Lasagna may just be the perfect dish—the sort of rich comfort food perfect for a holiday dinner, a new baby meal train, a welcome-to-the-neighborhood gift, or just an indulgent Sunday supper. But where a casserole excels in its simplicity, this 9x13 pan is full of complications: noodles that are too crispy or too mushy, sauce that is too soupy or too sparse. How can you make sure your lasagna recipe turns out perfectly every time? We're here to help.
How to make the best lasagna
1. Start With the Right Ingredients
All-beef is not best. Many people use ground beef in their spaghetti sauce, but here in lasagna, pork (or sausage) is your friend; a beef-and-pork combo is particularly flavorful. (This highly rated lasagna recipe recommends a 1:1 beef-to-pork ratio.)
Use whole milk mozzarella and ricotta when possible. Fresh is best. Part-skim is fine but will be blander—and this is not a dish that lends well to cutting calories.
Consider upping your cheese game by layering in some béchamel; this French mother sauce makes a lasagna that's absolutely dreamy by adding a layer of richness to cut the tomato sauce's tang.
Want to make a far from lazy lasagna? Build it with homemade tomato sauce! (Using store bought is just fine, too.)
2. Assemble With Care
Invest in a proper lasagna pan, one that is at least 3 inches deep, so you won't have that top layer bubble over the side and into the bottom of your oven. This Cuisinart lasagna pan even comes with a roasting rack—dual purpose!
Make sure you put a little sauce down in the pan first so that first layer of pasta does not stick to the pan.
Start layering. Cover the bottom of the pan with a thick layer of sauce, then layer in noodles, followed by a third of your cheese mixture, then more sauce. Repeat until you've reached the top.
Notes: The final layer of pasta needs to be completely covered in sauce to prevent the noodles from becoming brittle. Some shredded cheese should dust the top.
3. Cook to Perfection
Cover with foil before baking (usually at 375 for an hour), then remove foil and bake for an additional 15 minutes so that the cheese on top becomes a delicious golden brown. After removing from the oven, let it sit for 10 minutes before cutting into it; this keeps your layers from immediately sliding apart.
4. Know Where to Draw the Line
Please, don't bother with fresh pasta. It's a lot of additional work with no obvious payoff, since fresh pasta sheets baked into all these layers can sometimes turn out too mushy. No-bake noodles are great here (though make sure you use plenty of sauce, as they'll absorb some) and dried-then-boiled lasagna sheets are just fine as well.
Note: Though we're all about sneaking veggies into your kids' dinner, be wary of how many veggies you add here. Watery vegetables like mushrooms, squash, and spinach may create a soupy lasagna that slides off the spatula the moment it leaves the pan. If you really want to up the veggies, sauté them first and drain off the excess liquid.
5. Start With a Great Recipe
There's a reason that John Chandler's recipe for World's Best Lasagna has been viewed more than 10,000 times on our site: it's delicious. His recipe doesn't cut corners—hello, homemade tomato sauce!—but it's also not overly fussy.
Want to see classic lasagna-making in action? Watch this short video!
Try a New Twist
Nonna's may still be best, but that traditional Italian lasagna has gotten a revamp—now, anything involving multiple layers of sauce and cheese can be considered a lasagna.
Here's a vegetarian version of lasagna that involves spinach:
This popular, creamy chicken lasagna gets its flavor from fresh herbs and summer veggies:
Use salsa, tortillas, and taco seasoning for south-of-the-border flair:
Want a gluten-free version? Sub slices of polenta for the pasta: