The ultimate lasagna recipe is here! Layered with a rich tomato meat sauce and 4 types of cheese, this homemade lasagna dish is beyond delicious! It can be made ahead of time, feeds a crowd and is freezer-friendly, too!
That's what this recipe is all about. When I was growing up back in my then small hometown that is now a not so small town and booming like crazy (check out what I mean here: Franklin, Tennessee) everybody knew everybody. Seriously - it was truly a small town. And everybody knew that my moms lasagna recipe was beyond amazing. She only made it once a year, for my dad's birthday. Mom would spend literally ALL DAY making this lasagna recipe and let me tell you...it was well worth the wait because daddy's lasagna birthday dinner night was a night to remember.
Just like this authentic Italian marinara sauce, nothing beats a homemade classic lasagna. Anyone who has ever tasted my mom's lasagna swears it's the best they've ever had. Better than any restaurant. That's a BIG statement right there but it holds true to this day! When I moved out of my parents house I made sure I had my some of my parents best recipes. I ensured I not only had this lasagna recipe, but also knew how to make it! 20 years later, I'm still making this recipe for my family and my catering clients.
BEST THINGS ABOUT THIS LASAGNA
- It's my mom's recipe and has been in my family for about 40 years. It's proven.
- It's super easy to make...my 11 year old makes this dish pretty much by herself.
- The sauce...THE SAUCE! The sauce is the time consuming part but it's SO SAUCY and so worth it!
- Tons of leftovers. This recipe feeds 12-15 people.
- Freezer friendly - it freezes so well.
- Feeds a crowd - I make it as a menu item for my catering business. Oh my goodness my catering clients LOVE IT! It's the #1 requested recipe on the Recipes Worth Repeating catering menu.
And guess what? I'm going to share this recipe with my favorite people in the whole entire world! Yep that's you...my readers!! Because I believe you should have access to the BEST recipes!
I have different groups of ingredients because it's lasagna we're talking about here and lasagna has layers. So, let's break down the ingredients by layers:
Preparing Meat for the Sauce
- Ground Beef (don't freak out at the 20 servings...remember that I cater large parties! You only need 2 lbs when making one lasagna)
- Chopped Yellow Onion
- Dried Oregano
- Dried Thyme
- Brown Sugar
- Bay Leaves
- Fresh Garlic
- Tomato Paste
- Uncooked Lasagna Noodles
- Mozzarella Cheese (shredded)
- Cottage Cheese
- 1 Egg
- Provolone Cheese Slices
- Parmesan Cheese
How To Make Lasagna - Step By Step
Step 1 - Browning The Meat
Ok your turn!! Let's get you making this lasagna!
Brown 2lbs of hamburger meat. Get out a big pan, chop up ½ of a yellow onion and brown that ground beef. Sprinkle in some salt and pepper to season the beef. You want to cook the ground beef until there is no more pink visible. Once your ground beef is done, drain the fat in a colander.
Step 2 - Making The Sauce
Once your ground beef is drained, add the beef back to the same pan. Add in all the sauce ingredients and 2 cups of water and stir until combined. Your sauce will be very watery at this point.
The secret to this recipe is my sauce. I use the same sauce that I use for my spaghetti, but I modify it adding in more oregano and brown sugar. I nurse my sauce for about 2 hours until it's perfect. I put a lot of effort into perfecting the sauce, but it's beyond AMAZING! When this bubbly goodness thickens up, it provides an authentic Italian taste that people rave about!
Step 3 - Making The Noodles
About 30 minutes before your sauce is done, you'll be ready to start making the lasagna noodles. Get out a large pot and fill a little under half way. Pour in a teaspoon of Extra Virgin Olive Oil and sprinkle in some salt. Turn that heat on high and when the water starts to boil, put in the lasagna noodles. I only use Barilla lasagna noodles. They cook PERFECTLY every time. And guess what? Barilla now makes a gluten free oven ready lasagna! Did you hear that?! GLUTEN FREE LASAGNA!! More on that below...so stay with me. Once your lasagna noodles are done, drain the noodles in your colander and run cold water over the noodles. Set aside.
Step 4 - Layering The Lasagna
Now that the sauce and the lasagna noodles are done, it's time to put together the lasagna! First, take half a cup of sauce and spread it evenly on the bottom of the pan. This prevents sticking while cooking.
For the first layer, place 3 lasagna noodles over the sauce.
Now it's time for layer 2. Add in a layer of Provolone cheese. Oh...that wonderful melted cheese in a lasagna...SO GOOD!! Place 6 provolone cheese slices on top of the lasagna noodles your just laid down.
Layer 3 involves add in some of the sauce and adding it on top of the Provolone cheese slices. Make sure to spread the sauce around evenly so the cheese slices are covered.
For layer 4, take a small bowl and mix together the cottage cheese and egg. I like to add in some fresh ground pepper to my egg and cottage cheese mixture. Once that is mixed well, pour your cottage cheese and egg mixture on top of the meat sauce and spread evenly so the cottage cheese is mixed well with the sauce.
For layer 5, add 3 more cooked lasagna noodles on top of your meat and cottage cheese.
Layer 6 is all about the cheese! Sprinkle on a heavy layer of shredded mozzarella cheese on top of those lasagna noodles.
That 7th layer is adding on 3 more cooked lasagna noodles to cover the shredded mozzarella cheese. I can already taste the bubbly melted cheesy goodness mixed with that yummy Italian marinara sauce! But hold on, we have one more layer.
Layer 8 is adding the rest of the homemade authentic Italian marinara sauce on top of the lasagna noodles. Spread that sauce around evenly so it's well covered.
I always finish of my lasagna by adding grated Parmesan cheese on top of the sauce. When the lasagna cooks and the 4 cheeses melt and combine together, you've got yourself one amazing tasting dish! Cover that lasagna dish with aluminum foil and pop it in the oven so that sauce and those cheeses can combine work their magic in the oven!
After an hour and 10 minutes of cooking, you've got absolute lasagna perfection! A bubbly pan of cheesy creamy tomato-saucy comfort food! It sounds silly, I know...but I'm hopelessly in love with this lasagna recipe. Like...IN. LOVE.
Cut me a piece of this bubbly goodness right now! Layer upon layer of saucy tomato and cheesiness nestled into layers of lasagna noodles for a perfect slice of comfort food.
SO MUCH LOVE TO THIS LASAGNA! THANK YOU MOM!
- The secret to this sauce is nursing it. Taste it periodically and adjust the salt, brown sugar and oregano as needed for the taste you prefer. I find myself adding more water over the span of 2 hours so it's not too thick. Don't make your sauce too salty...remember that the cheese contains a lot of salt.
- When your sauce starts to thicken, generally add in more water. I find myself adding 3-4 cups of total water to this recipe, but again nurse it so the sauce is the perfect taste and consistency.
- If you want a more saucy sauce, you can add in 1 can of petite diced tomatoes. If you want it even more saucy, you can also add in half a jar of Newman's Own Marinara Sauce.
- I like to make my sauce and put the lasagna together the day before I actually cook it. Follow all the steps above and place a piece of aluminum foil over the lasagna. Place it in the refrigerator and let it sit overnight. The next day, pull it out of the fridge and cook per instructions below.
- After your lasagna has cooked, let it sit and cool for 15 minutes before you slice it and serve.
- When you're feeding a crowd, just double, tripe or quadruple this recipe. I have fed up to 300 people with this lasagna recipe at my catering events.
- If you want to prep ahead and make this a freezer meal, get yourself a disposable aluminum pan, do all the steps but don't cook the lasagna. Instead, place a piece of aluminum foil over the prepped lasagna and freeze. When you're ready to pull that lasagna out of the freezer and cook it, let it thaw on your counter for 2 hours before cooking it. Once thawed, leave the aluminum foil on and cook as normal.
- For best quality, the lasagna can stay frozen for up to 2 months.
- I use a higher fat content ground beef. It provides more flavor to the lasagna.
- GLUTEN FREE READERS!! I'm so excited about this...you can make a Gluten Free version by using Gluten Free lasagna noodles! I use Oven-Ready Lasagne noodles from Barilla. You can order them here.
Perfectly Pairs With Lasagna
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- 2 lbs Ground Beef
- ½ Yellow Onion, chopped
- 3 teaspoons Oregano, dried
- ½ teaspoon Thyme, dried
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ¼ teaspoon pepper
- 1 6 ounces can Tomato Paste
- 2 Garlic Cloves
- 3 cups Water, divided
- 1.5 Tablespoons Brown Sugar
- 2 Bay Leaves
- 1 box Lasagne Noodles, uncooked (I use Barilla)
- 6 slices Provolone Cheese
- 1.5 cups Mozzarella Cheese
- 6 ounces Cottage Cheese
- 1 Egg
- 1 cup Parmesan Cheese, freshly grated
- Pepper, to taste
Directions for Preparing The Sauce
- In a large pan, add the 2 lbs of hamburger meat. Chop the onion and add to the hamburger meat. Brown the meat until it is no longer pink.
- Brown the meat until it is no longer pink. Drain and set aside.
- In a large pan, add the browned hamburger meat and all other sauce ingredients together and cook at a slow rolling boil for about 2 hours on medium-low heat. The secret to this sauce is nursing it. Taste periodically and adjust salt, brown sugar and oregano, as needed for the taste you prefer. I find myself starting the sauce out with 2 cups of water and adding in an additional cup over the span of 2 hours as it thickens while it cooks. .
- Once the sauce is done, turn off the burner and set aside.
Directions for Preparing Lasagna
- Heat oven to 350 degrees. Cook the box of lasagna noodles according to package directions.
- After the noodles are done cooking, drain and rinse with cold water.
- In a large 9×13 oven safe dish, spread ¼ cup of spaghetti sauce on the bottom of the dish and spread around evenly. This ensures that the noodles don’t stick to the bottom of your dish.
- Lay 3 cooked lasagna noodles over the sauce.
- Next, lay out 6 slices of Provolone cheese over the lasagna noodles.
- Lay 3 more cooked lasagna noodles over the Provolone cheese.
- Next, add some sauce over the cooked lasagne noodles.
- Grab a bowl, take the cottage cheese and mix the egg into the cottage cheese until it is well mixed. Add a pinch of pepper into the cottage cheese and spread evenly into the sauce layer.
- Lay 3 more cooked lasagna shells on top of the sauce and cottage cheese layer.
- Sprinkle 1.5 cups of shredded mozzarella cheese on top of the lasagne noodles.
- Place 3 more cooked lasagne noodles on top of the shredded mozzarella cheese layer.
- Pour the remaining sauce on top of the lasagna noodles and spread evenly.
- Sprinkle the Parmesan Cheese evenly on top of the sauce.
- Cover the dish with aluminum foil and cook for 1 hour and 10 minutes.
- Once done, remove the lasagna from the oven and let rest for 15 minutes before serving.
- The nutritional value showing in this recipe is for the entire pan of lasagna. If you break it down by pieces, we're estimating the following nutritional information per slice:
- 387 calories
- 24 grams protein
- 25 grams carbs
- 21 grams fat
- If using a gluten free noodle, follow the directions on the package and adjust the recipe accordingly.
- By using a higher fat ground beef, it adds more flavor to the lasagna.
- If you want to prep ahead and make this a freezer meal, get yourself a disposable aluminum pan, do all the steps above but don't cook the lasagna. Instead, place a piece of aluminum foil over the prepped lasagna and freeze. When you're ready to pull that lasagna out of the freezer and cook it, let it thaw on your counter for 2 hours before cooking it. Once thawed, leave the aluminum foil on and cook as normal.
- For best quality, the lasagna can stay frozen for up to 2 months.
- If you want a more saucy sauce, you can add in 1 can of petite diced tomatoes.
- If you want a more saucy sauce, you can also add in half a jar of Newman's Own Marinara Sauce.
Update Notes: This post was originally published in July of 2015, but was republished with an updated step-by-step instructions, pictures and tips in July of 2018.
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