The Best Classic Italian Lasagna

This classic Italian lasagna is authentic, made with bechamel white sauce (no ricotta) and a simple red sauce.

Lasagna is one of those recipes everyone has on file, but I’m urging you to toss your recipe aside and try this version! Saying this recipe is the BEST LASAGNA ever” is a bold claim, I know, but I’m confidant it’s the closest thing you’ll get to ordering straight from an Italian restaurant!


You’ll Need:

Lasagna:

  • 9 regular lasagna noodles (or no-boil noodles)
  • 1 pound shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 8 ounces freshly grated parmesan cheese

Red Sauce:*

  • 1/2 pound ground beef
  • 1/2 pound ground Italian sausage
  • 1 Tablespoon olive oil
  • 4 cloves garlic , minced
  • 1/2 large onion , chopped
  • 1 1/2 cups fresh spinach leaves
  • 1/2 bell pepper (red or green), chopped
  • 16 ounces tomato sauce
  • 6 ounces tomato paste
  • 14.5 ounce can diced tomatoes
  • 2 teaspoons Italian seasonings
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper , to taste
  • 1 container fresh basil leaves , finely chopped (about 10-15 leaves)

White Sauce (béchamel sauce):

  • 4 Tablespoons butter
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 1/2 cups milk
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper , to taste


Instructions:

Make the Red Sauce: (Can be made in advance).

  1. In a large skillet, brown the ground beef and sausage over medium-high heat, breaking the meat apart into pieces with a wooden spoon. When cooked through, remove the grease.
  2. Add meat to a food processor and pulse just 3-4 times until it’s broken up into very small pieces. Remove to a bowl.
  3. In the same skillet over medium-high heat, add olive oil. When oil is hot, add the garlic, stirring constantly for 30 seconds.
  4. Add the onion, spinach and bell pepper. Continue cooking on medium-high heat until the vegetables are softened –about 2-3 minutes.
  5. Remove from heat and transfer them to the same food processor. Pulse several times until they’re nearly pureed.
  6. Return mixture to the skillet and add the tomato sauce and tomato paste and stir to combine. Add the diced tomatoes, Italian seasoning, and salt and pepper to taste. Stir.
  7. Cover and allow the sauce to simmer for about 20-30 minutes on low heat, stirring occasionally.
  8. Right before using the red sauce in the lasagna, stir in the reserved crumbled ground beef and sausage, and fresh basil.
  9. While the red sauce simmers boil the lasagna noodles for half the time suggested on the box. Drain into a large colander and sprinkle them with a tiny bit of olive oil to keep them from sticking together. (You can skip this step if you are using no-boil noodles).

For the White Sauce: (Can be made in advance).

  1. Add the butter to a medium size saucepan or large skillet. Over medium heat. Once melted, add the flour, stirring constantly to combine 2 minutes.
  2. Gradually add in the milk, whisking until smooth. Season with salt and pepper.
  3. Cook over medium heat, whisking often so it doesn’t burn on the bottom, until it thickens-- about 5-7 minutes.

Assemble Lasagna:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease a 9X13-inch baking pan with cooking spray.
  2. Keep in mind that there will be 3 layers of lasagna, so mentally split the sauces into thirds as you layer them to make sure you have enough at the end).
  3. Start by layering the bottom of your greased pan with 3 lasagna noodles.
  4. Spread the red sauce over the noodles, followed by the white sauce, Parmesan and mozzarella cheeses, spreading all to the edges.
  5. Top with another layer of noodles, then red sauce, white sauce, parmesan and mozzarella cheeses.
  6. Add the final layer of noodles, then red sauce, white sauce and cheeses.
  7. Bake for 30 minutes. Allow the lasagna to sit for 15-20 minutes before serving.
  8. I love to serve this with homemade breadsticks!


NOTES:

TIPS FOR PERFECT AUTHENTIC LASAGNA:

THE RED SAUCE:

  • It starts with a homemade red sauce, using simple pantry ingredients. I also add pureed vegetables to the sauce to give it great flavor (and it allows you to sneak in some veggies to an otherwise cheese and carb-filled dish).
  • The meat in the sauce is a combo of ground beef and Italian sausage. Once the meat is browned in a skillet I like to crumble it into extra small pieces in my food processor, before adding it to the sauce. This helps keep the sauce smooth and thick, without any overly large meat pieces.
  • Disclaimer: I WILL admit, when I’ve been short on time I have substituted jarred pasta sauce from the store. Use 48 oz. of jarred pasta sauce in place of the red sauce, but add the cooked ground beef, Italian sausage and fresh chopped basil to it.


THE WHITE SAUCE:

  • The traditional béchamel sauce used for this lasagna is what really sets it apart! Béchamel is just a fancy name for a white sauce that is made with butter, flour and milk. The simplest ingredients that everyone has, and they come together to form a smooth, thick and creamy white sauce.
  • Both of the sauces can be made in advance, for extra quick assembly the day you want to bake lasagna.

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