Lasagna with bechamel, marinara, sausage and beef is much better than a classic lasagna This recipe makes a fantastic Christmas dinner.
During a visit to Italy several years ago, I gathered as many authentic lasagna recipes as I was given. The chefs and home cooks gave me a lot of tips, too. As a result, I can honestly say that this is the best lasagna recipe I’ve ever made.
Lasagna is the epitome of comfort food, and it tastes so much better when it’s made from scratch. Not only that, but it’s a traditional Christmas dinner for many Italians.
Lasagna with bechamel
Authentic Italian lasagna recipes call for bechamel sauce instead of ricotta or cottage cheese. That is because it gives the dish a creamier and saucier texture.
Plus, layering lasagna with bechamel allows the sauce to seep into all of the nooks and crannies. Combine that with hot Italian sausage, beef bolognese, and tender noodles for an incredible Italian homemade lasagna!
Ingredient notes and substitutions
- Lasagna noodles– Another bonus for this recipe is that the noodles aren’t cooked separately. They go right into the baking dish and the sauces provide the liquid to cook them! Do NOT use no-boil noodles; they don’t have enough structure to hold the weight of a three sauce lasagna!
- Crushed tomatoes – San Marzano tomatoes have a sweeter flavor and lower acidity, but you can easily substitute your favorite brand instead.
- Tomato paste – This is great for when you’re short on time because it helps thicken the sauce. If you’ll be simmering the marinara sauce low and slow, leave it out altogether.
- Fresh basil – I highly recommend using fresh leaves if you can, but you can use about 2 teaspoons of dried basil in a pinch. Rub it between your palms before adding to the pot to make the flavor and fragrance bolder.
- Hot Italian sausage – Feel free to use mild or sweet Italian sausage for a less spicy bolognese sauce. You can also use bulk sausage if you don’t want to deal with removing the casings.
- Meatless spaghetti sauce – Homemade marinara is better than anything from a jar. Feel free to adjust the spices to suit your taste preferences. This will then be used to make the bolognese sauce.
- Bechamel for lasagna – Considered one of the five “mother sauces” in Italian cooking, this white sauce can be used as a base to make other things, like homemade alfredo sauce or baked mac and cheese.
- Sausage and beef bolognese sauce – I recommend starting the bolognese sauce first. This way, it cooks while you work on everything else. Or, make it ahead of time in a big batch, then save the rest for other dishes.
Video: Making bechamel lasagna
This may be the best lasagna recipe, but it is definitely not the quickest recipe. Making homemade lasagna isn’t difficult, but it’s a labor of love. Honestly, after the sauces are made, the time-intensive work is out of the way. Assembling the lasagna is a snap.
To see the process from start to finish, watch the video located in the recipe card at the bottom of this post.
⏲️ Craving lasagna but short on time?
Lasagna roll ups are a quicker way to get your comfort food fix!
How to assemble lasagna
Start by prepping all of your ingredients and making the three sauces needed for the lasagna.
Then, place the dry noodles in a baking dish and cover with hot water to soften them. Drain well and assemble as follows:
- Spread a thin layer of bolognese on the bottom. Make a single layer of noodles, then add more meat sauce.
- Next, spread some of the bechamel over the top.
- Then, add a couple handfuls of mozzarella and parmesan, making sure to sprinkle it to the edges.
- Add another layer of noodles on top of the cheese.
- Continue layering until you have used up all of the ingredients.
This should be a 3 or 4 layer lasagna with bechamel, ending with a layer of shredded cheese on top.
- Bake until warmed all the way through. The cheese should be browned and bubbly, but if it starts to burn you can put some foil on top.
- Let the lasagna rest so it can firm up before slicing.
- Shred cheese by hand: Pre-bagged shreds are covered with a preservative to prevent clumping. The cheese has a waxy texture and doesn’t melt properly. Always use freshly grated cheese if you’re able to.
- Make ahead: All three lasagna sauces can be made in advance and refrigerated until you are ready to assemble. However, I would recommend putting the lasagna together just before baking for best results.
- Adjust servings: You can easily halve this recipe if needed. Or, double it so you have one for dinner and one to freeze for later!
- Storage and freezing: Keep leftover beef and sausage lasagna covered in the refrigerator for 3 to 4 days. Or, wrap tightly in foil or transfer to an airtight container and freeze for up to 3 months. Thaw in the refrigerator before reheating.
- Reheating: Heat in the oven or microwave until warmed through. If it was frozen, leave the foil on while baking and remove just at the end so the cheese can get brown and bubbly.
Homemade Lasagna with Bechamel + Video
- 12 oz lasagna noodles (12 sheets dry lasagna noodles)
- 1 lb mozzarella cheese shredded
- 8 oz parmesan cheese freshly grated
- 3 tbsp olive oil
- 6 cloves garlic minced
- 2 tbsp tomato paste (See Note 1)
- 1/2 cup dry red wine optional
- 1/2 tsp sugar
- 1/2 tsp dried oregano
- 1/2 tsp kosher salt
- 1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
- 28 oz crushed San Marzano tomatoes (See Note 2)
- 12 fresh basil leaves finely chopped
- 1/4 cup butter or oil or fat drippings
- 1/4 cup all purpose flour
- 1/8 tsp kosher salt
- 1 dash white pepper
- 3 cups milk any variety
- 1 lb lean ground beef
- 1 lb hot Italian sausages casings removed
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 1 tbsp fennel seeds
- 2 tsp red pepper flakes
- 6 cloves garlic minced
- 1 large white onion chopped
- 1 marinara sauce entire batch of above recipe
- In a large skillet, heat the oil over a medium-high flame and add the minced garlic and sauté for 2 minutes.
- Reduce the heat to medium and add the wine (optional), tomato paste, sugar, dried oregano and salt and red pepper flakes, sauté for 2 minutes.
- Add the tomatoes, stir and simmer until reduced slightly, about 20 minutes. In last 10 minutes of simmering, add the basil and stir. Season the sauce with more salt to taste.
- At this point you could leave it chunky or for a smooth sauce you could use a hand blender and puree or put in a blender and blend until smooth. Set aside.
Bechamel Sauce (white sauce)
- Warm the milk in a saucepan or microwave in measuring cup.
- In a medium sauce pan melt equal parts butter and then the flour.
- Whisk the flour and butter together and allow to simmer on low to cook the flour 1-2 minutes. The lightest (white color) roux will be slightly puffed.
- Gradually add the warm milk and whisk to incorporate until a smooth sauce forms on low heat. Cook several minutes, sauce will thicken. Set aside.
- In a large skillet or Dutch oven over medium-high heat, add olive oil. Add the fennel seeds and red pepper flakes. Saute for 30 seconds and add the onion. Continue cooking on medium-high heat until the onion is soft, 2 minutes. Add the garlic, stirring constantly for 30 seconds.
- Add the ground beef and sausage and brown meat over medium-high heat, breaking the meat apart into pieces with spoon. When cooked drain excess grease and transfer to food processor. Pulse several times until crumbly and nearly pureed.
- Return mixture to the skillet or Dutch oven and add the Marinara Sauce (recipe above). Stir to combine the meat and marinara sauce.
- Cover and allow the sauce to simmer for about 20 minutes on low heat, stirring occasionally. Add 1 cup of water if it gets too thick and continue cooking to reduce.
- In a 9×13″ baking dish add the dry lasagna noodles and cover with hot water. Allow to rest for 20 minutes. Drain into a large colander.
- Preheat the oven to 350°F. Grease the 9×13″ baking dish with cooking spray.
- We will be making 3-4 layers of lasagna, so divide accordingly.
- Start by spreading some of the meat sauce on bottom of greased dish. Layer on top with 3 lasagna noodles or more to cover bottom.
- Spread more meat sauce over the noodles, followed by the Bechamel Sauce (recipe above), then mozzarella and parmesan cheeses, spreading all to the edges.
- Repeat this 3-4 times to use up all noodles, sauces and ending with cheeses on top.
- Bake for 30 minutes until top is golden brown and cheeses are bubbling. Allow the lasagna to rest for 15 minutes before serving.
- If cooking the marinara low and slow (3-4 hour simmer), omit the tomato paste, as the sauce will thicken on its own. I use it when time is tight.
- San Marzano tomatoes are grown in the rich volcanic soil at the base of Mount Vesuvius. Sweeter and lower in acid than most canned tomatoes, they are coveted for their firm pulp, deep red color, easy to remove skin and low seed count. Feel free to use whatever brand you prefer.
The information shown is an estimate provided by an online nutrition calculator. It should not be considered a substitute for a professional nutritionist’s advice.