Mains/ Pasta

Lasagne al Forno (Italian Beef Lasagna)

March 1, 2020 (Last Updated: March 3, 2020) by Emily

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A classic recipe for homemade Lasagne al Forno (Italian Beef Lasagna) made entirely from scratch. There’s truly nothing more comforting than a hot bubbling baked lasagna made with homemade beef ragu, bechamel sauce, silky pasta and topped with melted mozzarella cheese! This traditional Italian recipe will be a comfort food favourite.

An overhead shot of lasagne al forno in a large baking dish

Lasagne al Forno is the perfect meal for Sunday dinner, the rich beef ragu can simmer away while you prepare the bechamel sauce and if you feel like going all out you can even make homemade pasta too. 

It’s truly special.

Is Lasagne Hard to Make?

So here’s the thing, lasagne may seem daunting to make from scratch but it’s not difficult! Here’s a breakdown of the elements;

  • Ragu or meat sauce – the beef ragu takes around 10-15 minutes to prep (cutting the veg, browning the meat etc) but once you’ve done that you leave it to simmer away for a few hours while you get on with your day, easy!
  • Pasta – if you’re making homemade pasta then the prep time is increased significantly which is fine if you’re having a fun day of cooking but if you want as less prep as possible then use pre-bought fresh lasagna sheets/noodles. You can use dried but I recommend using fresh, see my notes below on why.
  • Bechamel sauce – this lasagna is a traditional Italian version so it’s made with bechamel sauce and NOT ricotta cheese. You’ll see ricotta used in Italian-American recipes. Don’t worry though making a bechamel sauce from scratch takes no more than 10 mins and it can be prepped in advance or just before you are ready to assemble the dish.
  • Assembling the dish – this is the fun part and takes around 10 minutes (if that). Just layer up the pasta, ragu, bechamel and top with cheese, simple!
  • Cooking the lasagne – it takes around 45 minutes to bake in the oven so you can see why from start to finish it takes a pretty long time but all that time is not spent in the kitchen. Once you’ve made this from scratch using all our tips you won’t believe how simple it is!

A close up of a slice of lasagne al forno on a plate

Fun Fact – The Difference between Lasagna and Lasagne

For the proper foodies that are curious about the different spellings, it’s actually very simple.

So in Italian, lasagna is one sheet of pasta or noodle and lasagne is more than one (plural).

Because this pasta dish is made with more than one lasagna noodle it’s referred to as lasagne or Lasagne al Forno in Italian but the whole dish is often known as lasagna everywhere else in the world.

Whatever way you call it we are all talking about the same bubbling beautiful thing!

How to Make Lasagne al Forno – Step by Step

Il Soffritto

The ragu starts like a lot of Italian sauces, stews and soups, with Il Soffritto.

Il Soffritto is very simply, finely chopped carrot, celery and white onion sauteed slowly with a little olive oil for about 10 minutes until soft.

This adds incredible depth of flavour to many dishes and can even be made in advance to add into weeknight meals for an extra flavour punch.

Top Tip: Make a big batch and freeze it, you can cook it straight from frozen!

How to Make the Ragu

Finely chop the carrot, celery and onion and sweat slowly with a little olive oil in a large, deep skillet or pan (photo 1).

Once you’ve sauteed the veggies, add the meat and brown whilst breaking it up with a wooden spoon (photos 2).

Step by step photos for making beef ragu

Add the red wine and reduce by half. Once the wine has reduced, add the sieved tomatoes, tomato paste, bay leaf, 4 cups of the beef stock and a pinch of salt and pepper. Stir everything together and leave to simmer on a low heat for 2.5-3 hours uncovered. Add the rest of the beef stock half way through (photos 3-6).

How to Make Bechamel Sauce

Add the butter to a saucepan and cook until melted and bubbling (photo 7).

Add the flour to the melted butter and stir to form a paste. Let the flour cook for 1 minute (photo 8).

Step by step photos for making bechamel sauce

Slowly whisk half of the milk into the butter and flour constantly whisking to avoid any lumps. Once it has started to thicken add the rest of the milk, nutmeg, parmesan and a pinch of salt and pepper (photos 9-11).

Continue to heat the sauce whilst stirring until thickened enough to coat the back of a wooden spoon. Take off the heat and set aside (photo 12).

How to Assemble the Lasagne

To assemble the lasagne, spoon a small amount of ragu on the very bottom of the baking dish. Top with and even layer of lasagna pasta sheets (photos 13 & 14).

Add a few more spoons of ragu so the pasta is completely covered followed by white sauce (photos 15-16).

step by step photos for how to assemble a beef lasagne

Repeat the layers of pasta, ragu and bechamel sauce finishing with a layer of pasta topped with bechamel sauce (you should have 4-5 layers of pasta). Cover the top layer of the lasagne with torn mozzarella and then bake in the oven until bubbling and golden (photos 17 & 18).

Dried Vs Fresh Lasagna Sheets

When making lasagne I always use fresh lasagna sheets or make my own homemade pasta if I have time.

Fresh lasagna sheets have a much nicer texture than dried and it saves time having to pre-boil them.

I also find that dried lasagna sheets curl up as they cook so you don’t get a nice defined layer.

Top Tips for Making Lasagne al Forno

  • The ragu needs at least 3 hours to simmer and there’s a reason for that, the flavour is incredible and you just won’t get the same depth of flavour by turning the heat up or using any shortcuts.
  • Don’t cover the ragu as it’s simmering or it won’t concentrate in flavour enough. If you find the ragu has reduced and thickened too much add more water 1/2 cup (125ml) at a time.
  • You can make the beef ragu a day or two in advance to cut the prep time down.
  • I also recommend freezing beef ragu so you can thaw it overnight before making lasagne.
  • I only use parmesan in the white sauce but to make it extra indulgent you can add a good strong melting cheese such as gruyere or fontina.
  • If you want to make your own pasta then check out our Homemade Pasta Dough recipe.
  • Does your lasagna collapse on your plate? that means you’ve not reduced the ragu enough. Check out the video and step by step photos for reference of how your ragu and bechamel sauce should look.
  • If you want to use dried lasagna sheets then follow the packet instructions to see if you need to pre-boil them.

A slice of beef lasagna on a plate

Other Lasagna Recipes You Might Like;

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5 from 7 votes

Lasagne al Forno (Italian Beef Lasagna)

A classic recipe for homemade Lasagne al Forno (Italian Beef Lasagna) made entirely from scratch. There's truly nothing more comforting than a hot bubbling baked lasagna made with homemade beef ragu, bechamel sauce, silky pasta and topped with melted mozzarella cheese! This traditional Italian recipe will be a comfort food favourite.
Course Main Course
Cuisine Italian
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 4 hours
Total Time 4 hours 15 minutes
Servings 8 - 10 servings
Calories 753kcal
Author Emily Kemp

Ingredients

Ragu

  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 cup  carrot finely chopped (1 large)
  • 1 cup stalk celery finely chopped (1 large)
  • 1 cup white onion finely chopped (1 large)
  • 1 lb ground beef (mince) (500g)
  • 1 lb ground pork (mince) (500g)
  • 2.5 cups sieved tomatoes tomatoes (passata) (540g)
  • 3 tbsp tomato paste
  • 1 cups red wine (250ml)
  • 6 cups beef stock (1.5 litres)
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 tsp sea salt flakes and pepper

White Sauce

  • 5 tbsp butter (70g)
  • 5 tbsp flour all-purpose (70g)
  • 4 cups full fat milk (1 litre)
  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg
  • 1 cup parmesan freshly grated (70g)
  • 1 tsp sea salt salt and pepper or  to taste

Lasagne

  • 1 lb fresh lasagna pasta sheets (17 oz/500g)
  • 2 balls mozzarella (8 oz/250g)

Instructions

Ragu

  • Finely chop the carrot, onion and celery and saute the vegetables gently in a large frying pan with the olive oil. Once the vegetables are soft add the beef and pork mince and cook until browned.
  • If there is a lot of excess fat in the pan, spoon some out. Add the red wine and reduce by half.
  • Once the wine has reduced, add the sieved tomatoes, tomato paste, bay leaves, 4 cups of beef stock (1 litre) and a pinch of salt and pepper.
  • Stir everything together and leave to simmer on a low heat for 2.5-3 hours uncovered. Add the rest of the beef stock half way through.

White Sauce

  • Add the butter to a saucepan and cook until melted and bubbling.
  • Add the flour to the melted butter and stir to form a paste. Let the flour cook for 1 minute.
  • Slowly whisk half of the milk into the butter and flour constantly whisking to avoid any lumps. Once it has started to thicken add the rest of the milk, nutmeg, parmesan and a pinch of salt and pepper.
  • Continue to heat the sauce whilst stirring until thickened enough to coat the back of a wooden spoon. Take off the heat and set aside.

Assemble the lasagne

  • Preheat the oven to 350F (180C).
  • To assemble the lasagne, spoon a small amount of ragu on the very bottom of the baking dish. Top with and even layer of lasagna pasta sheets (cut the pasta sheets to fit your baking dish).
  • Add a few more spoons of ragu so the pasta is completely covered followed by 2 ladels of white sauce.
  • Repeat the layers of pasta, ragu and bechamel sauce until everything is used up making sure to keep enough of bechamel sauce for the very top layer (you should have 4-5 layers of pasta).
  • Cover the top layer of the lasagne with torn mozzarella and then bake in the oven for 45minutes or until bubbling and golden.
  • Let it cool slightly for 5-10 minutes before serving.

Notes

  • The ragu needs at least 3 hours to simmer and there's a reason for that, the flavour is incredible and you just won't get the same depth of flavour by turning the heat up or using any shortcuts.
  • Don't cover the ragu as it's simmering or it won't concentrate in flavour enough. If you find the ragu has reduced and thickened too much add more water 1/2 cup (125ml) at a time.
  • You can make the beef ragu a day or two in advance to cut the prep time down.
  • I also recommend freezing beef ragu so you can thaw it overnight before making lasagne.
  • I only use parmesan in the white sauce but to make it extra indulgent you can add a good strong melting cheese such as gruyere or fontina.
  • If you want to make your own pasta then check out our Homemade Pasta Dough recipe.
  • Does your lasagna collapse on your plate? that means you've not reduced the ragu enough. Check out the video and step by step photos for reference of how your ragu and bechamel sauce should look.
  • If you want to use dried lasagna sheets then follow the packet instructions to see if you need to pre-boil them.

Nutrition

Calories: 753kcal | Carbohydrates: 56g | Protein: 39g | Fat: 39g | Saturated Fat: 18g | Cholesterol: 120mg | Sodium: 740mg | Potassium: 1159mg | Fiber: 4g | Sugar: 12g | Vitamin A: 3158IU | Vitamin C: 10mg | Calcium: 417mg | Iron: 4mg
Helpful Info for All Recipes
  • I always use extra virgin olive oil in all of my recipes unless stated otherwise
  • When I use canned or jarred tomatoes of any kind I always use this brand for the best results and flavour
  • All vegetables are medium sized unless stated otherwise
  • All recipes are tested and developed using a fan (convection) oven
  • Find out more about how nutrition is calculated here
  • Check out our must have Italian Pantry Staples here
  • You can also find all our Essential Kitchen Tools for Italian Cooking here
Did you try this recipe?Mention @insidetherustickitchen or tag #insidetherustickitchen! We'd love you see what you're getting up to in the kitchen!

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19 Comments

  • Reply
    Colleen
    December 14, 2017 at 3:32 am

    This lasagna looks so divine. I just want to dig in right now. I love your spinach noodles, too.

  • Reply
    Gloria @ Homemade & Yummy
    December 13, 2017 at 6:48 pm

    This is the perfect dish to feed a hungry crowd. I love spinach pasta, and it goes so well with this dish. YUM!!!5 stars

  • Reply
    Michelle @ Vitamin Sunshine
    December 13, 2017 at 3:41 pm

    This looks so delicious — I love casseroles like this for December when there is always a crowd to feed! Perfectly comforting.5 stars

  • Reply
    Sam | Ahead of Thyme
    December 13, 2017 at 7:28 am

    Yum!! This lasagna looks delicious!! Perfect comfort food for this weekend!5 stars

  • Reply
    jacquee | i sugar coat it!
    December 11, 2017 at 4:14 pm

    I am loving every single layer in this lasagne! Superb!5 stars

  • Reply
    Helene
    December 11, 2017 at 5:30 pm

    This looks scrumptious and delicious
    My parents will love this dish alot
    Beef is our favourite .. im anxiously waiting to try out this dish abd taste it.

  • Reply
    Leslie
    December 11, 2017 at 3:42 pm

    While I love veggie lasagna, nothing will ever come close to beating a good classic lasagna!5 stars

  • Reply
    Kristen Chidsey
    December 11, 2017 at 3:16 pm

    Emily–I LOVE this spinach pasta. It is a great way to add spinach to the dish without huge clumps. Seriously craving this!

  • Reply
    Jill
    December 11, 2017 at 2:39 pm

    I love all the step by step photos you’ve included with this recipe. The lasagna is making my mouth water. Love that the noodles are so green!5 stars

  • Reply
    Mikaela
    December 10, 2017 at 10:59 pm

    I’ve just started making pasta from scratch. Spinach pasta is next on my list. The lasagna looks divine!

  • Leave a Reply

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