Picture this: You’re in Florence for a week, and all you care about is eating all the delicious Italian food you can find. Your natural inclination is to pack everything up and take it home, but there’s only one way to do this.
Get directions from an Italian Nonna on how to make your own authentic lasagna.
The good news is that you can find a cooking class almost anywhere in Italy, so you’ll sign up for one. Making lasagna is a lot of effort, and you’ll realize that you won’t let that stop you as soon as you start spreading the dough for the lasagna sheets.
This is exactly what happened when I went to Florence recently – so let me share with you what I learned from an authentic Italian kitchen!
What You Need to Make Authentic Lasagna
Ingredients for the Bolognese Sauce (Ragù alla Bolognese):
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 onion, finely chopped
- 1 carrot, finely chopped
- 1 celery stalk, finely chopped
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 400g (about 0.88 lbs) ground beef or a mix of beef and pork
- 150ml (about 5 fl oz) red wine (optional)
- 800g (about 1.76 lbs) canned whole tomatoes, crushed
- Salt and pepper, to taste
- A pinch of nutmeg
- 2 bay leaves (1 bay leaf is also ok if you don’t have more)
Tip: Only use fresh herbs for those rich flavors.
Ingredients for the Béchamel Sauce (the creamy white sauce):
- 4 cups milk
- 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 4 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- Salt and nutmeg, to taste
Ingredients for the lasagne sheets:
- 400g (about 0.88 lbs) fresh lasagne sheets (store-bought)
- 1 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
Note: You can create your own sheets by combining 1 egg and 100 g of flour, rolling out the dough, and cutting out the desired shapes. An alternative for tomatoes could be tomato paste.
Step-By-Step Instructions on How to Make Authentic Italian Lasagna from Italy
Step 1 (optional): Making your own fresh lasagna sheets from scratch is a time-consuming endeavor. However, it tastes amazing! To do this, get one large bowl, add the 100 g of all-purpose flour, and make a hole in the center where you can put the one egg. Use the fork to gradually add flour to the egg as you move around the circle.
When you’re done, the dough should be nice and smooth; at this point, you may roll it out to the thinnest possible thickness. After each pass with the rolling pin, lightly dust it with flour before you flip the dough over and rub it on both sides. There should be three or four layers of dough before you can cut it into sheets.
Tip: No need to boil the lasagna noodles before layering, the pasta dough will cook with all the moisture from the sauces!
Step 2 – Bolognese Sauce:
Over medium heat, heat up olive oil in a big skillet. Then toss in chopped vegetables like onion, carrot, and celery, and cook until tender. Sauté for a further minute after adding the minced garlic. Put in the ground beef and cook it, stirring it with a wooden spoon until it’s browned and done. If you’re using red wine, add it now and allow it to evaporate.
Mix in the crushed tomatoes, seasonings (salt, pepper, nutmeg, bay leaves), and oil to create a rich tomato sauce. For around 2 hours, with occasional stirring, reduce the heat and simmer the sauce. Add a little water if the sauce gets too thick. Then, remove the bay leaves and taste to see if more salt or pepper is needed.
Step 3 – Creamy Béchamel Sauce:
In a saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the flour, whisking continuously to avoid lumps, and cook for a couple of minutes.
Then, gradually add the milk, continuing to whisk. Afterward, continue cooking the sauce on low heat until it thickens. Season with salt and a pinch of nutmeg, and set aside.
Step 4 – Assembly: Before you start assembling, preheat the oven to 200°C (390°F).
Then, in a large baking dish, spread a thin layer of béchamel sauce followed by a layer of Bolognese sauce, and place a layer of lasagne sheets on top.
Continue layering béchamel, Bolognese sauce, and lasagne sheets.
Finish with a layer of béchamel sauce on top of the last sheet of pasta, and sprinkle generously with grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese.
Then bake in the preheated oven until the top is golden and bubbly (around 30 minutes).
Let it rest at room temperature for a few minutes before serving.
Contrary to what many believe, it actually takes a few days to make authentic lasagna in Italy. More specifically, the meat sauce and dough take longer, as you want to let both rest to really have the flavors enmeshed with one another.
For the bolognese sauce, when you’re making it – consider letting it simmer for an extended time for the flavors to really mix. The longer it simmers, the richer the flavors will be.
So, if you want to make your lasagna taste even better, let the dough rest overnight in the fridge before rolling it out (if you make your own lasagna sheets). Similarly, consider leaving the assembled lasagna in the fridge overnight before baking it to let it taste even better – this dish is incredibly amazing also on the second day when you reheat it.
Note: While the American variation of lasagne al forno often has mozzarella cheese, ricotta mixture, or cottage cheese, the Italian classic only uses the béchamel and Parmigiano (parmesan) cheese.
What to Serve Homemade Lasagna With
Whether you’re preparing for a feast with family and friends or you just want to have a simple meal for yourself, lasagna is so versatile it can fit nearly anything!
Here are some of my favorite suggestions:
- Salads – while most salads will do great with the lasagne flavors, the classic Caesar salad with creamy dressing and crisp romaine lettuce will complement the rich lasagna flavors. Arugula salad with shaved parmesan, lemon, and olive oil can greatly contrast the rich flavors of lasagna.
- Soups – if you’re in the mood for soups, consider a hearty Italian Minestrone or an Italian wedding soup with meatballs and greens.
- Breads – the classic garlic bread of Italian bruschetta makes a fantastic addition to lasagna!
- Drinks – if you’re looking at wine, grab a medium-bodied red wine like Chianti or Barbera, if you’re more of a white wine person (because same), go for a Chardonnay. Non-alcoholic options would be sparkling water with a slice of lemon or lime.
- Desserts – there’s still some more room? After such a hearty meal, Tiramisu, panna cotta, or cannoli will make amazing desserts.
Tip: When pairing something as rich and hearty as a lasagna, look for something lighter.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Got questions about this classic Italian lasagna recipe? We’ve got the answers!
How to store lasagna?
To store lasagna, simply use aluminum foil, plastic wrap, or any airtight container and put it in the fridge, where it should last up to 4 days.
How long should lasagna rest before serving?
For the best experience, let it rest for about 10-15 minutes after baking.
Why is my lasagna watery?
There are multiple reasons why lasagna can turn out watery, unfortunately. Here are the most common ones:
- Overly wet ingredients, like ricotta cheese or vegetables that release moisture, can cause this.
- Using no-boil lasagna noodles without adjusting the sauce can result in a watery lasagna.
For traditional Italian lasagna, ensure your sauce is thick, and if using vegetables, sauté or roast them first to release excess moisture.Print