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.
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!
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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 ground beef (453g) (I use a lean beef but use whichever percentage you prefer)
- 1 lb sweet Italian sausage¹ (453g)
- 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 tomato sauce (795g)
- 14 oz diced tomatoes undrained (396g)
- 3 Tablespoons granulated sugar
- 15 oz whole milk ricotta cheese (425g)
- ½ cup fresh shredded parmesan cheese
- 4 oz cream cheese softened (113g)
- 1 egg
- 1 teaspoon dried parsley
- 3 cups shredded mozzarella cheese (340g)
- 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.
- 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.
- Add garlic and cook, stirring, until fragrant (about 30 seconds).
- 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.
- Add Italian seasoning, basil, onion powder, garlic powder, salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes and stir until well combined with the meat.
- Add tomato sauce, diced tomatoes, and sugar and stir well. Bring to a simmer and stir occasionally while you prepare the cheese layer:
- Stir together ricotta cheese, parmesan cheese, cream cheese, egg, and dried parsley until completely combined.
- 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.
- 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.