Classic lasagna with meat ragù

homemade lasagna, worlds apart from imitations
homemade lasagna, worlds apart from imitations

LASAGNA. In Italian a “lasagna” is one sheet of rectangular pasta used in the famous baked pasta recipe. The correct name of the dish refers to the plural  “lasagne” indicating the use of several sheets of pasta layered with delicious condiments and sauce.
This is one of those dishes that evokes dreamy eyes and remembrance of happy family Sundays. Of moments in life when everything is so good and so simple.
One the other hand this must be one of the most mistreated recipes in the kingdom of ugly culinary shortcuts. This is because making real lasagne involves work. If you are not prepared to devote some time and effort to it, please eat spaghetti!
Our cooking class guests are often surprised at how light is a good homemade lasagna. For best results it is essential  to precook the pasta sheets, to use fresh mozzarella and modest amounts of condiments on each layer. My friend Sandra explains it better than I do and has several pictures.

  • 1/2 kg (1 pound) fresh lasagna sheets
  • 60 gr (2 ounces) Parmesan cheese grated
  • 200 gr (7  ounces) good quality ham torn in small pieces
  • 400 gr (14 ounces) fresh mozzarella cubed
  • 200 ml/ ¾ cup Béchamel sauce (white sauce)
  • 4 to 6 cups ragu‘ sauce

Precook the lasagna sheets in boiling hot salted water for 1 minute if fresh, 3 min if dry. Drain and place individual sheets on the tabletop to cool.
Build up the lasagne layers starting with a ladleful of sauce on the bottom of a ovenproof pan. Alternate pasta sheets, mozzarella, ham, Béchamel, ragu’, Parmesan. Drizzle approx. 3 tablespoon of the red sauce and 1 and 1/2 tablespoon of the white sauce on each layer. You need just a sprinkle of cheese and ham.

Spread the top layer evenly with the ragu’, add 1-2 tablespoon of Béchamel and finally sprinkle with 1-2 tablespoon Parmesan.
Lasagne can be made in advance and frozen. Make sure to defrost completely before cooking as otherwise they will become soggy.
Cook in moderate oven at 200 degrees C (400 F) for 1/2 hour. Serves 6.

PS. in the unlikely case you have leftovers, you can freeze them but make sure to heat it in the oven or microwave for the shortest possible time otherwise the lasagna will overcook.


  1. Girlfriend, when you’re right, you’re right. It IS the most misunderstood of dishes. I think in the genre of Italo-American food, our “lasagna” is a dish made to last several nights and is full (I mean full) of cheese. And no homemade lasagna noodles. We need Ronzoni noodles which have the fluted edges and can be used as a weapon in case a crime is comitted — they are that thick and hard. (the ad while I was growing up was “Ronzoni sono buoni, Ronzoni is sooooooooo good…” well, it was good, at least I thought was back then… the problem is not that Ronzoni has changed, but that I have…..)
    To be honest, yours is just a whole lot sexier. Sexy, real, honest lasagna!

    • Oh my, I am behind with my comments! ): I have made the pasta several times, the tiramisu, and the heavenly sausage sauce! What a HUGE difference fresh pasta makes! Yummers! The lasagna noodles were so thin, and melted in your mouth.
      Everyone raved about the dishes! Thanks for such wonderful recipes. I’ll always remember my time at Letizias! Thanks for sharing! (:

      • I am very very happy! Good food makes people happy, isn’t it? Lasagne makes people double happy when they are properly made. If one tries them one can never go back!

  2. Oooh, I like the way Diana describes this authentic lasagne, as “sexier” than North American stuff. At the very least, it’s sensual! There is something so rich and textured, yet truly light and flavourful in your recipe, Letizia.
    I think what’s most helpful are your warnings to avoid “swimming” or even drowning the lasagne layers in litres of sauce and kilograms of cheese. Whenever I’ve made it here in Canada, people rave.
    So now the big question is: what are we going to learn in your class this year?? How will you top this fabulous lasagne???

  3. Now, sexy lasagne, that’s a novel and interesting concept! Sandra, I have to admit that lasagne is very high on my list of best foods of the world. But you must wait for my cannelloni post. That’s VERY advanced sexy food. I still have a few cards in my sleeve, or so I hope. 🙂

  4. I’m just back from Italy, where I made my first ‘real’ lasagne… the sexy kind that Diana describes. I was very surprised at how light and clean it tastes, and how wonderful… It’s a little more work, but well worth it I think. I’m glad to find your recipe, because I didn’t write it down when I was there.

  5. When in a rush I use Barilla’s “no boiling required” lasagna noodles using a slightly wetter sauce than usual in that the noodles soak up moisture. But if I’m making an family historical family recipe I find it best to roll out fresh pasta. When making noodles used are eggs, 3/4 unbleached white flour and 1/4 coarse semolina, also use this recipe for home-made noodles and when using the spaghetti attachment on the pasta machine. Talk about sensuality!!

  6. I’m a 72 year old man and i made my first ever lasagna today. No fancy side dishes just a red wine as accompaniament. Being man and therefore not good at obeying recipes, I bought a packet of the hard lasagna sheets and boiled them for a few minutes instead of using fresh ones. Sorry but I only discovered your recipe afterwards. Old Mamabear [my partner] loved it and it got even better after the second bottle of red was opened.
    However now I have your recipe and having compared it with my attempt, I know that I will use yours next time. Mine was great tasting but too juicy.
    I did use mozzarella and melted it in the bechamel, but didn’t know about the ragu, and used beef mince instead of ham, so I have learnt a lot already since finding your site.. So thank you for the correct recipe, We look forward to an even better result next time.

  7. Thank you for your pasta wisdom – it has helped me! I want you to know that for the vegetarians out there (I have been such for well over 20 years), quality fresh ricotta is pure delight and should not be discounted! Not in lasagne! Not ever! 🙂

    • Most of Italy does not use ricotta in traditional lasagne recipes but of course, good ingredients should never be discounted. I am quite addicted to good fresh ricotta it actually!

  8. A group of friends from Memphis TN and I attended a cooking class with Letizia in 2005 – the lasagne she taught us to make remains my favorite and always wins me rave reviews. The recipe she sent home with us is slightly different (we added 3/4 lb ground pork to the ragu sauce and the ham was shredded. Otherwise this is the same recipe. I also add garlic to my ragu because we love garlic. The experience was a favorite memory from our trip! We started the day at the market in Assisi to buy the ingredients and then returned to cook our meal which we enjoyed on the lovely patio overlooking Assisi.

    • Dear Debb, how wonderful to hear from you after such a long time! It’s lovely to know you are still using my recipes!

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