What could possibly be more comforting than the smell of a tray of Italian-American style lasagna fresh from the oven? Beneath the crispy, melty top lies layers upon layers of cheesy, saucy goodness. A creamy ricotta and herb mixture is slathered between thin sheets of pasta, each of which is topped with mozzarella, Pecorino Romano, and a hearty meat ragu, culminating in one of the most beloved of all Italian-American baked pasta dishes.
American Lasagna is a recognizable menu staple in many Italian eateries. It is one that is pleasing to even the fussiest of eaters making it a dish that is sure to please a crowd.
In fact, you will often find lasagna on the tables of many Italian-American families on holidays, such as Thanksgiving (served as the first course way before the turkey), Christmas, and Easter.
It's relatively simple to make, freezes well, and as I said, pleases even the pickiest and hungriest of crowds.
The great lasagna debate
This recipe is for the Italian-American style lasagna that I grew up eating and uses my recipe for meat sauce (the same one used in my Pasta al Forno recipe). There are many variations of the dish, and the authentic Italian version, the one you'd be served in Italy, is quite different.
The Italian version of this dish is often made with a Bolognese Ragu and a bechamel, which starts with a roux (milk and flour) and is flavored with a touch of nutmeg. You will not find ricotta cheese in the authentic Italian recipe.
And of course, there are so many variations of this dish that you've likely tried: vegetable lasagna, seafood lasagna, and so on. You can even roll up the noodles. We did just that in this spinach lasagna rolls with white sauce recipe. That's a great one that I encourage you to try!
It is such an easy dish to manipulate and as always, I encourage you to not be afraid to put your own twist on it!
How to make it
Each number corresponds to the numbered written steps below.
- Start by bringing a large pot of water to a boil. Add 2 tablespoons of kosher salt and a drop (¼ teaspoon) of olive oil. While you're waiting for the water to boil, begin making your mixture of 1 pound of ricotta (drained overnight), ¼ cup of minced parsley, ¼ cup of minced basil, 1 teaspoon of kosher salt, and ¼ teaspoon of black pepper. Mix until combined.
- In a separate bowl, beat two eggs. Once beaten, add them to the ricotta and herb mixture.
- Once the water is boiling, add the lasagna noodles in small batches (unless you have a huge pot it will take a few batches) and cook until 1 minute less than al dente and remove them with a pasta spider or strainer. Place them immediately into an ice water bath to stop them from cooking any further.
- Lay the noodles out on parchment paper, or clean dish towels.
- In a 9x13 (or 10x15) baking dish, place a drop of olive oil and wipe the bottom and the sides. Then, add a thick layer of meat sauce to completely coat the bottom of the baking dish. Note: I am using the meat sauce from my Pasta al Forno recipe. For a meatless version, you can use my easy marinara sauce recipe.
- Place 6 lasagna noodles on the first level so they slightly overlap. Spread a thick layer of the ricotta mixture onto the noodles.
- Then, layer ⅓ of the mozzarella, another thick layer of meat sauce, and finally ⅓ of the grated Pecorino Romano cheese. Repeat this process over the next two layers.
- On the top layer, just add the sauce, mozzarella, and Pecorino Romano cheese. There is no ricotta mixture on the top layer. Cover with a lightly oiled tin foil cover. Alternatively, you could cover with parchment paper first, then tin foil. The oil/parchment paper is to prevent the cheese from sticking to the foil. In the middle of the oven, bake the lasagna covered at 375f for 45 minutes. Bake uncovered for 15-20 minutes more until the side noodles are crispy and the cheese is bubbly. Once the lasagna is done, it needs to sit for at least 30 minutes to allow it to settle, so factor that amount of time in when serving.
What to serve with lasagna
Lasagna is a hearty meal, so you'd want to consider serving it alongside something light.
If you are making this lasagna for Thanksgiving (I see you my fellow New Yorkers), you might want to check out some of my Thanksgiving recipes, like my sage and onion stuffing or my sausage and apple stuffed acorn squash.
As far as drinks go, I say mix up a pitcher of moscato sangria, or pop open a nice full-bodied Chianti, Barbaresco, or Amarone, depending on your budget.
More baked pasta recipes
- Baked penne with Italian sausage - Easy Italian sausage-based sauce with penne, ricotta, and mozzarella.
- Meatless baked ziti - Marinara, mozzarella, ricotta, and ziti are baked until bubbly.
- Baked rigatoni with meat sauce - Mozzarella and rigatoni are tossed with a hearty meat ragu.
- Spinach ricotta stuffed shells - Creamy ricotta and spinach stuffed shells with meat sauce.
- Four cheese baked manicotti - Large tubes of pasta stuffed with 4 cheeses and baked to perfection.
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For the lasagna
- 5 cups meat sauce meat sauce recipe
- 1 pound lasagna noodles
- 1 pound mozzarella cheese sliced
- 1 cup Pecorino Romano finely grated
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
For the ricotta mixture
- 1 pound ricotta drained overnight
- ¼ cup parsley minced
- ¼ cup basil minced
- 2 large eggs beaten
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- ¼ teaspoon black pepper
- Bring a large pot of water to a boil and add 2 tablespoons of kosher salt and a ½ teaspoon of olive oil. Boil the lasagna noodles (work in batches and stir well to avoid sticking) to very al dente (about 4-5 minutes). Scoop out sheets with a mesh strainer or pasta spider and shock in ice water. Lay flat the lasagna noodles on parchment paper or clean dish towels.
- In a large bowl combine all the ricotta mixture ingredients.
- In a 9 by 13 (or 10 by 15) baking dish place a drop of olive oil and wipe the bottom and sides. Next add a thick layer of meat sauce, completely coating the bottom of the baking dish.
- Place 6 lasagna noodles on the first level (they should slightly overlap). Spread a thick layer of the ricotta mixture onto the noodles, then layer ⅓ of the mozzarella, another thick layer of meat sauce, and finally ⅓ of the grated Pecorino Romano cheese.
- Repeat the process on the next two layers. On the top layer just add the sauce, mozzarella, and Pecorino Romano cheese.
- Cover the lasagna with a lightly oiled tin foil cover or parchment paper then foil to prevent sticking.
- Bake the lasagna covered at 375f for 45 minutes in the middle of the oven. Bake uncovered for 15-20 minutes more until the side noodles are crispy and the cheese is bubbly. Enjoy!
- Makes 6 large or 8 decent sized servings.
- This recipe uses meat sauce, from our Pasta al Forno recipe. For a meatless version, you could use our quick marinara sauce or your own sauce.
- Make sure to cook the lasagna noodles to very al dente in batches. Lay out the noodles on clean kitchen towels or parchment paper to make an easy assembly process.
- Any broken lasagna noodles can still be used. They work best in the middle, reserving the good pieces for the outside edge.
- Cover the lasagna with parchment paper, then foil to prevent sticking. Remove the paper and foil for the last 15 minutes to get the noodles nice and crispy. Broiling for 2 minutes right at the end works great but watch carefully!
- After removing the lasagna from the oven, allow to sit for at least 30 minutes before serving. This will allow the lasagna to settle and will help prevent it from collapsing once you've sliced it.