The Ultimate Homemade Lasagna Recipe

This lasagna recipe is the “ultimate” because it tastes like my favorite Italian restaurants lasagna, and it’s easier and quicker to make than your other favorite lasagna recipe!

Bold claim, I know! We’ve got a few secret hacks that can turn lasagna into a quick weeknight meal for your family that’s also delicious enough to serve to your most discerning lasagna loving friends and family.

a freshly baked lasagna from the oven served with a glass of white wine and some bread

I have been making lasagna since I was 15 or so, cooking in my moms kitchen. It wasn’t nearly this good then, but my recipe has been steadily improving.

It took a turn for the better when I went for lunch at a little Italian restaurant in Burnaby, BC where I took a chance and ordered lasagna. It was the BEST lasagna I’ve ever had and I am usually disappointed by restaurant lasagna.

Since then, I’ve had the lasagna there many times and when I told Debbie about it, we had to tweak our homemade lasagna recipe accordingly. and this is what we have come up with.

Whats the Secret

I won’t make you read any further to tell you the secret to the best homemade lasagna recipe. There are two things:

  • fresh noodles – you know the pasta sheets that you find in the cooler section of the grocery store? Use those! There’s no pre boiling and the taste is far superior! They are so tender. Try them and you will never buy hard lasagna noodles again.
  • cream – rather than go to the trouble of making a separate white sauce, dirtying another pot, and just adding 15 mins to your preparation time, just add cream to the meat sauce! I’ve used both whipping cream and coconut cream and both work great, but whipping cream is my favorite.

Of course you have to have a good flavorful sauce and use good cheese, but these two things eliminate two of the usual steps (boiling the pasta and making a bechemel sauce) and at the same time, make your lasagana taste amazing!

Do I have you convinced to try our recipe? Good, pour yourself a glass of wine and lets get started!

lasagna cut into squares about to be served

Tools You Need

A Word about Some Ingredients

A few ingredient choices can turn your lasagna from good to great. Here’s a few things:

The Fresh Lasagna Noodles

So far, we have just bought our noodles from the grocery store. You can find them in the cooler section. They make a world of difference in taste and texture compared to the dry noodles that you boil.

They are tender and they have flavor. Plus, they require no boiling ahead of time. You just take them out of the package and build your layers. Easy and better is a no brainer.

However, I told Debbie that next time I make lasagna, I’m going to make my own noodles. If store bought fresh is that much better, and it is, homemade would be out of this world good!

It’s actually quite easy to make your own pasta, and a million times more delicious, but it won’t be super quick like buying them. If you are as ambitious as me, try our fresh pasta recipe to learn how to make your own.

If you can’t find fresh noodles in your grocery store, you can buy them off amazon using this link.

The Cream

You have a few options for the cream in this recipe. You can use whipping cream, light cream, a mix of whip and light, or even coconut cream.

If you choose to use coconut cream, you can sometimes find it for sale, but for us in Canada, its tough. We can get coconut cream off Amazon here, or we can use canned coconut milk and scoop the cream off the top when you open the can. Don’t shake it first, you just want the thick cream.

We usually use an organic whipping cream that’s super thick and creamy. It makes my sauce taste amazing. But we have used coconut cream before and it was amazing as well.

The Mozzarella Cheese

Whatever you do, please don’t use the pre-shredded mozzarella. It’s actually got a coating of something on it (so it doesn’t stick) and it makes the cheese melt funny.

For lasagna, look for pizza mozzarella or another that has a high fat content. I’ve tried some that don’t melt nicely, but I’ve had pretty good results with any pizza mozzarella.

You can also try fresh mozzarella, this is on my list to try. It just melts so well! You would have to slice it, I think, as it may not shred that well.

pictures showing how to make bolognese sauce

How to Make Homemade Lasagna

Ok, lets get started. There are basically 4 layers to this lasagna:

  • homemade bolognese
  • ricotta
  • fresh noodles
  • mozzarella cheese

The first thing you have to get started is the bolognese.

How to Make Bolognese Sauce

Bolognese is an Italian meat sauce. It’s easy to make and a million times better than buying a jar of sauce!

  • It starts off with a combination of onions, carrots and celery sauteed in some butter or oil. We like butter! You cook these till they get nice and soft.
  • Then you add the meat and make sure to keep breaking up the ground beef until the pieces are quite small. This can take some work, but it makes the sauce better.
  • Add the seasonings to the meat while its cooking to make the meat very flavorful.
  • Add the tomatoes and paste and simmer on low for 5 – 15 mins.
  • When your done simmering the sauce, add the cream at the very end.

Tips for the Best Bolognese

  • make sure to cook the onions, carrots and celery enough so that they just melt into the sauce. You don’t want the sauce to have any bite to it from the veggies.
  • season the meat liberally. Be a little careful with the salt, but go buck wild on the onion and garlic powder. Don’t be stingy with the salt either, but just don’t go crazy.
  • spend the time and the elbow grease to break the meat into very small pieces. I don’t know why, but it makes the sauce taste better.
  • taste for seasoning at the end of the cooking process. If it tastes like it “needs something” then just add a touch more salt and retaste till you get it how you like it.
  • you want your sauce for this lasagna to be have lots of liquid because the noodles will absorb some of the sauce and you don’t want it dry. This is why we don’t say to simmer for longer than 15 mins. If your sauce gets thick, add some water.
  • for the cream, start with 1/2 a cup and then taste. Add up to 2 cups depending on your tastes. We like somewhere around 1 cup.

Wine in Bolognese Sauce

If you want to add wine, go for it. Wine is in classic bolognese sauce, but we’ve actually never tried it in our lasagna recipe. I think I might next time, just to see.

If you want to use wine, add it to the pan after the meat is cooked and before the tomatoes go in. Use red or white, whichever you prefer. I have used both white and red in my sauce (not for lasagna) and both are very good.

pictures showing how to layer the lasagna

Making the Layers

Once your sauce is ready, your ready to put your lasagna together!

  • Start with a thin layer of sauce on the bottom so the noodles don’t stick.
  • Then add your first layer of noodles. If your casserole dish is larger than the noodles, cut some of the noodles so you cover most of the layer. It doesn’t have to be perfect.
  • Next add a thick layer of sauce and spread it over top.
  • Another layer of noodles, then sauce.
  • Somewhere in the middle, add a layer of ricotta. On top of the ricotta, add a thin layer of sauce. We like only one layer of ricotta.
  • Then more noodles.
  • Repeat with the sauce and noodles till your dish is full. Finish with a thin layer of meat sauce.
  • Grate your cheese and spread it over the top. We like a thick layer of cheese, but its up to you.

Lasagna Questions Answered

Here are some frequently asked questions that you might have when making lasgana.

Do I have to use ricotta cheese?

Nope. If you don’t want to, don’t use it. If you prefer cottage cheese, go for it. If you want to leave it out all together, that’s find too.

Do I have to use bechamel sauce in lasagna?

Nope again. However, to get the best lasagna you need to either use bechamel or just add cream like we do. Adding cream is so much easier than making the bechamel sauce though.

Do I cover lasagna while it bakes?

Yes! If you don’t cover it, it can get dry. Cover it for the first 30 mins in the oven and then uncover for the last 15 so the cheese gets browned.

What can I use to cover my lasagna in the oven?

If you don’t have a casserole dish with a lid, you can use foil. Those work the best. In a pinch, you can try parchment paper wrapped tightly around it.

Can you make lasagna ahead of time?

Yes! You can make it ahead of time, then just cover and keep it in the fridge till you are ready to bake. Don’t leave it more than 2 days though.

Can you freeze lasagna?

Definitely. You can freeze it before cooking or after, but before is much better. Save yourself some time and make two lasagnas at once. Then cook one and freeze one. Then you just have to cook it when a craving strikes! Make sure to wrap it well when you freeze it though.

And there you have it. That’s all you need to know about making the best lasagna recipe. Honestly, it’s so good that even just writing this post makes me just want to go make it again.

a piece of lasagna in a bowl to show the delicious layers

Other Pasta Recipes You Might Like

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The Ultimate Homemade Lasagna Recipe

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This lasagna recipe is the “ultimate” because it tastes like my favorite Italian restaurants lasagna, and it’s easier and quicker to make than your other favorite lasagna recipe!
Course Main Course
Cuisine Italian
Keyword homemade lasagna, lasagna
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 1 hour 30 minutes
Total Time 1 hour 45 minutes
Servings 10 people
Calories 517kcal
Author Julie & Debbie

Ingredients

  • 1-2 packs fresh lasagna noodles
  • 750 g ground beef you could also do 500g
  • 1 large onion diced
  • 1/2 cup carrots diced
  • 1/2 cup celery diced
  • 4 cloves garlic minced
  • 1.5 tbsp salt
  • 1 tsp pepper
  • 2 tsp onion powder
  • 2 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tbsp italian herb blend or 1 tsp each thyme, oregano, basil
  • 1 tsp rosemary
  • 24 oz crushed tomatoes
  • 24 oz diced tomatoes
  • 1 tbsp tomato paste
  • 1/2 – 2 cups whipping cream, half & half or coconut cream add to taste
  • 500 g ricotta cheese
  • 500 g mozzarella cheese

Instructions

Make the Bolognese Sauce

  • Add some oil or butter to a big skillet with sides, or a pot.  Add the onion, carrot and celery and cook until they have softened. Add the ground beef and then the seasonings:  salt and pepper, onion powder, garlic powder, herbs.  Sometimes I like to add half the seasonings, then stir, then add the rest.   Cook till its browned.  Make sure to break up the beef as good as you can.  The smaller the bits of beef, the better it tastes (in my opinion!) 
  • Add the garlic and stir it in a bit. Add the cans of tomatoes and tomato paste and bring to a simmer and cook for a few mins or up to 15 mins.  Add the cream or coconut cream if you are going to add it.  As much or as little as you want.  Finally, add the water then remove from the heat. 

Make the Layers

  • If you are cooking your lasagna right away, preheat your oven to 375 degrees.
  • Start with a thin layer of sauce on the bottom so the noodles don’t stick. Then add your first layer of noodles. If your casserole dish is larger than the noodles, cut some of the noodles so you cover most of the layer. It doesn’t have to be perfect. Next add a thick layer of sauce and spread it over top. Another layer of noodles, then sauce.
  • Somewhere in the middle, add a layer of ricotta. On top of the ricotta, add a thin layer of sauce. We like only one layer of ricotta. Then more noodles. Repeat with the sauce and noodles till your dish is full. Finish with a thin layer of meat sauce. Grate your cheese and spread it over the top.

Bake the Lasagna

  • Place your lasagna dish on a baking tray to catch any drips while baking. Cover your dish with a lid or foil and bake your lasagna at 375 degrees for 30 mins. Remove the cover and bake an additional 15 mins or until the cheese is lightly browned.

Notes

Tips for the Best Bolognese

  • make sure to cook the onions, carrots and celery enough so that they just melt into the sauce. You don’t want the sauce to have any bite to it from the veggies.
  • season the meat liberally. Be a little careful with the salt, but go buck wild on the onion and garlic powder. Don’t be stingy with the salt either, but just don’t go crazy.
  • spend the time and the elbow grease to break the meat into very small pieces. I don’t know why, but it makes the sauce taste better.
  • taste for seasoning at the end of the cooking process. If it tastes like it “needs something” then just add a touch more salt and retaste till you get it how you like it.
  • you want your sauce for this lasagna to be have lots of liquid because the noodles will absorb some of the sauce and you don’t want it dry. This is why we don’t say to simmer for longer than 15 mins. If your sauce gets thick, add some water.

Nutrition

Calories: 517kcal | Carbohydrates: 14g | Protein: 32g | Fat: 37g | Saturated Fat: 19g | Fiber: 3g | Sugar: 7g

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Originally posted at Cooks with Cocktails