Classic Lasagna Bolognese

Our family’s favorite Sunday meal is my mom’s famous lasagna. It has the best meat-based sauce bursting with Italian flavors and a traditional Italian white sauce (bechamel), which is key to a classic lasagna alla bolognese.

Lasagna bolognese is probably the best-baked pasta dish in the world, and homemade lasagna is simply the best! Unlike the American lasagna recipe which uses ricotta and spinach as one of the fillings, a classic bolognese lasagna consists of only the meat sauce (bolognese or ragu) and bechamel (a creamy white sauce). When it comes to the preparation, lasagna can be a little time consuming, but the good news is that you can make the sauces a day ahead and assemble and cook it the following day.

What goes in a Classic Lasagna Bolognese, ingredients and substitutions

The meat sauce, is also called ragu or bolognese sauce. Here are the ingredients you will need:

  • Aromatics: onion, celery, carrots, and garlic will “melt” in the sauce and deliver great flavour. We have added a few mushrooms, although this is not traditional. 
  • Ground beef or a mix of beef and pork. Adding pancetta (a type of Italian bacon ) also adds depth to the sauce.
  • Chopped Canned tomato and tomato paste. Don’t skip on the tomato paste. It adds flavour, colour and thickens the sauce.
  • Seasonings : oregano, basil, thyme, bay leaves add great flavour. 
  • Red or white wine is often used for deglazing the pan after browning the meat. This step dissolves the caramelised bits while adding flavour. (optional step)
  • Water or beef/vegetable stock. Bolognese sauce needs to be slowly cooked for at least 1-2 hours. The liquid is needed to achieve the desired consistency, as your sauce will reduce considerably. 
  • Sugar. A teaspoon of sugar might be needed to balance the acidity. Add it toward the end of cooking time if needed.
  • Salt and pepper: to taste.
Bolognese Sauce ingredients

The white sauce is called bechamel. It will add richness and creaminess to the lasagna.

  • Butter. Flour needs to be cooked in fat before adding milk. It also adds a ton of flavour. This paste is called a white roux.
  • Flour acts as the thickening agent in this medium-thick white sauce.
  • Milk can be heated before incorporating it into the roux to prevent lumps. This step is optional. 
  • Nutmeg gives a distinctive sweet taste. 
  • Salt and pepper
Bechamel ingredients

Lasagna sheets: Whether they are dried, fresh, or instant (“no-cook”), follow the instructions on the packet. For pasta sheets that need to be cooked, a trick to avoid the mess of cooking them is to soak them in boiling water for 20-30 minutes. They will finish cooking in the oven. 

Cheeses. We love to use Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese in our lasagna. It has a sharp, rich flavor. The second cheese used in this recipe is mozzarella(grated or sliced), for the topping.

How to make Lasagna Bolognese


  • Sweat vegetables, add meat, and cook until lightly brown. (pic. 1 & 2). Use a fork to break up the big meat lumps that will form while cooking. If using wine, add it in this step, to deglaze the pan. Let the wine cook until almost reduced.
  • Add tomato paste and cook for about 3 minutes. (pic. 3)
  • Stir in chopped canned tomatoes and seasonings.(pic. 4) Let simmer for 1,5-3 hours. The key to a great bolognese sauce is patience. It really needs at least 1,5 hours to cook. I usually let it simmer for about 2,5 hours. The sauce will develop great flavor, trust me, it’s worth it!
How to make the meat sauce (ragu)


  • Cook butter and flour to form a roux, then add milk and boil until creamy consistency. (pic.1 & 2)

After you have your ingredients and sauces on hand, it’s time to assemble the lasagna. This recipe has 6 layers of pasta sheets. I find that this is the best balance between noodles and sauce, qualifying it for a restaurant style lasagna. Who wants a flat lasagna anyway?

How to make the béchamel


I find it easier to cover the sheets with bechamel first (especially if it is made a day ahead), and then spread a layer of the meat sauce. 

  1. Smear some sauce on the base of your baking dish. You could use some bolognese sauce, some bechamel, or just plain tomato sauce. 
  2. 1st LAYER – lasagna sheets, bechamel, meat sauce, parmesan.
  3. 2nd LAYER– lasagna sheets, bechamel, meat sauce, parmesan.
  4. 3rd LAYER– lasagna sheets, bechamel, meat sauce, parmesan.
  5. 4th LAYER– lasagna sheets, bechamel, meat sauce, parmesan.
  6. 5th LAYER– lasagna sheets, bechamel, meat sauce, parmesan.
  7. 6th LAYER– lasagna sheets, bechamel, mozzarella. 


Covering the lasagna keeps it moist and prevents the edges from drying out. After about 40 minutes of baking in e preheated oven, discard the foil and cover your lasagna with mozzarella. Bake until golden brown. I like to add the mozzarella after I discard the foil, so it doesn’t stick to it. TIP: Make sure the corners are well covered with bechamel, otherwise they will dry out.


What baking dish should I use for lasagna? Use a 9×13 inch baking dish, either ceramic, glass, or metal with a depth of at least 2,5 inches (6 cm) to hold this six-layer restaurant-style lasagna, without having to worry about it spilling over.

How do I make lasagna in advance? Make the sauces up to 3 days in advance, and keep them refrigerated in airtight containers. When ready to assemble and bake, just use them straight from the fridge. You can also assemble the lasagna a day before you intend to bake it.

Does lasagna taste better the next day? Yes! The flavours are much better the next day, so as with curries or stews. And you will get perfect restaurant slices of lasagna!

Does lasagna freeze well? Leftover pieces freeze great, simply wrap leftovers in plastic wrap and place them in freezer bags.

Classic Lasagna Bolognese

Recipe by SabineCourse: MainCuisine: ItalianDifficulty: Easy


Prep time


Cooking time





Classic Bolognese lasagna is made with a slow-cooked meat sauce bursting with Italian flavors, a creamy bechamel for extra richness, and a bubbly golden mozzarella top layer.


  • For the meat sauce:
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil

  • 1 onion, finely chopped

  • 1 carrot, finely diced

  • 1 stick celery, finely diced

  • 4 cloves garlic, minced

  • 1,5 pound ground beef (700g)

  • 3 teaspoons

  • 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme

  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano

  • 1/2 teaspoon dried basil (or fresh)

  • 1 bay leaf

  • 1/2 cup red wine (120ml) optional

  • 14 ounces crushed tomatoes (800g)

  • 2 1/4 cups tomato passata (500ml)

  • 3 cups water or stock

  • salt, pepper to taste

  • For the bechamel:
  • 5 tablespoons butter (70g)

  • 4 cups milk (1 litre)

  • 1/2 cup + 1 tablespoon flour (70g)

  • 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg

  • 1/2 cup freshly grated parmesan (35g) optional

  • 1 1/2 teaspoon salt or to taste

  • freshly ground pepper

  • To assemble:
  • 12 ounces instant lasagna sheets (360g)

  • 1 1/4 cups grated parmesan (100g)

  • 1 1/2 cup grated mozzarella (150g) – for top only


  • Bolognese Sauce:
  • Gently heat the oil in a thick-bottomed pan, add aromatics (onion, celery, carrots, and garlic). Cook until onion becomes translucent. (pic 1)
  • Add the minced beef and cook until lightly browned. Use a fork to mince any lumps. (pic 2)
  • Add tomato paste and seasonings and cook for a few minutes, then deglaze the pan with wine or water. (pic 3)
  • Add crushed tomatoes and stock or water and let simmer on low heat, with a lid on for 1.5-2.5 hours. 
    The ragu is ready when your water has evaporated, your meat is tender and the sauce is thick and a layer of fat rises on the surface. (pic 4)
  • Bechamel Sauce:
  • Melt the butter in a thick-bottomed pan.
  • Mix in the flour with a wooden spoon or a whisk. Cook for a few minutes, without browning.
  • Over low heat, gradually add the milk while constantly whisking to prevent any lumps.
  • Simmer for 8 minutes, add nutmeg, salt, and pepper. 
    The sauce should coat the spoon when done.
  • To Assemble:
  • Preheat oven to 350 F (180 C)
  • Spoon about a cup of meat sauce on the bottom of a 9 x 13 inch (22 x 33 cm) ovenproof dish.
  • Add a layer of noodles, bechamel, meat sauce, then sprinkle 1/4 of the parmesan.
  • Repeat layers until you have 5 layers of lasagna sheets. Your last layer will only have bechamel.
  • Cover with aluminum foil and bake for 20 minutes, then discard foil.
  • Top lasagna with mozzarella and continue baking until golden and bubbly


  • Storing instructions: refrigerate for up to 3 days or freeze for up to 3 months.

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