This classic lasagne is a crowd-pleaser that will definitely make your guests come back for seconds. The bolognese sauce is rich in flavour and together with a velvety smooth béchamel sauce, this homemade lasagne will taste nothing like the store bought variety. It can be made ahead of time and can easily be frozen and reheated, making it the perfect make-ahead meal for a busy week or dinner party.
A large homemade dish of lasagne is such a comforting meal. A piping hot plate of lasagne with layers of bolognese sauce, parmesan cheese, béchamel and pasta sheets make this an all time favourite. Homemade lasagne can be a daunting recipe to make, but it’s really not difficult at all. It is actually quite forgiving and can easily be altered to your liking. Be sure to give this classic lasagne a try!
My bolognese sauce is based on the recipe from the classic Silver Spoon cookbook. Over the years I have tweaked and altered the recipe until it came out perfectly. This bolognese also tastes great on its own as a pasta sauce. It can easily be frozen and used whenever you need a quick pasta dish.
The most tedious part of this recipe is the cutting of the vegetables. I like to start by preparing all my ingredients before I start cooking. Onions, celery and carrots are the “holy trinity” in Italian cooking. Together these three ingredients make a base called ‘soffritto’, you can use this base for many different dishes like sauces, stews and even risottos. Make sure to dice the veggies in very small pieces, you don’t want a chunky sauce.
I like to make this sauce in a heavy-bottomed cast-iron Dutch oven. This type of pan will distribute the heat more evenly. The high sides of the pan make it easier to make large batches of this sauce.
Fresh herbs add delicious aromas to this dish, but you can also use dried alternatives. If you have any fresh herbs left over after making this recipe try freezing them! Just put them in a ziplock bag in the freezer. Hard, woody herbs like rosemary, thyme and even oregano will freeze beautifully. You don’t have to defrost them before using, just chop them while frozen.
The wine can be left out if you don’t want to use alcohol in your dish (you can use the same amount of beef stock instead). If you do want to use it, be sure to use a wine you also like to drink. The traditional bolognese recipe calls for white wine, but I prefer a full-bodied red wine instead. You use the wine to deglaze the pan after cooking the beef and vegetables. This will release all the caramelized burned bits that were stuck to the bottom of your pan. This will make your sauce extra flavourful.
Béchamel sauce (sometimes also known as white sauce) makes this lasagne extra creamy and decadent. A basic béchamel is made with just three main ingredients: butter, flour and milk. You can use béchamel sauce as a base sauce for lots of different types of sauces by adding extra ingredients like herbs, spices or cheese.
I don’t drink milk as a beverage, I only use it in cooking. I always have a carton of sterilized milk in my pantry. Sterilized milk has been heat-treated, this gives it a much longer shelf life and it doesn’t need refrigeration until it’s opened. You can use it exactly the same as you would fresh milk. To make this sauce extra rich I like to use full-fat milk.
You start by melting the butter and then cooking out the flour, these two ingredients together are called the roux. After these two steps you slowly add the milk. It works best if the milk is room temperature or even warmed up. The sauce will look clumpy when you first add the milk, then too runny and thin, but eventually it will come together beautifully. It will become a velvety smooth sauce perfect for this lasagne or other pasta dishes. You could also melt in some cheese (you are then essentially changing your Béchamel into a Mornay sauce.) This is delicious on top of some cauliflower or use it for a decadent ‘Croque Madame’ sandwich. A recipe for this French ultimate grilled cheese sandwich will be posted soon!
Layering the perfect lasagne
I have always used premade whole grain lasagne sheets for this recipe. The bolognese and béchamel sauce will provide enough liquid for the sheets to soften and cook in the oven. Make sure to add a bit of olive oil or butter to the bottom of your baking dish to prevent the lasagne from sticking. Start with a layer of the lasagne sheets. Then add a layer of bolognese sauce, add some béchamel on top and spread this out evenly. Sprinkle a layer of shredded parmesan cheese on top. Repeat this process until you are out of ingredients or until your oven dish is full. Make sure you end with the béchamel sauce and extra shredded parmesan cheese on top.
Tips & Alternatives
- Veggie version: Swap the ground beef for either mushrooms, lentils or use a vegetarian beef substitute.
- No alcohol: Use (beef) stock instead of red wine if you don’t want to use alcohol in your dish.
- Pasta sheets: I prefer whole grain, dried pasta sheets. These are easy to keep in your pantry. You could also go for regular or fresh pasta sheets.
- To make ahead of time: the assembled lasagne can be kept in the fridge until ready to bake. Alternatively, you can also bake the lasagne and reheat it when ready to eat. After baking and cooling completely the liquids will have settled better, making it easier to cut into nice squares.
- Both the bolognese and béchamel sauce can also be made ahead of time and kept in the refrigerator until assembly.
- Freezer friendly: you can freeze the assembled or baked lasagne in the freezer. Thaw completely before reheating.
Are you in the mood for more Italian dishes?
- Why not try this light and simple summery Caprese Salad? This salad can be thrown together in under 15 minutes!
- If you're in the mood for more comfort food you should definitely try this Spring Risotto with lemon, asparagus and peas. Warm, rich and cheesy this risotto is a crowd pleaser and an all time favourite in the spring and summer months!
- For more cheesy deliciousness in the colours of the Italian flag check out these Extra Cheesy Spinach and Ricotta Stuffed Pasta Shells for the ultimate hearty, comforting and crowd-pleasing veggie dinner.