This classic lasagna recipe is one you can always make “as is” with perfect results each time, although there are plenty of ways to put your own spin on it! It’s one of our family’s favorite comfort foods. Not to mention, it always tastes amazing second day, so leftovers are a good thing in this case.
What Makes This Lasagna a “Classic”
Classic lasagna is a traditional recipe made with lasagna noodles, ricotta cheese, tomatoes, and tomato paste, eggs, thick slices of mozzarella cheese, and a scant amount of spices. It’s one of those popular dishes that practically everyone loves. It’s easy to make and can feed a crowd. Visit any Italian restaurant and I have a feeling the waitstaff will say that lasagna is one of their most popular dishes, regardless of what else’s is offered.
Over the years, lasagna recipes have been modified in so many ways. And that’s not necessarily a bad thing. After all, my gluten-sensitive friends had to avoid it until more recently when gluten-free noodle alternatives came on the market. However, I still feel that a truly classic lasagna is one you can enjoy best when it’s made the old-fashioned way.
How To Make Classic Lasagna
One of the reasons I love to make lasagna is because there’s no waiting in the process of making it. As the ground beef browns, you can start boiling the noodles, mince garlic, or stir up the cheese mixture, therefore streamlining your time in the kitchen. I always assemble my ingredients and cookware that’s needed first before I cook or bake, and that’s for a few reasons.
- You’ll want to make sure you have everthing the recipe calls for. It’s no fun to brown the ground beef before you realize the tomato paste you thought you had was used two weeks ago in a different recipe.
- As you mix and sift, you’ll want to keep an eye on your stovetop to make sure things aren’t boiling over or burning. You can’t stir constantly when you’re trying to dig up spices from the back of a cabinet.
- Cooking and baking is just more enjoyable and less stressful when it’s an organized process.
Essentially, to make lasagna, you start with a saucy layer of ground beef in a 9″ x 13″ baking dish. Then you add a layer of noodles followed by the ricotta cheese mixture and mozzarella and then repeat it. The top layer is the final layer of mozzarella. Once it’s done, you can put it in the refrigerator until it’s ready to bake or cover it will foil and pop it in an oven that’s preheated to 350 degrees Fahrenheit for 30 minutes. Finally, if you prefer your mozzarella topping to be a bit more on the browned side, remove the foil and bake for another 10 minutes.
Classic Lasagna Ingredients
I like to cook the ground beef slowly, continually breaking it down as it cooks so it’s finer in size. Once the meat is cooked through, you can add the minced garlic, parsley, and basil.
Garlic, Dried Parsley Flakes, and Dried Basil
Just one clove of freshly minced garlic, and a teaspoon each of parsley flakes and dried basil add classic Italian flavor without being overpowering.
Tomatoes and Tomato Paste
One of the things that makes this lasagna so good is the thick sauce. The combination of tomato paste and diced tomatoes add significant texture. It’s a much better alternative than just adding a jarred sauce. I just hate runny sauce in lasagna! I didn’t can tomatoes over the summer, so I used a can of good-quality diced tomatoes I bought at the grocery store instead. Store-bought diced tomatoes are a good shortcut item when you’re aiming to cook and bake as much as possible from scratch but need to make a substitution or two.
This recipe only uses half a box. If you need to keep your lasagna gluten-free, check out my substitutions area at the bottom of the recipe. I always salt the water the noodles will boil in. It not only adds a bit of extra flavor but keeps the noodles from sticking together so much. It’s definitely an easy way to ensure your lasagna noodles won’t accidentally tear into pieces as you’re layering them in the baking pan.
Ricotta, Egg, Parmesan, and Mozzarella
The ricotta is mixed together with pepper and some parmesan, and then layers of mozzarella cheese slices finish off the layers of this decadent dish.
- - 1 pound ground beef
- -1 clove minced garlic
- -1 teaspoon parsley flakes
- -1 teaspoon dried basil
- -1 14-ounce can diced or chopped tomatoes, undrained
- -2 6-ounce cans tomato paste
- -1/2 package dried lasagna noodles
- -2 large eggs, beaten
- -1 12-ounce carton Ricotta cheese
- -1/2 teaspoon ground pepper
- -1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
- -1 pound sliced Mozzarella cheese
- Brown ground beef in a large skillet with a spatula or wooden spoon, stirring until the meat crumbles; drain. Add garlic and next four ingredients; partially cover and simmer for 15 minutes or until sauce is thick, stirring occasionally.
- Cook lasagna noodles in salted water according to package directions; drain.
- Combine eggs, Ricotta, pepper, and Parmesan, stirring well.
- Spread half of the meat sauce in a greased 9"x13" baking dish. Layer half each of noodles, cheese mixture, and Mozzarella. Repeat layers. Cover with foil and bake at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for 30 minutes. Let stand for up to 10 minutes before serving.
Variations and Substitutions
Although I absolutely love this classic lasagna recipe as is, there are many ways to make it your own.
- Need it to be gluten-free? There are so many great alternative noodles on the market. I recommend sticking with your favorite and following the package directions.
- Want more cheese? I recommend adding another carton of Ricotta before adding more Mozzarella.
- To make Florentine style lasagna, work in some spinach. I recommend what you can find in the frozen aisle, thawed and squeezed as dry as possible. Other good veggie mix-ins I recommend are squash and zucchini.
Note: Although you could technically use shredded and bagged Mozzarella, I highly recommend buying slices from your grocery store’s cheese or deli section instead. The lasagna not only cuts cleaner, but the taste is so much better when made with high-quality cheese.
Other Comfort Food Recipes I Think You’ll Love
If you try this recipe, let me know what you think in the comments!