The Only Italian Lasagna Recipe You’ll Ever Need

July 13, 2016

A properly-made lasagna is a dish of consummate beauty and one of the most beloved Italian food dishes in the world. But there is a big difference between authentic lasagna and the frozen stuff you buy at the store. That’s why we went to our resident Italian home cooking expert, Loredana, for a recipe. Her recipe for real Italian pizza is one of the most popular blog posts so we trust you’ll find this recipe just as useful. Any questions or comments – don’t hesitate to let us know in the comments section.


Before we get started…

A note on the origins of Italian lasagna and the use of dried pasta

Lasagna has many versions, both within Italy and around the world, but when we talk about “real” lasagna in Italy we mean “Lasagna alla Bolognese” i.e., from Bologna in the region of Emilia-Romagna. One of the traditional pasta shapes of this region is the long, flat strips that go into making the layers of lasagna. Although some Italians will buy these strips dried, it’s still quite common in Emilia-Romagna to make them at home, along with other regional specialties like tortellini.

Fresh sheets of egg pasta always taste better in lasagna than dried ones. Here in Italy we are lucky enough to even be able to buy high-quality, handmade pasta sheets fresh from the Pastificio or pasta shop. They are inexpensive and readily available, but this is rarely the case outside of Italy. If you can’t get fresh pasta, don’t worry: making pasta from scratch is really easy, and once you get the hang of it, you’ll find you can create fresh pasta quite quickly. If you simply don’t have the inclination or the time, dried pasta is also acceptable – just be aware that you are sacrificing taste and texture for convenience. Don’t worry, though: your secret is safe with us.


For the pasta sheets
for a casserole pan of 20cm x 30cm

  • 400 grams Flour “0” *
  • 4 eggs
  • A cutting board or clean countertop for working the dough

For the Ragù

  • 1 small carrot
  • 1 white onion
  • 1 small stalk of celery
  • 2 tablespoons Extra Virgin olive oil
  • 250 grams tomato sauce (no seasoned! Just tomato sauce)
  • 500 grams minced beef
  • 350 grams minced pork
  • 1/2 glass of white wine
  • salt
  • ground pepper

And for the “besciamella” sauce

  • 1 liter of milk
  • 100 grams (7 tablespoons or a little less than 1/2 cup) of butter
  • 80 grams (2/3 cup) all-purpose flour
  • A tiny pinch of Nutmeg
  • A pinch of salt
  • A pinch of ground pepper

* In Italy, “0”, or “zero,” flour is a refined, white flour used for making pasta. It’s not as refined as “00” or “doppio zero” flour, but typically more refined than the white flour that is often found on store shelves outside of Italy. If you can’t get your hands on any 0 flour, your all-purpose white flour will work fine, but the consistency will be slightly different. Purists might turn their noses up, but we have no problem using the regular stuff if we have run out of “0”.

Crack the eggs into your little flour volcano!

Crack the eggs into your little flour volcano!

1. Make your pasta sheets

  • Place almost all of the flour on your cutting board (reserve 50 grams or so, a little more than 1/3 a cup) – wood is the best material to knead on, but plastic boards or even just your countertop are okay, too – and make a hollow in the center of our little pile so it looks like a flour volcano.

Chef’s Tip: Making pasta dough in a drafty room can cause it to dry out. try to choose a cool, dry, but not-drafty spot for your pasta making.

  • Break the eggs into the “crater” of the volcano, and stir them with a fork so that the yolks and whites mix before you begin to incorporate them into your flour.
  • Start to incorporate the eggs and flour by slowly bringing more flour in from the inside edges of the “crater”. Continue mixing the flour with the eggs until the mixture comes together.
  • Knead everything together for 10 minutes pushing it down with the heel of your hand, turning, stretching, folding, then smashing it down again. Kneading is necessary to work the gluten in the dough and make it more elastic.

Chef’s Tip: If you find the dough too hard, add a spoonful of warm water. If it’s a little sticky, add some of the flour you left aside at the beginning. Do not add any more flour than what you have reserved specifically for this purpose.

  • Wrap the prepared dough in plastic wrap, and put it aside – in a dry place – to let it rest for at least 30 minutes, or up to 24 hours in the refrigerator. This step is particularly important if you are rolling your pasta by hand because it is necessary to relax the gluten in the dough. If you don’t let the gluten relax and try to roll it with a rolling pin you had better hope you have forearms like an Italian nonna (i.e., corded with thick muscles) because you’re going to have a hard time. However, if you have a pasta maker you don’t necessarily need to relax the dough, just be aware that the final product will be a bit stiffer.
  • Sprinkle a little flour on your cutting board. Unwrap your dough, and push it down a little with the palm of the hand. At this point, you have two options: the rolling pin OR a pasta machine!
  • If you opt for the rolling pin, sprinkle just a little bit of flour on the dough and start rolling the pin back and forth using light pressure until it reaches a thickness of 0.5mm.

Chef’s Tip: After about a minute a minute of rolling , roll the far edge of the dough around the pin, hold the opposite edge with your hand and roll the pin towards yourself. Then roll it back in order to “unfold” it. Once unfolded, rotate the dough 90° to the right and repeat.

  • If you have a pasta-making machine, cut the dough into quarters or (eighths, depending on the size of the machine) then flatten a quarter of the dough and sprinkle it with flour before feeding it into the machine. Begin with the highest thickness option – i.e, the widest setting. When you have rolled out one strip, fold it in half and pass it through again. Continue by reducing the width of the rolling slot, until you reach a thickness of approximately 0.5mm. Also remember that every time you make the width of the rolling slot shorter, you have to pass the dough through it twice, folding it in half for the second pass.

Chef’s Trick: Cover the strips you have just made with plastic wrap so you can stack new strips on top of them without sticking.

  • Cut the big sheet of pasta or the strips of pasta into rectangles of about 20 cm x 14 cm (8 inches x 5 inches)and cook them in boiling water for 30 seconds. Dry them and set aside on clean kitchen towels.
Pasta Making
A pasta-making machine can be very handy for this!

2. Make your Ragù

  • Heat a healthy glug of olive oil in a large pan or dutch oven while you peel the carrot and the onion. Wash and dry the celery. Cut the three of them into tiny pieces.  and cook them over a low heat until they are soft (roughly 5 minutes).
  • Turn the heat to medium-high and add the ground beef and ground pork. When the meat has browned and the liquid it releases has evaporated, add the white wine and stir. When the wine has evaporated, add the passata, salt, and pepper. Stir again to mix the ingredients and let them cook on a low heat for at least an hour.

Chef’s Tip: The longer a ragù cooks, the tastier it becomes. Our grandmothers would stew theirs literally all day – 12 hours or more. If you want to put this much time into your sauce remember to keep the heat as low as you can (and still have the occasional small bubble rising to the surface) and to stir from time to time. Tasting it is the best way to decide if the ragù is ready!

Ragu – the longer you let it simmer, the better it gets.
Photo by Simon Law via Flickr

3. Make your Bechamel sauce

Put the ragù aside and get ready to make your bechamel, or as we say in Italy, “Besciamella” sauce.

  • Warm the milk in a saucepan, but don’t let it boil.
  • In a separate saucepan, cube the butter and melt it over low heat. As soon as it has liquefied take it off the heat and gradually whisk in the flour, making sure that no lumps form.
  • Place the pan with the butter and flour mixture back on a low heat and add your warm milk, salt, nutmeg and ground pepper. Stir rapidly with the whisk until it thickens and becomes smooth.

Chef’s TipWhen making a bechamel sauce, don’t stop stirring until you have added and incorporated all of your ingredients – this will help you to keep lumps from forming

4. Time to put your lasagna layers together!

  • Pour a fine layer of besciamella on the bottom of your casserole dish.
  • Cover it with a layer of ragu.
  • Place your pasta rectangles side-by-side on top of the ragu until you have covered it completely. Don’t allow them to overlap too much – you don’t want any double layers of pasta.
  • Repeat the process in the same order as above until you reach 5 or 6 layers of pasta. On the very last layer of pasta place a slightly thicker layer of bechamel and ragù as it is the layer most exposed to the hot air of the oven and tends to dry up a little. Sprinkle some parmesan cheese on top, or between the layers if you like, but this is not a requirement.

Chef’s TipIn order to ensure that a lasagna holds its shape after it is cut and plated, many Italians alternate the orientation of their pasta with each layer. So if you lay your first layer of pasta lengthwise, you will lay your second layer crosswise, alternating each time. Although this may seem pointless, it’s one of those nonna secrets and we swear by it.

Bechamel, ragu, and pasta
Bechamel, ragu, and pasta (with a sprinkle of cheese, if you like it extra cheesy). Pretty simple.
Photo by Rebecca Siegel

5. Bake! 

  • Place the casserole in a pre-heated oven at 200° Celcius (390 Fahrenheit) for about 25 minutes. You will know  the lasagna is ready when you can see a golden crust around the outside edges on the top layer.
  • Let your gorgeous lasagna rest for a couple of minutes before cutting and serving. Enjoy!

by Walks of Italy

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Show Comments

45 responses to “The Only Italian Lasagna Recipe You’ll Ever Need”

  1. Dan says:

    200 degree oven for baking, 20 minutes, does not sound correct?

    • Walks of Italy says:

      Sorry about that, Dan. We wrote it in Celcius without thinking. That’s roughly 400 degrees Fahrenheit. We fixed it in the text to clarify. Thanks for pointing that out!

  2. Roberto says:

    great article! why not write traditional recipes of Apulian cuisine? you can take a cue from my website Apulia Destination.

  3. Cindy says:

    Sounds wonderful…thanks for sharing!

  4. KyneWynn says:

    What a wonderful looking blog and recipe. My son spent some time in Italy and came back cooking Italian dishes, which I love. I do have a quick comment about the third paragraph, last sentence: “you’re secret is safe with us” you may want to change the you’re (contraction for you are) to your for correct usage.

    • Walks of Italy says:

      Hi KyneWynn,

      Thank you for the nice comment and thank you for pointing that out to us! We have many experts here but the copy editing must have slipped through the cracks – we’re on it!

  5. Val at brackenway says:

    You don’t say how many it serves. A house full for xmas need to know

    • Walks of Italy says:

      Hi Val,

      It makes a 20cm x 30cm casserole dish of lasagna, so one lasagna (the average size). If this is the only meal, we’d say four people with abundant portions. If there are other treats and eats we’d say it can easily serve 6 people.

  6. Michelle T. says:

    Would you be able to make this ahead of time and freeze it?

  7. Doris says:

    Just read your ragu recipe does not have the good flavors that Rosa put in her sauce.
    she was out baby sitter and maid for three years we lived in Naples. FRESH Basil. Oregano, Rosemary, Garlic, Italian seasoning The Herbs were harvested from the pots on the patio so they were FRESH. THREE Days of low simmer cooking. Build the Lasagna bake and enjoy

    • JMS says:

      Traditional bolognese does not have garlic or herbs or even a lot of tomato though often there is milk. It is primarily a meat sauce and too many other flavours hide that. Rosa was making a different sauce though i am sure it tasted great.

  8. Great recipe! I used it more as a guide and incorporated my own ingredients and spices into the Ragu Sauce and Pasta Dough. The Bechamel sauce is really good and did not change that at all. Thank you for sharing! I even made a canine version (subsituted the Ragu Sauce for a “dog-friendly” version). 🙂

  9. Sorry to disappoint you but we do not use passata to make the sauce, we use tomato paste and we make the “true” lasagne in a different way, similar but not really as you explained. I come from Modena and we make lasagne e tortellini since the dark ages. 😛

  10. Debo says:

    Am I missing something? This lasagna doesn’t have cheese other than a sprinkle of Parmesan?

    • Walks of Italy says:

      Hi Debo,

      The lasagna is made with copious amounts of Besciamella sauce (bechamel) which is essentially a heavy cream. It melts and fuses the noodles together and takes the place of the cheese. Also, we recommend a ton of Parmesan, not a sprinkle, but of course that’s all about taste! Buon appetito

      • Leo says:

        We just returned from Italy and had lasagna in Rome that was amazing. I grew up I. An Italian house and thought I had good lasagna all those years. I couldn’t understand what exactly was different with what I had in Rome, but it must have been the bechamel sauce. So creamy and melted cheese li!e. It was delicious. Can’t wait to try this recipe!

  11. Debo says:

    It looks absolutely delicious, I’m looking forward to making it. Thanks for the recipe.

  12. Just a gypsy says:

    I was lucky enough to have fresh-made Lasagne when in Bologna in 2014. I’ve never forgotten that luscious meal. This is the closest thing I have found. Excellent recipe, and I add Parmesan between layers. My family raved for days.

  13. PB Whittle says:

    I made this recipe a couple of weeks ago for my family. My daughter asked if I could make it once a week from now on. I have made many lasagnas over the years. This is truly the best one I have ever made….and so simple. Thanks for this fabulous recipe!

  14. Pam M says:

    This says 250 grams of passata sauce. How many cups is this?
    I tried converting online and am getting about 1-1/2 cups. This doesn’t sound like enough liquid for 2 pounds of meat. Can you help? I’d really like to try this recipe.

    • Walks of Italy says:

      Hi Pam,

      True Italian ragù actually has very little tomato sauce in it – Italians prefer to let the quality meat, fat and spices take center stage. The lasagna isn’t dry thanks to the bechamel sauce put between each noodle!

  15. Rick Donovan says:

    The pasta making portion of this recipe and ragu sound remarkable like Marcella Hazan in other words authentic. Add the Atlas 150mm or 180mm pasta press and good eats.

  16. Bill says:

    I think any quality ragu with complex flavors should have minced, sautéed
    Mushrooms and more crushed tomatoes… simmer for 6 hours with a cup of Minced carrots and two cups of minced onions…. have had people say they could cry because it was better than when in italy

  17. November says:

    Sorry, this is not a true mainland Italian sauce. You lost me at ground beef. The meat should be something with bone; slow cooked in the sauce. Pork ribs, lamb shanks etc.

  18. G Coats says:

    No basil, no oregano, no garlic, no ricotta? I am skeptical. Carrots and celery just don’t seem to do it in a lasagne, but I’m tempted to give it a shot just to see how it comes out.

    • Walks of Italy says:

      Hi Geneva,

      Classic Italian lasagna is very simple: just a simple soffritto made of diced carrots, celery and onion, meat and later bechamel sauce with some parmesan cheese (no ricotta)! We promise it’s delicious 🙂

  19. Bill says:

    Love it !
    But i used more tomatoes than what it
    Calls for and 1/2 lb of minced mushrooms… came out incredible

  20. Katerina says:

    Thank you very much for your amazing recipe! Grazie mille! I just made it for my family- we’ve never eaten such a delicious lasagna:) so simple and it really works. I used to think that lasagna was quite a boring watery ready thing from supermarkets… but it’s not! Dalla Russia con amore:) to your lasagna!

  21. Barb says:

    I just finished making this using the recipe as is (although I must admit I too was tempted to add some fresh basil and more tomato paste or passata – but decided not to fiddle with it in the end.) It’s fantastic – thanks for sharing the recipe. I’m guessing (not being Italian) that different regions may have different “authentic” recipes, which may account for some of the comments above. To one person’s comment – next time I make it I think I will try swapping out the ground meat for a slow cooked meat on the bone…I suspect it will be even more tasty! (BTW I’m confused about using ricotta in lasagna – I don’t think Im aware of people doing that in Australia – is it a substitute for the bechamel?)

  22. Ros Hanks says:

    I am just about to make this but can only use fresh bought pasta sheets, how much should I buy? Am I right in thinking that the finished layer is pasta sheet besciamella sauce and then ragu? My own recipe finishes with a pasta sheet!
    Looking forward to this recipe.
    Thank you

  23. Just made this today. I stared the ragu at 9:00 and baked the lasagna at 6:00 pm.
    This is the BEST lasagna that I’ve ever had . I’ll never use any other lasagna recipe.
    Thank you so much for this!

  24. Susan Doucette says:

    This is what we had at a winery in the Tuscany region. I was amazed how delicious it was. I will never use ricotta in my lasagne again!

  25. Micheline Chevrier says:

    This recipe is very close to one I used to make years ago but I lost it. Thanks to you it is found again, the only difference is that i would melt ricotta in the beschamel sauce. Other than that it is perfect. Had a group for dinner and it is usually a good sign when it is quiet while they eat with a small groan on occasion. They were fighting for the remaining lasagna. I LOVE this recipe!!!

  26. Georgette Chiappe says:

    This is how my sweet husband from Genoa taught me to make lasagna forty some years ago? My sister in laws family is from Bologna and her sauce is very similar. It’s fantastic there should not be basil, oregano or other herbs in this. Thanks for posting a real Italian recipe! Gigi

  27. diana watkins says:

    I’m looking forward to making this as my Italy loving family are joining us for Xmas. I want to freeze it. If I can source fresh am I to understand that I don’t cook it beforehand but make sure it is thawed and then cooked. With precooked pasta sheets I cook, freeze and the reheat after thawing? Looking forward to reply. Thanks. We loved Bologna!

    • Walks of Italy says:

      Hi Diana,

      Sorry for the delay, but you’re right, you don’t cook it beforehand. Just make it up, freeze it and then the night before you want to cook it take it out to defrost completely in your refrigerator before cooking.

  28. Marla Cole says:

    For Christmas, are there traditional side dishes you’d suggest serving with the lasagna? Wine recommendations? This recipe seems very similar to my mother-in-law’s (that no one can find) so looking forward to seeing (and tasting!) how similar it actually is! Thank you!

    • Walks of Italy says:

      Hi Marla,

      Sorry that it’s not for Christmas, but generally lasagna is a one-plate meal. Remember, Italians separate their food into appetizers, a “primo” of pasta or rice and a “secondo”of meat or fish. You could serve your lasagna as a primo and then make meat and veggies for a secondo. Any nice, strong red wine would work well!

  29. Jessie says:

    I definitely wish I had doubled this recipe as it’s barely enough meat and sauce to fit a regular sized lasagna pan! Hopingnit still tastes good when I bake it. I couldn’t find anywhere in the recipe how many servings it made so I just assumed it would make enough for a regular lasagne pan.

  30. Brian Norman says:

    Have been to Italy many times , the lasagne does vary from region to region , i suppose it goes back to what was available at the time , you certainly could not afford to waste anything ,i think with most cooking , slow and long bring out the flavours , have you ever had a stew etc the next day ,how much better it tastes ,will try this recipe .

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