Lasagna Bolognese

The BEST Lasagna Bolognese! Layers of flat lasagna noodles baked with alternating layers of slow-cooked Bolognese sauce, bechamel, and Parmesan cheese.

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Photography Credit: Elise Bauer

This isn’t a quick and easy lasagna. This is a slow and divine lasagna. A memorable lasagna. And we have a Simply Recipes reader 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

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  • 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

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 ground clove, cinnamon, and pepper.

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

7 Add remaining milk, thicken the sauce: 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, stir: 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 Cook the lasagna noodles: 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.

10 Layer the lasagna: 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 Bake: 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.

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Showing 4 of 83 Comments

  • Barbara

    I made this last night for a small group and it was a hit; even with the three Italian-Americans in the house lol. I took Vittoria’s suggestions and did not use sausage or clove and added nutmeg. I also doubled the béchamel and this may have made it less traditional, but it tasted delicious. I used oven-ready lasagna, mostly because I was in a time crunch and I hate boiling lasagna noodles; I always screw it up or burn myself. Thank you Elise, for a simple Bolognese béchamel lasagna that finally gave me the courage to try it! It was sooo good.

  • amy

    For the canned tomatoes do i drain it juice or include the juice??

  • Darren

    I hafta say, this is my staple lasagna recipe and love that it’s not overloaded with mounds of ricotta cheese. This is exactly how lasagnas are served in Italy. I usually use jus a little less tomato tho since traditional bolognese has a little less tomato and more milk. I absolutely love to clove and cinnamon. Such a depth of flavor. This is the BEST recipe out there and probably one of the most authentic.

  • Lucio

    This is my go to recipe for an authentic lasagna bolognese. Somone had mentioned that they never heard of cloves or cinnamon in Bolognese sauce but, I’ve been to Italy and Bologna around 14 times and I can attest that in fact they do use the Clove and cinnamon in many of their recipes. It’s pretty traditional. Perhaps not everyone, but a large number use it; a kind of “secret ingredient”. True tho, it should be a bit less tomato; usually a tomato paste and beef broth is used. But honestly, I prefer the tomato. And for gods sakes, dont go adding garlic, basil, oregano etc. let the simple ingredients all meld together. Don’t ruin a perfect dish by over seasoning. Italian cooking is simplistic.

  • Vittoria

    Hello,
    I rarely write reviews but came across this recipe for Lasagne alla Bolognese and just had to comment based on my own culinary experience. I do not mean to find fault with this recipe since all tastes are different and personal and creating your own version of a recipe is what makes recipes unique and cooking fun.
    I would just like people to know how lasagna Bolognese is made in Bologna where the recipe originated.
    I must agree whole heartedly with Carmelita, the Italian cooking instructor from Bologna. I too am born and raised in Italy with many relatives from Bologna and have eaten and made Lasagne Bolognese all my life. Regardless of where eaten, whether in a home or a restaurant, I have never seen it prepared with cinnamon and/or cloves. I truly believe this variation is Greek inspired since these are flavors very often found in many Greek recipes.
    A little freshly grated nutmeg would be the only spice used.

    Also, the use of Italian sausage is also very rare since any combination of ground pork, veal and/or beef along with unsmoked bacon (pancetta) would be the only meats used.
    I have found since living in the US that what is known as “Italian” sausage here is really Sicilian style sausage, a sausage made with spices like fennel.
    Believe it or not the majority of sausage made in Italy does not include fennel, so there are many flavors in this particular recipe that would not be found in a true Bolognese sauce.

    One of the basic things to know is Bolognese sauce is not a tomato sauce with meat, but a meat sauce with a touch of tomato, so that is why, in Bologna you will not find a sauce heavy with tomatoes, or cheese for that matter and never with the heavier cheeses like ricotta.

    Another basic principle of Bolognese style lasagne is that the pasta be very thin so it will create a light and delicate lasagne. Many Italians make their own lasagna noodles but without practice that is not an easy task so using a store bought “no cook” lasagne noodle is a very good idea since they are much thinner then the typical dry lasagna noodles found in American grocery stores that require boiling. The one thing I would suggest if using a no cook lasagna, is to immerse the sheets in water for a few seconds just before layering. This will add a touch of moisture that would benefit the finished product.
    Also, topping the lasagne with bechemel and finishing with a good Parmesano Reggiano will give you the melt in your mouth texture and slightly browned finish you want.
    I hope my comments will not insulted anyone since that was not my intent. I do hope you will all give traditional lasagne Bolognese a try. It is one of the most delicious dishes ever created. Ciao tutti!

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