Lasagna al Forno

Quick and easy, my foolproof Lasagna al Forno recipe is great for feeding a crowd. With layers of rich bolognese sauce, creamy bechamel and pasta, this recipe is guaranteed to have them coming back for more.

An absolute classic of the Italian kitchen, Lasagne al Forno is one of the best-known and most popular pasta dishes in the world.

Perfect for family dinners or prepping meals for the week, my classic lasagna recipe is foolproof and truly delicious. Buon Appetito!

A picture of a classic Italian Lasagne al forno served with fresh green salad and a glass of white wine

A tried and tested recipe

Italian Beef Lasagna is such a crowd pleaser that it is my ultimate go-to recipe. Having guests over and don’t know what they like to eat? Homemade lasagna it is. Not in the mood for trying anything new? Lasagne for dinner. Asked to bring a meal to a pot-luck? Lasagne. Craving comfort food? You guessed it – Lasagne!

Lasagne can be quick and easy

I have lost count of how many times I’ve cooked lasagne over the years, so this is a recipe that I can cook with my eyes closed.

A lot of people swear that you have to cook a bolognese meat sauce like this for hours and hours to get the best flavour. I honestly don’t think that this makes a difference, so my lasagne recipe only takes around an hour – and most of that is hands-off baking time.

I use the time that the lasagne is in the oven to clean up the kitchen and make a quick salad, so by the time dinner is ready the kitchen is sorted, the sides are made, the cook has had a glass of wine and everybody is happy.

Lasagna al forno seen from the top

Is this an authentic Italian dish?

As with all very famous dishes, there is plenty of debate around lasagne. The style of lasagne that has become famous worldwide comes from Emilia-Romagna in Northern Italy (where I live!)

This is the classic combination of a rich and meaty ragù alla Bolognese (meat sauce in the style of the city of Bologna) with creamy béchamel sauce and sheets of pasta.

This easy lasagna recipe is my take on the classic and it tastes perfectly authentic.

Lasagne vs. Lasagna

What’s the difference? Honestly, not much. In the Italian language, the ‘e’ on the ending of the word just means that it is a plural. In this case, one sheet of pasta would be a ‘lasagna’ and many sheets or the whole dish are ‘lasagne’.

In U.S English the whole dish has become known as ‘Lasagna’ and that’s perfectly OK too. Lots of words from Italian have made their way into the English language and are used differently from their mother tongue. In English, we would order two cappuccinos, but in Italian, they ask for ‘due Cappuccini, per favore‘.

‘al Forno’ simply means that the dish is cooked in the oven.

Ingredients

To make a classic Lasagne al Forno, you will need:

  • Butter and olive oil: For cooking a delicious ragu
  • Carrots, celery, onions and garlic: These four ingredients form the sofrito, and are the building blocks of many Italian sauces.
  • Tomato paste and canned tomatoes: Try to find canned Italian tomatoes for the sweetest most flavoursome results. Use a good quality tomato paste or concentrated tomato purée.
  • Ground beef: It’s common in Italy to use a combination of beef and pork mince to make lasagne, so mix it up how you like. Avoid extra lean ground beef, it’s not suitable for a rich ragu like this one.
  • Beef stock: Not a traditional ingredient, but it’s worth it to bump up the meaty, beefy taste in this dish.
  • Oregano and bay leaf: to add a touch of Mediterranean flavour.
  • Milk and cheese: to make a creamy, cheesy béchamel sauce (actually a cheese sauce or sauce Mornay, but that’s another story). You can add a little mozzarella cheese to this white sauce if you like.
  • Lasagne sheets: I prefer to use dried lasagna noodles rather than fresh pasta sheets as they hold together better and give the dish more of a chew. Check that they do not require pre-cooking. I use and thoroughly recommend Italian Barilla Lasagne sheets for the best results.

Instructions

Lasagne al Forno is simple to prepare and has three main steps:

  1. First, prepare the beef ragu by sautéing the vegetables, browning the mince and simmering the liquids down to a rich, flavoursome beef and tomato sauce.
  2. Next, make the béchamel sauce by cooking butter and flour together, whisking in milk and adding plenty of grated cheese.
  3. Lastly, all you need to do is assemble the lasagne in layers and cook to golden brown, bubbling perfection in the oven.

The complete ingredient list and detailed instructions are in the recipe card at the bottom of the page.

What to serve with Lasagna al Forno?

In Italy, a pasta dish is often the Primi or first course of a meal and served just by itself. I like my lasagne with a fresh salad. A Greek Salad or a Tomato and Bean Salad compliment this dish beautifully.

What wine to drink with lasagne?

I’d go with an Italian-style wine to suit this Italian dish. For white wine drinkers a light Pinot Grigio or un-oaked Chardonnay. For red wine I’d go with a Chianti or Primitivo (U.S readers: Primitivo = Zinfandel).

Bechamel Sauce in a pan with fresh nutmeg

Variations

It’s possible to make lasagne with all types of ground meat, I like to make pork and fennel lasagne, but ground turkey or chicken also works well. If you fancy you can try some of my other lasagne recipes.

My friend Sabine’s Pumpkin Seed Lasagne is perfect for vegetarians, or my famous Spicy Mexican Tortilla Lasagne is made with fresh tortillas instead of pasta and is always a winner.

Using fresh pasta

While I usually use dried lasagna sheets to make lasagne, it is perfectly delicious with homemade pasta too. You can my recipe for hand-rolled pasta over here, it’s super quick and easy to make in the food processor.

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

My lasagna sheets need pre-cooking. How do I use them in this recipe?

You’ll need to boil the lasagne sheets in salted water until just beginning to soften, then refresh under cold water. Check the packet for instructions specific to your particular brand.

Can you freeze lasagna?

Yes! Lasagne freezes brilliantly! I cut it up into individual slices as it reheats better.

How do I reheat lasagna?

If frozen I defrost it in the fridge overnight, place it into a fresh ovenproof dish, cover with foil and bake at 180 for around half an hour or until well heated through.

Most restaurants that I have worked in simply reheat it in the microwave (shock, horror, I know. Chef Mike is busier than you might think!)

Bechamel Sauce on top of a lasagna al forno
A picture of a classic Italian Lasagne al forno served with fresh green salad and a glass of white wine

Lasagna Recipe

A picture of a classic Italian Lasagne al forno served with fresh green salad and a glass of white wine

Lasagne al Forno

Jay Wadams
An absolute classic of the Italian kitchen, Lasagne al Forno is one of the best-known and most popular Italian pasta dishes in the world.
Perfect for weeknight family dinners, special occasions or even prepping meals for the week, my easy Lasagna al Forno recipe is foolproof and truly delicious.
4.79 from 23 votes
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 50 minutes
Total Time 1 hour 5 minutes
Serves 4

Ingredients
 

for the bolognese sauce:

  • 1 Tbsp butter
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 2 medium carrots, finely diced
  • 2 stems of celery, finely diced
  • 1 large red onion, finely diced
  • 2 rashers bacon or prosciutto, finely diced
  • 2 large cloves of garlic, diced
  • 2 Tbsp tomato paste
  • 500 g ground or minced beef
  • 1 ½ tsp beef stock powder
  • 250 ml whole milk
  • 250 ml full-bodied red wine
  • 400 g can of whole, peeled tomatoes
  • 2 tsp dried oregano
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 1 bay leaf
  • sea salt and black pepper

for the bechamel sauce:

  • 2 ½ Tbsp butter
  • 2 ½ plain or all-purpose flour
  • 500 ml milk
  • 100 g cheddar cheese, grated
  • 50 g Parmesan cheese, grated
  • pinch of ground nutmeg
  • ½ tsp sea salt
  • freshly ground black pepper

for the lasagne:

  • 9 sheets dried lasagne, see notes

Instructions
 

  • PREPARE: Heat the oven to 200°C / 400°F / Gas mark 6. Melt the butter with the olive oil in a large frying pan over medium heat.
  • SAUTÉ THE VEGETABLES: Add the carrots, celery and red onion to the pan and cook gently for 5-10 minutes until softened. Add the bacon or prosciutto, tomato paste and garlic to the pan and cook a further 2-3 minutes.
  • BROWN THE BEEF: Add the beef and stock powder to the pan and use a wooden spoon or spatula to break it up. Cook, stirring for 5-10 minutes until the beef has begun to brown.
  • ADD THE LIQUIDS: Pour the milk and red wine into the pan. Use a pair of clean scissors to chop the tomatoes in the can and add them to the pan, stirring well to combine.
  • ADD THE SEASONINGS: Stir the oregano, sugar, bay leaf and a few grinds of black pepper into the beef mixture, then simmer for 20 minutes until thick and glossy. Stir occasionally to prevent the beef from catching on the bottom of the pan. Add extra salt to taste, then set aside.
  • MAKE THE BÉCHAMEL: When the beef sauce has nearly finished cooking, prepare the béchamel sauce. Melt the butter in a medium saucepan, stir in the flour and allow to cook for 3-5 minutes, stirring constantly.
  • ADD THE MILK: Pour the milk into the saucepan, whisking constantly. Bring to a simmer until the sauce bubbles and thickens, then remove from the heat. Stir in the cheeses, a sprinkle of freshly ground nutmeg, sea salt and some black pepper. Taste and adjust seasoning as necessary.
  • ASSEMBLE THE LASAGNE: Spoon a layer of beef sauce over the base of a 20x30cm (8×12 in.) ovenproof casserole dish. Top with 2 spoonfuls of béchamel, then place pasta sheets on top (three should fit). Repeat twice more, ending with a layer of the beef sauce. Pour over all the remaining béchamel and smooth the top.
  • COOK: Place the lasagne on a baking sheet and cook in the preheated oven for 25-30 minutes until golden brown. Allow to cool for 10 minutes before slicing and serving with a green salad.

Notes

I cut my vegetables for lasagne in the food processor, this makes the whole process super speedy!
Depending on the size of your dish you may like to add more layers of pasta. Simply keep layering as much as you want, but be sure to reserve a thick layer of béchamel sauce for the top. If you find the béchamel is too thick, simply thin it out with a little more milk.
Use the right pasta sheets for best results. They should state on the box that they do not require pre-cooking. I use and recommend Italian Barilla lasagne sheets if available.

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Nutrition

Serving: 1slice | Calories: 1084kcal | Carbohydrates: 76g | Protein: 50g | Fat: 60g | Saturated Fat: 28g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 3g | Monounsaturated Fat: 21g | Trans Fat: 2g | Cholesterol: 175mg | Sodium: 1361mg | Potassium: 1466mg | Fiber: 6g | Sugar: 21g | Vitamin A: 6501IU | Vitamin C: 16mg | Calcium: 672mg | Iron: 6mg
Tried this recipe?Leave a review or a star rating and let me know how it was! Use the hashtag #daysofjay on Instagram so I can see your delicious creations.
Course | Main Event
Cuisine | Italian
Ⓒ | Jay Wadams
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Jay Wadams
Jay Wadams

Jay Wadams is a cookbook author, food photographer and Le Cordon Bleu Gastronomy and Nutrition graduate. Based in Italy 🇮🇹 Germany 🇩🇪 and Australia 🇦🇺.

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