extra lasagna in the fridge covered for up to 5 days. Whether that is in the same casserole dish or cut into individual slices in plastic containers, just ensure they are sealed airtight.
Individual slices can be reheated easily in the microwave. If you have more than a few slices in your casserole dish, cover with foil and bake at 350 degrees until heated completely through again.
Can I Freeze Lasagna?
Absolutely. Whether you are freezing it before or after baking, the instructions mostly stay the same!
- Freezing Unbaked Lasagna: wrap casserole dish with assembled lasagna well with plastic wrap AND foil. Can stay frozen for up to two months. I like using a disposable 9×13 foil pan for freezing purposes.
- Baking a Frozen Lasagna: unwrap lasagna completely. Cover with fresh foil and bake at 300 degrees for one hour and finish baking at 375 degrees for the last 30 minutes. Remove foil for the last few minutes of cooking to brown the cheese.
- Freezing Baked Lasagna: wrap casserole dish with assembled lasagna well with plastic wrap AND foil. Can stay frozen for up to two months.
- Reheating Baked Lasagna: unwrap lasagna completely. Cover with fresh foil and bake at 350 degrees until thoroughly warm.
What to Serve with Lasagna
- The Best Caprese Salad
- That Good Salad
- Hasselback Cheesy Garlic Bread
- Cheesy Garlic Pull Apart Rolls
- Roasted Vegetables from Cooking Classy
With all these helpful tips and the video below, you should be able to make the best lasagna recipe ever! But if you still have questions, feel free to leave a comment below 🙂
The Best Lasagna Recipe Ever
For the meat sauce:
For the cheese layer:
- 1/2 pound mozzarella cheese grated
- 1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
- 2 cups whole milk ricotta cheese
- 1/2 teaspoon dried basil
- 1/2 teaspoon dried parsley
- salt & pepper to taste
- 1 pound lasagna noodles
- 1/4 pound mozzarella cheese grated, for topping
Make the Meat Sauce
- In a large heavy-bottomed pot, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add in onion and saute 2-3 minutes. Add in garlic and ground beef. Break meat apart as it browns. Once meat has browned completely, pour in diced tomatoes, tomato sauce, water, bay leaves, dried basil, sugar, Italian Seasoning and salt. Bring to boil, then reduce heat to simmer. Cook sauce 1-2 hours or until very thick. You may have to add a little extra water as it reduces down to prevent scorching. This is normal.
Make the Cheese Filling
- While meat sauce cooks, make the cheese layer: stir cheeses together in a bowl with basil, parsley and salt & pepper. Set aside.
- Cook lasagna noodles 2/3 of the time marked on the package. About 7 minutes or so. Drain and place noodles in a large bowl of cold water.
Layering the Lasagna
- Spread 1/2 cup prepared sauce in the bottom of a lightly greased 9×13 baking dish. Layer in 5-6 noodles across the bottom to completely cover. Spread half of the cheese mixture overtop of the noodles and then one third of the sauce. Top with another layer of noodles, the second half of the cheese mixture and another third of the sauce. Final layer is the last of the noodles and the last of the meat sauce. Sprinkle with 1/4 lb. grated mozzarella cheese. So real quick, here is the order of the layers:Meat Sauce (just a little so the noodles don't stick to the bottom)NoodlesCheese FillingMeat SauceNoodlesCheese FillingMeat SauceNoodlesMeat SauceMozzarella Cheese
- To bake: preheat oven to 375 degrees. Cover lasagna with greased foil. Bake 45 minutes with foil on. Remove foil and bake another 15 minutes or until cheese has browned and everything it hot all the way through. Remove from oven, cover lightly with foil and rest 20-30 minutes before cutting and serving. Sprinkle with dried parsley flakes, cut into squares and serve.