How to Make Lasagna: Because Your Grandma Was Probably Doing It Wrong

how to make lasagna

Listen, I know what you’re thinking. “Lasagna? How hard could it be?” You layer pasta, cheese, and sauce, and you’re good to go, right? Haha, wrong! Lasagna is a culinary high-wire act, a ballet of flavors, a symphony of melted cheese. Screw up one step, and you’re serving your family and friends a hot mess of noodles and regret. But fear not, brave cook! I am here to guide you through this labyrinth of ricotta and Parmesan.


Firstly, let’s talk ingredients. If you thought you could just waltz into your kitchen and whip up some lasagna with whatever you find in the fridge, you’ve got another thing coming. Here’s what you’ll need:

  • 9 lasagna noodles (Yes, exactly 9. Don’t ask why. It’s science.)
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil (That’s for cooking, not for your hair, Fabio.)
  • 1 pound ground beef (The leaner, the meaner.)
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped (About as finely as your patience will allow.)
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced (Vampires, you have been warned.)
  • 1 can (14.5 oz) of crushed tomatoes (Or crush your own tomatoes if you’re that kind of overachiever.)
  • 2 cans (6 oz each) of tomato paste (Because we like to paste things. Like wallpaper.)
  • 1 can (15 oz) of tomato sauce (Now it’s getting saucy.)
  • ½ cup water (Yes, from the tap. Don’t be bougie.)
  • 2 tablespoons white sugar (That’s right. Sugar. Trust me, I’m a doctor. Well, not really.)
  • 1 teaspoon dried basil leaves (Or fresh, if you’re that person.)
  • ½ teaspoon fennel seeds (Little seeds, big flavor.)
  • 1 teaspoon Italian seasoning (Because, Italy.)
  • ½ teaspoon salt (Just a pinch. You’re not preserving mummies.)
  • ¼ teaspoon ground black pepper (Freshly ground, like your coffee should be.)
  • 4 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley (Chop it like it’s hot.)
  • 1 egg (Chicken origin. No ostrich eggs, please.)
  • 1 tub (16 oz) ricotta cheese (Tub? More like a hot tub of deliciousness.)
  • 1 ½ cups shredded mozzarella cheese (Life’s better with more cheese.)
  • ¾ cup grated Parmesan cheese (Say it with me: Par-meh-zjon.)

Prepping Your Ingredients

  1. The Noodles: Boil them until they’re softer than your Grandma’s heart but not so soft that they can audition for a role in a soap opera. Remember, 9 noodles — because an even 10 would just be ridiculous.
  2. Meaty Sauce: Heat up that olive oil in a pot. Throw in your finely chopped onions and minced garlic. We’re layering flavors here, people. Then throw in your pound of ground beef and cook it until it resembles something edible.
  3. Saucy McSauce: Once the meat is brown and no longer scaring you with its raw, pinkish hue, it’s time to go full-on Jackson Pollock. In go the crushed tomatoes, tomato paste, tomato sauce, and water. Mix it well or don’t; I’m not your mom. Then sprinkle in the white sugar, basil, fennel seeds, Italian seasoning, 1 tablespoon of your chopped parsley, salt, and pepper. Stir, cover, and let it simmer like your unresolved issues for about an hour and a half.

And that was just a first act in our lasagna drama. Trust me, there’s more. But for now, catch your breath, wipe that bead of sweat off your brow, and get ready for the show-stopping finale. You’ve got this!

Cheese Layer, Please

  1. Mixology 101: While your sauce is simmering and your noodles are lounging in their hot bath, grab a mixing bowl and drop in the ricotta cheese. Add an egg, the remaining 3 tablespoons of chopped parsley, and a generous half cup of grated Parmesan cheese. Mix until it resembles a cheesy cloud of happiness. Don’t taste it; you’ve got places to be. Like layering a lasagna.
  2. Preheat that Oven: You didn’t think we’d skip this step, did you? 375°F (190°C). Don’t argue; just do it.

Layer Like a Pro

  1. First Layer: Get a 9×13-inch baking dish. What, you don’t have one? Stop reading, go buy one, and then come back. Done? Great. Spread 1 ½ cups of your meat sauce on the bottom. Lay down 3 of your perfectly cooked lasagna noodles. That’s right, just three. Any more and you’ll disrupt the space-time continuum.
  2. Cheese Please: Slap half of your ricotta mixture on those noodles. Be gentle; they’ve been through a lot.
  3. Mozzarella Rain: Sprinkle a cool half cup of shredded mozzarella cheese over the ricotta. This is your mid-layer flavor bomb, and who doesn’t love a mid-layer flavor bomb?
  4. Sauce it Up: Cover the cheese with another layer of meat sauce, about 1 ½ cups. Make sure it’s evenly spread, like the rumors about Carol in accounting.
  5. Cheese and Repeat: Time for another layer of lasagna noodles. Then the remaining ricotta mixture, another half cup of mozzarella, and — drumroll, please — 1 ½ cups of meat sauce.
  6. The Grand Finale: Place your final layer of lasagna noodles. Coat them with the remaining meat sauce. Here’s the moment you’ve been waiting for: unleash the remaining mozzarella and Parmesan cheese like you’re throwing confetti on New Year’s Eve.

The Bake-Off

  1. Into the Oven: Cover the dish with aluminum foil, but don’t let the foil touch the cheese. We’re making lasagna, not a science experiment. Bake for 25 minutes in your preheated oven.
  2. Remove the Cloak: After 25 minutes, take off the aluminum foil and bake for another 25 minutes. This is where the magic happens, and the cheese becomes all golden and bubbly, like a soap opera diva after a makeover.
  3. Cool, but not too Cool: After you’ve removed your masterpiece from the oven, let it sit for about 15 minutes. I know, I know, you’ve waited long enough. But trust me, this allows all the flavors to meld and the layers to firm up a bit. It’s like the aftershow party for your lasagna.

And there you have it, a lasagna so magnificent, so layered, so cheesy, that even your snobbiest foodie friends will be left speechless. Or they’ll have their mouths full, which is pretty much the same thing. You’re welcome.