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Classic Lasagna

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We took a couple shortcuts for this recipe by using store-bought marinara and boxed pasta sheets. It saves a ton of time without sacrificing any flavor. We think it's absolutely perfect as-is, but also understand some people are looking to make sauce from scratch. If that's the case for you, try out our best homemade spaghetti sauce—simple in ingredients and rich in flavor, it'll never let you down. 

Regardless of the route you choose to go down, make sure to follow these tips—We've reworked this recipe based on user comments to make it even better with more meat, more sauce, and more cheese!

Don't overcook your noodles.

Lasagna noodles need structure, especially because they have a lot of ingredients layered between them! You don't want to make 'em too mushy, which can be easy to do accidentally because they're cooked twice: once in the boiling water, and once in the oven. Make sure to cook them until they're very al dente in the boiling stage: They're ready typically 2 to 4 minutes before the amount of time on the box! Don't listen to the box of lies and look instead for the thin white line in the middle of your noodle when you go in to take a little test nibble.

Oil 'em up. 

While you're making your beef and ricotta mixtures, your lasagna noodles will typically be hanging out in a colander, getting stuck together (worst nightmare). To prevent this, after you drain the noodles from the pasta pot, slick them with olive oil and lay them flat on a baking sheet to cool. Or, if you'd prefer, sandwich them between layers of plastic wrap, which will make for a much easier peel later.

Get your favorite marinara.

We decided to go with store-bought marinara for this recipe but it doesn't mean you should pick any old jar off the shelf. Even though there are tons of layers and flavors in lasagna, the sauce is the backbone of the dish. Spending a couple more bucks on your favorite brand is worth it in this case.

Drain beef. 

Sometimes we're a little lazy and skip this step when making a meat sauce and we always regret it—the sauce tastes so greasy! Draining the fat from the skillet is a must for your lasagna layers, which will already have a lot of fat from cheese. Too much fat may lead to messier layers that slide apart once cut!

Season your ricotta mixture. 

My Italian grandmother always added a secret ingredient to her lasagna: cinnamon. Other families swear by a little freshly grated nutmeg. The ricotta mixture always gets overlooked and, therefore, tastes kinda bland. Make sure to season it generously with salt and pepper—Parm, too!

Don't bake for too long. 

Lasagna is one of those dishes that firms up a lot as it sets. Even though it might look like a cheesy, bubbly mess in the oven, if it's warmed all the way through it will be perfect once you let it sit for at least 15 minutes. When you overbake the pasta, you run the risk of the noodles drying out and getting too crispy. Instead, let it cool down naturally and allow for all the cheese and sauce to set a touch before digging in.

What can I make in advance?

The whole dang thing! The best part about lasagna is how beautifully it freezes. Assemble it fully (I like to wait to put the very last layer of cheese on until ready to bake) and then wrap up tightly in plastic wrap and foil and freeze. It will keep up to 3 months in the freezer. When you are ready to bake, unwrap, top with cheese, cover back with foil, and bake as directed. It may need some extra time in the oven! You can also thaw it out in the fridge the night before you plan to bake. 

If you don't want or have room to freeze you have a couple other options for prepping your lasagna ahead of time. You can fully assemble the lasagna and refrigerate for up to 2 days ahead of time. Pop it into the oven straight from the fridge! You can also make your sauce ahead of time, which will still save you a bit of time. Cook your ground beef and stir in marinara, then let it cool down and then store in the refrigerator for up to 4 days. You can use the sauce straight from the fridge when ready to assemble!

What about leftovers?!

To store leftovers cover with plastic wrap or places slices in an airtight container and keep in the fridge for 3 to 5 days. Any longer and you'll want to pop it in the freezer for up to 3 months. To reheat, cover with aluminum foil and bake at 350º until hot and bubbly.

Have you made this recipe? Rate it and let us know how you like it in the comments below. Don't want to follow a recipe? Check out our No Recipe Lasagna and choose your own adventure!

Editor's Note: This introduction to this recipe was updated slightly on January 7, 2022.

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Cal/Serv: 533
Yields: 8 servings
Prep Time: 0 hours 20 mins
Total Time: 1 hour 15 mins
3/4 lb.

lasagna noodles

1 tsp.

extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling

2 lb.

ground beef


cloves garlic, minced

2 tsp.

dried oregano

Kosher salt

Freshly ground black pepper


(32-0z.) jars marinara

16 oz.

whole milk ricotta

1/2 c.

freshly grated Parmesan, divided

1/4 c.

chopped parsley, plus more for garnish


large egg

2 lb.

sliced mozzarella

  1. Preheat oven to 375º. In a large pot of salted boiling water, cook pasta according to package directions until al dente, less 2 minutes. Drain and drizzle a bit of olive oil to prevent noodles from sticking together.
  2. Meanwhile, in a large pot over medium-high heat, heat oil. Cook ground beef until no longer pink, breaking up with a wooden spoon. Remove from heat and drain fat. Return beef to skillet and add garlic and oregano and cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Season with salt and pepper, then add marinara and stir until warmed through. 
  3. Combine ricotta, 1/4 cup Parmesan, parsley, and egg in a large mixing bowl and season with salt and pepper. Set aside.
  4. In a large casserole dish, evenly spread a quarter of the meat sauce across the bottom of the dish, then top with a single layer of lasagna noodles, a layer of ricotta mixture, a single layer of mozzarella, and a layer of meat sauce. Repeat layers, topping the last layer of noodles with meat sauce, Parmesan, and mozzarella.
  5. Cover with foil and bake for 15 minutes, then increase temperature to 400º and bake uncovered for 18 to 20 minutes.
  6. Garnish with parsley before serving.

Nutrition (per serving): 533 calories, 63 g protein, 54 g carbohydrates, 4 g fiber, 13 g sugar, 52 g fat, 26 g saturated fat, 1648 mg sodium

Parker Feierbach
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