Classic Italian Lasagna

I’ve had lasagna.

And I’ve had great lasagna.

And now, I can say, that without a doubt, I have had the most amazing classic Italian lasagna known to man…and I’ve had it at least four times over.

My Aunt Marilyn snagged this recipe from an Italian friend of hers and passed it on to me. I questioned whether to try it, since I am really loyal to my mom’s fabulous lasagna, but I can’t resist trying new recipes, so I made it. And now I’m trying to find the words to describe it to you.

This lasagna defies the notion of what I always assumed to be normal lasagna (you know, noodles covered with sauce, covered with ricotta or cottage cheese, covered with cheese…and on and on). That’s all fine and good – and the process creates a great lasagna as I’ve always known it, but this lasagna, oh, This Lasagna…it is unique and different and authentic and just so very, very delicious.

Instead of a ricotta cheese and egg mixture, you get a homemade white sauce that is creamy and rich. A simmered red sauce compliments the silkiness of the white sauce and the entire lasagna is filled with cheese. Lots of cheese. I couldn’t get over the deep flavor in this lasagna and I attribute the unparalleled richness to the browned mushrooms, garlic and onion that are pureed and added to the red sauce. What you ultimately get is a lasagna that is a textural masterpiece as far as smooth sauces go. Pair that with the tender ground turkey and the toothsome noodles and this is just an absolute winner.

Go make it now, please. I have no words left to help convince you that your life will not be complete until you try it.

Classic Italian Lasagna

What To ServeDivine Breadsticks or Cheesy Garlic Bread
Steamed vegetable like broccoli or peas
Simple green salad (or something more fancy like this Gourmet Green Salad)

One Year Ago: Asian Lettuce Wraps
Two Years Ago: My Favorite Cheesecake…Ever

Classic Italian Lasagna

Yield: Makes one 9X13-inch pan of lasagna (and requires the use of several pots and skillets…but don’t worry, you can wash those up in a snap while the lasagna is baking)

Classic Italian Lasagna

Ingredients

    Red Sauce:
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 4 cloves fresh garlic, finely minced (see garlic tutorial here)
  • 1/2 large onion, diced (about 1/2 cup)
  • 8 ounces mushrooms, chopped
  • 2 (8-ounce) cans tomato sauce
  • 1 (6-ounce) can tomato paste
  • 1 (14.5-ounce) can diced tomatoes, undrained
  • 2 teaspoons Italian seasoning (or a mix of dried oregano and basil)
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper
  • White Sauce:
  • 3 cups milk (not skim, I used 1%)
  • 5 tablespoons flour
  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper
  • Lasagna:
  • 9 lasagna noodles, boiled for half the time on the box (or use 12 of the no-boil noodles, of which I far prefer the Barilla brand)
  • 1 pound ground turkey
  • 1 pound mozzarella cheese, shredded
  • 8 ounces Parmesan cheese, shredded

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease a 9X13-inch baking pan with cooking spray or with a napkin dipped lightly in olive oil and set aside.
  2. In a large skillet, brown the ground turkey over medium-high heat, breaking the meat apart into pieces with a wooden spoon. When turkey is cooked through, drain the grease and set aside.
  3. In a medium-size saucepan over medium-high heat, add 2 tablespoons olive oil and one tablespoon butter. Add a pinch of salt and pepper. When oil/butter is hot, add the garlic, stirring constantly. When the garlic is lightly browned, but NOT burned, add the onion and mushrooms. Continue cooking on medium-high heat until the vegetables are soft and browned and the fluid has mostly cooked out. Remove from heat and either using a handheld immersion blender or transferring the vegetables to a blender, blend the vegetables to a paste-like mixture. Return the pot to the heat (pour the pureed vegetables back in, if using a stand-alone blender) and add the tomato sauce and tomato paste. Stir to combine. Then add the diced tomatoes, Italian seasoning, salt and pepper. Stir. Cover and let the sauce sauce simmer for 30 minutes over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally. Right before using the red sauce in the lasagna, stir in the reserved ground turkey.
  4. While the red sauce simmers, if using lasagna noodles that need to be boiled, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and boil the noodles for half the time suggested on the box. Once the noodles are cooked, drain, but do not rinse. Add a dab of olive oil to keep them from sticking together. If you are using no-boil noodles, you can skip this step.
  5. Also while the red sauce is cooking, melt the four tablespoons butter and when melted, add the flour, stirring constantly to combine and letting the mixture cook, while stirring, for a minute or two. Gradually add in the milk, whisking constantly. Add the salt and pepper. Slowly whisk the white sauce, ensuring it doesn’t burn on the bottom of the pan, while cooking it over medium heat. Continue slowly stirring or whisking while the white sauce cooks and thickens quite a bit, about 5-7 minutes. Add a pinch of mozzarella for good luck, if you wish!
  6. To begin layering the lasagna, keep in mind that you’ll have three layers of noodles as well as three layers of the sauces and cheese – so plan on splitting all the sauce and cheese piles into thirds so you don’t run out at the end! On the bottom of your lightly greased baking pan, layer three pre-boiled noodles or four no-boil noodles, slightly overlapping the no-boil noodles. Layer the red sauce, white sauce, Parmesan and mozzarella cheeses, spreading all to the edges and top with another layer of noodles. Again, layer the red sauce, white sauce, Parmesan and mozzarella cheeses and top with the final layer of noodles. Layer the sauces and cheeses again.
  7. Cover the lasagna with a greased layer of aluminum foil and bake for 30 minutes. Remove the foil and let the lasagna sit for 15 minutes before cutting and serving.

Notes

Make Ahead Instructions: Follow the recipe, letting the red and white sauce cool to room temperature before assembling. Assemble the lasagna as indicated in the recipe. Cover and refrigerate for up to 12 hours. Bake according to the recipe, adding an additional 5-10 minutes if needed. Alternately, the lasagna can be covered with a double layer of aluminum foil and sealed inside a jumbo-size ziploc bag (if you don’t have a jumbo-sized bag, make sure the edges of the casserole dish are sealed tightly with foil). Freeze for up to 2-3 months. Bake from frozen for 1 1/2 hours covered. Uncover and bake for another 45 minutes to an hour, until the lasagna is hot and bubbly. Let sit for 15 minutes before serving.

http://www.melskitchencafe.com/classic-italian-lasagna/

Recipe Source: adapted from Aunt Marilyn

165 Responses to Classic Italian Lasagna

  1. Arianna says:

    Wow, finally someone who doesn’t use cottage cheese or ricotta in their lasagne!
    When I moved to the States I was really surprised seeing that besciamella was replaced by *ugh* cottage cheese :( it takes away so much of the original lasagne taste and no one would put that in their food in Italy (most people never ate cottage cheese in their entire lives, let alone putting it in everybody’s all-time favourite dish!)…
    Anyhow, where I’m from in Italy we would just use parmesan cheese, besciamella (white sauce) and ragù alla bolognese (tomato sauce+ ground meat), layer that with pasta sheets and that’s it!

  2. SJ says:

    This was super. I really liked the white sauce, but at first I wasn’t sure I would because I like the cottage cheese mixture in my normal recipe. This was a bigger hit with my kids than my usual recipe. I think it also helps that the onion (didn’t use mushrooms) were blended, so nothing they had to pick out. Thanks for the delicious recipe!

  3. SJ says:

    Also tried the no boil noodles for the first time and they worked! Miracle!

  4. hol says:

    MEL!!!!!
    This is a WINNER recipe!!! I have a fabulous manicotti recipe that is so good, I tend not to venture to much into the lasagna sector. But, I had to try this recipe….. (I was a little worried how it would be with such a basic white sauce, to be honest. BUT, apparently I had NOTHING to worry about!!) Seriously, stellar. I added a bit more of the oregano/basil mixture b/c I like things really flavorful. And I added a bit of sugar. It was amazing. I did find that I needed to double the red sauce to have enough for the whole dish. Job well done.

  5. Bill says:

    This is a fantastic recipe, but instead of ground turkey I used 1 lb. of crumbled sausage. It was tastier!

  6. Angie Ward says:

    I made this tonight for my family. It was really good! Everyone loved it. My husband said it is the best lasagna he has ever had. Thanks for sharing this recipe with us!

  7. Maddie says:

    I just made this for a friend, I can’t wait to make it for myself! It looked and smelled SOOO delicious! :) Thanks so much for this recipe! It was super easy to make and follow the directions. I loved the “white sauce” and the taste it added to the lasagna. I used regular spaghetti sauce with more seasonings for the “red sauce” too and it worked out GREAT still.
    Thanks for the recipe!

  8. Casey says:

    Hi! Can’t wait to try this:) If I am using the no boil noodles, should I cook it longer than 30 minutes? I ask because the box says (if using their recipe) bake for 45-hour.

    Thank you!

  9. Mel says:

    Casey – I use the Barillia no-boil noodles and the recipe is written for how I bake it with those noodles. If you are using a different brand, you may need to alter the baking time a bit.

  10. Carrie says:

    I am always late to the party, but your lasagna is in the oven as we speak! Putting the kids to bed, having a glass of wine and trying me some lasagna! :). Thanks! :). Perfect pairing for decorating the Christmas tree!

  11. Carrie says:

    Btw, I Love, Love , love your blog! Great entertainment, good friends and delicious food! Perfecto! :)

  12. Casey says:

    You made a lasagna lover out of my husband!! Seriously he does NOT like lasagna, but I was making dinner for a friends b’day and she requested lasagna…. my husband had THREE helpings of it! I used 1/2 ground beef 1/2 italian sausage and it was so good!!

  13. Carrie says:

    The lasagna was fantastic! I am a believer! I have NEVER followed a recipe to the T, and last night I did. I am certain now that I can alter and add, but when you FIRST make this, please follow it exactly! You will NOT be disappointed! (Ok. I did bake it 15 minutes longer than suggested, and then 20 minutes longer with the foil off for browning of the piles of cheese. And I did substitute ground beef for the ground turkey, and I didn’t have parm so I put in another 1/2 pound of mozzarella. So not EXACTLY to a T, but dang good for me! :)

  14. Kathi says:

    I followed the recipe exactly and it was the BEST lasagna I have EVER EVER EVER had!!

    Thank you!

  15. Ciana says:

    Wow! I made this tonight, although quite labor intensive it is amazing! It is so amazing, in fact that it is 12:45 a.m and I currently eating some leftovers. I don’t think I will ever want a different lasagna! Thanks for sharing this recipe !

  16. [...] Courtesy of: Mel’s Kitchen Cafe [...]

  17. Ruth says:

    This recipe was amazing! I’ve never had lasagna without ricotta and wanted to try something new. This will now be my go to lasagna recipe. Thanks for sharing!

  18. Deb says:

    Num! Thank you for this recipe. It took all afternoon to make, which I planned for and enjoyed. The only change I would make is to adjust the amounts for a lasagna pan which is bigger than a regular 9×13.

    And I love the bechamel sauce–I may have to use it by itself!

  19. Sophie says:

    We made this last night (and one to freeze) and it is amazing!! Took me about 2 hours from start to finish, but I am slow since I am 36 weeks pregnant and took forever to prep everything, lol. I could probably cut 30 min of prep time out if I wasnt pregnant and enlisted help from my hubby. I shredded all the cheese from blocks and of course had to chop all the veggies, but it was totally worth it! I also did one step at a time rather than boiling while simmering, etc, since I am slow right now. Thanks for a great recipe!

  20. Kelly says:

    Just made this lasanga for a dinner party. It was wonderful. I did have to tweet the recipe since someone attending the party was allergic to mushrooms. I substituted red bell pepper and spinach for the mushrooms. Glad I doubled the recipe and froze one for later. Looking forward to it!

  21. Rayna says:

    Mel! I hate lasagna! Well, I thought I hated lasagna. Because my husband and I have a strong aversion to ricotta, it has never been something we’ve enjoyed. Since this recipe uses a white sauce instead, I tried it. We absolutely loved it! It is definitely the best lasagna I’ve ever had; my husband agreed. I can’t wait until my boys are old enough to enjoy it! Thanks for another successful meal!

  22. Mary Jane says:

    We loved this lasagna! It’s hard to find a lasagna recipe without ricotta cheese. My husband hates it. It was a great dinner and an awesome lunch today.
    I made a couple changes. Instead of ground turkey I used half ground beef and half ground spicy sausage. In place of the tomato sauce I used Hunts Zesty and Spicy pasta sauce. Also I used basil, garlic and oregano diced tomatoes, but I left out the Italian seasoning. I didn’t want to over do it.

    Thank you for sharing this recipe. I already wrote it in my family cookbook.

  23. Marie says:

    WOW… really. WOW.

  24. Shannon says:

    Just a few questions -
    If I wanted to use fresh instead of canned diced tomatoes, how would I go about doing that? And did you use fresh mozzarella cheese? It looks great :) can’t wait to try it.

    • Mel says:

      Hi Shannon – I’ve never used fresh tomatoes for this so you’d have to experiment. I’d start by using the same amount in volume as the canned tomatoes and see how that goes. Also, I’ve never used fresh mozzarella but it’s also worth a try.

  25. Laura says:

    Hi Mel!

    Thank you so much for sharing this recipe! I have always wanted to make lasagna but never could make it right! I love to bake and cook! I made this lasagna tonight and it was absolutely amazing!!!! My husband loved it too! I used ground beef and pork instead of the turkey and added cottage cheese and ricotta cheese also! It was the best lasagna I have ever had! Thanks again!
    :)

  26. Laura says:

    I used fresh tomatoes from my garden! Just boil tomatoes for 30 seconds then place in ice bath to remove skins. Works and tastes great!!!!

  27. kimber says:

    I was just wondering what kind of mushrooms did you use? And on the onions did you use a white, yellow, or purple onion? This recipe sounds delicious and I’m a perfectionist so want to get it just right.

  28. Sarah says:

    I made this yesterday and the flavor was pretty good. Next time I’ll try spicing up the red sauce a bit. I must have done something wrong with the white sauce as it didn’t thicken at all. I used it anyway but it was literally like pouring milk on the lasagna.

  29. Bill says:

    The white sauce wouldn’t thicken for me also, but it did when it was cooked .

  30. Christy says:

    Hello,

    I’m making lasagna for my friend’s birthday, and I really want to use this recipe because I HATE ricotta in lasagna. However, my friend isn’t a fan of mushrooms. He did request spinach, however. I read all the comments and saw some people have substituted spinach for mushrooms and I was wondering if you can explain how to do this? I have never used spinach in cooking before. Do I use the same amount, and do I cook as directed for the mushrooms or throw it in raw?

    Thank you!

    • Mel says:

      Christy – I personally haven’t subbed the mushrooms out for spinach so I can’t tell you the best method. Hopefully the other commenters that actually tried it left some tips! Good luck! I’m guessing you could use thawed and drained frozen chopped spinach and add it at some point to the red sauce.

  31. Roberta Schroeder says:

    My new go- to Lasagne recipe. Amazing and leftovers even better. Just as you described – the layers of flavors are wonderful. Thank you for sharing and I love your website! Just discovered your site about one month ago. Nice job! Great recipes.

  32. Roberta Schroeder says:

    One more thing-I used a bunch of wild mushrooms instead of the “usual” white mushrooms because I just happened to have some. Only had 4oz but the flavor was so rich and earthy. Will use these always from now on. Also used red onion which is my fav to cook with. One other addition-big splash of nice red wine in sauce added with cooked turkey.

  33. Julia says:

    The first few lines of this post, I’m sure say it all. Just by looking at your photo I am hungry for some classic style lasagna. Thanks for sharing this recipe.

  34. joanna says:

    love it :) thank you
    ps I usually add little nutmeg into my white sauce-tastes divine :)
    I also froze the lasagna and it tastes perfectly fine after defrosting…

  35. […] This version uses a white sauce instead, and has a really nice smooth taste. Original recipe from here. It does take a little work and time, but the sauces can be made ahead of time, which makes this […]

  36. […] Classic Italian lasagne here Cheesy baked rice Baked Pasta with sausage here Roast chicken with potatoes and chickpeas here […]

  37. Pamela says:

    I made this for dinner a couple of nights ago. I was thrilled to find lasagna recipe that didn’t include ricotta or cottage cheese. The texture of it lasagna has always turned me off from eating it. The rest of the family though was sure they would be disappointed since they like ricotta cheese in theirs.
    Happy to say everyone loved this and they cleaned up the left overs for lunch yesterday. Finally a lasagna the whole family loves. I left out the mushrooms and used ground beef instead of turkey. Planning on cooking up a couple of them to freeze some time this week.

  38. Mari says:

    My husband loves lasagna and asked me to make some for a long time so I’ve tried few recipes until I came upon yours. I was totally in love with it and I have been making this for almost a year now and I am the one that likes it the most. My picky eater can’t stand it though so I don’t make it as often as I would like too but my other three love it.
    The only thing I do different is instead of the red sauce I just put spaghetti sauce an let it boil slowly for 25-30 min. The taste is pretty much the same and it saves me lots of time and I found the original recipe a little to salty so i don’t add salt on the white sauce (we under salt everything in here). I want to thank you for this great recipe and the others that I’ve tried and were just delicious and wish you and yours many blessings. I will for sure make a lot more.

  39. Christy says:

    Okay, first of all – no! Spaghetti sauce out of a jar tastes NOTHING like homemade red sauce! The red sauce in this recipe is exceptionally delicious, as well! The best I have ever made, although I do use fresh tomatoes (not canned) and I use spinach instead of mushrooms (for anyone else who is curious about making this substitution: I do cook the spinach in place of the mushrooms, only I don;’t use quite as much. It does not blend very well in my blender, although if you have a food processor it might, so I have to blend the sauce again before layering). Please do try making the red sauce from scratch, it isn’t very time consuming and I promise you will notice a huge difference!

    That being said, I have a question for Mel. I made this (with the above substitutions and the meat omitted), and my lasagna turned out very watery! It was swimming in liquid. Do you think this is because I left out the meat? I also used a slightly larger casserole dish (I didn’t realize this until I started layering), so I had not prepared enough noodles to completely cover each layer. Is it possible that this was the reason? I’d just like to know what I did wrong, because other than the fluid excess this lasagna was the best I have ever had! And like I said previously, pretty much the only homemade red sauce that I have found to be scrumptious. Thanks so much for sharing!

    • Mel says:

      Hi Christy – hmm, not quite sure about the excess liquid. Did it absorb after the lasagna sat for a while? I’m guessing it probably was because of the larger baking dish/shortage of noodles since the noodles absorb much of the liquid. I, too, love the red sauce in this recipe!

  40. LeeAnne says:

    Oh, HEAVENS! I made this for dinner tonight, and oh heavens. That was delicious. Best lasagna I’ve had… I had to make a few changes because I forgot to buy mushrooms at the grocery store (we rarely ever buy mushrooms) and didn’t have quite as much cheese as the recipe calls for, and it was still phenomenal. If it was THIS good this time around, I can’t wait to taste it again when I am able to follow the recipe to the letter! :)

  41. […] – Lasagna is an inexpensive meal that has universal appeal! Super easy to create with the Berghoff lasagna pan, it is the perfect dish to serve for informal gatherings and can efficiently feed a small group.  And guys: if you know how to turn on your oven, you can definitely make a lasagna that will impress you buddies – here is one of our favorite recipes! […]

  42. Phello says:

    I made it and it was delicious!! My fiancé thoroughly enjoyed it. Not too sure what kind of tomato sauce you were talking about though, so I used tomato purée. Thanks for the recipe !! Xox

  43. Ellen says:

    Wow!! I am from South Africa and googled a classic Italian lasagne recipe as I recently had the best lasagne in an Italian restaurant in Johannesburg. This one comes extremely close. I am eating it as I write here. Heavenly! Must say it really takes a long time to make and I had my doubts as I have never had a lasagne with mushrooms in it. It really is worth one’s while to make this lasagne. I will never go back to my old recipe.

  44. Deanna F says:

    I tried this recipe this week because I wanted to try making homemade/fresh lasagna noodles. My husband says it is better than his lasagna! Some time I’d like to try make a variation with red peppers instead of mushrooms for maybe a brighter taste. We will be making it again.

  45. Nibi Babu says:

    Hey Mel, what brand did you use for the tomato sauce and tomato paste in this recipe? What is the difference between the two? Can I replace the tomato sauce with plain ketchup? I could not find tomato sauce in the store!

    • Mel says:

      Nibi Babu – I usually use Hunt’s and no, I wouldn’t recommend subbing ketchup for the tomato sauce. Tomato paste is much, much thicker than sauce.

  46. Nibi John Babu says:

    Hey Mel, how long should I cook the ground turkey? Should I cook it completely? Also, if am using a slightly bigger baking dish, can I use more noodles than what has been specified, if needed? I saw in one of the posts that someone required double the red sauce than what’s specified, so should I try to make more red sauce? Thanks!

    • Mel says:

      Nibi John Babu – Yes, cook the ground turkey completely. And I think using more noodles would work just fine. It’s a pretty adaptable recipe. It depends on how much bigger your baking dish is – if it is a couple inches bigger, you might consider halving the sauces again to make a 1 1/2 batch of sauce.

  47. Erin says:

    This was my first time making lasagna and I was a little nervous but let me just say it wasn’t hard, just time consuming (I took a little over an hour and a half start to finish). Wonderful recipe, we will definitely be making it again! I used ground beef instead of turkey because that is what I had and it worked great! Thanks for another great recipe!

  48. Allyson says:

    Hi Mel,
    I am fairly new to the site so I am just coming across this deliciousness! I assume I could use ground beef, correct?

  49. Shellice Maraccini says:

    I finally tried a new lasagna recipe. I hate to say this out loud but I have always done lasagna right off the back of the pasta box. As much as I love pasta, I didn’t vary from that generic recipe. I would throw fresh spinach into the ricotta mixture, but that is about it when it came to this dish. So my first homemade lasagna was this recipe. And I was NOT disappointed. I always double the gravy, especially with pasta dishes, and I am glad I did. That white sauce is to die for. I will never buy store bought ricotta again. Never ever ever! And the red sauce was delicious. I used lean ground beef instead of ground turkey, but other than that, I followed the recipe the way it was written. Right down to the Barilla oven ready noodles. Thanks Mel. On leftover night we will be praising you and your grandmothers friend all over again. Grattttsssssiiiii

  50. Shellice Maraccini says:

    Oopsie. Correction: Aunties friend. Sorry Aunt Marilyn. ;]

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>

Notify me of followup comments via e-mail. You can also subscribe without commenting.