With an easy homemade sauce and a gooey, cheesy filling, this Classic Lasagna is a timeless recipe that comes together quickly. It’s perfect for weeknights or Sunday dinner, and makes a great freezer meal as well!
A Classic Family Favorite
I’ve always just winged it when making lasagna…a layer of red sauce, a layer of noodles, a layer of cheese. Repeat. But after making it for a weeknight meal recently, and realizing how much my family really does love this dish, I decided to get a traditional lasagna recipe down in writing.
This Classic Lasagna recipe features layers of easy-to-make homemade red sauce with Italian sausage, wide lasagna noodles, and a wonderful “cheesy yum”. If you’re familiar with my famous Lasagna Soup recipe, then you know all about that incredible cheesy yum, and I’m sure you’ll be clamoring to make a pan of this lasagna ASAP!
Homemade lasagna is an irresistible comfort food. And I believe that many people don’t put it on their menu regularly simply because it can be time consuming to make. But I want you to know that I handed off this recipe to our oldest daughter Hatti and asked her to make it and give me her feedback. While we were eating it together she said, “I can’t believe how easy this was to make, and it tastes this good!”
I do hope you enjoy this lasagna – it’s easy to make and full of flavor. And that cheesy yum just puts it over the top, with every single bite loaded with creamy, gooey, extra-cheesy deliciousness!
What You’ll Need
This traditional lasagna recipe includes an easy made-from-scratch sauce and a creamy, cheesy filling that I like to call “cheesy yum”. Once you try it, you’ll know what I mean – YUM!
FOR THE LASAGNA MEAT SAUCE
- Italian sausage – I love the flavor that Italian sausage brings to this lasagna. I use a mild Italian sausage, but you could substitute hot Italian sausage as well. You could also use ground beef or ground pork, but I’d recommend adding some additional Italian seasonings to boost the flavor.
- Olive oil – If the sausage doesn’t render enough fat, use the olive oil to sauté the onion. If there is plenty of grease in your skillet, feel free to skip it!
- Yellow onion – Onion adds great earthiness to the lasagna and is a classic addition to marinara sauce. You could also use some shallot if you prefer.
- Garlic – Fresh garlic is beautiful in lasagna. Feel free to use as little or as much as you like.
- Tomato paste – Tomato paste enhances the tomato flavor in the marinara. Toast it in the pan for a bit to bring out even more richness in flavor.
- Water – Water deglazes any browned bits from the bottom of the pan and helps the tomato paste incorporate into the sauce.
- Crushed tomatoes – I love the flavor of San Marzano tomatoes but any kind of crushed tomatoes will work.
- Italian seasoning – Italian seasoning is a great way to bring all the traditional Italian herbs into the sauce.
- Red pepper flakes – Red pepper flakes add a bit of spice to the sauce – I like a little kick! Feel free to add as little or as much as you like.
- Fresh julienned basil – Fresh basil is a classic addition to lasagna. It adds great flavor to the sauce and makes a pretty fresh garnish.
FOR THE CHEESY YUM
- Ricotta cheese – Ricotta provides a base for this luxuriously creamy cheese layer. I recommend whole milk ricotta but part skim will work as well.
- Shredded mozzarella – Shredded mozzarella adds a gooey cheesiness to the lasagna, so fabulous when combined with the ricotta and Parmesan. I recommend using whole milk shredded mozzarella for its richer flavor and wonderful “cheese pull” texture. But if you can’t find whole milk mozzarella, part skim will work just fine.
- Parmesan – Parmesan adds nuttiness and the perfect salty flavor to the cheesy yum. For an extra special lasagna, grate some Parmesan yourself. Otherwise the kind you shake out of the container works just fine.
- Italian seasoning – An easy way to include a variety of dried herbs, for that classic lasagna flavor.
- Garlic powder – Garlic powder adds a bit more garlic flavor to the cheese layer. You could also use 1 clove of grated garlic if you prefer.
- No-boil lasagna noodles – No-boil lasagna noodles are available in most grocery stores and they make this recipe so much easier and faster. If you can’t find no-boil noodles, be sure to follow the package directions for par-cooking traditional noodles. Also, know that no-boil noodles have a slightly softer texture than traditional lasagna noodles. If you desire firmer noodle layers with a bit more “chew”, then use traditional lasagna noodles instead (cook them prior to layering them into the lasagna).
- Mozzarella cheese – Again, if you can find whole milk shredded mozzarella, that’s my go-to!
- Fresh basil – An optional garnish at the end.
How to Make Classic Lasagna
Are you ready to make a pan of over-the-top-delicious homemade lasagna? Let’s get to it!
- Cook the sausage. In a large skillet, cook the Italian sausage until crumbled and browned. Transfer to a bowl and set aside.
- Make the lasagna meat sauce. Add the onion to the sausage drippings to the skillet, or add olive oil if needed. Once the onion is soft, stir in the garlic and tomato paste. Deglaze the pan with a little water, then add the crushed tomatoes, Italian seasoning, and red pepper flakes. Stir to combine and bring to a simmer. Add the Italian sausage back to the skillet, plus the basil. Remove from heat and set aside.
- Prepare the cheesy yum. While the sausage and sauce are cooking, mix together all ingredients for the cheesy yum.
- Add the layers to the pan. Spread some of the sauce on the bottom of the baking dish. Cover with a layer of noodles. Top the noodles with some of the the cheesy yum. Repeat until all of the elements have been used.
- Bake. Top with the remaining shredded mozzarella and bake for 30-35 minutes. If desired, broil the lasagna for a few minutes, until the cheese on top is blistered. Finish with a garnish of fresh basil.
Classic Lasagna: Tips & Variations
Here are a few things to keep in mind when making homemade lasagna, as well as a few easy swaps and additions.
- Adjust the spice level. If you’d like more kick with the flavor, opt for hot Italian sausage and add more red pepper flakes. On the other hand, if you’re not a fan of the heat, add just a pinch of red pepper flakes or omit them entirely.
- Swap the sausage for beef or pork. Ground beef or ground pork can be used for the lasagna meat sauce. Just know that Italian sausage adds a ton of flavor to this dish, so if you use plain pork or beef you will need to add some additional seasonings (dried herbs, salt, pepper, etc.) to boost the flavor.
- Add more veggies. If you want to add another serving of veggies to this dish, you can mix spinach into the cheese mixture. Thaw frozen spinach, squeeze it between paper towels to remove moisture, chop it coarsely, and then mix it into the cheesy yum. You could also dice some bell pepper and sauté it along with the onion.
- Use traditional lasagna noodles. My goal for this classic lasagna recipe was not only “super tasty”, but also “easy”, thus I used no-boil noodles. Just know that they have a softer texture. So if you prefer firmer noodle layers with a bit more “chew”, then use traditional lasagna noodles instead of the no-boil noodles – cook them separately prior to layering them into the lasagna.
- Let the lasagna sit before serving. After removing the lasagna from the oven, allow it to rest for 10 minutes or so. This will allow the cheesy yum layer to firm up a bit, making it easier to serve.
Our family loooooooves some freshly baked (cheesy) garlic bread with this lasagna. And I always like to add something fresh and green – usually a simple side salad of fresh greens and chopped veggies, dressed with a zippy Italian vinaigrette. If we’re serving this as a larger meal, or for company, an Italian chopped salad is always a hit.
Can I Make This Classic Lasagna In Advance?
Lasagna is a great make-ahead meal. You can either prepare the entire thing or just make the sauce and cheesy yum in advance.
- Make the lasagna ahead of time. Follow the directions above, assemble completely, and then instead of baking, simply cover with foil and place in the fridge. Remove from the fridge and bring to room temperature, then bake as instructed. You may need to bake a bit longer, since the ingredients are not warmed. If the top starts to brown more than you like before the dish is thoroughly hot, simply place a loose tent of foil over the baking dish.
- Make the sauce and cheesy yum in advance. The main elements of this dish can easily be prepared in advance. They will stay good in the fridge for up to 3 days, but you can also freeze them for later. Just bring these items to room temperature prior to assembling the lasagna. This is a great option for cutting out most of the work and mess, for quick lasagna assembly prior to eating – perfect for busy weeknights and easy entertaining!
Can I Freeze Lasagna?
Yes, lasagna is perfect for freezing. I like to make two at a time so there’s always an extra in the freezer, for an easy meal down the road. To freeze, assemble as directed then cover tightly with plastic wrap and a double wrap of heavy duty foil. Freeze for up to 3 months. Defrost overnight in the fridge and bake as directed, adding more cooking time if needed.
Alternatively, you can also freeze lasagna leftovers once they’ve cooled completely. Simply place leftovers in a freezer safe container and freeze for up to 3 months. Defrost overnight in the fridge and heat in the oven or microwave.
How to Store & Reheat Leftovers
- How to store leftovers. Leftover lasagna can be stored in the fridge, in an airtight container, for up to 4 days. Leftovers can also be frozen, following the directions above.
- How to reheat lasagna. Leftover lasagna can be reheated in the microwave or oven. If reheating in the oven, you may want to cover the top of the pan with foil to prevent burning.
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For the Sauce:
- 1 pound bulk mild Italian sausage
- 1 tablespoon olive oil, if needed
- 1 small to medium yellow onion, diced
- 2 large cloves garlic, minced
- 2 tablespoons tomato paste
- ¼ cup water
- 1 can (28 ounces) crushed San Marzano tomatoes
- 1 teaspoon dried Italian seasoning
- ¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes, or to taste
- 1 tablespoon fresh julienned basil
For the Cheesy Yum:
- 1 container (15 ounces) ricotta cheese
- 2 cups whole milk shredded mozzarella
- 1 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
- 1 teaspoon dried Italian herb seasoning
- ½ teaspoon garlic powder
- 1 pound no-boil lasagna noodles (see notes)
- 1 ½ cups whole milk shredded mozzarella cheese
- fresh basil, for garnish
- For the sauce: Preheat the oven to 350° F and lightly spray a 9" x 13" pan with nonstick cooking spray.
- Heat a large skillet over medium heat. Add the Italian sausage and cook, breaking up the sausage, for 6 to 7 minutes or until it is crumbled and browned. Remove sausage to a bowl and set it aside.
- If the skillet is dry, add the olive oil. If not, just add the onion directly to the sausage drippings. Cook the onion, stirring occasionally, for 4 to 5 minutes or until it is soft and just beginning to brown.
- Add garlic and tomato paste, stirring the tomato paste until it evenly coats the onions. Cook for 1 minute.
- Deglaze the skillet by adding the water and gently scraping the browned bits off the bottom of the pan with a wooden or plastic spoon.
- Stir in crushed tomatoes, Italian herb seasoning, and red pepper flakes. Bring mixture to a gentle simmer. When it starts to bubble, add the cooked Italian sausage and basil to the sauce. Taste and season with salt and pepper.
- Remove sauce from heat and set aside while you prepare the cheesy yum layer.
- For the cheesy yum: In a medium sized bowl, stir together ricotta, mozzarella, parmesan, italian herb seasoning, and garlic powder. Taste and season with salt and pepper.
- To assemble: Spread ⅓ of the sauce evenly over the bottom of prepared baking dish. Add a layer of noodles over the sauce. Then spread half of the cheesy yum mixture over the noodles.
- Repeat the layering process: 1/3 of the sauce, layer of noodles, second half of the cheesy yum mixture.
- Finish by spreading the remainder of the sauce, followed by the remaining 1 ½ cups of shredded mozzarella. Bake for 30-35 minutes or until the lasagna is thoroughly hot and the cheese is melted and beginning to brown. If desired, place pan under the broiler for 2 to 3 minutes to blister the cheese a bit.
- Remove from the oven and let sit for 5 minutes before serving. Garnish with fresh basil if desired.
Store any leftover lasagna in an airtight container in the fridge for up to three days.
- No-boil lasagna noodles are available in most grocery stores and they make this recipe so much easier and faster. If you can’t find no-boil noodles, be sure to follow the package directions for par-cooking traditional noodles. Also, know that no-boil noodles have a slightly softer texture than traditional lasagna noodles. If you desire firmer noodle layers with a bit more "chew", then use traditional lasagna noodles instead (cook them prior to layering them into the lasagna).
Nutrition Information:Yield: 8 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 509Total Fat: 30gSaturated Fat: 13gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 17gCholesterol: 71mgSodium: 914mgCarbohydrates: 31gFiber: 2gSugar: 9gProtein: 27g
Nutrition information is automatically calculated by Nutritionix. I am not a nutritionist and cannot guarantee accuracy. If your health depends on nutrition information, please calculate again with your own favorite calculator.