Is there anything more comforting than a big plate of homemade lasagna? I’ve been working on a go-to lasagna recipe that is perfect for my family: easy to put together (you can have this done in 90 minutes!), to-die-for-flavor, LOTS of cheesy goodness, and NO boiling noodles (who has the time?) I’ll show you all the details, step-by-step, for how to make the best lasagna of your life! Originally published July 16, 2012.
Table of Contents
- Sausage Lasagna Recipe with Ricotta Cheese
- How to make your Lasagna the BEST Lasagna:
- Sauce is boss
- Why I’m not using Béchamel
- Lasagna Ingredients
- How to make Homemade Lasagna
- Let’s go deep on this Lasagna
- What to serve with Lasagna
- Bread to serve with lasagna:
- Veggies to serve with lasagna:
- How to store and reheat Homemade Lasagna
- Homemade Sausage Lasagna FAQs
- More recipes like this one:
- Homemade Lasagna Recipe Recipe
I posted Lasagna on my blog way back in 2012. The recipe and details have all been updated, but I couldn’t let go of this silly story from back in the day:
I went rock climbing with my brother Nathan a few days ago. This is the same guy who recently completed an Ironman, so needless to say he was not impressed with my upper body strength (or lack thereof). It was really fun, although I am still suffering the consequences. When I got home that night I picked up [18-month-old] Charlotte to say hello and nearly dropped her. This, after a strenuous hour or two in which I could not even climb the routes marked at a level “zero” for intensity.
Perhaps the worst part of rock climbing is when you get to the top and finally look down. I’m really good at not looking down before then, mostly because I think it would be embarrassing to wet my pants 30 feet in the air, raining down on my unsuspecting belayer.
Whoever was in charge of playing the background music that night at the quarry must have been feeling particularly vindictive toward all the newbies who were afraid of falling. In a slight daze from the exertion and nerves, I heard an angry scream-o voice in the background: “Let the bodies hit the floor! Let the bodies hit the floor!” Yes, that horrid horrid song that we all wish we didn’t know. It didn’t exactly inspire confidence in my ability to not fall to my death.
Well, back to the present, obviously I lived through my traumatic rock-climbing experience (and have gone many times since. That stupid song ALWAYS plays in my head. (And no, I still can’t get through the routes marked “zero.” Some things never change, and my lack of athletic skill is one of them.)
Sausage Lasagna Recipe with Ricotta Cheese
But one thing I HAVE gotten better at after all these years? LASAGNA. I posted a recipe for lasagna back in the day and it was fine, but I knew I could do better. So I got to work testing.
I spent a few days in the kitchen with my mother-in-law Kris who was visiting from Montana. Kris is an amazing cook who has a very refined palate. We had so much fun making lasagna for 3 days straight and going back and forth on sauces, ricotta amounts, and layering techniques. She knows what’s up and I love having her around when I’m testing recipes! Wish I could keep her in my back pocket!
Here we are on our first couple of tests. (Tried these batches with fresh mozzarella, do not recommend! It doesn’t melt the same.)
How to make your Lasagna the BEST Lasagna:
As Kris and I spent time testing the different elements of Lasagna, we realized a few things:
- Sauce is freakin boss. I mean I feel like we should have already known this, but we can confirm: without an amazing sauce, there is no amazing lasagna. More on this below.
- Give me ALL the cheese. 1 pound of ricotta cheese is not enough and 2 pounds is a little too much, so I’m making you have a half pound leftover ricotta in your fridge, and I would be sorry about that if this Bacon Ricotta Crostini didn’t exist. But since it does, you’re welcome.
- Lasagna is not lasagna without at least 3 cheeses and a WHOLE LOT OF IT. I said what I said. An inconvenient amount of creamy, rich ricotta; nutty, salty parmesan; stretchy, gooey mozzarella. YES.
- Using no-boil lasagna noodles is not a cheapo hack that sacrifices flavor and texture. I actually much prefer no-boil noodles because they never turn out soggy. (Plus, boiling the noodles is usually the step that sends me crashing over the edge from “fun lasagna times!” into “omg I’ve been in this kitchen for hours will it ever end??” so it’s nice to be able to skip the agony)
Sauce is boss
I was hunting for a meat sauce recipe that would serve all my needs: I wanted flavor, I wanted it to be pretty simple, and I wanted it to be a stand-alone sauce that you could top a bowl of noodles with.
I ended up landing on TWO sauce recipes that I love so much I couldn’t let them go. Both recipes work as the sauce in lasagna, but both are also stand alone recipes that are truly delicious over a plate of warm pasta. I wrote a post for each one of them:
- This Easy Spaghetti Sauce is a 30-minute wonder that takes a jar of marinara from the store and turns it into something magically flavorful with just the right herbs, plus fattiness from the sausage. Use this sauce for your lasagna if you need to get dinner done!
- This Homemade Bolognese Sauce is another story. It’s the big guns, the Bambino. It takes longer to make but is SOOO delicious. We are using fresh vegetables, fresh aromatic herbs, then simmering long and slow. It uses beef AND pork as is traditional, plus wine and cream. It takes at least 90 minutes if not more, and you will have a little bit of sauce leftover when using it to make this lasagna; but I think the wait and slight inconvenience are well worth it. I prefer to use Bolognese in my lasagna, if time allows. It is deep and creamy and oh so delicious!
Why I’m not using Béchamel
Technically, Italians (the ones in Italy) use Béchamel sauce instead of ricotta to layer their lasagna. I don’t do this for a few reasons: A) ain’t nobody got time for that, 2) I LOVE the flavor of ricotta in lasagna, and D) that’s not how my mama made it, and probably yours too. This is an Italian-American version of lasagna and that’s not an apology.
That said, you can totally make this recipe using a Béchamel sauce if you want a less-cheesy-more-creamy lasagna.
Here’s another mind blowing fact: Italians (the ones in Northern Italy, anyway) don’t use a lot of garlic. Like, verrry sparingly. So I mean, if you want to live that life, go Italian all day long. But I’m keeping my 6-cloves-of-garlic-per-recipe standard, over here, like any self-respecting over the top American. There are a lot of things that would surprise you about “authentic” Italian recipes! (There is a hefty amount of garlic in each of my sauce recipes for this lasagna. ‘Merica.)
Here’s a quick shopping list to help you gather your ingredients. Full recipe is below! This list looks so short because the nitty gritty work is done making the sauce. So much nit and grit that I wrote two whole posts about it, so tap on which sauce you’re making and don’t forget to add those ingredients to your shopping list too:
- 1 batch Easy Spaghetti Sauce OR Bolognese Sauce, click on the link to get the recipe!
- No boil lasagna noodles
- Parmesan cheese
- salt and pepper
- sliced Mozzarella cheese
How to make Homemade Lasagna
This is not the recipe, it’s just a quick overview, so that you have a basic idea of what you’re getting into. I have a billion photos below, and the recipe card at the bottom of the post has all the details you need.
- Make the sauce. You need a red sauce with meat, and I have two great recipes you can use: Easy Spaghetti Sauce (30 minutes) or Homemade Bolognese Sauce, which is going to take at least 90 minutes. You can make either sauce 24 hours ahead of time and store in the fridge.
- Make the ricotta filling. We got some cheese, we got some egg, we got some parm. Try not to eat it all with a spoon.
- Slice and shred your cheese: mozzarella and more Parmesan. more! more!
- Open your box of no boil noodles. Thaaaaat’s it.
- Layer it up: follow instructions below for what order to put it all in. I have tried to use diagrams and small words for all the idiots out there like me.
- Bake at 375˚ for about an hour. See that’s it, isn’t lasagna so easy??
Let’s go deep on this Lasagna
First things first, make your sauce: Spaghetti sauce or Bolognese sauce.
Follow the instructions on either recipe to know how long to let it simmer. While it’s bubbling on the stove, putting together your ricotta mixture. We are using whole milk ricotta today:
Guys, lasagna ain’t no diet food. Stop trying to cut corners. Put the Part skim milk Ricotta down. Whole milk ricotta is smooth, creamy, and spreadable. Part skim ricotta has had the fat stripped out of it, making it more watery. Whole Ricotta has the fat we need to get a consistently creamy, cheese ricotta layer that bakes into a creamy custard. And who doesn’t want a creamy custard layer in their lasagna, amiright??
And be sure to give this cheesy mixture a taste. Try not to eat it all!
Slice your mozzarella cheese. Grate more Parmesan.
We got our sauce, our ricotta mixture, our cheese, and our noodles. Let’s layer it up!
Sauce first, just a bit to coat the bottom of the pan. Then your no boil noodles.
Spread that ricotta all the way to the edges, then add some more sauce.
Sliced mozzarella gives you the BEST cheesy layers.
Use an offset spatula to spread the ricotta.
Last layer of noodles.
The rest of the ricotta.
I like to add parmesan underneath the mozz because it doesn’t melt as well, and will get too hardened in the oven. It’s best to have mozzarella on top, and preferably to cook it until it has glorious brown spots on it, and the edges are burned to a crisp. YES BURNED, TELL ME YOU DON’T WANT THAT OVERDONE MAILLARD ACTION! Ahem.
Be sure to spray the foil with nonstick spray so the cheese doesn’t stick to the foil when you take it off. That’s always so sad!
How to layer lasagna
I know we just went over this, but I lose my ever loving mind when my brain tries to comprehend the order I’m supposed to layer ingredients for lasagna. I swear it makes me feel like the dumbest human. I get so confused about what comes next, and invariably end up with all the cheese on the bottom and too much sauce leftover, or suddenly realize I forgot to put in ALL the noodles. Even the pictures don’t help because they all look the same, ha!!
The only way I can ever get it right is if I draw the casserole dish on a piece of paper and write what goes in first at the bottom of the pan, then upward from there. Like this:
Probably not a single one of you needs this, but at least it will be here for me every time I come back to this post to make lasagna from now on! And it’s a lot more legible than this, one of my notebook pages from when I was developing this recipe:
Once you’ve got it all in the pan, cover with greased aluminum foil and bake!
How long to cook Lasagna
This lasagna takes about 1 hour to bake at 375 degrees F. We are going to cover the pan with greased foil for the first 30 minutes, then remove the foil. We cover in the beginning to help the heat penetrate to the center of the dish, keeping everything tightly sealed in. This is when the noodles do most of the cooking, and we want to keep all the moisture in.
For the second 30 minutes of baking, we are removing the foil to give the lasagna a chance to breathe a bit, release some of the excess moisture, and most importantly, melt and brown the cheese on top.
After 60 minutes in the oven, your lasagna will be a beautiful melty specimen with spots of golden brown all across the top. If you are like my husband Eric, this is the point where you crank up the oven to broil, move the pan up to the top, and broil the heck out of the cheese to get blackened edges. Yummmm.
What to serve with Lasagna
Salad is the obvious choice here! Lasagna is heavy, carby, cheesy, lovey, dovey. We need some light snappy freshness on the other side of our plate so we don’t fall asleep at the dinner table like Dorothy in the poppy field. here are my favs:
Other than a salad, the best side dishes for lasagna are rolls/bread, or a good veggie-based side:
Bread to serve with lasagna:
My Favorite Garlic Bread << this recipe is coming soon! I’M SO EXCITED
- One Hour French Bread Recipe << it’s fast. it’s perfect.
- Garlic Knots Recipe << your lasagna was already impressive, now we’re taking it to the next level with these gorgeous buttery garlic knots.
- Garlic and Rosemary Skillet Bread << baking this bread in a cast iron pan gives it the most incredible texture!
- Olive Garden Breadsticks << who needs to go out when you can be eating fresh hot breadsticks out of your own oven??
Veggies to serve with lasagna:
- Baked Parmesan Zucchini and Squash << everyone loves this easy veggie side.
- Easy Oven Roasted Broccoli << roasting vegetables is ALWAYS the way to go.
- Oven Roasted Asparagus with Balsamic Browned Butter << I am a huge sucker for browned butter on everything.
- Oven Roasted Vegetable Medley from Two Healthy Kitchens
How to store and reheat Homemade Lasagna
Lasagna should be stored in the refrigerator, well-covered so it won’t dry out. It will last in the fridge for 3-5 days. If you only have a few slices left, transfer it to a tupperware.
To reheat individual slices, simply pop them into the microwave (covered, so they won’t splatter) until heated through.
If you’d rather reheat the whole lasagna, or a large portion of it, you can cover it with aluminum foil and warm it at 350 for about 30 minutes. If there are a couple slices missing from yesterdays dinner, add a couple tablespoons of water to the bottom of the pan, so that you don’t scorch your pan with the sauce remnants.
Can homemade lasagna be made ahead of time?
Yes! That is absolutely one of the best things about a lasagna. If you’d like to make it just a day or two ahead of time, then you can prep it right up until the baking step, then put it into your fridge until you’re ready to bake it. You can also bake it ahead of time, then warm it, covered, at 350 for 30 minutes. This makes it so ideal for taking to someone who just had a baby, had surgery, or is sick. You can let them bake it or just warm it as they prefer.
You can also make the sauce AND ricotta mixture up to 24 hours ahead of time and store covered in the fridge, then assemble the lasagna right before baking.
Can you freeze lasagna?
Yes! You can freeze an unbaked OR baked lasagna Here’s how:
How to freeze Lasagna
To freeze an unbaked lasagna, try to remember to bake it in a disposable pan so you are not holding a casserole dish hostage in the fridge. Then, make sure that the noodles and meat sauce have cooled to room temperature. Wrap the entire pan tightly in plastic wrap, then in aluminum foil, and make sure to tape a label onto the outside so you (or someone you’re giving it to) can remember what it is and how to cook it when they’re ready.
To freeze an already baked lasagna, you can choose whether to freeze individual slices or the whole thing at once. Either way, you’ll want to follow the same process: first wrap in plastic wrap, then in aluminum foil, then label.
How to cook frozen Lasagna
To cook an unbaked frozen lasagna, first defrost it in the refrigerator overnight. Then let it sit on the counter for about 30 minutes while you’re preheating the oven. Of course, you’ll want to remove the plastic wrap. Make sure the dish is covered with foil but not plastic wrap. Bake at 350 for about 40 minutes, remove the foil and continue baking for another 30-50 minutes until the top is bubbly and melted.
To cook an already baked frozen lasagna, whether in individual slices or as a whole, first defrost in the refrigerator (overnight for a whole lasagna, just a couple hours for a single slice). You’ll want to let the whole lasagna sit on the counter for about 30 minutes while you’re preheating the oven. Remove any plastic wrap. Then, you’ll bake it at 350 for 30-45 minutes or until it’s bubbling and hot. It may take longer depending on its exact temperature when it went into the oven. If you’re just reheating a single slice, you can simply reheat it in the microwave once it has defrosted in the fridge.
Homemade Sausage Lasagna FAQs
I love meat guys. (Trust me, when I was a kid, my family called me “little carnivore” for good reason). But there is a point at which your lasagna won’t be well balanced if you add too much meat. A good rule of thumb is about 1 or 1 and 1/2 pounds of meat for one casserole dish. If you want to push the boundaries, the lasagna police aren’t going to arrest you (at least I hope not) but you may find that the meat overwhelms the noodles, cheese, and sauce.
Lasagna has repeating layers of sauce, noodles, ricotta filling, and mozzarella cheese. You can repeat these layers 2, 3, or even more times. In this lasagna, there are 3 layers of the noodle>ricotta>sauce>mozzarella>parmesan pattern, for a totally of 16 layers. Layering lasagna always makes me feel like a total moron 😂 See my cheat sheet diagram above.
The egg that we add to the ricotta cheese helps to add body and keep your ricotta super creamy. When baked, it changes into a custardy layer that stands up to all the sauce and noodles. Without the egg, the ricotta tends to separate.
Yes! Adding an egg to the ricotta cheese in lasagna helps bind the ricotta together, and keeps it in nice layers between the noodles, sauce, and mozzarella.
More recipes like this one:
- Easy Cheesy Ravioli Lasagna << this is a STAPLE in my house.
- The Best Baked Ziti << I always bring this to new moms.
- Zucchini Lasagna << a light and fresh summer version!
- Poblano, Corn, and Zucchini Lasagna << this is old but SO good. Vegetarian to boot.
- White Lasagna with Chicken and Pesto << can’t go wrong with this combo!
- Eggplant Parmesan from Table for Two
- Manicotti Recipe from Dinner at the Zoo
So have I convinced you? Are you going to make a lasagna soon?? I hope you feel inspired to look past the frozen section at the grocery store. It’s definitely a project you should take on at least once in your life!
And just for fun, here is the original picture from when I posted this recipe way back in 2012:
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Homemade Lasagna Recipe
For the sauce:
- 1 batch Bolognese Sauce –OR– Easy Spaghetti Sauce, see notes
For the ricotta mixture:
- 1 & 1/2 pounds whole milk ricotta cheese don't use skim, go on a diet later
- 1 large egg
- 1 cup Parmesan cheese freshly grated
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
- 9 no-boil lasagna noodles divided
- 1 & 1/2 pounds sliced mozzarella cheese divided
- 1 cup Parmesan cheese freshly grated, divided
- fresh basil to garnish
- more grated Parmesan to garnish
- Red sauce: Begin by making your choice of sauce: I have 2 recipes you can use depending on how much time you have. I ever-so-slightly prefer this Bolognese Sauce; it's rich and creamy and takes at least 90 minutes start to finish. (you will have a bit of sauce leftover.) This Easy Spaghetti Sauce takes about 30 minutes and is a made from a doctored jar of marinara. It's delicious but less rich. It makes exactly the amount you need for this lasagna. Tap on either recipe to get the full info.
- Ricotta filling: While your sauce is cooking, make the ricotta mixture. In a medium size bowl, add 1 and 1/2 pounds whole milk ricotta cheese. (Sometimes they sell 2 lb tubs, or you can use 1 and a 1/2 of the 15-oz tubs.)
- Add 1 large egg, 1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese(it melts better), 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, and 1/4 teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper. Beat this mixture together and set aside (or cover and refrigerate up to 24 hours.)
- Slice and grate cheese: You need 1 and 1/2 pounds mozzarella cheese. I prefer to buy a block of cheese and slice it myself, for better melting, but pre-sliced is going to work just fine. Divide the sliced mozzarella into 3 piles, about 8 ounces each. Grate about 1 cup of Parmesan cheese and set aside.
- Layer your lasagna: It's go time people. We have all our components and we're ready to layer this bad boy. Preheat your oven to 375 degrees. Spray the upper edges of a deep 9×13 inch casserole with nonstick spray. (A 9×13 inch cake pan is going to struggle to fit.) Then add:
- Spread 1 cup sauce in the bottom of the pan, all the way to the corners.
- Arrange three no boil noodles on top (I know they look small but they will expand in the oven.)
- Add one third of the ricotta mixture (not 1/3 cup, a third of what's there). Spread it all the way to the corners, do your best.
- Add two cups sauce and spread.
- Add 8-ounces of sliced mozzarella.
- Sprinkle on 1/4 cup parmesan cheese.
- Add three noodles.
- Add one third of the ricotta mixture (not 1/3 cup, a third of what's there).
- Two cups sauce.
- 8-ounces sliced mozzarella.
- About 1/4 cup parmesan cheese.
- Add three noodles.
- Add one third of the ricotta mixture (all that remains).
- Add two cups sauce.
- Add half cup parmesan cheese. I like to put this under the mozzarella because mozzarella melts better.
- Add the remaining 8-ounces sliced mozzarella.
- Cover the lasagna with greased foil. If you don't grease the foil, you risk your cheese sticking to the foil when you remove it and that's just a tragedy we can't stand for.
- Bake your lasagna at 375 degrees F for 30 minutes.
- Remove the foil. Continue baking for another 20-30 minutes at 375, until the top is melty and you start to see golden brown spots on the cheese.
- At this point you can crank your oven up to broil, move your oven rack up, and essentially torch the top of your lasagna if you like blackened brown edges. That's how we roll at our house. Don't walk away! 1 minute, 2 minutes max! Seriously. setting your masterpiece on fire would be the literal worst.
- Let your lasagna rest for about 10 minutes before digging in. Use a sharp serrated knife to cut slices, and a spatula or wide spoon to lift each piece onto a plate. Garnish with chopped fresh basil and/or parsley, and fresh grating of parmesan cheese.
- Serve with a big ol salad and some garlic bread (coming soon!) or breadsticks!
Make ahead instructions:
- Prep the lasagna right up until the baking step, then put it into your fridge well covered until you’re ready to bake it. You can also bake it ahead of time, then reheat it, covered, at 350 for about 30 minutes. You can also make either sauce recipe AND the ricotta mixture up to 24 hours ahead of time and store covered in the fridge, then assemble the lasagna right before baking.
How to freeze lasagna:
- To freeze an unbaked lasagna, try to remember to bake it in a disposable pan so you are not holding a casserole dish hostage in the fridge. Then, make sure that the noodles and meat sauce have cooled to room temperature. Wrap the entire pan tightly in plastic wrap, then in aluminum foil, and make sure to tape a label onto the outside so you (or someone you’re giving it to) can remember what it is and how to cook it when they’re ready. To cook an unbaked frozen lasagna, first defrost it in the refrigerator overnight. Then let it sit on the counter for about 30 minutes while you’re preheating the oven. Of course, you’ll want to remove the plastic wrap. Make sure the dish is covered with foil but not plastic wrap. Bake at 350 for about 40 minutes, remove the foil and continue baking for another 30-50 minutes until the top is bubbly and melted. To freeze an already baked lasagna, you can choose whether to freeze individual slices or the whole thing at once. Either way, you’ll want to follow the same process: first wrap in plastic wrap, then in aluminum foil, then label. To cook an already baked frozen lasagna, whether in individual slices or as a whole, first defrost in the refrigerator (overnight for a whole lasagna, just a couple hours for a single slice). You’ll want to let the whole lasagna sit on the counter for about 30 minutes while you’re preheating the oven. Remove any plastic wrap. Then, you’ll bake it at 350 for 30-45 minutes or until it’s bubbling and hot. It may take longer depending on its exact temperature when it went into the oven. If you’re just reheating a single slice, you can simply reheat it in the microwave once it has defrosted in the fridge.