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.  

Tray of lasagna being held with gloves.

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.

  1. Start by bringing a large pot of water to a boil.  Add 2 tablespoons of kosher salt and a drop (1/4 teaspoon) of olive oil.  While you’re waiting for the water to boil, begin making your mixture of 1 pound of ricotta (drained overnight), 1/4 cup of minced parsley, 1/4 cup of minced basil, 1 teaspoon of kosher salt, and 1/4 teaspoon of black pepper.  Mix until combined.
  2. In a separate bowl, beat two eggs.  Once beaten, add them to the ricotta and herb mixture.

Italian-American lasagna recipe process shot collage group number one.

  1. 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.
  2. Lay the noodles out on parchment paper, or clean dish towels.
  3. In a 9×13 (or 10×15) 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.
  4. Place 6 lasagna noodles on the first level so they slightly overlap.  Spread a thick layer of the ricotta mixture onto the noodles.  

Recipe process shot collage group number two.

  1. Then, layer 1/3 of the mozzarella, another thick layer of meat sauce, and finally 1/3 of the grated Pecorino Romano cheese.  Repeat this process over the next two layers.  
  2. 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.  

Lasagna in glass baking dish being held over table.

What to serve with lasagna

Lasagna is a hearty meal, so you’d want to consider serving it alongside something light.  

When I make lasagna, I usually serve it with this Via Carota style green salad or sauteed broccoli rabe.

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.  

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Italian-American Lasagna

5 from 17 votes
Prep: 30 minutes
Cook: 1 hour
Resting Time: 30 minutes
Total: 2 hours
Servings: 6
This classic Lasagna is made with store-bought lasagna noodles, a hearty meat sauce (ragu), ricotta, mozzarella, and Pecorino Romano cheese.

Ingredients 

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
  • 1/4 cup parsley minced
  • 1/4 cup basil minced
  • 2 large eggs beaten
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper

Instructions 

  • Bring a large pot of water to a boil and add 2 tablespoons of kosher salt and a 1/2 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 1/3 of the mozzarella, another thick layer of meat sauce, and finally 1/3 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!

Notes

  • 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.

Nutrition

Calories: 683kcal | Carbohydrates: 52g | Protein: 42.6g | Fat: 33g | Saturated Fat: 17.8g | Cholesterol: 224mg | Potassium: 307mg | Sugar: 1.6g | Calcium: 731mg | Iron: 3mg

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

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60 Comments

  1. I’m making my lasagna right now. After assembling, I have to put in frig overnight before baking. How long should I then bake and at what temp? Should I bring it to room temperature first?

    1. Hi Ginny, remove the lasagna from the refrigerator about an hour before you plan to bake it. Then let it bake for 45 minutes – 1 hour at 375f covered, then uncover and bake for another 15-20.

    1. Hi Charlotte, ricotta is grainy. If you wanted a smooth sauce you could make a bechamel, but that doesn’t have ricotta in it and would be a very different type of lasagna.

      1. To clarify do you prepare and freeze and then bake or do you prepare, bake, freeze and reheat ? Which do you recommend ? Thanks

  2. 5 stars
    Hi Jim and Tara,
    I am from Queens, NY, but retired to Western NC. I love your podcast and this Lasagna recipe is so similar to the way my Dad made his lasagna. He was Italian-American (Calabrese). My husband is going to make it for Christmas Eve this year, since he has to work on Christmas Day.

    Merry Christmas to you and your family. Thanks for all these delicious recipes!

    1. Hi Leslie, we’re so happy you’re enjoying the podcast and hope you and your husband enjoy the lasagna on Christmas Eve! Merry Christmas to you and thanks for following along with us!

  3. Reading this recipe, makes me want to jump up and start making lasagna, exactly as you do ! I love the Italian American version I think more than the “authentic” one. Although the last time I made it I did a compromise version. Ricotta and a Bolognese sauce instead of my ordinary meat sauce. It was pretty good and allowed me to enjoy my Ricotta. Growing up my kids requested this meal on a regular basis. My grandmother and mother used to put all kinds of meat in the layers, sausage, sliced meatballs mostly, ricotta and mozzarella. This resulted in a dish so hearty some of us could barely move. Eventually after grandma passed my mom switched to homemade manicotti which she thought of as “lighter.”

    1. Hi Louise, we’re so happy this recipe brought back some nice memories for you and we appreciate you sharing with us!

  4. 5 stars
    I made this for Christmas 2 years ago with the meat sauce and everyone said it was the best lasagna they ever had! I’m going to make it again this year. We also love your chicken with cherry tomatoes and capers! Everyone asks for the recipe. Thank you!