Ultimate Meat Lasagna

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Ultimate Meat Lasagna with four cheeses, a homemade marinara sauce and a few quick chef tricks will make you feel like you’ve ordered lasagna at your favorite Italian Restaurant.

Meat Lasagna on plate.
 Ultimate Meat Lasagna

This easy lasagna recipe is one I’ve been working on since my 7th grade home economics class. Over the years the recipe has been changed probably over a hundred times, but in the last 5 years it has not changed a single time. I finally got to a place with the recipe that I knew this was truly the Ultimate Meat Lasagna.

What are the best noodles for lasagna:

Classic noodles are favored for recipes where you boil the noodles but this recipe calls for the no boil Barilla variety for ease and for the look. The noodles resemble handmade noodles more and serve in a neater way.

Restaurant tricks to make this lasagna the next level:

  • Homemade Quick and Easy Marinara may not be a real “secret” but it is going to make the biggest difference in the flavor of your lasagna. You can use most levels of quality of cheese and sort of get away with it, but use a sauce that isn’t full of delicious flavors? You’ll immediately notice the difference.
  • I use all beef in this recipe, but the sausage flavor in most restaurant lasagnas is one I love duplicating. To do that easily here without using sausage, I add in some fennel seeds when browning the beef and I brown it in larger chunks. This gives the distinct sausage flavor and the larger chunks of beef help mimic the sausage texture.
  • I add an egg and season my ricotta cheese. This ups the richness of it and makes it taste a little less grainy than ricotta normally does.

How to serve the perfect slice of lasagna:

When serving, let the lasagna cool for an hour or more, cut the slice with a very sharp knife. Remove with two spatulas to ensure no breakage. Top with additional marinara, additional cheese and brown in a 425 degree oven until browned and bubbly. This makes each slice feel like their own “order” with its own set of bubbly cheese and overflowing with marinara sauce.

slice of meat lasagna on plate

Meal Prep/Freezer Friendly Lasagna:

Make the lasagna and let it cool completely (I put it in the fridge). Then slice the lasagna and freeze in single serving quantities. To reheat, add additional sauce on the top with cheese and bake at 350 degrees for 30-35 minutes.

Tools used in the making of this Meat Lasagna:
Baking pan: I use this one for the perfect edges and to handle more filling. Glass pans won’t cut it for this recipe.
No Boil Noodles: Skip the entire extra pan and boiling water, these taste great.

Recipe

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Ultimate Meat Lasagna

5 from 32 votes
  • Yield: 12 Servings
  • Prep Time: 30 minutes
  • Cook Time: 45 minutes
  • Total Time: 1 hour 15 minutes
  • Course: Main Course
  • Cuisine: Italian
  • Author: Sabrina Snyder
Ultimate Meat Lasagna with four cheeses, a homemade marinara sauce and a few quick chef tricks will make you feel like you've ordered lasagna at your favorite Italian Restaurant.

Ingredients

  • 2 pounds lean ground beef
  • 2 teaspoons dried basil leaves
  • 2 teaspoons dried oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds
  • 2 teaspoons Kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 6 cups marinara sauce
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
  • 1 box lasagna noodles (I use flat no boil Barrilla noodles)
  • 16 ounces ricotta cheese
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt
  • 1/2 pound Provolone cheese , sliced
  • 1/2 pound mozzarella cheese , sliced
  • 1 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Instructions

Note: click on times in the instructions to start a kitchen timer while cooking.

  1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
  2. In a large pot, brown the beef in one large piece until it is browned on the bottom, 2-3 minutes, breaking apart the beef into slightly larger chunks.

  3. Cook until the beef is browned and add in the basil, oregano, 2 teaspoons Kosher salt, crushed red pepper flakes and fennel seeds.

  4. Stir until you start to smell the fennel seeds starting to toast then drain the fat and add in the marinara sauce.
  5. In your ricotta container if you have space add the egg and 1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt and mix well.
  6. Add your no boil noodles to the meat sauce (we are not looking to cook them, just coat them in the sauce to ensure they don't get dry in the oven).
  7. Put 1 1/2 cups of meat sauce in the bottom of a 9x13 inch baking pan (I use one with straight sides for easy assembly and for added height. If you are using a glass baking pan with curved sides it may not be large enough to fit this quantity of food).
  8. Add the dried no boil noodles in an even layer, for me it was 5 noodles per layer, four across and one broken in half lengthwise to go down the side of the pan.
  9. Add 1/3 the provolone slices, another 1 1/2 cups of the meat sauce, 1/4 of the mozzarella, 1/4 of the parmesan and 1/3 of the ricotta in spoonfuls dotting across the pan.
  10. Repeat with the same noodle/cheese/meat sauce process.
  11. Finally, add a top layer of lasagna noodles and cover with remaining Parmesan and mozzarella. Cover with foil.

  12. Bake for 40 minutes, then remove foil and bake for an additional ten minutes to brown the cheese.

  13. Let cool for 20-25 minutes before serving.

  14. Garnish with parsley.

Nutrition Information

Yield: 12 Servings, Amount per serving: 364 calories, Calories: 364g, Carbohydrates: 9g, Protein: 34g, Fat: 20g, Saturated Fat: 12g, Cholesterol: 115mg, Sodium: 1626mg, Potassium: 771mg, Fiber: 2g, Sugar: 5g, Vitamin A: 1115g, Vitamin C: 8.6g, Calcium: 444g, Iron: 3.8g

All images and text © for Dinner, then Dessert.

Keyword: Ultimate Meat Lasagna
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meat lasagna collage of pictures
four cheese and meat lasagna

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Comments

  1. Hi Sabrina! I made this recipe on the weekend and it was simply perfect! We had friends over and they thought I had ordered the lasagna from a restaurant. I only had ground fennel at home, so I switched it for the seeds, but I still think it was a great addition to the meat sauce. Thanks so much for sharing! This one is definitely a keeper.

  2. The recipe is very salty. I even cut it by 1/2 t because it seemed like a lot. Seems like too much sauce as well. I was really hopeful with the good reviews, but definitely needs a couple adjustments for a 5 star.

  3. Love this recipe! I used 3 lb of meat and three jars of marinara because if I only used two pounds I tend to run out. I usually have leftover sauce at 3 lb and I use that for my spaghetti later.

  4. Sabrina, this really hits the mark. Just like our favorite local restaurant and that is saying a lot, You rock!!!

  5. What size pan did you use? How many layers? Making this tonight for dads birthday, so will be making two lasagnas. Will doubling the marinara recipe be enough? How many noodles should i buy? Can’t wait to try!

    1. I used a 13×9 baking pan with straight sides. I would buy 2 boxes of noodles, just to be safe because each lasagna has 4-5 layers depending on how many you can fit in your dish. Enjoy!

    1. If you’re referring to making your own sauce then yes, you’ll be adding spices to the sauce and into the beef as well. Hope you enjoy it!

  6. Hi, I made your brisket and it was delicious so I am trying your lasagna. I just have some suggestions for those of us that need precise instructions, lol. I did not know that I needed to double the marinara recipe for this. I guess i could have figured it out but i was in the middle of the store without my reading glasses! Thank goodness i have a jar of Michaels of Brooklyn to add to it because it is Christmas day and I have no options. I also had to read the comments to find out what size box of noodles to buy. I ended up getting 9 and 16 because i wasn’t sure. When you say sliced cheese, do you want us to get presliced cheese in a package or slice it ourselves (like a chunk from the deli)? I overanalyze everything. Chefs don’t know how we struggle, ha. I am sure it will be amazing if it is anything like your brisket was.

    1. I’m so glad you’re enjoying the recipes. For the sliced cheese, I prefer to slice my own from a block but you can definitely just get pre-sliced from your deli or cheese section. Hope this helps! Enjoy!

  7. I’m planning on making this for Christmas and looking forward to it! I bought a 9 oz box of flat no boil lasagna noodles. Is that right? Will it be enough for the entire dish? They look a little small and flimsy.

  8. We just made this recipe and it’s outstanding. We added a little fresh-chopped onion, garlic, a touch of shallots to the meat before cooking, deglazed with re wine, then added the powders as directed. We used the precooked noodles as you recommended and the bottom 2 layers were flawless. The top layer of noodles had isolated areas near the edges that had either cooked hard or never really softened. Nothing was burned or scorched. Is this normal for the top layer? Is there a way to avoid these hardened edges at the top using the pre-cooked noodles? Would using fresh cooked noodles for the top layer help? Again, this recipe yields an awesome result-flawless layers of flavor.

    1. I have never had good luck with no boil noodles personally but I received a pan of lasagna from a friend after a hospital stay and she used the no boil noodles and her lasagna was perfect. I don’t know if it’s because the lasagna sat for a 1/2 hour to an hour before I actually cooked it or because I cooked it a little bit longer then recommended. I just prefer to cook the traditional noodles versus no boil so that I don’t ruin a huge pan of delicious lasagna.

    1. I am just confused, should I use two sauce?marinara and meat sauce or just marinara?cause I didn’t see meat sauce on the ingredients listed. Thank you!

  9. hmmm, so you publish a recipe for lasanga with homemade marinara sauce, yet no instructions for the “homemade” marinara sauce. Published recipe sounds like you are using shop brought jar sauce. A bit pointless really.

    1. I linked my Homemade Marinara in the post, right under the heading “Restaurant tricks to make this lasagna the next level” and also in the recipe card in the ingredients for marinara. If you click on the words in green, they are actually a link to the recipe.

      Here is that link for easier reference for you if you try to make my Lasagna Recipe: https://dinnerthendessert.com/easy-marinara-sauce/

      Hope this helps!

        1. The eggs also lift it so it’s so light and ruch. To my ricotta and eggs I always add fresh finly chopped basil and fresh Italian flat parsley. Fresh ground pepper. Oh. My. God.

  10. Hi Sabrina, I want to make this recipe but I don’t have foil to cover the top of it. Would this effect how it cooks, would I be able to put it in the oven without the foil covering it?

    1. You want to cook it covered to keep it from drying out. You can use a baking sheet if you don’t have foil, or if you have a baking dish with an oven safe lid, that will work.

  11. I want to make this lasagna this week and I was wondering can I use fresh sliced mozzarella?
    Also, love your site!!!!
    I have made your banana bread, egg roll in a bowl and your meatloaf so far and all have been hits with the family.
    Thanks for the recipes!!!!

  12. The best meat lasagna (with your marinara sauce) I have ever made or eaten (in a restaurant/anyone’s home)! This lasagna is so good that my son-in-law who does not eat leftovers EVER ate it for two days afterward and then mourned there was not more. And your trick of using fennel to mimic the taste of sausage is genius.

      1. Made this wonderful recipe again when we were having a group of people over for dinner. This lasagna got rave reviews including one from a man who lived in Italy for a couple of years. He declared that it was the best lasagna he had since he returned home from Italy over twenty years ago. That is high praise!

  13. Hi Sabrina,

    I loved making yr lasagna it was very good. My thing is the Ricotta cheese
    I don’t like it at all . What other kind of cheese to use that will have flavor
    and give me the stiffness that the Ricotta does to hold the lasagna together.

    FRIDAY LYNN

  14. I love this recipe so much! Going to make a batch to freeze so i have it ready for when my baby comes. I see your note about “Meal Prep/Freezer friendly” but i am wondering if in order to freeze, i need to have it in single servings? i am hoping to be able to assemble the whole pan of lasagna, and NOT cook it, but put it straight in the freezer to cook at a later date. Would that work?

  15. Hello! Mine is in the oven right now, but it didn’t turn out the way it was intended. I have 1 comment & 1 question.

    1.) My box of noodles did not have enough for the number of layers I needed to do.

    2. For the layering… are the 4 cheeses supposed to be separated by the meat, or should they be layered as one big cheese layer? The recipe says noodles, provolone, meat, mozzarella, Parmesan. However, step 10 says “noodle/cheese/meat.”

    Otherwise, it smells delicious and I can assure you it won’t go to waste. ?

    1. I separated mine by the meat. I was just using the “noodle/cheese/meat sauce process” to refer to the layering of it all. Sorry I didn’t see this earlier but I hope you enjoyed it!

  16. Hi. I made this once before and it turned out great. I have a dinner party coming up and I want to make this again, but this time I’d like to do it in advance and freeze this. How would you best recommend doing that? Cook completely, then freeze, OR get it assembled, then cook the day of the party?

    1. I’m so glad you love the recipe. It’ll work either way but I would recommend cooking it the same day, if you have time. Have a great party!

      1. My issue is I’ll be out of town until the day of the party, and therefore putting it together the day of the event will be next to impossible. Could I assemble it then freeze it for a few days, then while I’m away have my wife take it out of the freezer a couple days before the party and then just cook the day of?

  17. Am I repeating the sauce/cheese/noodle mixture until all of the cheeses run out? Or just one additional time after the first?

  18. Sabrina I bow to you!! Lasagna is my favorite food and anytime I go out for Italian that is what I order. I am very judgemental towards lasagna and I always find something that just doesn’t hold up to my expectations. It is either to runny/watery, bland, not enough spices, hard noodles, mushy noodles. I am always searching for the perfect lasagna and yours is so perfect I died and went to lasagna heaven!!! I made it exactly as the recipe said and it is total delicious perfection! You are amazing! Thank you!

  19. I have a question… for the lasagna recipe in the oven, you layer it by noodle, cheese, then meat sauce, and end with a layer of noodle topped with mozzarella and Parmesan cheese. For your slow cooker recipe, you layer it noodle, meat sauce, then cheese, and there is no last layer of noodle with cheese on top for this recipe. Any particular reason for the 2 differences?

    1. Yes, there’s a reason. In a slow cooker, you don’t want to have cheese (moisture blocking) next to the noodles. It will cause the noodles to become hard and inedible. You don’t have that same issue when it’s cooked in the oven. Hope this helps!

  20. Hello! This looks like an amazing recipe! Thank you for sharing! I plan to make it for my father-in-law’s birthday. I was just wondering if the homemade marinara sauce recipe will make enough for this. I’m scarred I won’t get 6 cups from it. Also, do you think the recipe will easily feed 6 adults? I’m terrible with portion sizes. Thanks a lot ?

    1. The homemade sauce recipe makes about 4 cups so you’ll need to make a batch and a half or just double it and save the other portion for dipping breadsticks or for another recipe. It’ll definitely be enough for 6 adults. Enjoy!

  21. This is the best Lasagna I have ever had. No kidding! I’ve tried so many recipes over the years and all were just okay. But this one is the best! I made it during Christmas and my family was fighting over it. Now, I NEVER follow a recipe exactly. I substituted half the meat with Johnsonville Mild Italian Sausage and I used more provolone cheese than mozzarella cheese. I also mixed 1/2 cottage cheese and 1/2 ricotta cheese. I followed the marinara recipe on this site and it was great! Wish I could rate this one 10 stars! Thanks!

  22. I’m allergic to, pork, shrimp, and so on, so I can eat beef and it’s really good, I love lasagna. Thanks for the recipe

  23. This recipe was so good and very easy thanks to your careful instructions.
    I had already purchase the Barilla Oven- Ready Lasagne, so I was thrilled you mentioned this option. And I already had 2 lbs of ground beef which I was certain was going to be too much, but once again your recipe fit the ingredients I bought before I had an actual recipe.
    I made one mistake by not reading through to the end. I couldn’t figure out why the parsley was listed in the middle of the ingredient list and so I just assumed it should be mixed in with the ricotta.
    No harm there.
    Thanks for a wonderful cooking experience with a dish I had to make myself.
    Since I moved to the Sandhills of N.C. I can’t find any place within a 20 mile radius that makes lasagna!

  24. Sabrina
    I am cooking this for Chirstmas for family. I am a little nervous on the no cook Noodles, but I am going to try it. It was much easier to prepare. I am planning to have this tomorrow, so after cooking today and cool, should i just refrigerate rather then Freeze? Then just follow the re heating instructions?

    Anyway I am very excited to see how this comes out .

    thanks