This Easy Lasagna al Forno Recipe is a less-complicated take on the classic, original Italian recipe. A rich, hearty, semi-homemade meat sauce is layered with lasagna noodles, and creamy cheeses galore! This recipe is a crowd-pleaser and perfect for dinner guests or special occasions. It can be made in advance and popped into the oven when you’re ready to eat!
You’ll need the following ingredients to make this amazing Lasagna al Forno Recipe:
Beef: I like using 90% lean ground beef but feel free to use whatever you have. If there is excess grease, just make sure to drain it so your lasagna doesn’t become too watery.
Pasta Sauce: A plain, good-quality marinara sauce works best. Our absolute favorite is this one from Raos.
Ricotta Cheese: Full-fat (whole milk) ricotta works best, but again, use what you like! Part-skim is OK, too.
Mozzarella Cheese: Freshly shredded mozzarella cheese (off the block) is absolutely the best option and melts the best. But I have used pre-shredded cheese too for the sake of time and it’s 100% OK! 🙂
HOW TO MAKE LASAGNA AL FORNO: STEP BY STEP
Here are some quick visual instructions. Remember that full instructions with exact ingredients will be in the recipe card below!
Step 1: First, boil lasagna sheets (noodles). Drain and set aside.
Then, make the meat sauce. Brown beef and garlic. Then, add onion, carrot, and celery. Cook until veggies are soft.
Next, add pasta sauce, water (or beef broth), Italian seasoning, garlic powder, onion powder, parsley, salt, and pepper. Give everything a big stir and bring it to a boil. Then, reduce heat to low and simmer for 15-20 minutes.
Step 2: While the sauce is simmering, make the ricotta mixture. Combine ricotta cheese, egg, Parmesan cheese, shredded mozzarella cheese, and chopped parsley. Mix until well combined.
Step 3 & 4: Assemble the lasagna. Start by spreading a thin layer of sauce on the bottom of the pan.
Then, begin layering: Start with a layer of noodles, then your meat sauce.
Step 5 & 6: Continue layering: Dollop on half of the ricotta mixture, followed by half of the shredded mozzarella and Parmesan cheese. REPEAT these layers one more time.
Step 7: Cover lasagna with foil and bake in a preheated oven for 35-45 minutes. Remove foil and continue to bake 15 minutes more or until lasagna is hot, bubbly and the cheese begins to turn golden brown. Note: this cooking time may vary depending on your oven.
For best results, allow lasagna to cool for 10-15 minutes. Then, cut into squares and serve!
RECIPE TIPS & TRICKS
- Time saver: If you are in a time crunch, skip the veggies and spices and just use meat and your store-bought marinara for the sauce.
- Add Wine: Add richness and depth to the sauce by adding a generous splash or two of good-quality red wine. The alcohol will burn off as the sauce simmers.
Make and assemble this Lasagna al Forno the day before you want to serve it. Cover it tightly with foil and store it in the fridge. Bake it the next day for a totally hands-off dinner!
STORAGE & REHEATING
- Storage: Allow leftovers to cool. Then place squares of leftover lasagna in an airtight container in the fridge for 3-4 days. You can also cover the lasagna pan tightly with 2 layers of aluminum foil and store in the fridge.
- Reheating: To reheat individual portions, place them in a microwave-safe dish and microwave on high for 1-2 minutes. I like using a bowl to cover the lasagna for quicker cooking and no splatters!
For larger portions, cover the casserole dish with foil and bake in a preheated oven at 350°F (175°C) for 20-25 minutes or until the dish is heated through.
- Make Ahead: You can assemble the lasagna ahead of time and refrigerate it overnight. Just be sure to increase the baking time by 10-15 minutes since the dish will be cold.
- Freezing: Lasagna is best if it’s frozen BEFORE it’s been cooked. Assemble lasagna in a foil pan. Cover tightly with 2-3 layers of aluminum foil. Freeze for up to 3 months. Thaw overnight in the fridge and cook 10-15 minutes longer than the time on the recipe card to account for the chill 🙂
Additions & Substitutions
- Red Wine: You can add a splash (1/4 to 1/2 cup or so) to your meat sauce for more depth of flavor. Simmer your sauce for at least 15-20 minutes to allow the alcohol to burn off a give the best possible flavor.
- Veggies: Additional veggies cooked into your red sauce are delish! Try mushrooms, spinach, or bell peppers.
- Cottage cheese: You can substitute cottage cheese for ricotta for added protein. Some people like to blend cottage cheese to smooth out the texture.
- Meat: Italian sausage (sweet or spicy): A perfect sub for beef. Or, use half beef and half sausage.
- Gluten-Free: Substitute gluten-free lasagna noodles like these to easily make your lasagna g-free!
- No Boil Lasagna sheets: You can use no-boil sheets like these to save time.
YOUR QUESTIONS ANSWERED
“Al Forno” is just the Italian translation meaning, from or at the oven. So basically, it means something that’s baked-usually referring to pizza, pasta, and bread. Pasta al Forno is also referred to as baked pasta or a pasta bake.
Yes, you can use no-boil lasagna noodles. Follow the package instructions and adjust the cooking time accordingly.
Kinda sorta. The best explanation I found was from this article in Better Homes and Gardens. Authentically, in Italian, the term “lasagna” (with the A at the end) refers to a single lasagna noodle. While “lasagne” (with the E at the end) makes it plural, and refers to the dish as a whole.
However, in the United States, we use the term “Lasagna” to refer to the large dish of cheesy goodness we consume. So LASAGNA has become the United States’ spelling of LASAGNE, which is how they spell it in Italy and most of Europe. Clear as mud, right?!
Does it matter?! Nope. Lasagna and Lasagne are the same things and both are amazingly delicious!
No. Not 100%. There are three main differences that I wrote in the recipe to make it a bit less time-consuming:
1) White Sauce: In a super traditional recipe, lasagna al forno includes a creamy béchamel sauce. I left this part out and replaced it with more of a traditional “American” white filling that includes ricotta cheese as the base.
2) Sauce: In a traditional recipe, a bolognese meat sauce is made with fresh or canned tomatoes and is simmered for hours. In my version, I use store-bought pasta sauce, but doctor it up a bit to keep that rich, authentic flavor.
3) Pasta: Classic lasagne al forno (picture it being made by an Italian grandmother), would use fresh, homemade pasta. This recipe uses store-bought lasagna noodles.
Even though I have taken some liberties to make this dish more accessible to the everyday cook, I think you will still find it a delicious, rich dish of cheesy goodness!
TOOLS FOR THIS RECIPE
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Easy Lasagna al Forno Recipe
For the Meat Sauce (Beef Ragu)
- 2 lbs. lean ground beef
- 1 24 oz. jar pasta sauce we love Rao's!
- 1 tbsp garlic, minced (about 4 large cloves) the best garlic chopper!
- 3 tbsp butter can also use olive oil
- 1 cup carrots, diced
- 1 cup celery, diced
- 1 cup water can also use beef stock or broth for more flavor
- 1 tbsp Italian seasoning
- 1 tbsp onion powder
- 1 tbsp garlic powder
- 1 tbsp parsley, chopped (optional) can also use fresh basil
- salt/black pepper, to taste
For the filling
- 1 1/2 cups ricotta cheese
- 1 large egg
- 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
- 1/2 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
- 1 tbsp chopped parsley
For the lasagna
- 10 lasagna sheets (noodles)
- 3 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
- 1 cup grated Parmesan cheese or Parmigano Reggiano
- Prep: Bring a large pot of water to a boil and cook lasagna noodles according to the package directions (to al dente). Drain, rinse noodles under cool water to stop the cooking process, and set aside.
- Brown Meat: In a large skillet over medium-high heat, melt butter. Add in the minced garlic and sauté for 1 minute, stirring often. Next, add the ground beef to the skillet and cook it until it browns. Break it up with a wooden spoon or potato masher as it cooks. Drain fat, if needed.
- Add Veggies: To the meat, add carrot, celery, and onion. Cook for 5 minutes until veggies soften a bit.
- Finish the Sauce: Add the pasta sauce, water (or beef broth), Italian seasoning, garlic powder, onion powder, parsley, salt, and pepper. Give everything a big stir and bring to a boil. Then, reduce heat to low and simmer for 15-20 minutes.
- Mix: While the sauce is simmering, in a medium mixing bowl, combine ricotta cheese, egg, 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, 1/2 cup shredded mozzarella cheese, and chopped parsley. Mix until well-combined.
- Assemble: Preheat oven to 375°F. Spray a 9×13 baking dish (or similar) with cooking spray.Spread a thin layer of the sauce (meat mixture) on the bottom of the baking dish. Place a layer of pasta noodles (5 noodles) over the sauce.Then, dollop on half of the ricotta mixture. With a spoon, gently spread the ricotta mixture in an even layer.Sprinkle on half of the mozzarella cheese (1 1/2 cups) and half of the Parmesan cheese (1/2 cup) on top of the ricotta. Repeat the layers again, starting with the noodles. Remember: Noodles, Sauce, Ricotta, finish with Parmesan & Mozzarella.
- Bake: Cover the baking dish with aluminum foil (spray the foil with a little cooking spray so the cheese doesn't stick!) and bake in preheated oven for 35-45 minutes. Remove foil and continue to bake 15 minutes more or until lasagna is hot, bubbly, and the cheese begins to turn golden brown. Note: this cooking time may vary depending on your oven.
- Cool: Let the lasagna cool for 10-15 minutes before cutting it into 2-inch squares and serving. The longer it cools, the easier it will be to cut it into clean squares.
- Garnish (optional): Garnish lasagna with red pepper flakes, fresh basil or parsley, and more grated fresh Parmesan or Parmigiano Reggiano!