The BEST Lasagna Bolognese! Layers of lasagna noodles baked with alternating layers of slow-cooked Bolognese sauce, bechamel, mozzarella, and Parmesan cheese. Equally stunning & delicious, this Lasagna Bolognese is the perfect dish to make for any special holiday dinner this season.
If you’re looking for the BEST Classic Lasagna Bolognese recipe straight from Italy, this is the recipe for you. While this recipe takes time and elbow grease, the end result is SO worth it. This Lasagna Bolognese is a labor of love and anyone who enjoys it will taste that effort. This is a recipe that can be made in stages and is so perfect for the holidays.
Classic Italian Lasagna Bolognese
Whereas Thanksgiving has really specific traditions, Christmas is a bit more of a free-for-all. We’ve started a tradition of enjoying lasagna on Christmas eve and I am obsessed with it.
I make my Bolognese sauce on the 23rd (the sauce gets better with time), and assemble everything on the 24th. Bake until hot and bubbly and we enjoy it for Christmas Eve dinner with Champagne and charcuterie. It’s the perfect Christmas eve dinner and feels so incredibly cozy and comforting.
If you’re someone who loves having company for the holidays, this is the perfect dish to whip out. It’s incredibly impressive and so full of flavor and decadence without being overly heavy.
Something about a lasagna made with a bechamel vs layers of ricotta keeps this Lasagna Bolognese light, but still rich. The result is a melt-in-your-mouth, creamy, decadent, and satisfying lasagna that is distinct in Italian-style lasagna recipes.
Lasagna Bolognese includes only fresh egg pasta, Bolognese ragù (slow-cooked meat sauce), creamy béchamel (white sauce), and plenty of grated parmesan cheese. While not traditional, I add bits of diced fresh mozzarella between layers to make this lasagna extra gooey and cheesy.
Lasagna Bolognese Recipe Highlights
This is a new tradition for us that we only adopted in the last couple of years. We used to make this incredible Prime Rib with Mashed Potatoes, but since it’s usually just the two of us lasagna suits us better and makes the BEST leftovers. I love this Lasagna Bolognese recipe because it’s:
MAKE AHEAD FRIENDLY. While the recipe itself takes some time and effort, it’s also the perfect recipe to make ahead of time and bake off just before your holiday meal. You can break up the work over two days to make the burden even easier. Hosting doesn’t get much easier than that!
CROWD WORTHY. As written this recipe serves a hearty 12+ portions. This recipe is always a crowd favorite (when we do have company) and is so hearty and filling. Throw together a big Chopped Salad, with some fresh Focaccia and dinner is ready!
LOW-EFFORT LEFTOVERS. If there do happen to be any leftovers, this lasagna reheats really well. It also freezes like a dream so even if your gathering is smaller, you can freeze Lasagna Bolognese for later meals.
Bolognese vs Ragu
In Italian, “Ragù” is a hearty meat sauce of ground meat, vegetables, wine and some tomatoes. “Bolognese” is also a meat sauce, but it’s a regional variation prepared in the style of Bologna hence the name: Ragù Bolognese.
Ragu is also often made with different proteins like beef, veal, pork, rabbit, etc. In Ragu, the meat is meat to be the star of the dish. Bolognese sauce is more about harmony between all the ingredients.
Bolognese is a type of ragu sauce, made with beef & pork. Originating in Bologna, the largest city of the Emilia-Romagna region in Northern Italy, authentic bolognese is typically made with beef, pork, white wine, milk, & a little tomato.
Ragu is also typically served with spaghetti-style noodles, but Bolognese is best served with wide, flat pasta like pappardelle or tagliatelle. Bolognese is the perfect sauce for Lasagna Bolognese and it clings beautifully to the wide, flat egg lasagna noodles.
How to Make Lasagna Bolognese
I’m not going to lie to you, this is definitely an involved recipe. Lasagna, by its very nature, is sort of an involved thing to make. That being said, this recipe is not difficult. It just takes a bit of time and effort which can be broken up over a couple of days.
If there’s ever a time to spend some effort on a nice dinner, it’s Christmas!
Ingredients for Lasagna Bolognese
- Bolognese sauce. You can make the bolognese sauce several days in advance (the sauce only gets better with time).
- Bechamel. Bechamel is a creamy white sauce made with a butter and flour (roux) base, whole milk, parmesan, salt and pepper, and a pinch of nutmeg. I don’t recommend making this sauce until right before you plan to assemble as it thickens while sitting.
- Mozzarella. Not necessarily traditional, but bits of fresh mozzarella make this Lasagna Bolognese extra gooey and cheesy.
- Parmesan. Use quality parmesan and freshly grate it.
- Noodles. Use high-quality egg lasagna noodles. I used this brand and purchased at Central Market.
Lasagna Bolognese comes together in 5 straight-forward phases, which you can spread out over the course of a couple of days, or take advantage of extra helping hands and make an event out of it:
- Make a batch of bolognese sauce
- Make a batch of Parmesan Bechamel
- Boil the Noodles
- Lasagna assembly
- Bake & serve
The bolognese sauce used in this recipe is my BEST EVER Bolognese, that I’ve perfected over several years. This real-deal Italian bolognese, made with ground beef & pork, wine, and tomatoes simmers on the stove for a couple of hours, developing intensely rich & hearty flavor. You can read all about the recipe here.
You can prep the sauce several days in advance, which I always recommend doing. The sauce only picks up flavor the longer it sits.
It’s as simple as cooking butter and flour together and then whisking in warm whole milk. Stir in the parmesan, salt, freshly cracked pepper, and a pinch of nutmeg and you’re done!
Since the bechamel thickens as it sits, I recommend making it about 20 minutes before you plan to assemble so that it’s easy to work with.
Cooking the Noodles for Lasagna Bolognese
As I mentioned above, you want to use egg lasagna noodles. I used this brand and purchased them at Central Market, and I have NOTHING about incredible things to say about the noodles. They’re perfectly chewy and so great in this Lasagna Bolognese.
To cook the lasagna noodles, bring a large pot of salted water to a rolling boil. Add 5-6 lasagna noodles at a time and cook them until al dente, in the case of the brand I used I boiled them for about 4 minutes. Store them on a baking sheet between layers of parchment that have been drizzled with olive oil.
You could use no boil noodles, just make sure to rest the lasagna for 1 hour before baking.
Assemble the Lasagna Bolognese
This Lasagna Bolognese has 4 layers, layering the bolognese sauce with the bechamel, parmesan, and mozzarella between lasagna noodles.
When you build a lasagna, I always suggest making sure your noodles covers the entire length & width of the pan. This will result in a sturdier lasagna. I found that I needed about 20 sheets of lasagna noodles to make 4 layers.
When assembling your lasagna, make sure to use the right size pan. I used a deep 9×13 ceramic baking dish (linked above). This keeps your lasagna from bubbling over. You also want to use only stainless steel, ceramic, or pyrex baking dishes. DO NOT USE ALUMINUM. The acidity of the sauce will react with the aluminum and give the lasagna an off flavor.
After assembled, the lasagna can be covered and stored overnight in the fridge before baking.
Bake and Serve
Bake at 375 covered for 1 hour, uncover and bake for 15 minutes to get the cheese on top nice and bubbly. After you pull the Lasagna Bolognese from the oven, let it rest for 20-30 minutes before digging in and serving.
Make sure to top with a fresh grating of parmesan cheese before serving!
What to Serve with Lasagna Bolognese
If you’re throwing a dinner party or just want a nice dinner to enjoy, here are some of my favorite dishes to serve with Lasagna Bolognese.
Leafy salad – I love starting a meal with a big leafy salad! My recipe for KALE CAESAR SALAD is one of my favorite salads ever and pairs so well with Lasagna Bolognese. You’re going to love the homemade caesar dressing! This ITALIAN CHOPPED SALAD is also a great option.
Warm Bread – I don’t know about you, but I’m a sucker for warm bread with dinner! I love sopping up any extra juices with a slice. Try my foolproof NO KNEAD FOCACCIA!
Storing and Freezing Lasagna Bolognese
Bolognese sauce stores SO well – it’s one of those things that gets even better as it sits & its flavors have the chance to meld together. If you make a full batch of bolognese sauce, you can refrigerate or freeze a portion. Once cooled, transfer to an airtight container and store for up to 1 week.
To freeze, transfer the cooled bolognese sauce to a freezer-safe ziplock bag. Take care to press most of the air out before sealing, this helps prevent freezer-burn. Freeze for up to 3 months.
If you have leftover Lasagna Bolognese, store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.
Freezing Uncooked Lasagna:
Assemble your lasagna in an oven-safe dish and cover it generously with plastic wrap. When ready to eat defrost the lasagna the night before so that it thaws evenly.
Freezing Cooked Lasagna
f you have any cooked lasagna that is leftover you can freeze it in portions by wrapping individual slices in plastic wrap and store in an airtight container. Make sure to let the lasagna cool before freezing.
When you want to reheat it, defrost a few hours ahead then reheat in the oven at 400 degrees F for about 10 minutes. Cover with foil when reheating so that the Lasagna Bolognese doesn’t dry out.
We love this Lasagna Bolognese as part of our Christmas tradition and I hope you’ll give it a try too. It’s one of our favorite recipes, and I know you will love it just as much as we do! If you do give it a try, be sure to let me know! Leave a comment with a star rating below. You can also snap a photo & tag @JENNYGOYCOCHEA on Instagram. I LOVE hearing about & seeing your SMF creations!
More Italian-Inspired Recipes to Try Now
This post contains affiliate links from which I receive a small commission at no additional cost to you. Affiliate links allow me to keep providing great recipes for free and I never recommend products that I don’t love and personally own.
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 tablespoon butter
- 6 oz pancetta diced small
- 1 lb ground sirloin 90/10
- 1 lb ground Italian sausage
- 1 yellow onion roughly chopped
- 2 carrots peeled and chopped
- 2 celery ribs chopped
- 4 garlic cloves minced
- 1 – 6 oz can tomato paste
- 1 – 28 oz can high-quality crushed tomatoes
- 1 1/2 cups medium-bodied red wine
- 1 cup whole milk
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 parmesan rind
- Kosher salt
- freshly cracked pepper
- Crisp up the pancetta. Melt the butter and olive oil in a dutch oven over medium low heat. Add the pancetta, and cook while occasionally stirring, until crispy. This process takes about 10-12 minutes, don't rush. Use a slotted spoon to remove the pancetta from the pot and transfer to a small bowl.
- Finely mince the veggies. While the pancetta cooks, Add all the veggies and garlic to the bowl of a food processor and pulse until everything is finely minced. This saves tons of time!
- Cook the beef and sausage. Add the ground beef and Italian sausage to the pot and keep the heat low. Cook while stirring often until the meat is cooked through and really finely broken up. Don't brown the meat, just cook low and slow until it's cooked through.
- Add the veggies. Increase the heat to medium and add the finely chopped veggies to the pot. Cook for 6-8 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the veggies are soft. Add the tomato paste to the pot and really mix it in. Cook until it's darkened in color, about 5 minutes.
- Add the remaining ingredients. Add the wine to the pot and use it to help scrape up any brown bits on the bottom of the pan. Add the milk, tomatoes, bay leaves, crispy pancetta, and parmesan rind to the pot. Season with salt and pepper and reduce the heat to low. Cover the pot.
- Simmer. Simmer on low for 2 1/2 – 3 hours, stirring every hour or so. The sauce should be thick and deep red in color. Season to taste with salt and pepper and remove the bay leaves. You can store the sauce in an airtight container up to 1 week after it's cooled to room temperature.
- Boil the noodles. To cook the lasagna noodles, bring a large pot of salted water to a rolling boil. Add 5-6 lasagna noodles at a time and cook them until al dente, in the case of the brand I used I boiled them for about 4 minutes. Store them on a baking sheet between layers of parchment that have been drizzled with olive oil.
- Make the bechamel. In a non-reactive 2 qt saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat. Once the butter is hot and foamy, sprinkle in the flour and whisk well to combine. Cook for 2-3 minutes, whisking constantly. Whisk in the warm milk 1 cup at a time, whisking constantly until all the milk is added. Bring to a simmer until thick and stir in 1/2 cup of parmesan, salt and freshly cracked pepper to taste plus the nutmeg. Cool for 10 minutes.
- Assemble the lasagna. Lightly grease a deep 9×13 baking dish (see notes below). Spread a thin layer of bechamel. Use 4 noodles and lay them on top of the bechamel. Spread 1 1/2 cups bolognese sauce over the noodles. Drizzle 3/4 cup of bechamel over the bolognese. Sprinkle with some of the diced mozzarella and 1/2 cup of the parmesan. Repeat with the remaining ingredients. On the top layer, just spread the bechamel with mozzarella and parmesan. At this point, you can cover and refrigerate the unbaked lasagna overnight.
- Preheat an oven to 375 F.
- Bake. Cover the lasagna with foil and bake for 1 hour, covered. Remove the cover and bake for 15 minutes, until the top is browned and bubbly. Rest the lasagna for 20-30 minutes before serving. Top with freshly grated parmesan.
- If you use no-boil noodles, let the lasagna rest at room temperature, covered, for 1 hour before baking.
- When assembling your lasagna, make sure to use the right size pan. I used a deep (3 1/2″) 9×13 ceramic baking dish (linked above). This keeps your lasagna from bubbling over. You also want to use only stainless steel, ceramic, or pyrex baking dishes. DO NOT USE ALUMINUM. The acidity of the sauce will react with the aluminum and give the lasagna an off flavor.
- If you’re using a smaller pan, decrease the amount of ingredients used accordingly.
- Once the lasagna is assembled, it can be covered and stored in the fridge overnight before baking.
- Follow instructions in the above blog post for storage and freezing instructions.