This is comfort food in its truest form. My BEST lasagna recipe is hearty & thick, made with a rich, homemade meat sauce and a creamy ricotta-based filling (with a special, secret ingredient snuck in there as well). Recipe includes a how-to video!
Sneaking in one of my favorite comfort food dishes before Spring rolls around and cozy dishes like this one start to fall out of favor (though I’ll be making this for my family all year round). This is truly the BEST lasagna recipe, you’re going to love its thick, meaty, layers with the creamiest filling ever, the most flavorful sauce of your life, and its hot, bubbly cheese topping.
Serve it warm with a side salad or bruschetta and a side of garlic knots and follow up with a slice of tiramisu for a satisfying Italian meal, start to finish.
Let’s dig in!
What You Need
It might look like a lot of ingredients, but I would bet most of them you already have in your pantry. Let’s go over a few:
- Ground beef and sweet Italian sausage. I use a blend of these two meats for the same reason that I do in my meatball recipe: when coupled together they produce a dish of rich and unparalleled flavor. I use sweet Italian sausage, but feel free to swap it out for “hot” instead, and if you can only find sausage sold in links just remove the casings before cooking.
- Granulated sugar. Sugar in the tomato sauce helps counterbalance the acidity and results in a sauce with a deeper flavor and more balanced taste.
- Seasonings. Even though I use fresh garlic and onion, I supplement the flavor with a pinch of garlic powder and onion powder (trust me on this). I use Italian seasonings, but bump up the basil, which should be more prominently featured. Salt & pepper (freshly ground is best!) are a must, and a pinch of crushed red pepper is optional but adds a slight heat to the dish.
- Cream cheese. My secret weapon (also seen in my stuffed shells!)! If you don’t like cream cheese, don’t be turned off, the flavor is not overwhelming or distinct at all. It simply enhances the creaminess of the ricotta layer and adds a subtle richness to the dish.
- Mozzarella cheese. This makes up its own layer over the ricotta layer and is the final layer of the lasagna (helps to hold the moisture in). Yes, there’s a lot of cheese in this dish but it’s well balanced and ideal for the best flavor!
Note the can of beef broth in the photo. If you have a layer of browning on the bottom of your pan, deglaze with a bit of broth or red wine before proceeding.
How to Make Lasagna Sauce
My rich, meaty sauce sets my lasagna apart from any other recipe, it’s incredibly flavorful and is what makes this the best lasagna recipe. To make it:
- Heat the olive oil and cook finely chopped onion until softened and translucent, then add the minced garlic and cook until fragrant.
- Add the ground meat to the pan and cook until browned.
- Sprinkle seasoning over the meat and stir to thoroughly combine. Add tomato sauce and diced tomatoes and stir.
- Let everything simmer (simmering = flavor!) while you make the ricotta filling.
Ricotta Cheese Filling for Lasagna (with a Special Twist!)
- Combine ricotta, parmesan, cream cheese, egg, and parsley. Make sure the cream cheese is softened; if it’s not just pop it in the microwave for a few seconds until it’s soft enough to be stirred.
- Stir until the mixture is completely combined. Set aside.
How to Assemble Lasagna
- Spread a thin even layer of the sauce/meat mixture on the bottom of your baking dish.
- Arrange four cooked lasagna noodles horizontally so the sauce is covered.
- Add another even layer of sauce/meat over the noodles.
- Spread an even layer of ricotta mixture on top of the sauce. It may be a little messy and swirl together some, no big deal!
- Sprinkle shredded mozzarella evenly over the ricotta layer.
- Repeat steps 2-5 (noodles, sauce, ricotta, mozzarella) until you have used up all of your ingredients.
SAM’S TIP: Use a deep 13×9″ (23x33cm) pan as the layers may not fit in a standard glass baking dish. For extra security, bake your lasagna on a foil lined baking sheet, just in case any overflow happens in the oven.
Frequently Asked Questions
Yes, I recommend it. While some recipes cook do not pre-cook (boil) the noodles, I found the results were less than ideal this way. When not boiled beforehand, they tend to soak up much of the moisture from the lasagna, making a dish that’s a bit too dry for my liking.
Yes, for a vegetarian lasagna simply leave the meat out of the dish. The sauce won’t have as rich of a flavor and the layers won’t be as thick, but it will still be delicious.
The eggs work to help bind the ingredients together and give you more defined layers, If you opt to make the filling without eggs, it will be creamier and more prone to falling apart as you cut it and the slices may not hold their shape on your plate. How much that matters is up to you!
Make it a full Italian meal! Finish everything off up with a slice of coffee and rum soaked tiramisu made with homemade ladyfingers!
More Recipes You Might Like
Let’s bake together! Make sure to check out the how-to VIDEO in the recipe card!
- 12 lasagna noodles
- 2 Tablespoons olive oil
- ½ sweet or yellow onion finely chopped
- 3 cloves garlic minced (about 1 heaping Tablespoon)
- 1 lb (453 g) ground beef (I use a lean beef but use whichever percentage you prefer)
- 1 lb (453 g) sweet Italian sausage¹
- 1 ½ teaspoons Italian seasoning
- 1 teaspoon dried basil
- ½ teaspoon onion powder
- ¼ teaspoon garlic powder
- ¾ teaspoon salt
- ¾ teaspoon ground black pepper
- ¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes optional
- 28 oz (795 g) tomato sauce
- 14 oz (396 g) diced tomatoes undrained
- 3 Tablespoons granulated sugar
- 15 oz (425 g) whole milk ricotta cheese
- ½ cup fresh shredded parmesan cheese
- 4 oz (113 g) cream cheese softened
- 1 egg
- 1 teaspoon dried parsley
- 3 cups (340 g) shredded mozzarella cheese
- Preheat oven to 350F.
- Bring a large pot of well-salted water to a boil and cook noodles according to package instructions until al-dente (typically 10 minutes), stirring occasionally.12 lasagna noodles
- Drain and run noodles under cold water to keep them from cooking further. Set aside.
- While the noodles are cooking you can begin preparing your sauce. Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium/high heat until shimmering. Add onions and cook, stirring frequently, until softened and translucent, about 5 minutes.2 Tablespoons olive oil, ½ sweet or yellow onion
- Add garlic and cook, stirring, until fragrant (about 30 seconds).3 cloves garlic
- Add ground beef and sausage to the pan and cook, crumbling, until mostly browned. Drain if needed. If you have accumulated a brown layer on the bottom of the pan, simply deglaze with a splash of broth or wine.1 lb (453 g) ground beef, 1 lb (453 g) sweet Italian sausage¹
- Add Italian seasoning, basil, onion powder, garlic powder, salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes and stir until well combined with the meat.1 ½ teaspoons Italian seasoning, 1 teaspoon dried basil, ½ teaspoon onion powder, ¼ teaspoon garlic powder, ¾ teaspoon salt, ¾ teaspoon ground black pepper, ¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes
- Add tomato sauce, diced tomatoes, and sugar and stir well. Bring to a simmer and stir occasionally while you prepare the cheese layer:28 oz (795 g) tomato sauce, 14 oz (396 g) diced tomatoes, 3 Tablespoons granulated sugar
- Stir together ricotta cheese, parmesan cheese, cream cheese, egg, and dried parsley until completely combined.15 oz (425 g) whole milk ricotta cheese, ½ cup fresh shredded parmesan cheese, 4 oz (113 g) cream cheese, 1 egg, 1 teaspoon dried parsley
- Spoon a thin layer of sauce onto the bottom of a 9×13” (23x33cm) baking dish. Top with an even layer of 4 noodles.Top the noodles with a third of your sauce. Dollop half of your ricotta over the sauce and use a spoon to spread evenly (it will be a thin layer and may swirl with the sauce, this is fine). Top the ricotta with 1 cup (113g) shredded mozzarella.3 cups (340 g) shredded mozzarella cheese
- Repeat with 4 more noodles, half of your remaining sauce, another layer of ricotta and another cup of mozzarella, then 4 more noodles, remaining sauce, and sprinkle the remaining mozzarella evenly over the top.
- Lightly spray a piece of aluminum foil with cooking spray and place the foil (spray-side down) over the lasagna. Place the lasagna on a foil-lined baking sheet (in case any overflow happens this will keep it from making a mess in your oven) and bake in 350F (175C) oven for 40 minutes, then remove foil and bake for an additional 10 minutes/until cheese is melted and bubbly.
¹SausageSometimes I am only able to find sweet Italian sausage in the form of links; simply remove the casings before using if this is the case.Meat You can use all beef, all sausage, or even just 1 lb of either meat if you prefer. You could also leave out the meat entirely and have a vegetarian lasagna.
StoringYou can store the lasagna in the pan you bake it in wrapped tightly in foil, or in an airtight container for up to 5 days in the fridge. It may also be frozen in an airtight container for 1-2 months.
Nutritional information is based on third-party calculations and should be considered an estimate only. Actual nutritional content will vary based upon brands used, measuring methods, cooking method, portion sizes, and more.
Can you put spinach in the cheese filling?
I think that would work just fine. Enjoy!
This recipe is a keeper for me. So gold!
I’m so glad you enjoyed it so much, Derrik! 🙂
Can I make this in a batch of 3 for a party? Or is it better to make each lasagna separate? I’m wondering if I tripled all the sauce ingredients if it would come out weird.
Hi Mary! I haven’t tried tripling the recipe, but I don’t foresee any issues doing so. 🙂
Very tasty. This will be added to my current two favorite lasagna recipes. A bit too sweet tasting for me but my family cleaned their plates! Strangely it did not leave me with that uncomfortable stuffed feeling that I often have after eating Italian food. A big plus!
I really liked the freshly grated mozzarella versus the usual slices. Not as much stringy cheese issues when cutting and serving!
Looking forward to your cookbook! I have already shared your site with a number of friends.
Emily @ Sugar Spun Run
Thanks for trying our recipe, Bob! Sounds like it was a hit for your family. As far as the sweetness goes, you could always try and reduce the sugar to see if that helps; maybe your tomatoes were less acidic than ours! Enjoy 😊
michael j. hyatt
First time lasagna maker. I have to say that following your video made it easy and took all the fear out of it. I made my lasagna veggie style but used plant-based ground beef and sausage (I use Litelife brands. They tend to not over-season their product). Hey, very cheesy, very satisfying. Your lasagna recipe is now an official staple in my kitchen. Thank you.
Emily @ Sugar Spun Run
Thank you so much for your review, Michael! We are so happy you enjoyed the lasagna 😊
I haven’t made this lasagna recipe yet. Planning to do it for Christmas. Can I assemble it the day before and refrigerate overnight? And bake it the next day?
Emily @ Sugar Spun Run
We think that should work fine, Jan! Enjoy 🙂
The best. Threw all my old lasagna recipes after making this one today!
So happy to hear it was such a hit, Nancy! Thank you so much for trying my recipe (and for coming back and rating it!) I appreciate it!
Hi Sam I have made this before It is absolutely delicious! I believe you helped me win the crown 👑 of best Lasagna maker in the family. So many people in the fam as made it NONE is quite as good as this one! So cheers girl🥂 you’ve out down yourself (again 😉). My only question is I plan on making it again but we all have that 1 family member that doesn’t like ricotta cheese so I was wondering can I just leave it out or do I need to add more cheese? Thanks Girl 🤗.
Done** Oops 🙊
Hi Nayy! I am so thrilled to hear this recipe has been such a hit for you and your family! I’m not sure I’d recommend leaving the ricotta out completely as it’s such a key part of the filling, but I do know some people have substituted cottage cheese with success, if that might work for you! I also want to add that I myself am not a ricotta cheese fan at all, either but still love this lasagna and think the cream cheese helps with that (it makes the filling creamier and masks some of the rougher texture of the ricotta, which is what many people don’t like about ricotta), so it might be worth convincing them to do a taste-test before ruling it out 😉
Hi Sam- I just made this today exactly as written. It is very easy to pull together and is sooo delicious! A definite keeper. Thank you for sharing!
I’m so glad you enjoyed it so much, Pat! 🙂
Hi Sam I had to rate although I didn’t make it. Will u please make a plain cheese version? No matter what I do my cheese lasagne is runny. I tried ricotta drained in a mesh strainer cooking the lasagne and allowing to rest 30 min . I’m frustrated. The noodles are cooked al Dente and patted dry and it still is a runny mess. Tastes good though. Also I skimp on the sauce bc I thought possibly that was the cause but it makes the noodles gummy . Help
Hi Michelle! I actually talk about how to make the sauce without meat in the post. 🙂
Samantha, thank you so very much for your quick response. For whatever reason the recipe was missing from the page.
Sounds delicious, I will give it a try.
I know I’ll make this in the future. You make it look so easy because your site is bright with clear photos and directions. Great job!
Thank you so much, Dorothy! I hope you love it! 🙂
I buy frozen chopped spinach. I thaw it and wrap it in cheesecloth, then squeeze out as much liquid as possible. Mmmm, good.
That’s a great idea. 🙂
No spinach mixed in with the ricotta? Isn’t there a law against that? (it’s a joke; but not really.)
🤣 I don’t think I’ve ever mixed spinach into my lasagna.
Hi Sam! Let me start out by saying that I love your logo, it looks fabulous on my phone home screen (which is how I save the recipes I find online that I love or want to try).
I’m planning on making this as my first lasagna later this week and would like your input on something.
I have an incredible meat sauce from a couple of weeks ago in the freezer that I’m going to pull and combine with additional tomato passata, because it came out very thick and more like a chilli. I think making lasagna with it will be a great way to use up the leftovers, what say you, Sam?
Also is it worth it to buy a casserole dish for this recipe, or could I make it just as well in a square baking pan? Or a rectangular roasting pan? I was also considering doing two separate ones in loaf pans. (My boyfriend has bought a lot of new coming equipment for us in the last month and I want to try to give him a break from that 😂).
Thanks so much in advance, I’m very much looking forward to trying your recipes!
PS I read your personal account about you and your husband on your desert pizza recipe. My heart goes out to you both! I admire the strength of you relationship. 🙏
Hi Dani! I think your sauce should work here. If you like a saucier lasagna you can always add a splash of some regular tomato sauce but your homemade stuff should work great. You can bake it in a different pan, but your bake times will change and ratios will change but it should still be delicious. I hope you love it! 🙂