How To Make Your Perfect Lasagna


Look around and it’s not hard to find people claiming to have the perfect lasagna recipe. The problem with that is we’re all different. Some people like spicy sausage, some like mild. Some like a hint of garlic, others want to keep tasting it for three days after.

Saying you’ve got the “perfect lasagna” is like saying you’ve got the “perfect ice-cream”. It just doesn’t work that way. (Unless you’re talking about Baskin Robbins’ Rocky Road. That’s the perfect ice-cream. But I’m ruining my point here.)

The secret to making the perfect anything is realizing that you can make it a little bit different every time, and every time it’s perfect. I’ve never made the same chili twice, but it’s always great. I’ve never made the same lasagna twice but, well … see for yourself.


090913-154438_Lg2 quarts tomato sauce
2 pounds bulk Italian sausage
1 pound ricotta cheese
1 pound sliced or shredded mozzarella cheese


3 large eggs
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour (plus some, see below)


You can see from the ingredients there’s not a lot to this one. The sauce can be whatever kind you like. I had a quart of pizza sauce from the Italian market that we wanted to use, plus a couple of pints of the last batch I made.

For the sausage, use whatever kind you like: hot, mild, with fennel, without fennel. Even go half-and-half with ground beef if you like. Brown the meat over medium-high heat and break it up as much as you can.

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I love the Pampered Chef Mix N Chop for this. A wooden spoon just doesn’t compare. Oh, and yes, there’s a little onion in there. I had some left over from the salad, so I diced it up and tossed it in. I might have minced a few cloves of garlic and tossed that in, too.

Remove it from heat, drain any grease, and set aside.

Making the noodles

Combine the flour, eggs and about a teaspoon or two of salt and mix on medium speed for 5-10 minutes.

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You’ll probably have to stop a few times to get the dry bits incorporated by hand.


Mix until all the flour is incorporated. If it’s still sticky, add a little more flour and keep going. This probably took nearly two full cups. The amount of humidity in the kitchen can make a big difference in how much flour the pasta will absorb.


When everything is holding together, turn it out onto a floured surface and knead by hand until it’s smooth and satiny.

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Then cut the dough into four equal parts, for the four layers of noodles we’re going to use.



Start with a layer of sauce in the pan.


By the way, that’s the Mario Batali 13 x 9 extra-deep lasagna pan. Enameled cast iron and heavy as hell. (Thirteen pounds empty.) You’ll probably have a bit of leftovers if you use a more normal size pan.

Roll the pasta out into long strips.


Fortunately my finger span is almost exactly nine inches, so I use that to measure out my noodles and cut them to length.

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Put the first layer of noodles in, making sure to overlap the edges a bit. Just like … oops, I forgot to take a picture of it. Here, go look at my last lasagna recipe to see what it should look like. Except this time I’m laying the noodles in the short way instead of the long way.

Mix the ricotta cheese into the sausage.

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Most people layer the meat and the cheese in separately. I find this method gets the cheese more evenly distributed. The heat left in the sausage melts the cheese a little and lets you really spread it out. Put half of it in the first layer.


Add a layer of sauce, noodles, sauce again, and a layer of mozzarella.

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Then more noodles, more sauce, the rest of the meat / ricotta mixture, sauce, noodles, and sauce on top.


Okay, those layers again:

    • sauce
    • noodles
    • sauce

    • ½ sausage / ricotta mix

    • sauce
    • noodles
    • sauce

    • mozzarella

    • sauce
    • noodles
    • sauce

    • remaining sausage / ricotta mix

  • sauce
  • noodles
  • sauce

See? Not so bad when you see it that way. Just remember, its meat, then cheese, then meat again. Each layer is sandwiched by a layer of noodles. And each layer of noodles has sauce on both sides.

Wipe off any sauce you splashed on the edges, cover the pan with foil, and bake at 350° for about an hour.

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Take it out and … it won’t look like you’ve even cooked it. Have faith, it’ll work out. Add a layer of shredded mozzarella, and maybe some grated parmesan. Some people like to add a shake of garlic powder, too.

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Put under the broiler, without the foil now, for about five minutes, or until the cheese is bubbling and starting to brown a little.


And that’s it.


Remember, use the sausage you like, the sauce you like, and the cheese you like. Don’t make my perfect lasagna. Make your perfect lasagna.

Oh, by the way … Those two pint jars of sauce I had were sealed really well. Instead of getting a can opener, I tried to be all manly and just pry the lids off with my thumbs.


Bad idea.


  1. I've never seen anyone mix the ricotta with the sausage; looks interesting, and something I may try if I ever find myself able to eat lasagna again. Last time I ate lasagna I came down with the worst stomach flu of my life the next day, and the effects lasted for almost 2 months. Lasagna is completely off my menu, sadly!

    I bet yours is some good, though, especially with the homemade noodles. Ahhhhhh…someday!

  2. onlinepastrychef says:

    Very nice. I like the sausage and ricotta mixy idea. I usually throw some herbs, salt and pepper and an egg in w/the ricotta, too. That's part of my perfect lasagna! :)

  3. Melissa and Jenni, About the third time I was making lasagna, I was trying to get the ricotta spread evenly over the sausage. The sausage kept rolling around and I was tearing the noodles. I took a break for a few minutes before I threw it across the room, and when I came back the cheese was melting into the meat. Lightbulb went off.

  4. Your poor thumbs. Well worth the sacrifice for that very tasty looking lasagna tho. I could eat pasta based dishes 7 days a week!


    P.S. if you know a good veggie lasagna recipe, please post it.

  5. Kristin @ Going Country says:

    My perfect lasagna is any one that someone else makes for me. Lasagna falls under the heading of "meals that make me crazy with impatience." So I never make it. But I love it.

    Those thumbs are your proof that there was no bacteria in your sauce. Well done.

  6. I don't do meat lasagna. That's not to say I don't do meat. Or lasagna. I make a veggie lasagna with a red sauce. Why red? Because I think the white would make it too heavy, plus I suck at making white sauce! :) Anyhoo, I mix chopped cooked spinach in the ricotta mix and add a few layers of thin sliced zucchini. My boys eat it, but then they like veggies, so I don't have a hard time to sell it to them. My dad on the other hand (Mr. Veggiephobe) loves it. So that's my lasagna…..perfect.

  7. Ali, do you like the typical white-sauce veggie lasagna? Or do you prefer red, like Stephanie is describing? I've never understood why so many people make veggie lasagna without tomatoes. It's a vegetable, people! (Well, actually a fruit. A berry, to be precise.)

    If I wanted to do one, I'd do a mirepoix: onions, carrots and celery. Saute until soft with a little butter, salt and pepper. Then add chopped broccoli, and use that in place of the sausage. Everything else would be the same.

    Oh, but since the mirepoix wouldn't be as spicy as the sausage, I'd add garlic and crushed red pepper.

    Kristin, as long as the sauce is already made, this doesn't take me much longer than doing spaghetti. Without the pictures, I'll bet I could have the whole thing assembled and in the oven in 15 minutes. And just so you don't have to, I'll say it for you: "Then you can come over and make it for me."

  8. I love the idea of mixing the ricotta with the meat. Infinitely easier than trying to spread it over noodles.
    However, I must tell you that the easiest way to break up ground beef, or sausage is to use a potato masher. Incredibly efficient, and about a third of the price of anything from Pampered Chef.
    On top of that, the potato masher is a multi-tasker. One less gadget! Yay!

  9. Dude! You make your own pasta. It's sad that I'm impressed by that, isn't it?!

    I like your idea of mixing the ricotta in with the sausage. I don't particularly enjoy big blobs of ricotta on top…

  10. Looks delicious! I have to say that I like that you mixed the sausage with the ricotta. No more frustration trying to smooth evenly.

    I'm hoping to add the pasta attachments to my kitchen gadgets at Christmas. Any suggestions on which to purchase first? Thanks!

  11. You just need the roller for the lasagna noodles. And some people will roll that up and cut it with a knife to make fettuccine.

    If you want a second attachment, go with a wider noodle, like fettuccine size. The spaghetti takes a bit of practice to get right. The dough has to be wet enough to not crumble, but dry enough to not stick to the rollers. Really hard to judge.

    If you've got the Kitchenaid, like me, there's a kit that has the roller, fettuccine and spaghetti all in one. That's probably a safe choice.

  12. back to the veggie lasagna for a second – i just do everything the same except leave out the meat and add some spinach to the ricotta (like stephanie said!) and maybe some 'italian seasonings' and call it YUM!
    I may have to try the version that Stephanie suggested with the zucchini.
    i am excited to try making my own noodles!!!! ironically i have a number of friends who have decided they would very much like to be guinea pigs… so you know… no pressure for a first time noodle making eek!

  13. Kate, make sure you cut the zucchini thin enough. I use a mandolin and set it at 1/8 inch. I also cut them like coins as opposed to ribbons (across the middle, not end to end). Make sure you drain the spinach before adding it to the ricotta. The best way I've found is to use my hands, squeeze the life out of the spinach, then crumble it in the ricotta. And the Italian Seasonings are a great idea. One more thing to try!

  14. This looks SO good, and I am in bed with a broken back, so I should not be reading recipies that make me want to get up and cook. :)

    I usually do a thick bechemel sauce (heavy on the nutmeg) instead of the ricotta. And I also like it to be heavy on the garlic 😉

    Will try your ricotta version when I am back cooking.

  15. Camilla, stay in bed! I've been told often enough that I'm killing people by getting them to eat butter and bacon fat. (Which people are wrong about, but that's a different issue.) I'm not going to have people running around trying to cook while they should be healing.

  16. If you want to try something really daring and delicious, add about one-eighth – one-fourth teaspoon of cinnamon to the ricotta cheese. It’s awesome. I learned this from my sister-in-law who learned it from her Italian mother-in-law.

  17. Cinnamon? Really? But not change anything else? Man, I’d be afraid to ruin a whole lasagna doing that. Wonder if I can make a mini one somehow.

  18. Please do not put cinnamon in your Lasagna as my mom did, we my sisters and I did not like it

  19. stacie ess says:

    This is made very close to mine. I use pre-made lasagna sheets from Kings Market though.~(easier than making the noodle myself) I have also made it with meatballs or veggies substituting the red gravy for a bachmel/Peccorinno combination when making the veggie lasagna I use spinach, eggplant or zucchini grated carrots. and I used 5 cheeses Peccorino, Parmesan, Provolone, Mozzarella and Ricotta. You have me in the mood to cook lasagna now!!

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