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The ultimate one-dish, family-style meal! This is my best, easy traditional lasagna recipe for any occasion, layered in a baking dish with sheets of pasta, tomato marinara sauce, and a trio of cheeses —including whole milk ricotta, mozzarella, and Parmesan. With crusty edges, tender pasta, and creamy, melty cheese in every serving, you’ll want to make this for an impressive party dish or a staple for your freezer stash.
Homey, hearty, and comforting — that’s really the best way to describe lasagna. I grew up eating a version of this baked pasta almost every Sunday. A big tray of lasagna, either with or without my grandmother’s rich meat sauce, was one of the pasta dinner recipes that was always on the table for holidays and other special days.
While I often make lasagna recipes that stray from tradition, like my lightened-up vegetable lasagna with oven-roasted vegetables, there’s nothing like the real deal.
WHY WE LOVE CHEESE LASAGNA:
- CLASSIC: Everyone wants a slice! The combo of cheese, pasta, and tomato sauce is an essential dish, no matter your heritage.
- ECONOMICAL: A large dish of baked lasagna is a great way to feed a group without using expensive ingredients.
- FREEZABLE: Cheese lasagna freezes beautifully for up to 3 months.
Best cheeses for lasagna
You need three types of cheese to make a delicious lasagna. Each one adds a special character to the layers.
- Ricotta: Soft whole milk ricotta (not skim) has a velvety, mouth-coating texture for a creamy element that contrasts with the sauce and pasta. Tip: It also makes incredibly tender ricotta meatballs.
- Mozzarella: For the melty factor: Low-moisture, whole cow’s milk mozzarella is what you’re looking for (note — it’s the opposite of fresh mozzarella packed in water, which you don’t want for this recipe). Yes, you can buy pre-shredded mozzarella, but it sometimes has additives. I always use a whole ball and shred it on a box grater or in a food processor.
- Grated Parmesan: For savory umami, buy a chunk of Parmesan and grate it at home, or choose a good-quality Italian grated Parmesan in the refrigerated section of your grocery store or deli.
- Lasagna noodles: In a perfect world, sheets of fresh pasta would be my first choice for an absolutely primo lasagna. If you have access to a market that sells fresh pasta sheets (or want to make your own!), you can use it interchangeably in this recipe. Otherwise, knowing that fresh pasta isn’t always available, my everyday choice are convenient no-boil, “oven-ready” lasagna pasta noodles. They don’t need to be pre-boiled the way regular dried lasagna sheets do, and they don’t become mushy or overcooked.
- Tomato pasta sauce: The only sauce you need for a traditional lasagna is a good-tasting, basic tomato pasta sauce, or marinara sauce — either homemade or your favorite brand of store-bought sauce. For a heartier lasagna that’s non-vegetarian, you can absolutely use a hearty Italian-style meat sauce instead.
- Cheese: See my note above on cheeses. This classic lasagna recipe includes all the cheeses my Italian-American mom and grandmother used: whole milk ricotta and mozzarella along with freshly grated Parmesan cheese.
- Egg: One large egg blended with the ricotta helps to bind the cheese, making it less likely to spill out from under the layers of the baked lasagna.
How to assemble and bake cheese lasagna
Ricotta Cheese Lasagna with Marinara
- 1 large egg
- 2 cups (567 g) whole milk ricotta cheese, (20 ounces)
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- ¼ cup chopped parsley
- 2 cups marinara sauce, or your favorite prepared tomato pasta sauce
- 16 no-boil lasagna noodles, or 1 pound fresh lasagna noodles, cut into (8) 12×7-inch pieces
- 1½ cups grated Parmesan cheese
- 2½ cups (340 g) shredded whole milk mozzarella cheese, (12 ounces)
- Preheat the oven to 400F (200C).
- Whisk the egg in a medium bowl. Add the ricotta, salt, pepper and parsley and whisk until creamy and blended.
Assemble the first layer:
- Spread ½ cup of the marinara sauce over the bottom of a 9×13-inch baking dish or casserole. Arrange 4 lasagna noodles (or 2 fresh pasta sheets) over the sauce, slightly overlapping them and pressing down lightly. Spoon a generous cup of the ricotta mixture on top the noodles, spreading it to the edges of the pasta. Sprinkle 1 cup of the mozzarella over the ricotta.
- Arrange 4 lasagna noodles over the ricotta. Spread ½ cup of the marinara sauce over the noodles and sprinkle 1 cup of the Parmesan evenly over the sauce.
- Arrange 4 lasagna noodles over the tomato sauce and Parmesan. Spread with the remaining ricotta cheese mixture and 1 cup of the mozzarella.
- Layer the last four lasagna noodles over the ricotta. Pour the remaining 1 cup sauce over the noodles, spreading to the edges. Sprinkle the top of the lasagna with the remaining ½ cup each of the mozzarella and Parmesan cheeses.
- Cover the pan with a sheet of aluminum foil. Bake 30 minutes. Remove the foil and lower the oven temperature to 375F (190C). Continue baking 15 more minutes, until the cheese is lightly golden and the edges of the lasagna are crisp.
- Cool the lasagna in the pan on a cooling rack for 10-15 minutes to allow it to set. Cut into squares and serve.
Karen’s Notes and Tips
- Make ahead: The assembled, unbaked lasagna can be covered and refrigerated up to 24 hours before baking, or frozen for one month. To bake, thaw overnight in the refrigerator. Bake as directed.
- Baked lasagna keeps up to 4 days in the refrigerator or in the freezer for 2 months.
- You’ll need 1-1/4 pounds of ricotta, which means you’ll most likely need to buy 2 (15-ounce) containers. Use the remaining ricotta to make a lemon ricotta cake!