The absolute best lasagna recipe — easy to make, layered up with the most delicious flavors, and so incredibly cozy and comforting.
I’m officially declaring this Italian Week here on the blog!
Yep. Get ready to do some seriously delicious recipe bookmarking this week, because I’m going to be sharing some of my all-time favorite recipes for a few of the classics, beginning today with…
…this life-changing lasagna recipe. ♡
So here’s the thing. For years and years, I always admittedly tended to avoid making homemade lasagna in favor of other quicker and easier pasta recipes because — well, frankly — none of the homemade lasagna recipes that I tried seemed to be worth all of the effort! As Barclay would say, they were always just kind of “whelming” — not overwhelming, not underwhelming, not particularly memorable, and definitely not worth all of the prep time. And you know me, if I’m going to invest more than 30 minutes in a recipe, it had better knock my freaking socks off.
Well, our trip to Italy this spring convinced me that seriously good lasagna could indeed be worth the extra effort. So once we arrived home from Amalfi, I set to work on a mega lasagna recipe testing spree. And today — many many batches later — I’m happy to report that I have finally landed on a classic lasagna recipe that I legit love.
You guys, this lasagna recipe is simply THE BEST.
Mainly, I’m convinced it is the best because it is so dang flavorful. It’s made with a rich, complex and deeply delicious meat marinara sauce, which is slow simmered with zesty Italian sausage (way more flavor than ground beef), easy canned tomatoes, a few special veggies, dry red wine, and lots of herbs. It also includes three different cheeses (because lasagna), easy no-boil lasagna noodles (to save us all from having to mess with boiling them), and lots and lots of fresh basil (baked into and sprinkled on top of the lasagna). The ingredient list isn’t complicated, but I’m telling you, all of these delicious layers are magic when baked together into a bubbly, melty, hot pan of lasagna. And 100% worth the effort.
Speaking of effort, I also want to note that this recipe isn’t difficult at all to make technique-wise. It just requires a solid hour or so of prep time. So find an evening when you’re not in a rush, turn on some music, maybe pour yourself a glass of wine or some good fizzy water, and let’s make a pan of the most delicious lasagna together. I’m certain you’re going to love it.
Alright, let’s load up your shopping cart! To make this homemade lasagna recipe, you will need to the following easy lasagna ingredients:
Italian sausage: I’m a big believer that good-quality Italian sausage — with all of its rich, herby, zesty flavors — is the key to a stellar pan of classic lasagna. So buy a good one! That said, if you really prefer to add in some ground beef, you are welcome to do a 50/50 split.
Veggies: We will chop up an onion and lots of garlic for our sauce. Plus you will also need 1/2 cup (about half a regular-sized jar) of diced roasted red peppers, which will add some nice smoky and sweet hints to the sauce.
Tomatoes + tomato paste: Three cans of good-quality whole tomatoes — I especially recommend the fire-roasted variety if you can find them — plus a few tablespoons of tomato paste. The quality of your tomatoes will really make a difference here, so it’s worth the extra few dollars to splurge on some go
Dry red wine: Which will add the yummiest depth of flavor to our sauce. Or if you prefer not to cook with wine, you are welcome to sub in beef, chicken or vegetable stock instead.
Dried herbs + spices: Crushed red pepper flakes, dried oregano, bay leaf, sea salt and lots of freshly-cracked black pepper.
Fresh basil: When it comes to fresh basil, I vote the more the merrier with this lasagna recipe. We will chop and stir a good amount of basil into the cheese mixture. But then I also recommend adding extra on top as a garnish.
Cheeses: Lots of ricotta (you can use either whole milk or part-skim ricotta), Parmesan (freshly-grated for maximum flavor!), and shredded mozzarella.
Egg: This will help to bind the cheese mixture to the noodles.
Lasagna noodles: Finally, noodles! I much prefer the ease and texture of the no-boil noodles for this lasagna recipe. But if you purchase the classic noodles, just let them soak in hot water for about 30 minutes while you prepare the rest of the ingredients, before layering them into the lasagna.
How To Make Lasagna:
As I mentioned above, homemade lasagna is not at all difficult to make. It just requires about a solid hour or prep time. So gather your ingredients, settle in, and I promise it will be worth the extra effort. To make lasagna, simply…
Make the sauce: Follow the sauce instructions and then let it simmer until the liquid has reduced about by half. You want the sauce to still be a bit juicy (so that it will cook the noodles), but not super liquidy. Meanwhile…
Make the cheese mixture: Stir together the ricotta, Parmesan, basil and egg until combined.
Prep oven and baking dish: Heat the oven to 375°F and mist a 9 x 13-inch baking dish with cooking spray.
Assemble the lasagna: In this order:
First layer: Sauce + noodles + ricotta + mozzarella
Second layer: Sauce + noodles + ricotta + mozzarella
Third layer: Sauce + noodles + ricotta
Fourth layer: Sauce + mozzarella
Bake: Loosely tent aluminum foil to cover the pan (try to avoid touching the cheese). Bake for 45 minutes covered, followed by another 15-20 minutes uncovered, until the cheese is melty and golden. Transfer pan to a wire baking rack to cool for 5 minutes.
Serve: Sprinkle on your desired toppings, slice, serve warm, and dig in!
Possible Lasagna Recipe Variations:
Guys, the options for how to customize this lasagna recipe are practically limitless. So feel free to get creative and experiment with whatever sounds best to you. For example, feel free to:
Use a different meat: Ground beef, turkey or chicken would also be delicious in this recipe. (I just recommend adding in a tablespoon of Italian seasoning if you use any of these, to replace some of the seasonings that are usually mixed into Italian sausage.)
Make it vegetarian: Nix the meat entirely to make vegetarian lasagna. And in its place, feel free to sauté some finely chopped veggies (such as mushrooms, carrots, zucchini, etc) instead. Just be sure to cook off any of the extra juices from the vegetables, otherwise your veggie lasagna may be too watery.
Add veggies: Even if you are still using meat in your lasagna recipe, feel free to add some extra veggies too. I’m especially partial to chopping up a handful of baby bella mushrooms to the sauce.
Add spinach: Just thaw a 10-ounce package of frozen chopped spinach, squeeze as much of the moisture out of the spinach as possible, then stir it into the ricotta mixture to make spinach lasagna.
Add more fresh herbs: Feel free to add in any other fresh Italian herbs that you happen to have on hand too! Chopped fresh rosemary, thyme, or sage would all be delicious in addition to the basil in this homemade lasagna.
Add more cheese: If you like an extra cheesy topping, feel free to double the amount of mozzarella on top. Also, feel free to add in any other cheeses that you love too. (I’m especially partial to smoked mozzarella, or a touch of crumbled goat cheese added in.)
Make it spicy: Feel free to double or triple the amount of crushed red pepper flakes to make your lasagna recipe a bit spicy.
Use veggie noodles: In lieu of traditional pasta lasagna noodles, feel free to very thinly slice zucchini (lengthwise) and layer them in to make zucchini lasagna. Or do the same with eggplant to make eggplant lasagna. For either recipe, you will need to drain the veggie noodles first. Just sprinkle them with salt and lay the veggie noodles out on paper towels to drain for 30 minutes. Then rinse off with water, pat dry, and add to the lasagna.
How To Freeze Lasagna (Before Baking): If you would like to prep the lasagna ahead of time and freeze it for later, just prepare the lasagna as instructed below. But instead of baking it, cover the pan tightly with a layer of plastic wrap, so that it is actually sticking to the cheese on the top layer. Then cover the entire top of the pan with aluminum foil, and freeze the whole pan for up to 3 months. Remove the pan from the freezer and let it thaw in the refrigerator for 24 hours. Then bake according to the instructions below, adding an extra 10-15 minutes to the covered cook time if needed for the lasagna to completely cook through, and enjoy!
How To Freeze Lasagna (After Baking): You can also freeze an entire pan of lasagna (or individual servings that you might have as leftovers) after the lasagna has been baked. Just let the lasagna cool to room temperature. Then wrap the entire pan as directed above, or store individual servings in food storage containers, and freeze for up to 3 months.
How To Reheat Frozen (Cooked) Lasagna: To reheat a pan of frozen lasagna that has already been baked, remove any plastic wrap and cover the entire pan with aluminum foil. Bake at 350°F until the lasagna is heated through (the internal temperature should be around 165°F). Remove the foil and bake for an extra 5-10 minutes to crisp up the top layer, then serve.
What To Serve With Lasagna:
Looking for sides to serve with this homemade lasagna recipe? I would recommend:
The absolute best lasagna recipe — easy to make, layered up with the most delicious flavors, and so incredibly cozy and comforting. See notes above for potential ingredient variations.
1½ pounds ground Italian sausage (or you can do half sausage + half ground beef)
1 medium white or yellow onion, peeled and diced
6 large garlic cloves, peeled andminced
1/2teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1/2cup dry red wine (or beef stock)
3 (15-ounce) cans whole tomatoes*, drained
1/2 cup diced roasted red peppers
2 teaspoons dried oregano
1 teaspoon fine sea salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly-cracked black pepper
2 (15-ounce) containers ricotta cheese (part-skim or whole milk)
1cupfreshly-grated Parmesan cheese
1 cup tightly-packed fresh basil leaves, roughly chopped
4 cups (1 pound) shredded mozzarella
15 no-boil lasagna noodles (or however many needed to make three layers in your pan*)
optional toppings: extra basil, Parmesan cheese and/or crushed red pepper flakes
In a large sauté pan or stockpot, cook the sausage and onion over medium-high heat until the sausage is completely browned, crumbling it with a wooden spoon as it cooks. Add the garlic, tomato paste and crushed red pepper flakes and sauté for 2 more minutes, stirring occasionally. Stir in the wine, using a wooden spoon to scrape up any of the browned bits that have stuck to the bottom of the pan.
Add the tomatoes, roasted red peppers, oregano, bay leaf, salt and pepper, and stir to combine. Use the wooden spoon to break up the tomatoes into small pieces as the sauce continues to cook. Once the sauce reaches a simmer, reduce heat to medium to maintain the simmer. Then let the sauce continue to simmer and reduce down for about 10-15 minutes, or until about half of the juices have evaporated. (You still want the sauce to be fairly juicy, just not overly so.) Discard bay leaf. Remove pan from heat and set aside until ready to use.
Meanwhile, in a separate mixing bowl, stir together the ricotta, Parmesan, basil and egg until combined.
Heat the oven to 375°F and mist a 9 x 13-inch baking dish with cooking spray.
Next, it’s assembly time!
First layer: Spread 1.5 cups of the sauce mixture evenly along the bottom of the pan. Then add on a layer of lasagna noodles (so that the surface of the pan is covered, more or less), followed by 1/3 of the ricotta mixture (which I recommend adding in small spoonfuls, which you can then spread out into an even layer), followed by 1 cup of the shredded mozzarella.
Second layer: Evenly layer 1/3 of the remaining sauce, 1 more round of lasagna noodles, 1/2 of the remaining ricotta mixture, and 1 cup shredded mozzarella.
Third layer: Evenly layer 1/2 of the remaining sauce, 1 more round of lasagna noodles, all of the remaining ricotta mixture.
Fourth layer: Evenly layer all of the remaining sauce, 1 cup shredded mozzarella.
Loosely tent aluminum foil to cover the pan (try to avoid touching the cheese). Transfer pan to the oven and bake for 45 minutes. Remove the aluminum foil and bake for 15-20 more minutes, until the sauce is bubbly around the edges and the top of the cheese starts to bubble and turn golden.
Transfer the pan to a wire baking rack and cool for 5 minutes. Sprinkle with your desired toppings, slice, serve warm and enjoy!
Italian Sausage: Feel free to use whatever kind of sausage you prefer — hot, mild or sweet.
Tomatoes: If available, I recommend buying the cans of fire-roasted tomatoes for extra flavor.
Lasagna Noodles: Just use however many lasagna noodles are needed to fully cover your pan in three layers. Different brands vary in size/shape, so the number 15 is just an estimate. If using classic (not no-boil) noodles, you will need to submerge and soak the noodles in hot (not boiling) water for 30 minutes before adding them to the lasagna.