How To Bake Lasagna at 400 Degrees (The Secrets to Great Lasagna)

Baked Lasagna

How long should you bake a lasagna in the oven at 400 degrees Fahrenheit?

The short answer is that a lasagna can be cooked in a 400 degree oven for 35-45 minutes if not frozen and 65-75 minutes if frozen.  However, this depends on a lot of different factors.  Read below to make sure your lasagna comes out perfect.

How To Avoid Making Bad Lasagna

Have you ever been the victim of a bad lasagna?  

Maybe you tried your best to make one for a nice Sunday dinner, but it didn’t turn out the way you expected.  The top layer of pasta and sauce was burnt and hard like plastic.

Maybe you went to your relatives house for a holiday and there was a big tray of lasagna on the buffet table.  When you took a bite, the ricotta cheese was dry and had no flavor.  It reminded you of cardboard and the paste you used in elementary school.

These bad lasagna experiences have happened to me too.

For years I never bothered with lasagna.  I had no desire to make a homemade lasagna myself and I certainly wasn’t going to risk ordering lasagna in a restaurant.  Why would I spend money on something I was certain I wouldn’t enjoy.

Then one day all of that changed.  

I was spending a week in Italy to visit some friends and I ended up in this little restaurant in an alley.  It was one of those places that doesn’t have a menu and you have to eat whatever they are serving that day.

The waitress was an older lady with a big personality and a nice smile.  I remember she was wearing a lot of perfume.  

When we sat down she immediately started putting little plates of cheese, salami and marinated vegetables on the table.  Then she put down a carafe of red wine and a carafe of cold white wine.  I have no idea what type of wine it was, but it did its job.

After about 20 minutes she brought out the pasta course.  It just happened to be lasagna.  A little rectangular piece on a plain white dish. It wasn’t much to look at.

lasagna 4 pack

When I saw the plate go down in front of me I thought to myself, “Here we go.  Another cement block.”

Reluctantly, I took a small bite expecting the worst … but I was wrong.  Instead of an overcooked, dried out brick of pasta and bad cheese, it was something really good.  I mean really, really good.  

It was made with one of those Southern Italian lasagna recipes with a rich tomato sauce, pork and Italian sausage. It had a cheese mixture that was spot on.  I could taste the creamy ricotta and nutty parmesan cheese in every bite.

It had a lot of layers to it, but I’m not sure how many.  I just remember that the last layer of the lasagna had tomato sauce, mozzarella and grated cheese.  On top of the sauce was a nice sprinkling of thinly sliced, fresh basil leaves. 

For some reason the scent of fresh basil stands out in a lot of my memories.  And they are always good memories.

It was the best lasagna I had ever had. 

Best Lasagna

My Research on Making Lasagna

I was determined to recreate this lasagna when I got home.  I made it my mission to make the perfect lasagna.

I didn’t know what the chef in that little restaurant used for ingredients that day, but I did my best to remember how it was constructed.   

I spent a lot of time with my eyes closed trying to picture the texture of the pasta, the consistency of the cheese and the way the layers of the lasagna complimented each other.  

I made a lot of test lasagna that I didn’t really love.  But I kept practicing.  I tried different types of pasta.  I made homemade lasagna sheets and bought some at the store.  

Sometimes I’d boil noodles to make the lasagna and other times I used oven ready noodles. 

I learned that if you make homemade pasta and boil lasagna noodles, you should brush them with olive oil after you drain them.  This will prevent them from sticking together.

After a lot of trial and error I finally made a lasagna that I really loved.  I don’t want to say it’s better than the one I had in that little restaurant, but it might be. 

A lot of people tell me it’s the best lasagna they’ve ever had.  I get a lot of really great feedback.

I started selling it in the restaurant and people went crazy for it.  

I took the basics of good lasagna making and got creative. I started trying new recipes like Lasagna Bolognese, Quattro Formaggi Lasagna and Vegetable Lasagna.  

They were all great because I figured out the secrets involved in making great lasagna.  

Once you know these simple, but important steps involved in making lasagna, you can have fun and experiment with different ingredients and flavors.  I actually figured out how to make a Buffalo Chicken Lasagna that people go crazy about.  It might not be authentic Italian, but it’s good!

The Secrets to Making a Great Lasagna

If you can get these things down, you will be able to make great lasagna too.

The Sauce

When you make lasagna you need a great sauce.  It could be a simple fresh tomato sauce, a quick Marinara sauce or a slow cooked meat sauce.  

I’m even making a chicken cutlet and broccoli rabe lasagna now with a creamy garlic white sauce. 

The Cheese

A great lasagna needs the right types of cheese.  I have developed a cheese mixture that is perfect for lasagna.  It works with every type of lasagna that I make.  

I make sure I have cheese that is moist and creamy.  That’s why I use the best ricotta I can find.  It’s also important to season your ricotta mixture with salt, pepper and herbs.  I like using parsley.

I make sure I have a good, flavorful melty cheese like mozzarella and provolone.   This is really important.

I also like to have dry aged cheese in my lasagna, such as Parmigiano Reggiano or Pecorino Romano.  I take a block of the cheese and grate it myself.  

Layering

After many tests, I have found that the number of layers in the lasagna is the most important factor.  When you carefully layer the lasagna you are adding moisture and flavor at every step.  

Many thin layers in a lasagna give the best results.  Take the time to distribute all of the ingredients among multiple layers, rather than make just a few really thick layers. 

Layering flavors is always the key to great cooking.  That’s why it’s so important when making lasagna.

How Long Should You Bake Your Lasagna at 400 degrees

The cooking instructions that I’m giving you are for lasagna that has not yet gone through the baking process.  I’m talking about lasagna that have not been put in the oven yet.

It’s for lasagna that has been put together in layers with the pasta, sauce, cheese and possibly cooked vegetables or meat, such as ground beef.  It is constructed in a baking dish, casserole dish or disposable aluminum tray like we use to ship our lasagna. 

These step-by-step instructions are not to be used when reheating leftover lasagna that has already gone through the cooking process.  It could cause it to overcook and become dried out. 

My Research

To come up with the best cooking time and best temperature for cooking lasagna I did some research.  I took a field trip over to Whole Foods and went straight to the frozen food aisle.

Cheese Lasagna

I bought lasagna from some of the big brands that they carry and took them home to test them out.  They each had different ways to cook their lasagna recommended on the packaging. 

I cooked each one according to the instructions on the box.  I tasted all of them and took notes.  I recorded the time, temperature, taste and texture for each lasagna I tested.

I used that information and cooked my own lasagna according to the instructions that each package from Whole Foods suggested.  Each test had different temperatures and baking time. Each test gave me different results.

I tested them frozen and completely thawed. 

Lasagna Primavera

 

The reason I decided to do it both ways is because when I sell my lasagna I ship it frozen.  When people receive it they may put it in the fridge where it will thaw out.  They may put it in the freezer until they are ready to cook it.  I recommend storing it in the freezer.

Also, this information allows people who are making their own homemade lasagna to cook it frozen or unfrozen.  I think it’s a great idea to make a few lasagnas at the same time so you can freeze a couple for later.  It’s nice to have them in the freezer for days when you don’t feel like doing a lot of prep work for dinner.

Meat Lasagna

The cooking process is basically the same for frozen lasagna and thawed lasagna.  The thawed lasagna just requires less time in the oven.

Vegetable Lasagna

I would also like to point out that the cooking instructions that I am sharing are based on tests using the lasagna that we ship from our store.  

It’s a lasagna that weighs approximately 2 to 2 ¼ pounds and is made in a pan that is ​​8.75 inches long by 6.25 inches wide. It’s also 1.75 inches deep.

If the size of lasagna you are cooking is different, the minutes of cooking required may vary.

Bolognese

 

Instructions for Thawed

  1. Preheat your oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. Remove any plastic wrap from the lasagna.
  3. Remove the lid from the lasagna.
  4. Place the lasagna pan on a baking sheet or piece of aluminum foil in the preheated oven.
  5. Now bake the lasagna for 35-45 minutes.
  6. Remove the lasagna from the oven when the top layer of cheese is bubbly and golden brown. 

Instructions for Frozen

If your lasagna is frozen you don’t need to set your oven at a higher temperature.  My research found that 400 degrees Fahrenheit is the best temperature for my frozen lasagna and thawed lasagna.  It’s the bake time that will increase.

  1. Preheat your oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. Remove any plastic wrap from the lasagna.
  3. Remove the lid from the lasagna.
  4. Place the lasagna pan on a baking sheet or piece of aluminum foil in the preheated oven.
  5. Now bake the lasagna for 65-75 minutes.
  6. Remove the lasagna from the oven when the top layer of cheese is bubbly and golden brown.

How to Test

Whether you are baking a lasagna from frozen or not, it’s a good idea to make sure it’s completely cooked through.  The center of lasagna should be fully cooked.  You don’t want to serve a lasagna that is cold or even frozen in the middle.

You know the lasagna is fully cooked when the internal temperature is 165 degrees Fahrenheit.  Stick a meat thermometer in the center of the dish to check it out. 

Resting

It’s really important to let your lasagna rest for a little while after you take it out of the oven.  The last thing you want is to cut into your delicious lasagna and have all of the cheese come pouring out of the layers like lava.  

A general rule of thumb for me is to let the lasagna rest for about 15 minutes.  That is enough time to let the cheese and sauce set up and it will still be hot when you serve it.

If you’re in a hurry, you can probably get away with 5-10 minutes of resting. 

Use these tips to make your own perfect lasagna and let me know how it comes out.  If you don’t feel like doing the work yourself check out our lasagna.

We ship it across the country and people are loving it!

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1 thought on “How To Bake Lasagna at 400 Degrees (The Secrets to Great Lasagna)”

  1. No to Ricotta, yes to carefully crafter Bechamel! That’s what my daughter, who lived in Florence for two years learned and brought home to teach me. She’s right for our family that is.

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