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How-To: Lasagna Bolognese

The best recipe I’ve ever made adapted slightly from the September and October 2004 issue of Cooks’ Illustrated magazine.

  • Total Time: 2 hours 30 mins
  • Yield: 8-10 servings 1x


Units Scale
  • For Meat Sauce (Ragù)
  • 1 medium carrot, peeled and roughly chopped
  • 1 medium celery rib, roughly chopped
  • 1 small onion, roughly chopped
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 1/2 pounds 97% lean ground beef
  • 1 1/2 cups whole milk
  • 1 1/2 cups white or red wine (optional)
  • 1 can (28 ounces) crushed tomatoes with puree or whole tomatoes
  • 1 small can tomato paste
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • For Béchamel:
  • 1/4 cup unsalted butter
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 4 cups whole or 2% milk
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • For Noodles and Cheese:
  • 15 sheets (9 ounces) no-boil lasagna noodles
  • 8 ounces (about 2 cups) finely grated Parmesan and/or Romano cheese blend


  1. Place carrot, celery, and onion in the bowl of a food processor fitted with the S chopping blade.
  2. Pulse for 1-2 seconds at a time until everything is finely chopped. If using whole tomatoes instead of crushed, transfer the carrot, celery, and onion mixture to a bowl and pour the tomatoes into the food processor. Pulse until tomatoes are finely chopped, but not pureed.
  3. Heat olive oil in a heavy-duty Dutch oven (stainless steel or enameled cast iron works the best).
  4. Add the carrot, celery, and onion. Saute until softened, about 4-5 minutes. Add the ground beef.
  5. Cook for a few minutes, making sure to break up the meat as it is cooking.
  6. Pour milk into the Dutch oven and bring to a simmer, stirring frequently. Allow the meat and milk to simmer over medium heat until most of the liquid has evaporated, about 10-15 minutes. (Can simmer over lower heat for 20-30 minutes – I short-cut this step because I’m impatient.) Break up any larger clumps of meat that remain.
  7. If using wine, pour into the Dutch oven and bring back to a simmer over medium heat. Continue to cook until the liquid has evaporated.
  8. Add the tomato paste to the Dutch oven and stir well. Cook for a minute or so, then add the crushed tomatoes along with the salt and pepper.
  9. Bring back to a simmer, then reduce heat to medium-low. Cover and cook for about 15-20 minutes, or until sauce has thickened. (You should have about 6 cups meat sauce.) Remove Dutch oven from heat, but keep warm.
  10. For the Béchamel: While the meat sauces simmers, melt butter in medium saucepan set over medium heat. Once foaming subsides, add flour to the pan and whisk constantly until combined. Keep stirring or whisking and cook for 1-2 minutes, making sure not to let the mixture brown. While whisking, add milk. The texture will be very thin at this point. Raise heat to medium-high and allow the milk to come to a boil, whisking as it cooks. Add the salt and continue simmering, stirring or whisking often for about 10 minutes. The sauce will thicken during this time. Be sure to scrape the bottoms and corners of the pan as the sauce simmers to prevent the sauce from scorching. Remove from heat and keep warm. (There should be about 3 1/3 cups of béchamel.) Measure out 3/4 cup of the béchamel sauce and stir it into the meat sauce.
  11. To Assemble and Bake: Adjust oven rack to middle position and preheat oven to 425°F. Lightly coat a 9- by 13-inch baking dish with nonstick cooking spray or use a paper towel to wipe the bottom and sides with a little olive oil.
  12. Fill a bowl with very hot tap water and set to side of baking dish. The noodles will be quickly submerged in the water as you assemble the lasagna.
  13. Spread 1 cup of the meat sauce in the casserole dish. Quickly submerge three lasagna noodles into the hot tap water, allowing excess to drip back into the bowl and place them over the sauce, leaving a little room between each noodle. (They will expand as they cook.)
  14. Next spread 1 1/4 cups meat sauce evenly over noodles. Use a spatula to spread to the edge of the noodles, but not all the way to the edge of the baking dish.
  15. Drizzle 1/3 cup béchamel evenly over meat sauce. (I use a separate measuring cup for each sauce and the cheese.)
  16. Sprinkle 1/3 cup Parmesan even over béchamel. Repeat layering of noodles, meat sauce, béchamel, and Parmesan cheese 3 more times.
  17. Place final 3 noodles on top. Pour remaining béchamel over the top of the noodles (there will be more than 1/3 cup left) and use a spatula and cover the noodles and out to the edges. Sprinkle the top evenly with the rest of the grated cheese.
  18. Spray a large sheet of aluminum foil with nonstick cooking spray and place over the baking dish. Place pan in oven and bake for 30-45 minutes, or until bubbling around edges and in the center.
  19. Remove the foil and place lasagna back in oven. Increase the temperature to 450°F. Bake for an additional 15-20 minutes or until the top is golden brown.
  20. Cool 15 minutes; cut into pieces and serve. Store leftovers in airtight container for up to 5 days or freeze for up to several months.


For another shortcut, feel free omit the carrot, celery, and onion and replace the canned tomatoes and paste with 2 (24-ounce) jars prepared homemade or store-bought marinara. Follow directions for cooking the meat, adding milk and wine (if using), and add the prepared sauce to the Dutch oven. Bring to a simmer and cook for 5-10 minutes, then remove from heat and keep warm until ready to assemble lasagna.

  • Author: Lindsey Johnson
  • Prep Time: 90 mins
  • Cook Time: 1 hour
  • Category: Main Dish
  • Cuisine: Italian