Everyones favourite meaty, cheesy Italian dish, this classic beef lasagna recipe is everything it should be – layers and layers of rich and comforting Bolognese meat sauce, creamy bechamel sauce, gooey cheese (measured with the heart) and al dente pasta.
This recipe is my version of the perfect lasagna and if my tester feedback of “Best lasagna EVA” is anything to go by I figure I could be onto something. This is traditional Italian lasagna, made the traditional Italian way and I’ve been wanting to publish it for so long, so here she is.
Loved basically everywhere, the classic lasagna idea has been used as a base for so many different versions from white lasagna to vegetarian lasagna to even Mexican lasagna.
The most delicious lasagne ever!!!Michelle
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Lasagna or Lasagne; which is it?
Have you ever noticed how lasagna sometimes has an ‘e’ on the end instead of the ‘a’. So, which way is correct; lasagna or lasagne? In the Italian language, lasagna refers to the singular – a single dish – while lasagne refers to plural – a number of dishes. While lasagna would technically be correct, these days many English speaking countries use lasagne (with an e). Therefore, both are acceptable. Phew!
Ingredients for lasagna
Traditional Italian lasagna is loaded with meat running through a rich tomato sauce. The bechamel is a smooth parmesan cheese sauce and then we add extra cheese, because cheese! We can’t forget those layers of pasta that hold it all together. Lasagna is so similar to making spaghetti Bolognese with just a little more patience required to get those ultra-rich, comforting layers.
Detailed quantities and instructions in the recipe card below.
- Vegetables: The Bolognese sauce starts with a base of onion, carrot and garlic. Each give a unique characteristic to the sauce and add to the umami.
- Meat: Traditionally, lasagna alle Bolognese is made using a combination of beef and pancetta (the Italian version of bacon). Mine uses pork mince in place of the pancetta. This combination gives the best flavour. The beef can be 80-90% lean but I don’t suggest using ultra lean beef. That fat not only adds flavour but also a silkiness and richness to the sauce.
- Tomatoes: Tomatoes are added in three forms; crushed canned tomatoes, tomato passata (aka tomato puree) and tomato paste (that thick concentrated paste).
- Seasonings: The meat sauce has seasoning from dried oregano, sugar, salt and pepper. The sugar is important – it does not make the lasagna sweet but it does make it richer and neutralises the acidity that is in canned tomatoes. Salt and pepper also goes into the bechamel sauce.
- Cheese: Parmesan adds loads of flavour both the bechamel and the layers. Then I use a mild cheddar for the real cheesy gooeyness. Shredded mozzarella cheese is perfectly melty and gooey but doesn’t add quite enough flavour. Instead, I find a mild, creamy cheese, similar to cheddar, works better – something like gouda or colby are absolutely perfect but you can also use your favourite cheddar.
- Pasta: Last but certainly not least, the pasta. I use dried instant sheets of pasta for this recipe for convenience. You can also use fresh sheets, however cut down the beef stock to ½ cup.
- The bechamel: The milk should be whole milk, so that it doesn’t split. A little butter and flour, parmesan and seasoning and that’s all you need.
Non-negotiable: You must shred your cheese yourself. Never buy pre-shredded cheese if you want a smooth and melty cheesy finish since they are dusted with coatings that prevent the cheese from sticking together in the pack.
Substitutions / Additions
- Celery: Feel free to add a chopped stick of celery to the sauce for added flavour and added veg. Onion, carrot and celery are quite a classic combo in Italian sauces.
- Beef and pork: You can use all beef or use half beef and half pork. You can technically even use other mince / ground meats like chicken, lamb or turkey.
- Red wine: Many classic lasagna recipes have the addition of wine. While I don’t add it to this one, I do add it in my classic Bolognese recipe. Add ¾ cup of red wine on it’s own, after the meat has browned and let it boil for 1 minute before adding the remaining sauce ingredients. Cut down the beef stock to 1/2 a cup.
- Cheese: Most cheddar cheese varieties will work well here. You can use your favourite cheddar, even a gruyere, just make sure to buy a block and shred it yourself.
- Stock: Feel free to substitute the stock in this recipe for water.
How to make beef lasagna (step-by-step)
There is nothing difficult about making lasagna. A little time, yes but nothing is tricky and the time you put into that sauce is what makes all the difference.
A classic lasagna is made up of 4 components;
- The meat sauce
- The bechamel sauce (or white sauce)
- Lotsa cheese!
- Sheets of pasta
Detailed quantities and instructions in the recipe card below.
The Bolognese meat sauce
- Start with veg: First, you’re going to soften the onion, carrots and garlic in a pan (photo 1) on the stovetop.
- The meat: Add the meat and cook, breaking it up with a wooden spoon, until it’s just browned all over (photo 2).
- Add the sauce: Now add all the remaining sauce ingredients and give it a good stir to combine (photo 3).
- Simmer: Simmer the sauce for around 40 minutes until it’s looking thick and rich and that meat is tender. Done!
Bechamel for lasagna
This is a classic bechamel sauce or white sauce. No cream and no ricotta cheese. It starts with a roux, that thickens the milk then seasoning is added. You can make the bechamel, while the meat sauce is cooking. Make sure you have everything ready to go before starting.
- The roux: Start by making a roux (which is used to thicken the sauce). Melt the butter in a saucepan, then add flour and whisk to a paste (photo 4). Cook this, whisking regularly to cook out the raw flour flavour.
- Add milk: Add the milk a little at a time, whisking all the time (photo 5) so that it incorporates into a silky smooth sauce.
- Thicken: Let this cook until it thickens enough to coat the back of a spoon and doesn’t run when you draw a horizontal line in it with your finger.
- Flavour: Now we add the flavour – parmesan, salt and pepper. Mix it until smooth, and it’s done (photo 6).
Assemble the lasagna
The lasagne is assembled in 4 layers – bechamel in the first layer and top; some cheese in the middle and top; meat in all the layers except the top. It’s very simple, fun and all laid out in the recipe card below.
Now, bake that baby until the top is turning golden and you can see it’s all bubbling and delicious.
Yield and storage
This is a large lasagna, perfect for a crowd or for a family dinner with freezable portions for later. You’ll get 10 serves from this or 8 super generous portions.
Make ahead: You can make the lasagna ahead of time. Assemble, then chill in the fridge for 2-3 days before baking or freeze it for up to 3 months. If frozen, it will need to thaw in the fridge for 24-36 hours. Take the dish out of the fridge 45 minutes prior to baking otherwise the dish may crack from the extreme temperature change from fridge to oven. Cover with aluminum foil, bake for 25 minutes, then remove the foil and bake a further 40-45 minutes.
Leftovers: Let the leftover lasagna cool until the dish is just warm to the touch. Cover with plastic wrap and chill for 2-3 days. If freezing the leftovers, first portion it out into serving sizes then seal in airtight containers and freeze for up to 3 months. Thaw in the fridge overnight and reheat in the microwave for 2-3 minutes on high or in the oven at 180C / 350F for 20 minutes.
Both the meat sauce and bechamel sauce can be frozen for up to 3 months – this is great if you only want to make one smaller lasagna as you can save the remaining meat sauce for another one later or for spaghetti bolognese.
Did you try this beef lasagna recipe?
Leaving a rating and comment below the recipe is so helpful!
FOR THE MEAT SAUCE
- 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
- 1 medium onion, finely chopped (1 cup)
- 3 large cloves garlic, minced
- 1 large carrot, coarsely grated
- 750 g beef mince (ground beef) (1.7lb) (notes 1)
- 250 g pork mince (ground pork) (8.8oz) (notes 1)
- 1 x 400g can crushed tomatoes (14oz)
- ¾ cup beef stock / beef broth
- 2 cups passata (tomato purée) (500ml)
- ⅓ cup tomato paste (80ml)
- 2 teaspoons dried oregano
- 2 teaspoons sugar
- 1 teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper
- 1 teaspoon fine sea salt
FOR THE BECHAMEL SAUCE
- ¼ cup butter (57g / ½ stick / 2oz)
- ⅓ cup plain flour (all-purpose flour) (43g / 1.5oz)
- 3 cups whole milk (750ml)
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ¼ teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper
- 1 cup finely grated parmesan cheese, not packed (60g)
- 12-15 dried instant lasagna sheets (dependent on size)
- 250 g coarsely grated colby cheese (or mild cheddar or gouda both work great)
- ⅓ cup lightly packed finely grated parmesan cheese, extra
For best results, always weigh ingredients where a weight is provided
- FOR THE MEAT SAUCE:Heat the oil in a large frying pan or dutch oven over medium-high heat.
- Add the onion, carrot and garlic and saute, stirring often for 3-4 minutes until the vegetables have softened.
- Add the beef and pork and cook stirring and breaking up the meat until there’s no more pink left.
- Add the remaining meat sauce ingredients: First the crushed tomatoes, then add the beef stock to the empty can, give it a swirl and add that in too. Now everything else – passata, tomato paste, oregano, sugar, black pepper and salt.
- Stir well to combine then bring to a simmer and cover. Keep the heat on medium low heat or low heat – just enough for a few bubbles to be popping up at once. Simmer like this for around 40 minutes, until the sauce has thickened and looks rich. The meat should be tender.
- While the meat sauce is simmering, make the bechamel.
- FOR THE BECHAMEL SAUCE:In a large saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat.
- Add the flour and whisk well to combine. Continue cooking whisking often, for about 1 – 1 ½ minutes. Don't let it brown.
- Add the milk little by little while continuing to whisk to keep it smooth, until it is all added and you have a smooth white sauce. Let this cook on low-medium for around 3-5 minutes until it starts to bubble and thickens enough to coat the back of a spoon and not run when you draw a line through it with your finger.
- Take it off the heat and whisk in the parmesan, salt and pepper. Whisk until smooth. Set aside.
- ASSEMBLE THE LASAGNA:Preheat the oven to 180C (160C fan) / 350F.
- Taste the mince and add salt to taste if needed.
- In a large baking dish (roughly ), place big a spoonful of each of the meat sauce and the béchamel sauce and spread out to a thin layer. This will just stop your pasta sheets from sliding around.
- Layer 1: Place a single layer of pasta sheets down, breaking as necessary to fit in. Top with ⅓ of the meat sauce then ⅓ of the bechamel. Spread out.
- Layer 2: Add another layer of pasta sheets and top with ½ the remaining meat sauce and ½ of the extra parmesan and the cheddar cheese.
- Layer 3: Place down another layer of pasta, topped with the remaining meat sauce and ½ the remaining bechamel.
- Layer 4: Top with the final layer of pasta sheets, then spread over the remaining bechamel. Sprinkle over all the remaining cheeses.
- Bake for 45-50 minutes until golden and bubbling.
- Please take a moment to leave a comment & rating. It's appreciated and so helpful.
- Meat: You can increase the pork to 500g and reduce the beef to 500g. You can also use all beef though if you do, don’t use all lean beef. Use a beef that’s 80-90% lean but no higher or you won’t get such good flavour.
- If you make it ahead: If it’s frozen, defrost in the fridge for 24-36 hours first. Remove from the fridge 45 minutes prior to baking (otherwise your dish may become damaged from being very cold and going into a hot oven). Spray a piece of alfoil with oil spray, then place it over the top of the bake. Bake for 20 minutes, then remove the foil and bake a further 45 minutes.
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