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.
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.
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.
- 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
- Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
- 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.
- Cook until the beef is browned and add in the basil, oregano, 2 teaspoons Kosher salt, crushed red pepper flakes and fennel seeds.
- Stir until you start to smell the fennel seeds starting to toast then drain the fat and add in the marinara sauce.
- In your ricotta container if you have space add the egg and ½ teaspoon Kosher salt and mix well.
- 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).
- Put 1 ½ 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).
- 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.
- Add ⅓ the provolone slices, another 1 ½ cups of the meat sauce, ¼ of the mozzarella, ¼ of the parmesan and ⅓ of the ricotta in spoonfuls dotting across the pan.
- Repeat with the same noodle/cheese/meat sauce process.
- Finally, add a top layer of lasagna noodles and cover with remaining Parmesan and mozzarella. Cover with foil.
- Bake for 40 minutes, then remove foil and bake for an additional ten minutes to brown the cheese.
- Let cool for 20-25 minutes before serving.
- Garnish with parsley.