Best Classic Lasagna

Best Classic Lasagna

The Spruce / Cara Cormack

Prep: 25 mins
Cook: 105 mins
Rest Time: 10 mins
Total: 2 hrs 20 mins
Servings: 6 servings
Nutrition Facts (per serving)
775 Calories
47g Fat
35g Carbs
53g Protein
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Nutrition Facts
Servings: 6
Amount per serving
Calories 775
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 47g 61%
Saturated Fat 21g 104%
Cholesterol 155mg 52%
Sodium 1786mg 78%
Total Carbohydrate 35g 13%
Dietary Fiber 5g 17%
Total Sugars 11g
Protein 53g
Vitamin C 20mg 98%
Calcium 724mg 56%
Iron 6mg 33%
Potassium 1178mg 25%
*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.
(Nutrition information is calculated using an ingredient database and should be considered an estimate.)

Lasagna is always a family favorite, and for good reason. Classic, homemade lasagna is pure comfort food, and while it takes a little effort to put together, it's easy to cook and feeds a crowd. This traditional lasagna recipe has a simple meat and tomato sauce that's alternated with gooey cheese and noodles for an irresistible dish.

The meat sauce is made first and can easily be done ahead of time. After simmering, cool and store in the fridge for up to a day before layering the lasagna. From there, it only takes minutes to boil the noodles and assemble the dish before baking until bubbly. Fresh, sliced mozzarella takes this lasagna to the next level.

Lasagna needs little accompaniment. Serve slices with a fresh green salad for a color and texture contrast. Or, for a feast, serve with garlic bread.

2:05

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"Many lasagna recipes are ultra-decadent affairs loaded with cheese and bechamel. This recipe takes a much lighter and easier approach. Just a simple meat sauce, ricotta, fresh mozzarella, and parmesan cheese all layered between noodles. The dish turned out delicious, with a light freshness I appreciated, rather than baking up into a too-rich gut bomb." —Danielle Centoni

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A Note From Our Recipe Tester

Ingredients

For the Sauce:

  • 1/2 cup onion, finely chopped

  • 2 cloves garlic, minced

  • 3 tablespoons olive oil

  • 1 pound ground beef chuck (chuck or round)

  • 1 (6-ounce) can tomato paste

  • 2 cups water

  • 1 (28-ounce) can crushed tomatoes

  • 2 teaspoons salt

  • 1/4 teaspoon dried basil

  • 1 pinch cayenne pepper

  • 1 bay leaf

For the Lasagna:

  • 8 ounces lasagna noodles

  • Salt, to taste

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil

  • 16 ounces low-fat ricotta cheese

  • 1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese

  • 16 ounces mozzarella cheese (fresh, whole milk, sliced)

Steps to Make It

Note: while there are multiple steps to this recipe, this lasagna dish is broken down into workable categories to help you better plan for cooking.

Make the Sauce

  1. Gather the ingredients.

    Best Classic Lasagna ingredients

    The Spruce / Cara Cormack

  2. Start the sauce about 30 minutes in advance. In a large deep saucepan over medium heat, sauté the onion and garlic in 3 tablespoons of olive oil until onions are soft.

    Oil, garlic, and onions in a pan

    The Spruce / Cara Cormack

  3. Add the ground beef and brown, stirring frequently.

    ground beef in a pot

    The Spruce / Cara Cormack

  4. Add the tomato paste and cook, stirring until bubbling, about 3 minutes. Add water, tomatoes, salt, basil, cayenne pepper, and bay leaf. Stir well.

    meat and tomato sauce with bay leaf in a pot

    The Spruce / Cara Cormack

  5. Reduce heat to low and simmer slowly, uncovered, for 15 minutes, or until the sauce has thickened.

    lasagna sauce cooking in a pot

    The Spruce / Cara Cormack

Assemble the Lasagna and Bake

  1. Bring a stockpot full of water to a rolling boil and season with salt. Add the lasagna noodles and cook as the package directs, stirring frequently to prevent sticking. Drain and toss gently with 1 tablespoon of olive oil.

    pasta in a bowl

    The Spruce / Cara Cormack

  2. Preheat the oven to 350 F and grab a large 3-quart rectangular baking dish.

    baking dish

    The Spruce / Cara Cormack

  3. Spoon 4 to 6 tablespoons of the sauce or just enough to cover the bottom of the baking dish.

    lasagna sauce in a baking dish

    The Spruce / Cara Cormack

  4. Top with a single layer of noodles. Spoon about 1/3 of the remaining sauce over the noodles. Spoon about 1/2 of the ricotta cheese evenly over the layer of sauce, then sprinkle a few tablespoons of Parmesan cheese over that. Add about 1/3 of the mozzarella cheese.

    Beginning to layer lasagna in a pan with mozzarella on top

    The Spruce / Cara Cormack

  5. Repeat with another 1/3 of noodles, another 1/3 of the sauce, the remaining ricotta, another 1/3 of the mozzarella and a few tablespoons of Parmesan cheese.

    Lasagna layered in a pan before baking

    The Spruce / Cara Cormack

  6. Finish with the last layer of noodles, the remaining sauce, Parmesan, and mozzarella cheese.

    Unbaked lasagna in a pan

    The Spruce / Cara Cormack

  7. Bake the lasagna, uncovered, for 45 minutes. If the top is browning too fast or the noodles are burning, cover loosely with aluminum foil.

    baked lasagna

    The Spruce / Cara Cormack

  8. Remove from oven and let cool 10 minutes before slicing into squares and serving. 

    Best Classic Lasagna in a baking pan, on a plate

    The Spruce / Cara Cormack

Recipe Variations

  • You can swap the ground beef in the sauce for ground turkey or, for a more flavorful option, Italian sausage.
  • Use vegetarian meat or swap the ground beef for chopped mushrooms for veggie lasagna.
  • Use gluten-free noodles to make a gluten-free lasagna.
  • You can also swap the noodles for no-boil lasagna noodles.

How to Freeze

  • Lasagna can be frozen before it is baked or after it is baked and cooled. To avoid a watery end product, make sure the casserole dish is wrapped up very tightly.
  • Thawing before reheating or cooking often leads to a watery dish. Cooking directly from the frozen state is advised, whether the lasagna has already been cooked or not.
  • For a baked, frozen lasagna: Heat the oven to 350 F, cover the top of the lasagna loosely with foil so it doesn't brown too quickly, and bake for 45 minutes. Remove the foil and bake an additional 15 minutes or until bubbly hot.
  • For an unbaked, frozen lasagna: Bake at 350 F, loosely covered with foil, for at least an hour, or until the lasagna is hot in the middle and starting to bubble. Remove the foil and bake another 30 minutes.

 

Why Do You Put Eggs in Lasagna?

Some lasagna recipes call for an egg or two in the cheese filling to help the lasagna set-up and better hold its shape when cut. Most traditional recipes do not call for eggs in the filling.

Why Is My Lasagna Soupy?

There are a few potential causes for soupy lasagna. If the sauce isn't cooked down until nice and thick it can add too much liquid to the mixture. Using different cheeses can add too much liquid—thick ricotta and drained mozzarella work well for this reason. Baking a lasagna covered for too long will also prevent some liquid from evaporating, making the dish soupy.