Yesterday, I shared my classic Italian dinner party menu with you, and today I'll share the lasagna recipe.

My recipe comes inspired by my friend and old roommate Laura, who used to spend Sundays in college rolling out her own fresh pasta and making lasagna for us.  Laura’s parents were from Italy, and as per them, her lasagna contained no ricotta, just a combination of creamy bechamel sauce and rich, meaty Bolognese. It was completely spectacular.

I don't own a pasta machine, so I cheated a little bit, and bought fresh pasta at Eataly. It was only marginally better than the boxed stuff; not nearly the same as making it yourself.  So if you are ambitious like Laura, I’d highly recommend you get your pasta machine going, but rest assured that if you’re a little more like me, purchased pasta will still be delicious. 

Classic Italian Lasagna
1 recipe Bolognese sauce, see below
1 recipe Bechamel sauce, see below
1 lb fresh lasagna noodles
½ lb fresh mozzarella, sliced
½ cup good Parmesan cheese (I mean the stuff from Italy, not anything that comes in, God forbid, a green can)
Fresh basil leaves

Preheat oven to 400° and get a large pot of water boiling on the stove. Next to that, fill a bowl with cold water and ice, and lay out a few sheets of paper towels on your counter.

When the water boils, add a big dose of salt (a tablespoon or so), and drop in 3 or 4 of your lasagna sheets. Boil for a minute, and then immediately remove to the ice bath to stop the cooking. Pick up the strips and let excess water drain off, and then lay out flat to dry on paper towels. Repeat this process until all the lasagna noodles have been cooked.

Spread the bottom of a 9x13 baking dish with lots of butter, and a tablespoon of the béchamel sauce.  Layer the bottom of the dish with a single layer of noodles, cutting them to fit as necessary.

Combine the meat sauce and béchamel sauce, and spread a layer on top of the noodles. Sprinkle on some Parmesan cheese.  Then add another layer of pasta, cutting it to fit again, and another layer of béchamel and Bolognese. Repeat process until all the noodles have been used. Cover the top layer of noodles with remaining sauce mixture, and then spread the sliced mozzarella all over. Top with any remaining Parmesan.  Dot with a little extra butter.

Make Ahead: At this point, you can tightly cover and refrigerate it for a day. When ready to bake, bring it to room temperature for an hour ahead of time.

To continue on, bake on the upper rack of the preheated oven for 20-25 minutes. Remove, let stand for 10 minutes, and serve, garnishing with fresh basil and passing extra Parmesan at the table. 

Leftovers will keep in the fridge for two days, or you can freeze them for 2 months. 

Bolognese Sauce
1 28oz can San Marzano tomatoes, crushed
2 6oz cans of tomato paste
1 lb ground beef (or 1 1b 3 Stooges* if you prefer)
1 large clove garlic, smashed
Large handful fresh basil
Pinch red pepper flakes
Olive oil

Bolognese sauce is four simple steps:

1. Over medium heat, coat a large Dutch oven or other large pot with enough olive oil to just cover the bottom. Drop in your garlic clove and red pepper flakes. Let garlic sizzle for a few minutes, until just lightly golden.

2. Add in chopped meat, and sauté in garlic and oil until browned.

3. Add in two cans of tomato paste, and cook for one minute.

4.  Add 28 oz can of tomatoes and the basil and stir to combine.  Lower heat slightly to medium low, and leave pot lid ajar.  Let the sauce simmer for an hour, stirring occasionally.

Let this sauce cool on the stove for an hour and then refrigerate for 2 days, or freeze for a few months.

*That’s a mix of ground beef, pork, and veal, for all you non-Italians out there.

Bechamel Sauce (adapated from Marcella Hazan’s Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking)
A béchamel sauce is a sauce made of flour, butter, and milk. It adds a deliciously creamy layer of flavor to the lasagna. 

2 cups milk
4 tbsp (half stick) of butter
3 tbsp flour
¼ tsp salt

Put milk in a saucepan and turn heat on to medium low. Heat just to the verge of boiling, where you see a ring of small bubbles.

While heating the milk, put the butter in a heavy, 4-6 cup saucepan, and turn heat on to low. When completely melted, add the flour and stir constantly with a wooden spoon for two minutes. Do not let the flour become colored. Remove from heat.

Add the hot milk to the flour mixture, no more than 2 tbsp at a time. As soon as that has become incorporated, add another 2 tbsp. Repeat until you have added ½ cup of milk, and then add the rest of the milk ½ cup at a time, stirring constantly.

Put the pot back over low heat, add salt, and cook, stirring nonstop, until the sauce is the consistency of thick cream.

Can be made ahead 1 day. Press a piece of plastic wrap to the surface of sauce and refrigerate until needed.


  1. That looks outstanding and I am inviting myself over and eating the entire lasagna tray