Lasagna Bolognese

This isn’t a quick and easy lasagna. This is a slow and divine lasagna. A memorable lasagna. And we have a reader of Simply Recipes to thank for it. Several months ago a commenter on this site, by the name of “El Cocinero Loco” (The Crazy Cook) left a detailed and delightful lasagna Bolognese recipe in the comments of one of our recipes. The recipe given was a little incomplete; I had to fill in the blanks by referring to a few cookbooks. But it sounded so good that we just had to try it. Yes it takes hours, and yes, it is worth it. Mr. Loco’s commentary is quite amusing, so I do encourage you to read it (just scroll down the comments on this page).

Lasagna Bolognese Recipe

  • Yield: Serves 8.

Ingredients

Bolognese Sauce:

  • 2 oz. Diced pancetta, finely chopped
  • 1 Medium Spanish onion or yellow onion, finely chopped
  • 1 Stalk celery, finely chopped
  • 1 Carrot, finely chopped
  • 4 Tbsp unsalted butter
  • 11 oz Ground beef
  • 4 oz Ground pork
  • 4 oz Ground Italian sausage
  • 1 freshly ground clove
  • Dash of freshly ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 lb peeled and chopped tomatoes (or 1 28-oz can whole peeled tomatoes)
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt

Béchamel Sauce:

  • 2 cups whole milk
  • 1/4 cup unsalted butter
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose unbleached flour

Lasagna:

  • Enough lasagna noodles to make four layers in a 13x9-inch baking pan with the lasagna pieces overlapping each other a little bit.
  • Recommended 16 sheets of De Cecco brand Italian lasagna noodles.
  • 1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Method

Prepare the Bolognese Meat Sauce

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1 Make the soffritto. Combine pancetta, onion, celery, and carrot in sauté pan with butter and cook over medium heat until onion turns pale gold.

2 Add the beef, pork, sausage to the soffritto, and increase the heat to high; cook until browned. Sprinkle with the clove, cinnamon, and pepper.

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3 Stir in tomatoes, bring to a simmer and reduce the heat to medium. Cook over medium heat for 15 minutes. If you are using whole canned tomatoes, break them up as you add them to the sauce.

4 Add milk and season with sea salt. Then turn down the heat and let simmer for 2 and 1/2 hours. Stir at least every 20 minutes. Whenever the sauce simmers down to the point that it is sticking to the bottom of the pan, just add 1/4 cup of water and scrape up the browned bits from the bottom and continue to cook.

 

Make the Béchamel sauce.

5 Heat the milk until almost boiling in a heavy bottomed sauce pan. In a separate pan melt the unsalted butter with the flour over low heat. Stir rapidly with a spoon. Cook this for 1 minute and then remove from the heat. (See Wikipedia on Béchamel Sauce for more information on this sauce.)

6 Slowly add half the hot milk to your butter and flour mixture. During this process stir constantly.

7 Return the milk, butter, flour mixture to low heat until the sauce begins to thicken. Add the remaining milk slowly while stirring working it into the thickened sauce. Continue to stir until it comes to a boil.

8 Season with some sea salt, and continue stirring until the right consistency has developed. If any lumps form, beat them out rapidly with a whisk until they dissolve. Remove from heat.

 

Prepare the Lasagna

9 Preheat oven to 375°F. Cook the lasagna according to instructions. About 8 minutes in 6 quarts of boiling salted water. Drain, rinse with cold water. Lay the individual lasagna noodles out on kitchen towels, not touching, so they do not stick together while you layer the casserole.

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10 Spread a little olive oil around the inside of a 13x9-inch baking pan. Make sure your baking pan is non-reactive - pyrex or stainless steel. Do not use an aluminum pan as it will react with the acidity of the sauce and ruin the flavor. Put a layer of lasagna noodles down first. Layer on a third of the bolognese sauce, then a third of the bechamel sauce. Sprinkle with grated Parmesan. Repeat two more times. Top with a final layer of noodles and sprinkle with grated Parmesan.

11 Tent the casserole with aluminum foil. Put lasagna into the middle rack of a pre-heated 375°F oven. Bake for 20-30 minutes, until the top begins to get lightly browned. Remove from oven and let cool 5-10 minutes before serving.

73 Comments

  1. Anne

    This sounds like a wonderful recipe. I do have to ask, however- how strong is the clove flavor in this sauce? One entire clove is used? I’m not too crazy about cloves so I’m wondering if it is simply an enhancer or if you can actually taste it. Thank you.

  2. Elise

    Hi Anne – the clove flavor is not too strong. It may be discernible if you are looking for it, but more likely you would taste the cinnamon. Both the clove and the cinnamon greatly enhance the flavor of the sauce.

  3. missb

    I wanted to save this for a big Sunday dinner but here I am on Saturday and I couldn’t wait. I was raised on my Mother’s fabulous All-American Cheese-Laden Lasagna and couldn’t believe how good this recipe sounded…without mozz! NO mozz? Unimaginable.

    I followed to a “t” with two exceptions: I had no pancetta, so went with good supermarket bacon (I always buy “Bar S” bacon, which is miles above the rest)and I have no patience for boiling/draining/drying lasagne noodles so used the Oven-Ready kind. This changed the layering technique (you must have sauce on the bottom and sauce on the top in order to cook the noodles) and the cooking time (50-60″).

    This was the richest and most fantastic lasagne I’ve ever had. The bechamel was heavenly. I can’t wait to share it with my Mom. She’s in for a surprise!

  4. Alex

    Just wanted to say this is almost exactly the recipe my mother (born and raised in Tuscany) uses, with a few exceptions. We use beef, pork and veal in the sauce and no cinnamon, although I can’t wait to try for the addition. As for now cheese, you will find that most pastas that traditional are stuffed ro layered with cheese in the southern regions of Italy are stuffed or layered with meat in the norther regions (i.e. meat ravioli, tortelline, cannelloni, etc.). In my family we do sprinkle with a combination of Parmeggiano Reggiano and Romano cheeses – not to add a layer, just to add flavor.

    Thanks for the recipe and the mention of a cookbook that sounds like a must have.

  5. Kim

    By far the BEST lasagna I’ve ever eaten! Saw the recipe and had to try it…really easy to make, using ingredients I always have at home. My only change next time will be to add a bit more of the bechamel, maybe one and a half portions by this recipe. My husband didn’t want to wait til the assembly, he just wanted a bowl of that fab meat sauce all by itself with a loaf of bread :>)

  6. Jon

    Awesome recipe! I agree with Kim in that this is the best I’ve ever had. I added some garlic to the soffritto, but apart from that, made it as written and it didn’t disappoint. Tremendous!

  7. Aimee

    I made this just the other night from this recipe and it was fabulous. Many thanks to both you, for highlighting it, and his loconess for sharing it. I’m a convert. :D

  8. Anonymous

    My boyfriend and I made this lasagna last night, into a 9×13 pyrex pan. We seemed to be a bit short on the meat sauce, though it was still very good.

  9. Karen

    Elise
    I tried this lasagna over the holidays and it was absolutely delicious. I had the pleasure of visiting Tuscany last summer and loved their meat ragu. We would be walking around small villages at mealtime and you could hear people in their kitchens preparing food and more often than not, the smell of the food drifting out their open windows. Well, this meat sauce smelled EXACTLY the same. I could close my eyes and be transported back to Montepulciano!

    I prepared it exactly as written, but I’d be curious to know if anybody has tried it with a lower fat milk, as I kept thinking about the fat content of whole milk the entire time I was eating!!!

  10. El Cocinero Loco

    Karen, don’t sweat the fat content of the dish. It is not often that we take time out to please the palate. I prepare this lasagna twice per year, and the 4″x8″ size I cook is only enough for 1 supper and 2 lunches. It is pleasing knowing smaller portions are more like satisfying treats than like regrettably large sized meals. Moreover, the good fats coming out of dairy products should not present an issue to those who maintain a well balanced diet.

    An example of my meal portions follows. Be it known that I am working man on my feet 56 hours per week.

    1.) Endive salad as this is meat based lasagna. I am usually light on the dressing and I never ever buy salad dressing. There’s too many bad things in store bought brands. I shy from the canned olives too. I get mine in brine or oil. Also be wary of prebagged salad mixes as they are notoriously full of badness like mold, black widows, and e.coli.

    2.) A small glass of mineral water.

    3.) A cut of lasagna 2″ tall, 4″ wide, and about 2.5″ long. This takes care of my starch, dairy, and meat consumption.

    4.) A 4oz glass of a vine de pais like a Carlo Rossi Paisano for whopping $9 per gallon. — to aid in digestion. Let’s not waste the fine wine here. We want to taste the lasagna.

    Also. One more thing. I might suggest when you go make the dough for the pasta here that you all use water strained from a head of lettuce en lieu of regular water. Its the most authentic method dating back to Ancient Greece.

  11. Athina

    I made this delicious lasagne bolognese for my family of foodies lastnight, and all agreed it was delicious! I did not miss the mozzarella or ricotta one bit. I have to say, that it is quite reminiscent of a moussaka -the spices,the onions, tomatoes,ground meat, and bechamel, all of which are classic ingredients in the traditional greek dish. I like this lasagna even better! David Rosengarten gives the suggestion of using “no-boil” lasagna, and par-boiling it for 3 minutes, then layering the lasagna and baking it.It results in a finished product and texture that is fabulous. The layers are thin, not doughy, and just perfectly complement the sumptuous rich layers of sauces. I added lots of parmigiano reggiano in between the layers.This is a new special occassion meal for me to make, I’m thrilled with it. One more change I made-Instead of clove I used allspice, and cinnamon. I also added fresh nutmeg to my bechamel sauce.Dee-licios!

  12. Gloriana

    Used this recipe as a roadmap with a few alterations, most notably the addition of wine and mushrooms to the sauce. WOW! Extremely decadent and undeniably, out of this world, delicious. Can’t wait to make for company. Sooooo worth the time and effort. Thanks, Elise for posting, and of course, El Cocinero Loco for sharing!

  13. Josh

    I made this incredible lasagna last night for a family dinner. To feed the amount of people that came I had to double the recipe. The compliments on how wonderful the meal was was non-stop! This is an amazing entree that is certainly worth the time time and effort.

    The only tweaks that I would do is to make a bit more of the bolognese sauce so that there’ll be a thin layer of it on the top layer of pasta and I’ll also cover the casserole dish with tin foil to retain moisture. When following the recipe that top layer got a bit too dry and wasn’t easy to slice a fork through. Other than that it is amazing and quite memorable. =D

  14. EK

    I made this with a few modifications… I substituted bacon for the pancetta, skipped the pork, used 8 oz of sausage, and added 1/3 cup of fresh basil in place of the clove. Also, when making the Béchamel, I just dumped everything together in one pot rather than going through all the steps. Worked fine for me. It took me five hours to make, but it was worth it — definitely the best lasagna I’ve ever had. The dripping cream and grease make me question how healthy it is, though ;)

  15. Joe

    Excellent recipe. The results were fantastic and very close to the authentic lasagna I had throughout my numerous trips to Italy.

    My only caveat (and don’t we all have some?), is that most lasagna I had in Italy had spinach pasta layers. I plan to do that the next time I make this. Hopefully my pasta making skills will have improved by then.

    For this version I used Barilla no-cook sheets but I soaked them in hot water for 5 minutes (from a tip I read about in Cooks Illustrated). Worked fine. That way they didn’t suck up too much bechamel sauce. Be wary of adding too much clove. It can really affect the smell and taste of the whole dish. I added 1-1/2 because mine were old. It was a tad too strong but not enough to ruin the dish.

    Overall rating is A+

  16. Becca

    I was very excited to make this recipe and I must say I was not dissapointed at all! It was very popular with my family and I enjoyed it way more than regular lasagna. My dad is quite a picky vegetable eater so unfortunately I was forbidden to use the celery, carrots, and onions. :( I had a little confusion on whether i was supposed to drain the canned tomatoes or not. I did drain them and then pureed them (my dad will not eat a piece of tomatoe…it must be pureed) and added them to the meat sauce. After letting it simmer for just a little less than an hour, there was not much sauce left to the meat sauce, so I stopped cooking it for fear there would be no more sauce, only meat, if I continued to cook it. Did anyone else have this problem? It ended up great though, so i’m very pleased!

  17. Rex

    I tried this recipe and it was outstanding! Never thought I could leave out garlic and mozzarella and still have a terrific dish. The only substitutions I made was using crushed tomatoes and I added more Italian sausage in place of the pork. Definitely worth the trouble! I made the ragu the day before and refrigerated. Next day, I removed the solidified fat that formed on the top and continued with the recipe. I would make this again without hesitation! Thank you for posting.

  18. lf

    The flavors were amazing! Thanks for posting this recipe. I was a little hesitant to make a lasagne without a lot of cheese… but it was definitely worth it. =)

  19. Erin

    I made this last night for a family holiday dinner, and yes, it is as wonderful as it sounds! I used a larger pan (11″x14″), and doubled both sauces. I did not double the lasagna noodles, though, I cooked the whole 1 pound box and had 3 noodles leftover! The proportions of extra sauce were just perfect. And I used 1/4 teaspoon of ground cloves and they were not at all noticable in the sauce. Terrific recipe as always, thanks Elise and Mr. Loco!

  20. Mario & Luigi

    It’s Awesome!
    I just made it the 2nd time for my family & it was good. The first time, it got burnt a bit. The second time though, it’s really good.
    I can’t believe there’s no Mozzarella!

  21. athina

    Well, I has posted a comment for this lasagna recipe about a year ago. I’ve decided to make this amazing lasagna once again. I would like to add a couple of suggestions. I feel that adding parmigiano cheese directly atop the final pasta layer, creates a dry, tough, crunchy texture, which I find unappealing. To remedy this, I made a small extra batch of bechamel sauce. (2 tbsp butter, 2 tbsp flour, one cup milk, a pinch of salt and grated nutmeg.) I smeared it on top of the final pasta layer, and grated the cheese right on top of the sauce. I haven’t baked it yet, but I think this will resolve that problem. The meat sauce for this dish is unreal. It is difficult not to eat spoonfuls of this rich meat sauce straight out of the pot.I can’t wait to eat this tonight!

  22. Soren

    Well, I’ve made the lasagna 3 times already and I feel that adding a bit of mozzarella to it makes it taste a bit better. Just my opinion, you can agree or disagree.
    Also, I think that you should add one more layer. I find it much, much better with anther layer. But that’s just me, you might find it worse with another layer but that’s my opinion.

  23. Jeni

    This lasagna is good, but not the best “take your time” lasagna I’ve
    had. My husband and I both agree that we don’t enjoy the cloves
    here…and prefer a bolognese that includes red wine for a richer
    flavor. If you are going to spend hours making a lasagna I suggest
    some doctoring, or just try another recipe…but then all tastes
    differ.

  24. Darren

    I hafta say, this is now my absolute favorite recipe. I found this recipe a little over 2 years ago online, and have been making it ever since. Everyone absolutely loves it! Of course, since I make the sauce AT LEAST once a month, and double it, I have made a few alterations to it to now make it MY OWN. I add re-hydrated dried porcini mushrooms. I add the water from the re-hydrated mushrooms and 1 cup of red wine to the meat mixture to kind of deglaze the pan then 1 small can of tomato paste, dash of nutmeg and a bit of water or beef broth if the sauce becomes to think. The mushrooms and wine add another bit of earthiness to the dish Believe it or not, to all of you doubters out there, cloves actually are an integral part of Italian cooking. Usually, the hint of cloves is so light that people just can’t figure out what the “special” ingredient is. Trust me, coming from an Italian background, this is absolutely THE most authentic lasagna out there!

  25. Nell

    Hi Elise–I have 2 questions! I would love to add in a layers of ricotta to this lasagna (2 quarts ricotta cheese, 2 eggs, 1/2 cup grated Parmesan, salt & pepper to taste). Will this affect the baking time?

    Also–if I mix mozzarella cheese and parmesan cheese as a topping, do I have to bake uncovered?

    Hi Nell, you’re on your own with this one. Your guess is as good as mine. If you try either of the approaches you’re suggesting, please let us know what you ended up doing and how it turned out. ~Elise

  26. Christine

    Awesome. We had lasagna bolognese at a restaurant so went in search of a recipe. This was it exactly. Only change we made was using the no bake nooldes – no problem. You do need a whole day to make this. Sauce needs to simmer for a while so don’t rush it.

  27. Jodie

    This sounds very similar to a Martha Stewart lasagne recipe published in her magazine a few years ago. I’ve been making it ever since and LOVE it. I’ll have to try this to see how it measures up!

  28. kelly

    This recipe is awesome! The only thing that would make this more traditional is to add chopped chicken livers to the ragu, which is in the “Time Life International Cookbook”.

  29. aielena

    I used to LIVE in Bologna, and this is almost exactly how my friend’s girlfriend made hers! The difference is, she and I use a bit of nutmeg and no cloves or cinnamon, and definitely some red wine in it. The top is also finished with a layer of bescamelle sauce and cheese instead of just cheese. I was surprised to find something so close to being authentic in English. I buy the white sauce/bechamelle sauce, and as my friend did, mix it with the final bolognese sauce as I layer it as a short cut, but it is now my own BF’s favorite, and I make it every couple weeks or so. Of course, never forget to serve it with some greens, and add lots of veggies/soffritto to the sauce for a healthy meal. YUM!!!

  30. squeaker

    There was a question above about making this with ricotta layers… While I realize that’s not really the point of this recipe, I tried it. Sometimes I just can’t leave a recipe alone!

    I mixed ricotta, fresh garlic, a dash of italian seasoning, and some drained spinach. I used this in the layers instead of the bechamel.

    It was delicious and turned out just fine with the rest of the recipe as posted – cooking times and all.

    However, it’s much better with the bechamel as posted!

  31. Francesca

    Hi, I’m Italian (I live in Rome) and I can tell you that this recipe is very very close to the real lasagna we cook here. Just a couple of notes: we never ever use cinnamon in the bolognese sauce, and instead of sausage we use veal or just ground beef and pork. A curiosity: in Italy you will never find any lasagna made with ricotta! The “lasagna alla bolognese” is the only real Italian lasagna, the only variation is the lasagna alla bolognese with green noodles, made with spinach inside.

  32. Francesca

    …. I forgot to say that the post of aielena is correct: we use nutmeg, we put a little of red or white wine over the meat when it gets brown (just let it dry before add tomatoes), and the top is always finished with besciamella and parmesan cheese!

  33. Jason

    Hi, Elise.

    I tried this recipe a while ago, and my only concern was that my top layer of noodles came out somewhat hard, even though they were nice and soft when they went into the oven. Is that typical? I’m trying to think of what could have happened, and experimenting is definitely not something that is too affordable with this sort of dish. My only guess is that the pan was too close to the coils.

    Other than that, the dish was absolutely exquisite. Even with the hard top noodle, my father was pleased. He likes crunchy things, so he removed it and ate it as a separate piece. It’s nice when errors turn out well. Anyway, another great dish.

    Hi Jason, I think the issue is that the lasagna was getting too dried out in the oven. I’ve adjusted the recipe to recommend to tent the dish with aluminum foil before it goes in the oven, that way the top noodles should not dry out. ~Elise

  34. Jason

    Hello again, Elise.

    I made this lasagna again this evening, this time for my girlfriend and her parents. I made use of your recommendation to tent foil over the dish to ensure the top noodle did not dry out, and it worked quite well. The lasagna was moist, and all the noodles were soft. My girlfriend and the parents all complemented the dish, and went for seconds. The only alteration I made was the addition of roughly a quarter cup of Shiraz after browning the meat. It complemented the taste of the sauce, though next time I will likely use a different wine, perhaps a Cabernet. I also omitted the salt from the bechamel, due to forgetting. The bechamel mixing with the cheese was still quite good, but the bit of salt would have helped.

    By the way, I absolutely love your site. The recipes here have brought many smiles in my circles.

    Regards,

    Jason

    Hi Jason, so glad it worked out for you! I love this lasagna recipe. ~Elise

  35. Kaitki

    Hi Elise,

    I do realise that the point of the recipe seems to be meat + tomatoes. Things is my family is not too much into tomatoes. Can I tone down the flavour by adding something else besides the tomatoes or substitute it with something else altogether? Like Spinach?

    Hello Kaitki – this recipe is for a tomato-based sauce. I would look for another recipe if you do not want to use a tomato sauce. ~Elise

  36. Liane

    I made this lasagna for a special dinner this weekend with my husband and a good friend. It was epic – you are very right that this is not a quick lasagna! It tasted soooo amazing though. We were all trying to hold ourselves back from thirds because it was so good, but so rich.

    I had a question – my bolognese sauce was not as tomato-y as yours looks in the picture. I used the 28 oz can of tomatoes, but just used the tomatoes and not the juice since I couldn’t find a can packed in water. Should I not have drained them and used the juice too? It still tasted great, so we weren’t mourning the lack of tomatoes, but I was curious.

    We are going to have to step up our workouts to keep up with so much great food!

    Yes, you should use all of the liquid in the can, it’s coming from the tomatoes. ~Elise

  37. Jasmina

    This was absolutely divine!
    I’ve been struggling to find a good lasagna recipe for some time now, and this one was absolutely perfect!
    I omitted the sausage though and added a layer of bechamel on the top layer of noodles, before parmesan – due to using oven-ready noodles.
    This recipe makes a wonderful bolognese sauce, with such a rounded, complete flavour, that I feel adding anything else to it would be overdoing it. Great recipes are all about balance.
    Thank you, Elise

  38. KELLEY

    Hi! This recipe looks fabulous! I am planning on making it for a get together and wondered if you had any feedback on making it the day before. Should I increase the sauces to allow for it soaking into the noodles?? How bout ideas on reheat? I’d hate to have it get too dry on the reheat. Maybe just assemble the day before? Let me know what you think! Thanks!
    Kelley

    I’ve made it, cooked it, froze half of it, defrosted and then heated in oven tented with aluminum foil. Worked great. ~Elise

  39. Robert

    This recipe is very close to the one my mother use to make. She used nutmeg instead of cinnamon and browned the meat (i.e., drain the fat)prior to adding it to the soffritto. We also tried to use Italian brand Cento tomaotes because many other common brands use tomato concentrate in their product. We place a small layer of besciamella on the top. I like to serve it with a good bold Italian chianti (e.g., Barone Ricasoli Brolio) or a good American merlot (e.g., Whitehall Lane). Both commonly have wine ratings around 90 points and are reasonably priced (around $20 a bottle).

  40. Carmelita

    I live in Bologna and have been running cooking classes here these past 10 years. We often, naturally, make Ragù alla Bolognese, and occasionally we make up a real Lasagne (it’s not called Lasagna in Italy) Verde (green pasta made from scratch with spinach) alla Bolognese.

    The only spice commonly used here is nutmeg and we hardly use any tomato at all in this sauce. Our tomato season is short, the precious home canned tomato passata is therfore used sparingly, just 2 or 3 tablspooons. So a real Bolognese ragù is never ever red (unless someone from Naples has made it “their” way – and it is Naples own superb lasagne that has ricotta and Mozzarella and a very red sauce, not the Bolognese one). Bolognese ragù is the colour of the meats, light brown with just a hint of orange. And no garlic ever.

    And yes, the top is always finished with besciamella and Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, not all the way to the edges as we like the curled up crisp edges of the pasta. Some people put a little ragù on top as well, how you layer up is very personal.

    A couple of other pointers: we use salt cured not smoked pancetta, and chicken livers are often added or Porcini when they are in season.

    And we really mince the soffritto ingredients super fine (they must not be visible in the final sauce) and cook a long time to wilt the soffritto without letting the onion take on any colour at all – for this reason you add a little water from time to time.

    But cook and eat what you enjoy, these are just details, just info on how it’s done in Bologna.

  41. Marcy

    Hi Elise
    I made this recipe & it came out wonderful. I have a question. Can I make the Bolognese Sauce the weekend before & freeze it? I would like to make the remaining recipe on Christmas day. I want to be sure it comes out tasting the same.

    Thanks

    Hi Marcy, I have made the whole lasagna in advance, and frozen it, and then defrosted and reheated. Worked fine. So I imagine just making the sauce in advance would work fine too. ~Elise

  42. Wayne

    This Lasagna had a great taste however next time I will double the
    Bechamel; Idid not have a enough. I added a dash of nutmeg to the Bechamel.

  43. Kristina

    I’ve been trying for a long time to find a lasagna recipe that my fiance likes. It isn’t that I haven’t found good ones – but everything I make, he compares to his mother’s lasagna. Whether what I made was better or worse is usually inconsequential; it’s just not the same as his mother’s. But this recipe is SO GOOD, that even though it’s nothing like his mom’s lasagna, he’s always asking me to make it and he loves it. Thanks!!

  44. Jerott

    Don’t let anyone try to tell you that this recipe is too difficult to make. My roommate and I (both 20) made it in our dorm’s basement kitchen with two pans and some pyrex. It turned out absolutely amazing.

    It feels good to eat something that isn’t cafeteria food every once and awhile. :)

  45. Lindsay

    I made this last week and thought it was very good, however, I think with a few small changes would have pushed it up to great. One thing I thought could be improved was how fatty the meat sauce was – partly because of the meats I used, but also partly because the recipe doesn’t call for draining the fat after browning the meals (which I will definitely do next time. The recipe didn’t specify what type of beef to use, so I used a 20% fat chuck, and next time I’d definitely use something a bit leaner, perhaps a 15% ground sirloin. My grocery store only had one option for ground pork so I couldn’t change that, but next time I will use turkey Italian sausage instead of pork sausage. The amount of sauce was just a bit skimpy for a 9×13 pan, so next time I’ll bulk up the soffritto a bit more with an extra celery rib, another carrot, and more onion. After reading all the reviews I used nutmeg instead of cinnamon in the bolognese sauce, and I’m glad I made the switch. Finally, I made the exact amount of bechamel sauce (though I added a few shakes of nutmeg to this as well for greater authenticity) as stated in the recipe, but I agree with the other reviewers who said that a little more would have been helpful, so next time I’ll make up one and a half recipe’s worth. I used a tip I heard about years ago with the lasagne noodles – instead of boiling them and dealing with the hassle of laying them out on the counter until ready to use, just boil a large pot of water, add the noodles, stir, immediately shut off the heat and just let the noodles soften in the hot water for about 10 minutes and then take out one at a time when ready to assemble the layers. Works perfectly every time and no need to worry about the noodles drying out or sticking and tearing, and no need to buy the special “no boil” noodles (which I find to be yucky tasting and gummy in texture). For us, this made 6 large servings, and we paired it with a nice mesclun (baby spring mix) salad and some wine. I’m looking forward to making it again!

  46. Tasha

    Hi! This is the first comprehensible lasagna recipe I’ve come across. Thank you so much! Just a quick question: What are Italian sausages?

    Italian sausage is made with ground pork, pork fat, and herbs and spices. You can find it in the packaged meat department of your grocery store. ~Elise

  47. Alisa

    I made this recipe today. I’ve been so incredibly excited about it! Took me 6 hours. Turned out to have such complex flavors! Quite a an experience for the palate! I added thin layers of mozarrella too. Thanks so much for posting this recipe!

  48. Denise

    My lasagne recipe from Sicily comes from a wonderful book, “Classic Techniques of Italian Cooking” by Giuliano Bugialli and uses what in Italy is called Balsamella instead of Bechamel sauce. It is the same sauce but prepared a little differently. Once you start preparing lasagne this way, you can never go back!

  49. Ellen

    I made this lasagna last weekend and it was gone the next day. I absolutely loved it and so did my brother. As he came back for seconds he said; “This is really good.” (Which is probably the best compliment you can get from a teenage boy.)

  50. John

    I made this dinner last night and it was really good. I kept the cinnamon in it, and the Bolognese sauce reminds me of my Aunt’s pasticcio. In the Beschamel sauce I added some mozzarella cheese and it turned out excellent. I highly recommend this dish.

  51. Rose

    Hi — We don”t really eat pork — can you suggest a substitute? Would ground turkey work?

    You could easily try this with ground turkey. You may need to add in a bit more fat as turkey can be rather lean. ~Elise

  52. Lisa

    This was wonderful and I would definitely make it again! Just a couple of notes – Do not use No-Boil Noodles. They are too dry for a lasagna that doesn’t really have a sauce. Also, when I make it again, I will make 1 1/2 times the Bolognese and Bechamel recipes. It just didn’t make quite enough to really fill a 9×13 pan. And I will put a thin layer of Bechamel over the top layer of noodles and then top with Parmesan. Finally, I did add 1/4 cup of red wine instead of some of the water to the Bolognese. It was just enough to add another flavor layer to this already wonderful sauce.

  53. Mateo Feo

    The Bolognese and Bechamel sauce(s) were no where near the volume necessary to fill a 9×13 pan. 20-30 minutes to cook a lasagna? 30-to-40 minutes perhaps.

    That being said, I love the Bolognese sauce and will make it again. I added Italian Fontina to the Bechamel which made it way too rich; we had to add copious amounts of fresh spinach to make it manageable.

  54. Bonnie

    Can I use fresh lasagna noodles here? If so, do I just follow same directions?
    Also, I know this was posted, but not really answered: Can I assemble this the day before and cook it the next day?

    Thanks so much.

    Hi Bonnie, great questions, both of them. I don’t know the answers because I have not done what you have asked about. If you try it, please let us know how it turns out for you. ~Elise

  55. Bonnie

    Another question about this recipe…. Can I use ground turkey instead of pork?
    Thank you!

    I think many people substitute ground turkey for ground pork in recipes like this. You might find you need to add more fat, as ground turkey can tend to be leaner than ground pork. ~Elise

  56. Andi

    I like this recipe, and also the pointers that Carmelita above said… I spent a lot of times out of school in Italy and remember the lasagna type dishes having a very nutmeg vibe with well cooked flavourful meat and not so much cheesy sauce like you get outside of italy (even at italian restaurants.

    I like cheesy ones too now, as long as you can taste a strong cheese in them… and slow cooked meat.

  57. beanski

    Made this in stages and it came out great! I wanted to serve it for a Saturday dinner after skiing and knew I wouldn’t have time to do the whole process. I started it on Friday night and completed the first three steps in the meat sauce. Saturday morning I reheated the sauce, added the cream and let it simmer. Each time it cooked down I alternated between adding 1/2 cup of red wine (Shiraz) or 1/2 cup water. My bf really wanted a red wine taste so I researched the best wines to cook with and went with Morse Code Padthaway Shiraz 2009. I added liquid just about every 20 minutes as I stirred it. I had read the reviews that there wasn’t enough sauce so I made sure to keep adding plenty of liquid. I then cooled and refrigerated it again. After skiing, I boiled the noodles (keeping them in the water as was suggested by another) and made the Béchamel Sauce. I doubled this so that I would have enough to top the last layer of noodles. I did cover the pan with tinfoil and none of the top noodles were crunchy. I served 5 people, everyone had 2 pieces and raved! My bf commented that he liked it better than “traditional American” lasagna with a sweet red sauce and many layers. This will be made in our house again! Thanks for the recipe!!

  58. Helen

    This lasagna tastes great but it all went a little flat on me…thin and unattractive with a ton of sauce. What happened? I made the sauce the day before and then made the bechamel sauce the next day and assembled. Any tips would be appreciated as I’d like to give it another shot. Thanks Elise!

  59. Melody

    Elise – Just have to tell you I absolutely ADORE this recipe…it’s easily the best lasagna I’ve ever made and probably one of the best dishes I’ve ever made, period. Thank you!

  60. Jason

    Hello again, Elise.

    I made this once more last night. It was fantastic, and quite popular. The pan was gone in minutes. I used your suggestion of tenting the foil, and it solved the problem of the hard top noodle.

    Just a couple of suggestions for everyone:

    - Mind your racks. Even with tenting the foil, the top noodle will be firmer than it should be if the dish is too close to the coils.

    - I think there is more than enough sauce for a 13″x9″ pan. However, there is not enough sauce if you do three sauce layers. I made this with only two sauce layers, and it was nice. Doing it that way leaves some bechamel for the top layer, if you want to do that (personally I like just having cheese on top).

    - Use either fresh grated Parmesan or flaked fresh Parmesan from the store. I tend to opt for the latter, as fresh Parmesan is very expensive (a wedge at my local grocery costs $16.95). It works wells.

    - If there were a lot of spices in this dish, I would definitely opt for fresh ones. Due to the low amount, it just isn’t necessary. You can use store-bought ground cloves and ground cinnamon, just be sure to add a touch more of each to make up for their reduced potency.

    - Mix the meats together before adding them. If you don’t, you can wind up with pockets of sausage and pork.

    - Some grocers don’t provide ground Italian sausage. If that’s the case, just get a whole sausage (they tend to be about the requisite 4 ounces), and discard its casing.

    - If you’re in a hurry, deglaze the pan with a dry red wine before adding the tomatoes. This provides additional flavor that will let you make an acceptable sauce in about 45 minutes.

    Regards,

    Jason

    Great tips, thanks Jason! ~Elise

  61. Erica

    When I made this I was told by several that it was the best lasagna they’d ever eaten. I made the bolognese sauce the day before, then made the bechamel the day I assembled and baked it. Used fresh noodles, and since I made it before the suggestion to tent foil was added, I put a layer of sauce on top.
    I made an interesting mistake, too, which turned out to be delicious. In my search for Italian sausage I mistakenly bought sopressata. When I opened it, I realized the mistake, but since it was expensive, I went with it. I used my food processor to break it up and put it in the sauce in place of the Italian sausage, and it was incredible. I’m sticking with that mistake. The sauce was so good I’m surprised we had enough left to make the lasagna.
    Elise, I’ve made a ton of recipes from this site, and all have been delicious, but this is by far, the best recipe I’ve ever made from anywhere. This is probably the best tasting thing I’ve EVER made. It has since become our new Christmas day tradition. THANK YOU!

  62. Jess

    Elise, once again, rave reviews from my family. My husband grew up next to a very traditional Italian family in Australia and misses the food dearly. He loves lasagna, but hates ricotta so I’ve tried dozens of recipes over our 10 year marriage in an attempt to win his heart lol – all fell short until this one. The only change I made was to use Shiraz rather than water when the sauce started sticking. I made a double batch for company and it’s all gone. Thanks again for then wonderful recipe. My search the perfect lasagna is over.

  63. Qing

    Thank you for sharing the recipe, it will be first time.
    Can I used the 2% milk instead of the whole milk?
    Can I prepare the bechamel sauce the day before I prepare the whole course? The bechamel sauce will still be good the next day?

    Hello Qing, it’s probably fine using 2%. As for preparing the bechamel a day ahead, I don’t know. I haven’t tried doing that. If you do, please let us know how it turns out for you. ~Elise

  64. Kate

    Yum. I’ve made this twice now (the latest was for dinner on Xmas Eve), and it’s been a challenge both times to resist eating the sauce right out of the pan!

    Our local store doesn’t provide all the correct meats, so we improvised both times with little pieces of smoked spek (Dutch bacon), a container of 50% ground pork and 50% ground beef, and bratwurst. The end result is a delicious but seriously fatty sauce, so I’ve been removing some of the fat from the pan before adding the tomatoes.

    For Xmas Eve I stuck to parmesan, but we branched out to mozzarella previously. Both were delicious, but the parmesan version definitely has a richer, more decadent taste.

    I also admit I can’t resist adding a little extra clove…

    I highly recommend this recipe, and think it’s flexible enough for improvisation of the meat and cheese if necessary.

  65. inga

    Where do I find the pancetta?

    Sometimes you can find it packaged in the meat department, or available for slices in the deli section of your grocery store. ~Elise

  66. Victoria

    Wonderful! I had some leftover ragu (I make and love the recipe from Mario Batali’s Babbo cookbook) so I made half the recipe. So, so good. This is definitely my go to lasagna recipe from now on! I love it that it’s not packed with cheese. Really lets all the elements shine.

  67. Sigrun

    Hello. As I’m not from the States, do you have any suggestions what I can use as a replacement for the italian sausage?

    Just use ground pork with a sprinkling of fennel seeds, salt, and pepper. ~Elise

  68. Suzanne

    This sounds so good but I am allergic to parsley family. Can’t eat celery, carrots, fennel, parsley etc. I can work around the sausage by seasoning my own ground pork but am concerned about the flavoring of the meat sauce if I eliminate the carrots and celery. Any suggestions?

    If you can’t do celery and carrots, I would use onions, onion greens, and tomato. Of course this will change the flavor, especially the tomato, but it will still be good. ~Elise

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