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 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.
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.
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.
How to make Lasagne al Forno
Lasagne al Forno is simple to prepare and has three main steps:
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.
Next, make the béchamel sauce by cooking butter and flour together, whisking in milk and adding plenty of grated cheese.
Lastly, all you need to do is assemble the lasagne in layers and cook to golden brown, bubbling perfection in the oven.
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).
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.
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.
I roll my pasta by hand, though this recipe will work with a pasta machine. Leave the pasta sheets a little thicker, they need to be sturdy to support all that tasty sauce.
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!)
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
- 500g ground or minced beef
- 1 ½ tsp beef stock powder
- 250ml (1 cup) milk
- 250ml (1 cup) full-bodied red wine
- 400g (14 oz.) 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 heaped Tbsp butter
- 2 heaped Tbsp plain or all-purpose flour
- 500ml (2 cups) milk
- 100g grated cheddar cheese
- 50g grated Parmesan cheese
- pinch of ground nutmeg
- ½ tsp sea salt
- freshly ground black pepper
for the lasagne:
- 9 dried lasagne sheets (see notes)
- 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 (8x12 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.
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 Information:Yield: 6 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 1216Total Fat: 83gSaturated Fat: 38gTrans Fat: 2gUnsaturated Fat: 35gCholesterol: 375mgSodium: 3306mgCarbohydrates: 63gFiber: 8gSugar: 21gProtein: 100g
Nutrition information is calculated automatically and isn’t always accurate.
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