This is the BEST Lasagna Bolognese you will ever make! Layers of flat noodles, slow simmered bolognese sauce, béchamel sauce and cheese are baked until bubbly and absolutely perfect. And while this is a bit of a labor of love, you can make it ahead and refrigerate (or freeze) until ready to serve!
Italian food is always a hit with my family and friends. This lasagna is one of the dishes I make when I want to impress! Other crowd-pleasing ones in my repertoire are my Braised Beef Ragu, Spaghetti alla Carbonara and my Zuppa Toscana.
This lasagna recipe has a special place in my heart!
It is the lasagna my aunt used to make for Christmas every year. I remember looking forward to that day all year long! That’s how much I love it.
I don’t know why, but I grew up thinking that her Lasagna Bolognese was a secret recipe that she would never share with anyone. When I finally gathered the courage to ask her for the recipe, she gladly sent me her notes. In Italian!
Apart from the fact that I had Italian classes during middle school, my Italian is really REALLY basic. So I had to ask my mom – who didn’t go to an Italian school, but is an opera singer, so speaks fairly good Italian – to translate some of it.
She translated the ingredients list and I took it from there, tweaking the recipe to match ingredients I could find here in NY and to make it extra cheesy and saucy, because that’s how I like it!
I must warn you, if you’re American, this Lasagna will taste nothing like the lasagna you are used to eating in Italian-American restaurants. It is oh-so-much-better!
To make Lasagna Bolognese, you will need:
- Lasagna pasta – fresh or dry. Do not use the no-boil noodles, as they won’t cook properly in this lasagna.
- Bolognese sauce – This is my famous bolognese sauce, made with onion, garlic, carrot, celery, pancetta, ground beef, ground pork, white wine, milk, crushed tomatoes, heavy cream and parmesan cheese.
- Béchamel sauce – A white sauce made from a white roux and milk.
- Cheese – I use both Mozzarella and Parmigiano-Reggiano because I like my lasagna very cheesy!
How to Make Lasagna Bolognese
Here’s how I make Lasagna Bolognese. As always, you will find the printable (and more complete) version of the recipe at the end of this post!
Step 1: Make the bolognese sauce.
- Heat oil and butter in a large pot. Sauté onion, carrots, celery and garlic. Reserve.
- Cook the pancetta until golden brown. Reserve.
- Working in batches, brown the beef and pork.
- Return the reserved soffritto and pancetta to the pot. Deglaze the pot with white wine.
- Stir in milk, crushed tomatoes, nutmeg, salt and pepper.
- Simmer for 3-4 hours or until very rich.
- Stir in heavy cream, parmesan and parsley.
- Taste and adjust seasoning as needed.
Step 2: Make the béchamel sauce.
- Heat butter in a saucepan until melted.
- Stir in the flour and cook until golden.
- Slowly add cold milk, whisking constantly, until the sauce thickens to a creamy consistency.
- Remove from heat and add heavy cream and parmesan cheese.
- Stir in nutmeg, salt and pepper.
Step 3: Assemble the lasagna.
- Coat a 13X9 lasagna dish with cooking spray.
- Spread a layer of béchamel sauce on the bottom.
- Start layering in the following order: noodles, béchamel sauce, bolognese sauce, mozzarella cheese and parmesan cheese. Repeat until you’ve used all the lasagna noodles.
- Finish with a layer of bolognese and the remaining cheese.
Step 4: Bake!
- Place the lasagna dish on a baking sheet to catch any drips.
- Cover with foil and bake for 30 minutes.
- Remove the foil and bake for another 15 minutes or until bubbly and golden brown.
- Garnish with parsley and serve.
- Do not skip making your own ragu bolognese sauce! Store-bought meat sauce is not acceptable. My Italian ancestors would be very disappointed with you! But really, what makes this Lasagna incredible is the slow simmered homemade bolognese sauce. Cook it for at least one hour – better if it’s 3! – to develop a complex flavor and proper thickness. But don’t worry! If you are serving this for Christmas, you don’t have to wake up at 4am to make bolognese sauce. Just make the sauce ahead. It will keep in the fridge for a couple of days or in the freezer for up to 3 months.
- Shred your own mozzarella if you can. It will taste and melt better than the store stuff!
- It may seem redundant to have two types of sauce in this lasagna. But believe me, the béchamel sauce really takes this dish up a notch making it creamier and gooey-er! (And, again, please make your own! It is so easy that there’s no excuse to buy the jar stuff.)
- Use fresh and quality ingredients!
What to Serve with Lasagna Bolognese
This lasagna is pretty satisfying on its own!
That being said, you can pair it with a nice side salad and a batch of garlic bread (or dinner rolls) to complete the feast.
Pairing lasagna bolognese and wine
Since this lasagna is quite rich, it pairs great with medium-bodied, acidic reds. If you want to keep the Italian theme going, here are a few suggestions (from La Cucina Italiana):
- Lambrusco di Sorbara, Rimosso 2018 Cantina della Volta
- Romagna Sangiovese Superiore Crepe 2018 Ca’ di Sopra
- Barbera d’Alba 2018 Cordero di Montezemolo
- Valpolicella Ripasso Superiore 2017 Famiglia Pasqua
- Sicilia Nero d’Avola Lagnùsa 2017 Feudo Montoni
Frequently Asked Questions
Yes! You can assemble the Lasagna a day or two ahead and keep it in the fridge. When ready to serve, bake as directed!
Yes, Lasagna Bolognese can be frozen for up to 3 months.
I prefer freezing the lasagna before baking. You can freeze it in a foil pan, tightly covered with foil, or right in the baking dish if it’s safe for both freezer and oven.
When ready to serve, just bake from frozen, for a little longer than it would take to bake from fresh!
Leftovers will keep well in the fridge for up to 4 days. You can also freeze leftovers, individually portioned, for up to 3 months.
Reheat your lasagna in the oven, at 350ºF, covered with foil, for 30 minutes or until sizzling and hot.
Did you make this recipe? I love hearing from you! Please comment and leave a 5-star rating below. You can also take a photo and tag me on Instagram with #oliviascuisine.
For the Bolognese sauce:
- 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 1 large onion, finely chopped
- 2 large carrots, peeled and finely diced
- 2 celery stalks, finely diced
- 3 cloves of garlic, minced
- 4 ounces pancetta, ground or finely chopped
- 1 pound ground beef (20% fat)
- 1 pound ground pork
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
- 1 cup dry white wine
- 1 (28 ounce) can crushed tomatoes, preferably San Marzano
- 1 cup whole milk
- Pinch freshly grated nutmeg
- 1 cup heavy cream
- 1 cup grated parmesan cheese (Parmigiano Reggiano is the best!)
- 1/2 cup chopped parsley
For the béchamel sauce:
- 1/4 cup flour
- 1/4 cup unsalted butter
- 2 cups whole milk
- 1/3 cup grated parmesan
- Salt, pepper and freshly grated nutmeg , to taste
- 1 1/2 cups heavy cream
For assembling the lasagna:
- 1 pound Lasagna pasta, cooked according to package instructions
- 8 ounces shredded mozzarella cheese
- 5 ounces grated parmesan cheese
- Chopped parsley to garnish
Make the Bolognese Sauce:
- In a Dutch Oven, heat the olive oil and the butter, over medium high heat.
- Add the onion and sauté until translucent. Then, add the celery and carrot, cooking for until the begin to caramelize, 5-8 minutes. Add garlic and sauté for another couple of minutes, until fragrant. Season with salt and pepper and, using a slotted spoon, remove the soffritto to a plate and reserve.
- Add the ground pancetta and cook until golden brown, about 5 minutes. Remove and reserve.
- Working in batches, add the ground beef and ground pork. Season with salt and pepper and cook, breaking lumps with a wooden spoon but resisting the urge to stir too often, until browned, about 10 – 15 minutes. We want the meat to caramelize and the brown bits to stick to the bottom of the pot, as that's where all the flavor is!
- Return the reserved soffritto and pancetta back to the pot.
- Add the white wine and let it simmer, scraping all the bits from the bottom of the pot, until bubbled away completely.
- Add the crushed tomatoes, milk and the grated nutmeg. Season with salt and pepper. When the sauce begins to bubble, lower the heat, cover and simmer for 3 hours, stirring occasionally. If the sauce dries out too much, add a splash of water or milk as needed. Some of the fat will separate and float to the top, making it easier to skim it off with a spoon. Discard.
- Stir in heavy cream, parmesan cheese and parsley. Stir vigorously to emulsify. Taste for seasoning and adjust salt and pepper, if necessary. Reserve
Make the béchamel sauce:
- In a medium saucepan, over medium low heat, heat the butter until melted.
- Add the flour and whisk until smooth and all the raw flour smell is gone and the flour is golden, about 5 minutes.
- Add the milk slowly, whisking constantly, until you have a smooth sauce.
- Remove from heat and add the parmesan cheese and the heavy cream. Stir until the parmesan is melted and incorporated into the sauce. Taste for seasoning and season with salt, pepper and freshly grated nutmeg.
Assemble and Bake the Lasagna:
- Preheat oven to 350°.
- To assemble the lasagna, coat a 13X9’ lasagna dish with butter. Spread a layer of béchamel sauce on the bottom. Top with a layer of lasagna noodles, followed by a layer of béchamel sauce, a layer of bolognese sauce, one layer of mozzarella cheese and one layer of grated parmesan cheese.
- Repeat the process until you’ve used all the lasagna noodles. On top of the final layer of noodles should go the remaining bolognese sauce and the remaining cheese.
- Place the lasagna on a baking sheet to catch any drips. Cover with foil and bake for 30 minutes or until the top begins to get lightly browned.
- Remove the foil and bake for another 15 minutes or until the lasagna is bubbly and the top is browned.
- Sprinkle with a handful of chopped parsley and serve.