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
  • Yield: 12 Servings
  • Prep Time: 30 minutes
  • Cook Time: 45 minutes
  • Total Time: 1 hour 15 minutes
  • Course: Main Course
  • Cuisine: Italian
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: calories

All images and text © for Dinner, then Dessert, Inc.

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meat lasagna collage of pictures
four cheese and meat lasagna

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Comments

  1. My parents used to have an Italian restaurant when I was younger and the lasagna was my favorite comfort food. They always made it the day before so it could meld together the flavors and then heated it up, sliced it, and topped with cheese. Under the broiler it went and that little bit of extra gooey cheese on the top was the best! I am going to have to try the fennel seed trick when I am making my beef mixture! Thanks for some great tips:)

    1. Yes!! It was one of my favorite tricks for making each slice look pretty for clients too. Everyone wants as much browned gooey cheese on top as possible. 🙂

    1. I used regular sliced, anything more won’t really add to the overall flavors which are predominantly the meat and sauce. The cheese mixture is just more of a salty creamy counterpart to the pasta, meat and sauce.

  2. This sounds absolutely delicious!
    One question, on step 12, provolone is listed twice. Should one of those be parmesan?
    Thanks

    1. Absolutely! Freeze in portions for easiest defrosting and sprinkle with some water and cover with wet paper towel in the microwave or with foil in the oven. The extra water (1-2 tablespoons) will help tremendously.

  3. I love a good meat lasagna. I just posted a recipe for a vegetable lasagna that I love, but sometimes I just want that nice meaty, cheesy taste! This looks like a great recipe, I’m excited to give it a try. Can you tell a difference between the no-boil noodles and the ones you have to cook>

  4. Your recipes looks amazing.  My question is my son in law wil not eat beef and I was wondering if substituting sausage would hurt the recipe too much?  

    1. Yes, this can be made and frozen ahead of time. I would thaw it in the refrigerator the night before and just know that the cooking time may need to be extended. Enjoy!

  5. Your lasagna looks amazing ! Im gonna make it tonight .I already know it will be so delicious.my husband will be humming thru dinner . lasagna is one of his favs cant wait .thanks for sharing your love.

    1. Yes, this can be made and frozen ahead of time. I would thaw it in the refrigerator the night before and just know that the cooking time may need to be extended. Enjoy!

  6. Hi! We are making this right now and I see in the list of ingredients there is red pepper flakes and fresh parsley – both which I have but it doesn’t say in the directions when to use them. Just curious if and when they should go in . lol. Thank you

    1. Opps, sorry about that. You can add the red pepper flakes and half of the parsley in with step 4. At the end, garnish the lasagna with the rest of the parsley. Enjoy!!

  7. I agree, I think making your marina sauce is a huge part of a great tasting lasagna, this is a great recipe loaded with so many amazing flavors…..some really great tips too!

  8. I LOOOOVE your blog and your wonderful recipes! Thank you so much for all your time and dedication to be one of the best food blogs ever!

  9. My in laws were visiting from Korea and wanted lasagna one night. I hadn’t made it in 5 years so I searched the web and found this easy recipe. I used some Korean pepper flakes instead of crushed pepper to add a tiny twist. They loved it so much I had to make another batch! Thank you!

    Rating: 5
  10. Red pepper flakes are in the list of ingredients, but you never tell us when to add them.

    Also, you should add the step where you cover the pan with foil. I get this is a no brainer, but an idiot like me will forget, read the instructions that say to uncover it, PANIC because it’s been in the oven for 10 minutes already, lift the heavy pan with one hand, realize their flimsy wrist can’t handle all this weight, and then watch in horror as the pan falls from their hand and the contenst spill out ALL OVER THE BOTTOM OF THE OVEN.

    1. Not sure if it’s a glitch or if I was having a glitch when this was written, haha!
      I added in the missing red pepper flakes and made it clear to cover before putting it in the oven.
      Thanks for catching that!

  11. This looks sooo good,my kids just love lasagna in restaurants so hopefully this will be as good, it sure looks like it!! I wonder if there is a how-to video as well?? I’m no genius in the kitchen and I love seeing how I’m supposed to do it..

  12. This recipe is amazing!!! Best lasagna recipe I’ve EVER tried. I seasoned the beef differently per my own tastes but the recipe itself is just incredible. My family polished off the whole pan in one sitting!!

    Rating: 5
  13. I pre-made this tonight for a gathering tomorrow and have a question. I made your marinara first, but the recipe made 4 cups. Then the lasagna called for 6 cups marinara, so I had to go back to the store and get more ingredients! Should it be doubled? I also had to end the layers with meat sauce on top of the last noodles (with mozzarella on that) since there was maybe 1.5-2c left. Should the recipe have been only 4c sauce?

    1. I typically make it with just the 4 cups, so doubling is more than I’ve ever used. That being said I think you’ll likely be just fine for a couple of reasons. First lasagna is beyond forgiving on ratios in general because of the pasta. Pasta is basically a sponge and additional liquids will soak right up. Second if you made it for tomorrow you will absolutely see that the level of liquids in the lasagna is not in excess.

      Either way you’re good to go. Sometimes I even add a bit of water if i find the sauce is just shy of where i want it to be, so more sauce isn’t a bad thing.

      Hope you enjoy the lasagna!

  14. What’s poppin, Sabrina?
    In our period three culinary class, we are having a lasagna bake off. Any words of advice for us???

    1. Yes!! Add more mozzerella cheese as the topping. Tent foil on top during baking so it doesn’t stick to the cheese. If you want a good brown color on the top, put it under the broiler for just a bit at the end but watch it very carefully (watch it like a hawk!). While under the broiler, leave the oven door open to watch. At the end, top it with shaved parmesan instead of shredded. I’m so excited for you!! Good luck!

  15. I am planning to make 2 lasagnas for my family for Thanksgiving week. How many batches of the marinara sauce should I make to have enough for 2?

  16. I’m really excited to make this recipe tonight but I’m a little confused by dipping the no boil noodles in the sauce because then in step 8 it says dried noodles? Should I be dipping them in the sauce and then patting them dry? This is my first time making lasagna! Thank you!

    1. Sorry if it seems confusing. There’s no need to cook the noodles. You just want to place them in the sauce to coat them and then you can start to assemble the lasagna. Hope this helps! Good luck!

  17. Hi Sabrina, Making your lasagna in few days…is the provolone and mozzarella thin sliced, normal deli sliced or a little thicker?
    love the tips!

    1. I would place it in the oven at 350 degrees for about 20-25 minutes. Make sure to cover with foil and you may even want to add a bit of water or extra marinara to the top before covering so it doesn’t dry out upon reheating. Enjoy!