Classic Lasagna Bolognese Recipe (Lasagne alla bolognese)
Table of Contents
Table of Contents
What can be better than layers of fresh lasagna noodles, bolognese sauce and a creamy béchamel? Maybe the glass of red wine that goes with it? Or it may even be the company, but either way, this dish is enjoyed far and wide by many.
This dish is something that is enjoyed together with family and friends as it takes you on a trip to Italy for the evening. You will enjoy bold flavours, a creamy sauce and, of course, a whole lot of cheese.
This Italian lasagna recipe can be adjusted to your taste and available ingredients as not everyone finds the same recipe useful but, at the very least, it can be a guide. You will be able to use this recipe for many years to come and can be assured that it will be delicious every time.
A very early version of this dish included very unusual ingredients such as fish and even sow’s belly, so you don’t have to feel bad about any “weird” food combinations that you enjoy.
Even though we know a classic lasagna bolognese recipe to contain a tomato sauce, this was not always the case. The first recorded appearance of a tomato sauce wasn’t until the 1880s in Naples and the lasagna as we know it today was only popularised by Francesco Zambrini from Bologna in the 19th century.
A lasagna bolognese recipe is something that can differ from region to region, city to city and even family to family which just makes it that much more special. It is a dish that is passed down from generation to generation with a lot of love and a lot of memories and will always have a deep connection with Italian culture and its people.
Lasagna bolognese in this form is believed to have originated in the province of Emilia-Romagna in north-central Italy. The layers consist of a meat sauce such as ragù, and is layered with flat lasagna noodles and a creamy white sauce such as béchamel (besciamella or balsamella).
This lasagna bolognese recipe is one that can be customised to you and your families needs and preferences while still being absolutely delicious. You can use either homemade pasta rolled out by hand or with the help of a pasta maker, store bought uncooked or cooked pasta or even cook this recipe without any pasta at all, but in the end you will still enjoy a lovely meal.
Cooking and Preparation Times
9×13 inch oven proof baking dish
Cooking time: 30-45 min
Prep time: 2.5-4 hours
45 min = bolognese sauce
30 min = bechamel sauce
2 hours = pasta (mixing, resting, rolling)
40 min = rest time for lasagna
- Olive oil
- 1 small carrot, chopped fine (about 54g)
- 1 celery stalk, chopped fine (about 54g)
- 1 small onion, chopped fine (about 54g)
- 3 cloves garlic, minced (about 15g)
- 120ml red wine
- 400g ground beef
- 300g peeled tomato, cut small (canned tomatoes or fresh)
- 300ml beef broth
- Fresh basil, cut fine
- Thyme, cut fine
- Salt and pepper
- Prepare all the ingredients
- In a pan, add a splash of olive oil and allow to heat up. Add in the finely chopped vegetables with the garlic on medium heat and start sautéing.
- A sediment will start to form at the bottom of the pan (take care not to burn the contents of the pan), add a 1/3 of the wine and cook it down. Continue until the wine is gone.
- Remove the contents of the pan and set it aside.
- Add in some more olive oil and add the ground beef on a medium heat. Start breaking it up to avoid lumps (do not excessively stir the beef as it is cooking, otherwise it will turn grey, rather let it gain some color whilst cooking).
- While the beef cooks and starts to form a sediment in the pot, add 1/4 of the beef broth and allow it to cook down.
- Add the vegetables back in and combine everything together.
- Add in the chopped tomatoes, the remaining beef broth and the herbs then allow everything to simmer on a low heat for about 10 min or until it starts to thicken. Stir in between to ensure it does not burn.
- Once it has started to thicken, allow it to cook together for a few minutes before removing the sauce from the heat.
Homemade Lasagna Sheets
- 350g white flour
- 350g semolina flour
- 7 eggs
- Olive oil
- Flour for dusting
- Pinch of salt
- Combine and sift the flours.
- Pour the flour on a clean, flat surface and create a well in the middle
- Add in the eggs, a dash of olive oil and a pinch of salt in the well
- Start combining the eggs with a fork and slowly start incorporating the flour (if you do this process too fast the well will break and the eggs will spill all over your workspace)
- Once the eggs and flour are properly combined you can start kneading your dough for about 13 min (if the dough still feels too wet, add some extra flour a little at a time until it is no longer sticking to your hands)
- Wrap the dough in cling wrap and store in the fridge for a few hours.
- Once the dough is rested divide the dough into 3 pieces.
- Flatten the pasta slightly and coat it with some flour as well as your pasta machine to ensure that it does not stick.
- Start at the largest setting and start putting your pasta through until you reach the correct thickness (run the pasta through each setting at least twice). Normally the correct thickness would be at setting 6 but it depends on your machine.
- Flour your pasta sheets and set them aside under some cling wrap and repeat with your remaining pasta.
- Cut your sheets to about 9×11 inches, flour and set aside (cover your sheets with cling film or a damp cloth to ensure that they don’t dry out completely)
- 500ml milk
- 50g butter
- 50g flour
- Pinch of salt and pepper
- Pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
- Melt the butter over low heat
- As soon as it is 90% melted, take off the heat and add in the flour. Combine the two and put back on the stove
- Cook the flour-butter mixture for a few minutes on low heat while stirring it (it will look like a big lump but it will loosen up later)
- Start adding in the milk a little bit at a time and whisk on a medium heat (if the milk is added too quickly lumps will form)
- Once all the milk has been added, add the seasonings and cook for another few minutes on a low heat until the mixture sticks to the back of a teaspoon.
- Take off the heat and place a piece of baking paper on the surface of the sauce to prevent a skin from forming.
- Bolognese sauce
- Pasta sheets
- Béchamel sauce
- 200g finely grated parmigiano cheese
- 300g grated provolone cheese
- Combine the parmesan cheese with 150g of the provolone and keep the remaining 150g of provolone aside
- Place a thin layer of white sauce at the bottom of your baking dish and add a layer of your fresh egg pasta sheets.
- Place a layer of bolognese sauce on top as well as a layer of béchamel sauce.
- Sprinkle a layer of your cheese mixture and top that with another layer of lasagna sheets.
- Continue building the layers until your run out of ingredients (you should try to get at least 4-6 layers in your lasagna)
- Top everything off with your remaining white cheddar.
- Cover your lasagna bolognese with foil and let it rest for 40 min at room temperature.
- Set your oven to 175 degrees Celcius (350 degrees Farenheit) and allow it to warm up while your lasagna is resting.
- After the lasagna has rested, place it into the oven, on the middle rack, with the foil covering it for 30-45 min. Remove the foil 3/4 of the way through the cooking process to allow the cheese to broil but take care not to burn the cheese.
- After it is cooked, remove it from the oven and let your lasagna cool down and rest for about 15 min to allow the layers to settle before cutting into it.
Classic Italian lasagna bolognese is the favourite dish of many people and there are definitely good reasons for that but what most people might not know is that there is a whole selection of variations that you can choose to make. In Naples, it normally contains small meatballs, ricotta and mozzarella cheeses as well as sliced hard-boiled eggs and in Genoa it uses pesto as the sauce.
From sweet to savoury, vegetarian to meat lovers, there are dozens of different Italian style lasagna recipes.
Lasagne ai semi di papavero, for example, is a lasagna dish originating from Friuli that can be made savoury or sweet but the sweet version is more commonly enjoyed. It consists of a lasagna sheet served warm with poppy seeds, butter and sugar and gets enjoyed immediately. The savoury version is normally served with poppy seeds. prosciutto crudo, leeks, butter, cream and sometimes even gorgonzola cheese!
Another interesting variation is lasagne al pesto e patate that originated in Liguria. This Italian lasagna recipe consists of fresh pasta layers with potatoes, pesto, a creamy béchamel sauce, basil and of course grated parmesan. The potatoes for this recipe get boiled until tender and sliced thin and incorporated into the layers.
There are so many different variations of Italian lasagna out there and not every lasagna recipe is necessarily similar to lasagna bolognese, but that doesn’t mean that they are not delicious.
One recipe does not work for everyone as people have different tastes or prefer certain elements to be cooked in a different way to save time. These variations will affect your overall prep time and sometimes even your cook time but it your choice when you strive to make the best lasagna bolognese for yourself and your family.
Bolognese sauce is normally made with either beef, pork, veal or a combination of those and substituting any of that will have a very small affect on your cook time but certain meat substitutes will affect how you cook your bolognese sauce.
Mushroom: If you are adding mushroom in place of your meat you can do it in a few different ways. You can chop them fine, similar to your mirepoix, or you can thinly slice them. The mushrooms will then need to be cooked out before you cook your mixture of carrot, celery, onion and garlic and added in afterwards to continue the cooking process.
Vegetable mixture: If you wish to add a mixture of vegetables to your bolognese sauce you will need to chop them finely and add them to your mirepoix mixture while following the normal cooking method or if you want bigger pieces you can cook them separately and add them in with the meat, but no more than 150g extra.
No meat: If you prefer not to add any meat or extra vegetables, you will fill the gap by doubling the mirepoix mixture and adding more tomato to your sauce.
The lasagna noodles separate the layers but not everyone prefers plain pasta. You can add natural colourants to your pasta for flavour and colour such as spinach and beet, spices such as saffron and turmeric or even something such as squid ink.
Spices: If you are using turmeric, start with adding 1 tsp to your mixture until you reach your desired colour, and if you are using saffron, soak 5 strands in 2 tsp of water and add the liquid to your egg mixture.
Spinach: Add about 30g of thawed frozen spinach, pureed, into your egg mixture. You will need to add slightly more flour to the overall mixture as it will be more sticky.
You can also use different vegetables to separate your layers such as eggplant, zucchini or even butternut. These are a great choice if you want to incorporate more vegetables into the dish or if you want to make a fully vegetarian or vegan version.
Vegetables: The vegetables need to be sliced thin (you can use a mandolin) and slightly cooked before adding them in your lasagna otherwise they will not cook completely in the oven. When you are using eggplant, coat your “sheets” in salt to draw out the moisture, brush them in olive oil and grill them in a pan for a few seconds on each side. When you use zucchini or butternut you do not need to coat them in salt but you can grill them as normal with some olive oil (ensure that you do not cut your vegetables too thin as they will break very easily as you grill them).
You can also buy pre-made lasagna sheets from the store to cut down on your prep time on the day. If you cook the lasagna sheets according to the package instructions, you can cook the lasagna bolognese as normal. If you leave your sheets uncooked you need to ensure that your bolognese sauce has more liquid content to ensure that the sheets cook in the oven.
Your white sauce should be creamy and delicious and although this does not normally contain cheese, you can add some and turn it into a mornay sauce.
When adding the cheese, it needs to be done towards the end. You will add the cheese a little at a time to ensure that the sauce does not become overly rich or too thick and use it as normal.
Alternatively, you do not need to use a white sauce in your dish and can stick to only using the meat sauce.
If you are a person that loves lasagna bolognese and the different ways that you can cook it along with other wonderful Italian dishes you then be sure to check out any of the cooking classes on our website to get you started on your Italian cooking journey!
Disclaimer: Please be aware that the food images displayed on this website are for illustrative purposes only. They do not represent the actual dishes or presentations you might achieve when following our recipes. While we strive to inspire your culinary journey, the appearance of your dishes may vary.
Frequent Asked Questions
When freezing cooked lasagna, you need to ensure that it is completely cooled down before storing it and cover it properly with layers of plastic wrap. It is not advised to freeze it in the dish that it was baked in but rather remove it and place it into a foil dish or cut individual portions and store those separate from each other.
When freezing uncooked lasagna, it is suggested that you assemble the lasagna in a foil dish and freeze the whole thing as it will loose its form otherwise.
For a half portion of this lasagna bolognese recipe, the cooking time should be about 20-35 min.
Lasagna bolognese can be assembled, baked and frozen for up to 3 months, alternatively you can assemble a fresh lasagna bolognese 24 hours before baking it and when cooked, it can stay in the fridge for up to 3 days but no longer.
You can add grated mozzarella cheese in between your layers and/or on top of your lasagna bolognese and even blended ricotta cheese in your béchamel sauce or in between your layers.
Towards the end of the cooking time, you should remove the foil to allow the cheese to crisp up by turning on the grill option for 2-3 min.
A good accompaniment to lasagna bolognese can be many things such as a fresh salad containing feta and tomato, breadsticks or garlic bread or even roasted vegetables.
If you ever plan to freeze lasagna bolognese, it is best to cook it in a tin foil baking dish so that it does not need to be removed from the dish to be frozen.
However, if you plan on serving your lasagna bolognese on the same day or even the next day without needing to freeze it, you can use an oven safe baking dish.