This authentic Italian lasagna recipe with béchamel sauce is to die for! This classic scratch recipe pairs silky sheets of pasta, layered with slow-simmered beef Bolognese sauce and creamy Parmesan béchamel topped with fresh, melty mozzarella cheese.
This is an in-depth post covering everything your need to know when making lasagna from scratch. Fee free to skip ahead to any section in the Table of Contents.
Table of Contents
- What is Lasagne al Forno?
- How To Make Authentic Italian Lasagna - 4 Main Components
- 1. Ragu Alla Bolognese (Beef Bolognese Recipe)
- 2. Parmesan Besciamella (AKA Béchamel AKA Cheesy White Sauce)
- 3. Pasta - Fresh or Dried
- 4. Cheese, Please!
- Assembling Lasagne Al Forno
- Tips For Baking Lasagna
- Buon Appetito!
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What is Lasagne al Forno?
In Italian, Lasagne al Forno refers to a layered pasta dish that is baked in the oven. It is essentially the same as the "Lasgana" known by Americans. The major differences are that American lasagnas are often layered with ricotta cheese (or sometimes cottage cheese). However, a classic Italian lasgane is more traditionally layered with a creamy béchamel sauce (Parmesan besciamella).
Lasagne Verses Lasagna - What's The Difference, Anyway?
By now, you may have noticed that there are two spellings for lasagna (lasagne). So what's the difference, anyway? In Italian grammar, "lasagna" refers to one sheet of pasta, or one singular lasagna noodle. Therefore, the dish consisting of many layers of lasagna noodles is referred to as the plural, "lasagne". "Lasagne" is simply a more authentic spelling and pronunciation of what most Americans know as "lasagna".
How To Make Authentic Italian Lasagna - 4 Main Components
This classic Italian lasagna recipe is made from four major components. To make this lasagna Bolognese recipe you will need:
1.) A completed Ragu Alla Bolognese recipe
2.) A creamy béchamel sauce with Parmesan cheese
3.) Lasagne Pasta - You can use fresh pasta (as pictured), no-boil lasagna sheets or your favorite boiled lasagna noodles.
4.) Cheese! Fresh mozzarella and extra Parmesan for a gooey, cheesy topping.
Keep reading through this post to see step-by-step demonstrations for each component of this traditional lasagna.
1. Ragu Alla Bolognese (Beef Bolognese Recipe)
The hero of this lasagne al forno is a slowly-simmered, full-flavored Ragu all Bolognese. This ground beef tomato sauce is incredible for many recipes but hits it's highest potential in this homemade lasagna.
The secret to this beef Bolognese recipe is to let it simmer slowly with red wine, milk and San Marzano tomatoes. It does require several hours to prepare. However, this Bolognese meat sauce can be prepared ahead of time and layered into the lasagna straight from the fridge. You can see the entire Ragu alla Bolognese post here, or keep scrolling for a photo demonstration of the simple process.
1. In a large Dutch oven, sauté the soffrito (carrots, onion, celery and garlic) in olive oil over medium heat until tender and aromatic. Then, add the ground beef and break it up with a wooden spoon. Season with salt and black pepper and cook until the meat has browned.
2. Next, add tomato paste. Stir to combine. Stir in a dry red wine (or substitute beef stock) and bring to a simmer for 10 - 15 minutes.
3. Add milk and bring to a simmer for about 30 - 45 minutes.
4. Add in whole peeled tomatoes, thyme and bay leaves. Bring to a gentle simmer and cook, uncovered for 2 ½ - 3 ½ hours.
5. After simmering, the Ragu alla Bolognese will have reduced to a thick, hearty sauce that is perfect for layering in this lasagne al forno!
2. Parmesan Besciamella (AKA Béchamel AKA Cheesy White Sauce)
A rich béchamel cream sauce with Parmesan is KEY to this traditional Italian lasagna recipe. Bechamel is often thought of as a French cream sauce. However, it is believed this simple roux-thickened sauce actually originated in Italy.
In Italy, this sauce is called "Salsa Besciamella". This version of the white sauce is thickened and flavored with freshly shredded Parmesan cheese. This creamy white sauce is layered with layers of pasta and beef Bolognese for a silky, cheesy flavor in every bite of lasgana!
Parmesan Besciamella Ingredients
Chef's Note: For the best results, use freshly grated Parmesan cheese. Pre shredded cheeses contain additives that can make the béchamel sauce clumpy or grainy. Freshly shredded Parmesan is KEY to a silky smooth cream sauce.
Parmesan Besciamella How To Video (Parmesan Bechamel Sauce)
3. Pasta - Fresh or Dried
As you probably know, sheets of pasta are essential to any classic lasagna recipe. For this recipe you can used dried and boiled lasagna sheets or the no-boil lasagna sheets. However, for the best results, I would encourage you to make homemade fresh pasta.
Homemade noodles are a simple way to elevate this lasagna al forno recipe to the next level. Not only do fresh pasta sheets taste better than regular boiled noodles, they are also quick and easy to make.
Some benefits of making homemade pasta for this recipe are a.) not having to boil the lasagna noodles b.) having lasgana noodles that lay perfectly flat and c.) having a pasta recipe that is quick, easy and requires little fussing.
To make this authentic lasagna the best you've ever had, try our homemade semolina pasta dough recipe!
(How To Make Fresh Pasta)
Follow the link for our scratch pasta recipe and guide with Step-by-Step instructions, best practices and How To videos!
4. Cheese, Please!
What's a lasagna without an epic cheese pull!? We recommend finishing the top layer of this lasagna with slices of fresh mozzarella and an additional sprinkle of Parmesan. As the lasagna bakes, the top of the lasagna will bubble to golden brown, irresistible perfection!
Assembling Lasagne Al Forno
Once all of the components of this authentic Italian lasagne al forno recipe are ready to go, the assembly process is quick and easy. You can go ahead and assemble this lasgane recipe a day ahead of time for one of the best make-ahead dishes around. It always makes for easy entertaining and lots of compliments. Here's how to assemble this lasagna recipe:
1. Have all of your prepared ingredients ready to go. Start by spreading a small amount of beef Bolognese in the bottom of your lasagna pan. Then, lay your first layer of lasagne pasta sheets in the bottom of your baking dish.
2. Spread a layer of Parmesan béchamel sauce over the lasagna noodles. It is okay if the besciamella has cooled and thickened, it will become saucy again during the baking process. Next, add a thick layer of Ragu Alla Bolognese (Beef Bolognese sauce).
3. Repeat the layering process until the lasagne pan is full. (In our standard Pyrex baking dish, we had 5 layers each of pasta, Bolognese and besciamella). Reserve a little additional besciamella for the top layer of the lasagne.
4. Top the lasagne Bolognese with slices of fresh mozzarella and shredded Parmesan cheeses before baking.
Tips For Baking Lasagna
For fool proof lasagna baking, follow these tips and tricks:
- Reduce Ragu alla Bolognese until thick. Yes, the beef bolognese component of this recipe takes a long time. But don't rush it! Even if your Bolognese sauce tastes delicious before it is "done", keep going! It is essential that the Bolognese sauce is properly reduced and thickened to avoid a collapsing, soggy lasagna!
- Don't layer components piping hot! Your lasagna will keep better layers and shape if the layers are stacked when room-temperature or chilled.
- Undercook dried lasagna noodles. If using dried and boiled lasagna noodles, slightly undercook the pasta so that it does not become mushy when baking. We recommend shocking the hot, boiled noodles in ice water for 30 seconds to avoid overcooking.
- Cover the lasagna with oil sprayed aluminum foil. Using cooking spray on the foil will prevent the top cheesy layer from sticking.
- Bake the casserole dish on top of a foil-line sheet pan. Save the bottom of your oven by baking this recipe on a baking sheet lined with aluminum foil. That way, any cheesy overflow will be caught on the pan for easy clean-up.
- Allow the baked lasagne to rest for 10 - 15 minutes before slicing into it. Trust us! It's worth the wait. Let the lasagne cool slightly to set and hold all of those lovely layers.
There you have it! Our favorite béchamel lasagna with homemade beef Bolognese sauce. We recommend serving this lasagna Bolognese to the people you love with some crusty Italian bread and a fresh green salad!
To see some great wine pairings for Lasagne al Forno, check out this section of our Ragu alla Bolognese recipe post. The same suggested wines and grape varietals will pair equally as well with this homemade beef lasgana recipe.
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Lasagne al Forno (Lasagna Bolognese Recipe)
- 1 Large Dutch Oven or Heavy-Bottomed Stock Pot
- 1 8x8 inch Baking Dish
Lasagna Al Forno (Lasagna Bolognese)
- 1 recipe Ragu Alla Bolognese slightly or completely cooled
- 1 recipe Parmesan Besciamella
- 10 - 15 lasagne pasta sheets - fresh; no-boil; or dried, boiled and cooled (See Note: a.) Depending on size you will need 2 - 3 sheets per layer OR about ½+ recipe of our Homemade Semolina Pasta Dough
- 8 ounce fresh mozzarella cheese drained and sliced
- ½ Cup Parmesan cheese freshly shredded or grated
Ragu Alla Bolognese (Beef Bolognese)
- ¼ Cup olive oil
- ½ large yellow onion finely chopped
- 1 medium carrot finely chopped
- 1 stalk celery finely chopped
- 3 cloves garlic minced or grated
- 1 pound ground beef or veal
- 6 ounces tomato paste 1 small can
- 1 Cup dry red wine (or beef stock) (we used an inexpensive Chianti)
- 2 Cups whole milk
- 28 ounces whole peeled tomatoes 1 large can, certified San Marzano tomatoes recommended
- 2 bay leaves
- 5 - 6 sprigs fresh thyme
- fine kosher salt* to taste, about 2 - 3 Tablespoons
- Freshly-ground black pepper to taste, about ½ - 1 Tablespoon
Parmesan Besciamella (Bechamel Sauce)
- 3 Tablespoons unsalted butter
- 3 Tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 2½ Cups whole milk
- 1½ Cups Parmesan cheese freshly grated or shredded
- fine kosher salt* to taste, about 1 teaspoon
- ½ teaspoon nutmeg freshly grated, optional
Ragu Alla Bolognese (Beef Bolognese)
- Gather, measure and prepare the Ragu alla Bolognese ingredients as listed. To view metric measurements, toggle the US Customary/Metric switch at the top of this recipe card.
- In a large dutch oven or heavy-bottomed stock pot, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add onion, carrot, celery and garlic and sauté about 10 - 15 minutes or until aromatic and tender.
- Increase heat to medium-high and add ground beef. Use a wooden spoon to break up the meat, season with salt and pepper and cook until browned. Once browned, add tomato paste and stir to combine.
- Add red wine, stir, and bring to a simmer uncovered for 5 - 10 minutes until alcohol has mostly cooked off and the liquid has reduced in the pot. Add milk and stir. Reduce heat and allow the mixture to simmer gently, uncovered, for 30 - 45 minutes until the milk has greatly reduced.
- Add whole peeled tomatoes, bay leaves and thyme. Bring to a gentle simmer and cook uncovered, stirring occasionally and breaking up the tomatoes, for 2½ - 3½ hours or until the sauce is very thick and flavorful. Remove thyme and bay leaves. Allow Bolognese to cool slightly, or prepare ahead of time and refrigerate overnight, before layering into the lasagna.
Parmesan Besciamella (Bechamel Sauce)
- Gather, measure and prepare the Parmesan Besciamella ingredients as listed. In a medium sauce pot, melt butter over medium heat. Add flour and whisk to combine.
- While whisking, slowly add whole milk. Bring mixture to a simmer, whisking frequently.
- Once simmering, whisk in Parmesan cheese a little at a time until completely melted, thickened and smooth, about 3 - 5 minutes. Season with salt and nutmeg to taste. Set sauce aside until ready to assemble the lasagna. The sauce will thicken as it cools and it is okay to assemble the lasagna with the cooled sauce.
Lasagna Al Forno (Lasagna Bolognese)
- Gather, measure and prepare the Lasagna al Forno ingredients as listed. To assemble the lasagna, start by adding a small amount of Ragu Alla Bolognese to the bottom of your baking dish. Then, add your first layer of lasagna pasta.
- Arrange a rack in the center third of the oven and preheat to 375° Fahrenheit (190° celsius).
- Top the pasta with about ⅕ of the Parmesan Besciamella. Then, add a thick layer of Ragu Alla Bolognese, about 1½ - 2 Cups.
- Repeat layering lasagna pasta noodles with Parmesan Besciamella and Beef Bolognese sauce until the pan is nearly full. The top layer of the lasagne should be the last fifth (or so) of the Parmesan besciamella topped with slices of fresh mozzarella and the ½ Cup (50 grams) of Parmesan cheese. (See Notes b. & c.)
- Cover the lasagne with a piece of tinfoil coated in non-stick cooking spray (to prevent the cheese from sticking). Bake lasagna on a sheet tray for 35 - 40 minutes. Remove foil and continue baking for 5 - 10 minutes or until lasagne is bubbling around the edges and the cheese is golden brown.
- Allow the lasagne al forno to rest at room-temperature for 10 - 15 minutes before slicing and serving. Buon appetito!
*Unless otherwise noted, foodworthfeed recipes are developed using Diamond Crystal brand kosher salt. If using iodized or table salt, reduce quantities by about half.