How to make the best lasagne
Authentic lasagne (or lasagna) is based upon the flavoursome layered combination of bolognaise sauce pasta, grated cheese and a creamy sauce.
The bolognaise sauce
Made from beef or veal mince, the secret is to give the sauce time to simmer gently and develop its rich and robust flavour. Add a little water or stock if needed and let the sauce reduce slowly. Go to our Best Lasagne page for a delicious sauce recipe.
- Fresh pasta sheets are a good option, they’re readily available and fuss free. Cut them to size to fit your baking dish.
- Pre-cooked or no-boil dried pasta sheets can be a little dense at times, but if you look for dried pasta sheets made with egg they will give you a more tender result. If using dried pasta sheets have your bolognaise sauce a little runny, this helps the pasta to cook.
The creamy white sauce
- Made with butter, flour and milk (or half milk, half-stock) it gives a creamy balance to the rich meaty bolognaise.
- Add the milk slowly to the cooked butter and flour and you’ll avoid any lumps.
- Flavour the sauce with grated cheese if you like, parmesan or tasty cheese are flavoursome choices.
Next we have the grated cheese sprinkled between the layers of pasta and meat sauce. There are quite a few cheeses that can be used for making lasagne, the most popular is mozzarella, as it melts superbly. You could also try:
- Bel Paese and Fontina are also good melting cheeses.
- Ricotta is often used, it blends well with other ingredients like spinach. It adds extra smoothness and creaminess.
- Grated parmesan is frequently sprinkled between the layers of bolognaise, pasta and sauce. A dusting of grated parmesan is also good when the lasagne comes out of the oven.
Making it ahead of time
Making lasagne from scratch can take a little time but the good news is you can make the bolognaise sauce ahead of time, up to 2 days in advance, or even longer if you freeze the meat sauce. Then all you need do is assemble and bake your lasagne on the day of serving.
Assembling and cooking the lasagne
- If the bolognaise sauce has been prepared in advance, heat it and the white sauce until they are warm to the touch. This helps the sauces spread evenly.
- Start with a thin layer of bolognaise sauce over the base of the ovenproof dish to stop the cooked pasta sticking to the base.
- Then in with a layer of lasagne sheets, sprinkle them with a little grated cheese if using it.
- Top with a ladleful of bolognaise, using a spatula to carefully spread the sauce over the lasagne sheets. Then drizzle with some of the white sauce.
- Repeat layering process, to the top of the dish, finishing with white sauce.
- Sprinkle with a little parmesan and a few teaspoons of butter.
- Cover the lasagne with a sheet of baking paper, and then a large sheet of foil, tuck the foil around the edges of the baking dish.
- Bake covered for the first half of the cooking time, and then uncovered until golden brown and thoroughly hot.
- Any ovenproof baking dish can be used, a deep, rectangular baking dish or roasting dish is good for a large lasagne. Fresh lasagne sheets or dried sheets can be cut or broken to fit.
- For a moister lasagne use a taller rather than squat dish.
Lasagne for one or two
For single serve lasagne, assemble the lasagne in mini loaf pans or small disposable aluminum containers. The individual lasagnes can be frozen (for up to one month) and baked one at a time as needed.
Don’t cut the lasagne too soon after baking or you’ll get messy servings, better to let to stand for about 10 minutes before cutting.
Make enough for leftovers!
- A large lasagne can be frozen for up to a month.
- Cover the top with plastic wrap, then foil, and then wrap the dish tightly with plastic wrap.
- Thaw overnight (or at least 8-10 hours) in the fridge. If it’s not fully defrosted, reduce the oven temperature to moderately low and bake for an additional 30-40 minutes.
- Individual serves of leftover lasagne will freeze very well too.
- Remember to reheat to thoroughly hot.