Meat Sauce and Ricotta Lasagna

Lasagna With Fresh Ricotta

The Spruce

Prep: 75 mins
Cook: 40 mins
Total: 115 mins
Servings: 6 to 8 servings
Nutritional Guidelines (per serving)
986 Calories
49g Fat
65g Carbs
71g Protein
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Nutrition Facts
Servings: 6 to 8
Amount per serving
Calories 986
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 49g 63%
Saturated Fat 21g 107%
Cholesterol 204mg 68%
Sodium 1476mg 64%
Total Carbohydrate 65g 24%
Dietary Fiber 5g 18%
Protein 71g
Calcium 639mg 49%
*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.)

Adding ricotta to lasagna is popular in the United States and it stems from Southern Italy. This tradition reaches its apex with the elaborate lasagne con la ricotta which is enjoyed often, especially during Carnival time in Naples. It is a distinctly different approach than the lasagna preferred in Tuscany and other northern areas of the country. 

Immigrant families from Southern Italy brought ricotta lasagna with them when they arrived in the New World. This recipe is one of those Italian-American variations.

The recipe is unique in that a whole pork shoulder is used in making the tomato-based meat sauce. However, it is removed before assembling the lasagna and served as a second course. This means you get both a primo (pasta first course) and secondo (meat second course) out of one recipe!


  • For the Meat Sauce:
  • 2 to 4 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 pound/450 grams pork shoulder
  • Fine sea salt (to taste)
  • Black pepper (freshly ground, to taste)
  • 1 medium onion (sliced)
  • 3 cloves garlic (sliced)
  • 1 1/2 pounds/600 grams ground beef
  • 1 (29-ounce) can tomato purée
  • 1 (6-ounce) can tomato paste
  • 1/2 cup water
  • Optional: 3 tablespoons sugar (white)
  • Optional: 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • For the Filling:
  • 2 pounds/900 grams ricotta cheese (fresh, preferably high-quality without stabilizers)
  • 1 cup Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese (freshly grated)
  • 1 tablespoon parsley (flat-leaf, chopped)
  • Fine sea salt (to taste)
  • Black pepper (freshly ground, to taste)
  • For the Lasagna:
  • 1 pound/450 grams lasagna noodles
  • 1/2 pound/225 grams mozzarella (firm, sliced)

Steps to Make It

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

Make the Sauce

  1. Gather the ingredients.

    Meat sauce and ricotta lasagna ingredients
    The Spruce  
  2. In a pot, heat the oil. Add the pork, season it with salt and pepper, and brown the meat thoroughly on all sides.

    Browned pork in a skillet
     The Spruce
  3. Remove the meat to a platter, leaving the drippings in the pot.

    Browned pork on a plate
     The Spruce
  4. Add the onion, garlic, and ground beef.

    Ground beef and onions in a skillet
     The Spruce
  5. Season the mixture with salt and pepper and cook until the beef is browned.

    Sautéed beef and onions in a skillet
     The Spruce
  6. Add the tomato puree, tomato paste, and water, as well as the sugar and baking soda (if you're using those).

    Red sauce ingredients for lasagna
     The Spruce
  7. Stir and simmer for 5 minutes.

    Simmering red sauce
     The Spruce
  8. Add the pork. 

    Pork in red sauce for lasagna
     The Spruce
  9. Continue simmering for 1 hour, or until the pork is fork-tender.

    Simmering red sauce
     The Spruce

Prepare the Filling

  1. Combine the ricotta with the grated Parmigiano cheese and parsley.

    Season the mixture to taste with salt and black pepper, and set it aside.

    Lasagna filling mixture ingredients
     The Spruce

Assemble the Lasagna

  1. Preheat the oven to 375 F/180 C. Boil the lasagna, a few sheets at a time, in lightly salted water until they are al dente.

    Lasagna pasta sheets in hot water
     The Spruce
  2. Remove them with a strainer and drain.

    Cooked lasagna sheets
     The Spruce
  3. Remove the pork from the sauce and set it aside.

    Pork in red sauce
     The Spruce
  4. Coat the bottom of a baking dish with 1/2 cup of the sauce.

  5. Put down a layer of pasta.

  6. Then a layer of ricotta.

    Lasagna layers
     The Spruce
  7. Continue alternating the pasta with sauce and ricotta.

    Lasagna layers
     The Spruce
  8. Cover the last layer of pasta with sauce and then the mozzarella slices.

    Mozarella topped lasagna
     The Spruce
  9. Bake about 35 to 40 minutes, or until the mozzarella on top is melted, bubbly, and somewhat browned.

    Homemade lasagna with meat sauce
     The Spruce
  10. Serve the lasagna as the first course and the pork as a second course.

Recipe Variation