This is it. An authentic lasagna recipe without ricotta or cottage cheese. This easy recipe is layered with a homemade spaghetti sauce with Italian seasoning and no-boil noodles.
Layered with mozzarella cheese, tomato sauce, and white sauce this lasagna skips the ricotta and cottage cheese and focuses on being an easy homemade lasagna.
An authentic lasagna recipe is layered with bechamel sauce rather than ricotta or cottage cheese. It give the lasagna a much creamier texture and a richer flavour. And it's really not any more work. Bechamel sauce only takes 10 minutes to make.
This may be the best homemade lasagna recipe you ever tried. It's easy to make with a thick and rich meat sauce, a creamy bechamel sauce layered with lasagna sheets, and lots of cheese. Somewhere between a traditional lasagna and a "lazy style" we'll go through some different versions of how you can adapt this recipe to what you have on hand and what your family loves.
Why You'll Love This Recipe
- It's an authentic Italian pasta bake that everyone will love.
- Rich beef sauce layered with cheese and creamy bechamel make this a crowd pleaser.
- Makes enough to feed a crowd.
- This lasagna is perfect to make ahead of time.
For the meat sauce
- ground beef ground pork mix (mince beef/ pork mix)- you can use all ground beef if you prefer
- olive oil
- yellow onions
- mushrooms- you can adapt this recipe to use a pound of ground beef and stretch the rest of the meat sauce with the mushrooms
- garlic- I've used fresh but you can substitute garlic powder onion powder- is optional, but goes well if you're using garlic powder too.
- bay leaf- optional but a traditional flavor in Italian recipes
- dried oregano
- dried basil
- tomato paste
- red wine- optional
- beef stock- made with a stock cube
- chopped tomatoes
- red wine vinegar
- uncooked lasagna noodles- we're using no-boil lasagna sheets instead of regular lasagna noodles to keep it nice and easy.
For the bechamel sauce
For the cheese layer
- Gruyere cheese
- mozzarella cheese
I know this seems like a lot of ingredients for an easy meat lasagna recipe, but most of the ingredients are pantry staples that you probably already have anyway.
See the recipe card for quantities.
The best lasagna recipe ever- step by step
Make the meat mixture
- heat a couple of tablespoons of olive oil in a large skillet or a large pot.
- Brown ground beef over medium-high heat. Cook until the meat is deep golden brown and crispy.
- pro tip- don't worry about the meat being crispy. We want to add lots of flavor, which the browning process does and the meat gets tossed with the marinara sauce so it's very moist.
Set the meat aside while you make the pasta sauce.
To make the tomato sauce
- Add a little bit more oil to the pan if you need to. Gently fry the onions and mushrooms until they are golden for about 10 minutes.
- Add in the garlic, herbs, and tomato paste. Pour in the wine and bring to a boil. Let the wine bubble for about 3-5 minutes.
- Pour in the stock and chopped tomatoes. Reduce the heat to a simmer and cook gently, partially covered, for 2-3 hours until the meat is tender and the sauce is thick.
Making the bechamel sauce
- Melt the butter in a pan over medium heat.
- Stir in the flour and cook for 2-3 minutes to get rid of the raw flour taste. *Pro-tip- take your time with this step. If the raw flour taste is not eliminated, it will carry through to the finished sauce.
- Add in a pinch of nutmeg or mixed spice- this is a very traditional flavor in white sauces for lasagna. The flavor goes very well with the meat sauce. *This is a secret ingredient that makes a big difference.
- Whisk in the milk and simmer until you have a perfect creamy texture. The sauce needs to be thick enough to hold a ribbon on top. *see photo
Assembling the lasagna
The easiest way to layer-
- start with a single layer of meat sauce in the bottom of the pan,
- followed by a layer of uncooked noodles,
- a layer of bechamel sauce
- then the cheese.
Then repeat layers. Prepared sauce- noodles- bechamel- cheese- repeat 3 times until the remaining sauce is used. Bake in the preheated oven for about 30-40 minutes. Use a small paring knife to check if the lasagna sheets are cooked. When they're done, the knife will go into the lasagna without resistance.
If you are layering and baking the lasagna right away, it will only need about 30-35 minutes. If you are making this ahead of time and leaving it in the fridge, it will need closer to 1 hour. Just be sure to cover the lasagna with foil so that it doesn't burn the cheese.
The beauty of this recipe is that you can do either one. I prefer the no-boil lasagna noodles because they save time and effort. Be sure to check the package to make sure.
To use pre-boil sheets simply cook them according to the package instructions and cool them in a bowl of cold water to stop the cooking process. Layer and bake the lasagna as usual.
*Pro tip- When using the no boil sheets make sure that your sauce has a little extra liquid to be able to cook the noodles.
Substitutions and variations
- Instead of the beef and pork mixture, you can use Italian sausage- either sweet or spicy.
- Vegetarian pasta sauce is also great in this recipe- this homemade sauce is a winner!
- Add in a layer of wilted fresh spinach to add some green to the lasagna.
- Red pepper flakes in the sauce add a nice bit of heat if that's your thing.
Equipment can have a big impact on how a recipe turns out.
- Use a glass baking dish like a pyrex or a metal baking pan.
- I prefer a ceramic one because it looks great going from oven to table.
- A grater is a must for grating the cheese and garlic.
- Use no-boil lasagna sheets to make life easy
- Make sure your beef/pork gets very golden to get the most flavor.
- Season the meat sauce and the bechamel sauce well with salt and pepper.
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Lasagna With Bechamel Sauce
- 1 kg (2 ⅕ lb) mince beef, ground beef
- 4-5 tablespoons (4 tablespoons) olive oil
- 1 (1) large onion, fienly chopped
- 250 g (2 ½ cups) mushrooms, finely chopped (optional)
- 3 cloves (3 cloves) garlic, grated
- 1 (1) bay leaf
- 1 tablespoon (1 tablespoon) dried oregano
- 1 teaspoon (1 teaspoon) dried basil
- 2 tablespoons (2 tablespoons) tomato puree, tomato paste
- 300 ml (1 ⅕ cups) red wine, good quality
- 200 ml (⅘ cups) fresh beef stock made with a stock cube
- 400 g (13 ½ floz) tin chopped tomatoes
- 2 tablespoons (2 tablespoons) red wine vinegar
- 12 (12) sheets lasagna
- 70 g (½ cups) gruyere cheese, grated
- 150 g (1 ¼ cups) mozzarella cheese, grated
For the bechamel
- 60 g (2 ⅛ oz) butter
- 60 g (2 ⅛ oz) plain flour
- 600 ml (2 ⅖ cups) whole milk
- ¼ teaspoon (¼ teaspoon) mixed spice *see notes
- Heat oil in a pan and cook the beef until it’s a deep golden brown and crispy. *see notes
- Transfer to a plate and set aside.
- Add the onion and the mushrooms to the pan with a little more of the oil if necessary, and fry for 10 minutes until golden. Then add the garlic, herbs, and tomato paste. Pour in the wine and bring to a boil and let it bubble for 3-5 minutes.
- Add in the stock, chopped tomatoes and red wine vinegar and return the beef to the pan. Reduce the heat to a simmer and cook gently partially covered for 2 ½ - 3 hours until the meat is really tender and the sauce is thick.
- Meanwhile, make the bechamel sauce. Melt the butter in a pan and stir in the flour. Use a whisk to stir and cookout for a minute or 2 then gradually add in the milk whisking all the time, until you have a smooth thick sauce. Season well and add in the pinch of mixed spice.
- Once the beef sauce is cooked remove the bay leaf. The sauce should be just thick enough that it coats the meat.
- Preheat the oven to 200c/ 180 fan
- Spoon ⅓ of the meat sauce into a large oven-proof dish. Top with 4 of the lasagna sheets and spoon over ⅓ of the bechamel and sprinkle that with ⅓ of the cheese mixture.
- Repeat the layering process twice more ending with the bechamel and cheese. Bake for 30-35 minutes until bubbling and golden.