With a homemade meat sauce, a cottage cheese layer with sautéed spinach and copious amounts of cheese (4 varieties), this homemade lasagna recipe is straight up comforting. You’re gonna love it!
I can’t tell you enough how excited I am to be sharing this homemade lasagna recipe with you all. Beyond excited, I tells ya!
If you are looking for a quick lasagna recipe, then this is not it.
Nope. Turn away now.
Just like my vegetable lasagna, this meat lasagna recipe takes time. It’s a labour of love.
But, you know what?
It’s totally worth it!
There’s no bottled sauce here. No shortcuts. Every component in this homemade lasagna recipe plays a part and is jam-packed with flavour.
You know what happens when you make this recipe for someone?
It’s like you’re saying, “Here, enjoy this. I made it with love because I love you.” Yep. It’s like a little bit of love in every single bite. What are ya waiting for? Let’s make it, shall we?
Ingredients for a Homemade Lasagna Recipe
- Meat Sauce: Which includes yummy ingredients, like finely chopped celery, carrot, onion, mushrooms (for extra beefiness), plenty of fresh garlic, ground beef, ground pork, Italian sausage (meat removed from casings), San Marzano canned tomatoes, tomato paste, as well as fresh and dried herbs.
- Cottage Cheese Layer: Which includes cottage cheese (of course), sautéed spinach with nutmeg, Parmesan, shredded mozzarella, salt, pepper and egg.
- Lasagna Noodles: I used fresh, but use whatever you prefer.
- Fresh Mozzarella: For the very top of the lasagna. Ooey gooey deliciousness right there!
When you look at the ingredient list for this lasagna recipe, you may be thinking it’s a lot, but seriously (though it takes time), it’s easy.
If you are using store-bought fresh pasta, it’s basically a matter of stirring together the cottage cheese mixture and making a meat sauce. See, it’s practically made already!
How To Make Lasagna
Full details on how to make this homemade lasagna recipe are in recipe card below, but here are the basics:
Make the cottage cheese layer
I love cottage cheese for lasagna. Firstly, because it tastes delicious, especially with wilted spinach and nutmeg. Secondly, it’s just so dang easy to prepare.
- Heat olive oil in a pan, and then add spinach and nutmeg. Cook until the spinach wilts. (I used 10 ounces of spinach; it’s going to look like a lot, but it wilts down to so very little.)
- The next step is important: squeeze all that extra moisture out of the spinach. Just when you think you’ve squeezed enough, squeeze a little more. You definitely don’t want a watery lasagna layer. Chop the spinach. Tip: Squeeze excess moisture from spinach by pressing against a sieve or placing cooked spinach in a clean tea towel and squeezing out water that way. Note: The spinach isn’t actually going through the sieve (only water). We’re just using it to press the moisture out.
- Place cottage cheese in a bowl, along with spinach, mozzarella, Parmesan (real Parmesan, not the powdered stuff), parsley, egg, salt and pepper.
- Stir to combine and set aside. Easy, right?
Homemade lasagna sauce
If you have a food processor, I highly recommend using it here to break down those veggies. Otherwise, get going with your knife skills and chop finely.
- Heat some olive oil in a large pot and add the carrot, celery and onion (these veggies provide a lovely aromatic base to the sauce). Cook for a little until softened.
- Add finely chopped mushrooms and garlic and cook a little. Then season with some salt and pepper.
- Add ground meat, ground pork, sausage and seasonings and cook.
- Add tomato paste.
- Stir in and cook tomato paste for a little.
- Finally, stir in tomatoes, basil and bay leaves. Bring to a simmer so it’s gently bubbling/cooking. Cook for 50 to 60 minutes until the sauce reduces/thickens and the flavour really intensifies. When the lasagna meat sauce has reduced, you’ll be left with about 7 to 8 cups of sauce.
Tip: Rinse out your empty can of tomatoes with a little water to get every last drop of goodness and pour that into the sauce (about ½ cup in total).
Tip: Amp up that flavour! For an extra punch of flavour and beefiness, add star anise when you add the bay leaves. Star anise is a spice that kinda looks like a star and is quite popular in Chinese cooking.
Star anise is a main flavour booster in pho, or Vietnamese soup. Many years ago, hubby and I were watching British chef Heston Blumenthal on one of his cooking shows. He was making bolognese and used star anise because it boosts the “meaty” flavour.
You can typically find star anise in the bulk food section of your grocery store where other spices are found.
Wrap it in some food grade cheesecloth so you can easily remove when the sauce is done
If you don’t have star anise, can’t access or couldn’t be bothered, no worries. I’ve made this lasagna with and without it and it’s delicious either way!
I opted to stir in some balsamic vinegar when the sauce was finished, but that’s totally optional. I happen to really love the flavour it adds. You do what makes you happy!
Layer and bake
Now for the super fun part (because we soon get to enjoy): assembling and baking this scrumptious homemade lasagna recipe!
So, to layer lasagna, start with a little sauce on the bottom of your baking dish (to prevent things from sticking) and then there are 3 whole layers. The final layer gets a whole bunch of fresh mozzarella. It seriously bakes up beautifully!
- Spread just a little meat sauce over top so the noodles don’t stick when baking.
- Then it’s a layer of noodles. Note: I used fresh noodles here and just made it fit. Use what you have on hand or prefer. If using dried noodles, cook according to package instructions before layering in the lasagna recipe.
- Spread ⅓ of the meat sauce on top of noodles.
- Then dollop ⅓ of the cottage cheese mixture. I like to dollop rather than spread over the meat sauce because it’s thick and I don’t want to muddle those layers too much.
- Top with 1.5 cups of shredded mozzarella. Then repeat two more times (noodles to mozzarella, but the last layer, don’t spread on shredded mozzarella).
- Spread on fresh mozzarella.
- Stick 6 to 8 wooden toothpicks (soaked in water first before using and mostly stuck out so you can easily remove later). This helps prevent the aluminum foil from sticking to the cheese. Ain’t nobody got time for lost cheese, am I right? Cover with aluminum foil, place on a baking tray (to catch any spills) and bake. Remove aluminum foil partway through (along with toothpicks) and continue baking until the cheese gets all nice, golden brown and bubbly.
- Once done, you’ll want to let the lasagna cool a little before digging in. This gives the lasagna a chance to settle. Then you can garnish with some fresh herbs, like basil and parsley.
Type of Cheese To Use
Besides the cottage cheese layer (which also includes Parmesan), I love to use a combination of shredded mozzarella and fresh mozzarella.
The fresh mozzarella is simply reserved for the top layer. If you don’t have fresh mozzarella on hand (or prefer not to use), just use all shredded mozzarella and things will still be delicious!
Should I Cover Lasagna?
Yes! This helps to prevent things from drying out so don’t skip this.
As mentioned above, stick 6 to 8 wooden toothpicks (first soaked in water) into the lasagna (stuck out so you can easily remove).
Cover with aluminum foil, place the casserole dish on a sheet pan and bake. Remove the aluminum foil partway through (along with the toothpicks) and continue baking until the cheese gets golden brown and bubbly.
How Long Lasagna Should Rest After Baking
I know it’s temping not to dig into this bad boy right away, but please let it rest! I can’t stress this enough.
Firstly, it’s hot as, well, just super hot. Secondly, by letting it cool a little you’re kinda giving things a chance to calm down, and firm up a little so you can cut out nice square (non messy) pieces. Nobody wants a runny lasagna!
I like to let cool for about 30 minutes after removing from the oven.
Tips for Making This Recipe
- Don’t skip squeezing excess moisture from the spinach! This helps prevent a watery cottage cheese layer.
- Most times, I like to make lasagna with fresh noodles. However, if you don’t have fresh store-bought lasagna noodles, no worries! Use “no boil” or just regular noodles (drain well before using). The fresh lasagna noodles I used were larger than the typical boxed dried variety, so I used about 6 sheets or 360 grams. If you are using a smaller dried lasagna pasta (that has been cooked), you will probably need up to 10 sheets.
- Have a rind of Parmesan leftover? Throw it into your meat sauce and it will add so much flavour. Just discard after the sauce is made.
- I love to use San Marzano tomatoes (whole) for rich tomato sauces like this lasagna meat sauce. They’re so delicious! If you can’t find, no worries. Get the best canned tomatoes you can get your hands on.
- Allow the lasagna to cool a little before garnishing with fresh herbs (so they don’t wilt or turn brown from the heat).
What To Serve With Lasagna
Homemade lasagna is quite substantial on its own, but if you want to add some sides, it goes great with any of these:
- Mixed green salad
- Caesar salad
- Garlic bread
- Roasted broccoli or broccolini
More Comfort Food Recipes
- Chicken and Sausage Recipe With Peppers
- Homemade Meatballs With Tomato Sauce
- Chicken and Sausage With Gnocchi in Tomato Sauce
Hope you love this homemade lasagna recipe as much as we do! Hubby happens to this it’s the best lasagna recipe!
If you make this meat lasagna recipe, be sure to leave a comment below!
Homemade Lasagna Recipe
Cottage Cheese Layer
- 1 teaspoon olive oil
- 10 ounces baby spinach, or approximately 300 grams
- ¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
- 2 cups cottage cheese
- 2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
- ⅔ cup shredded Parmesan cheese
- ⅓ cup chopped fresh parsley
- 1 large egg
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- ¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 2 ribs celery
- 1 carrot
- 1 large yellow onion
- 8 ounces baby bella mushrooms, or white button mushrooms (about 227 grams)
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 6 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 teaspoon salt, divided
- ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, divided
- 1 pound lean or extra lean ground beef
- ½ pound ground pork
- ½ pound Italian sausage, meat removed from casings (about 2 sausages)
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1 teaspoon fennel seeds
- ½ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
- 1 (5.5-ounce) can tomato paste, a 156 millilitre can
- 2 (28-ounce) cans whole peeled tomatoes, tomatoes roughly mashed with a potato masher to break up before using
- ½ cup water, rinse out the empty cans of tomatoes and use that water
- ½ cup chopped fresh basil
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar, optional
Other Lasagna Ingredients
- 12 ounces fresh lasagna noodles (about 6 large sheets), or your favourite lasagna noodle (about 360 grams). If your sheets are the smaller dried variety, you'll need up to 10 sheets.
- 3 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
- 8 ounces fresh mozzarella, sliced or torn (or you could use 2 cups of shredded mozzarella cheese)
- Chopped parsley leaves, garnish to taste (optional)
- Chopped or torn basil leaves, garnish to taste (optional)
Cottage Cheese Layer
- Heat olive oil in a 12-inch pan (like a sauté pan or one that's about 2.5 to 3 inches deep) over medium heat. Add baby spinach and nutmeg. Cook, giving it a stir, until just wilted. Remove from the pan and drain excess moisture well by squeezing with a clean tea towel or by pressing into a fine mesh sieve. Chop.Note: The spinach isn't actually going through the sieve (only water). We're just using it to press the moisture out.
- In a bowl, stir together the cottage cheese, mozzarella, Parmesan, parsley, cooked chopped spinach, egg, salt and black pepper. Set aside.
Meat Sauce, etc.
- Before getting the meat sauce going, place 6 to 8 wooden toothpicks in a dish of water on your countertop to soak for use later.
- Peel carrot and onion. Then roughly chop celery, carrot and onion. Using a food processor, process the chopped celery, carrot and onion finely (or, alternatively, just finely chop without using a processor). Transfer to a bowl and set aside. Next, finely chop mushrooms (or use a food processor), transfer to another bowl and set aside.
- Heat olive oil in a large enameled cast-iron Dutch over medium-low heat. Add celery, carrot and onion. Stir and cook, stirring occasionally, for 10 minutes or until softened.
- To veggie mixture, add mushrooms and garlic. Cook, stirring occasionally, for another 10 minutes. Season with ¼ teaspoon each of salt and black pepper.
- Turn heat to medium and add ground beef, pork and sausage. Add oregano, fennel, crushed red pepper flakes and remaining ¾ teaspoon of salt and remaining ¼ teaspoon of black pepper. Cook, breaking the beef, pork and sausage into small pieces and stirring occasionally, for 20 minutes.
- Stir in tomato paste and cook for 3 minutes. Stir in tomatoes, water, basil and bay leaves. Bring to a simmer (you want the sauce gently bubbling/simmering) and cook, stirring occasionally, for 50 to 60 minutes or until the sauce has reduced, it has a thick consistency and the flavour has intensified. Remove bay leaves and discard.
- Stir in balsamic vinegar, if using.
Assemble the Lasagna
- If using fresh pasta, no need to cook before assembly. If using dried pasta, cook according to package instructions, drain, and proceed with the recipe.
- Spread ½ cup of the meat sauce along the bottom of a deep 9-inch x 13-inch baking dish, casserole dish or lasagna pan. Note: Based on reader feedback, to ensure everything fits, it's best to use a deep lasagna pan.
- Place one layer of noodles on top of meat sauce to cover all of pan. Just cut to make fit.
- Spread ⅓ of the meat sauce over noodles.
- Dollop ⅓ of the cottage cheese over the meat sauce. I don't spread on, I just dollop roughly where a piece of lasagna would be cut.
- Sprinkle 1.5 cups of shredded mozzarella cheese over the cottage cheese.
- Repeat with noodles, ⅓ of meat sauce, ⅓ of cottage cheese mixture and remaining 1.5 cups of mozzarella.
- Again, noodles, final ⅓ of meat sauce, final ⅓ of cottage cheese mixture.
- For the last layer, top with fresh mozzarella instead of shredded mozzarella.
- Place about 6 to 8 wooden toothpicks (that have been soaked in water before use) into the lasagna, mostly sticking out. The toothpicks help prevent the aluminum foil from sticking to the cheese. Cover with aluminum foil. Note: Make sure you keep track of how many toothpicks you stick in the lasagna (and they are mostly sticking out) so you can easily remove them all later.
Bake the Lasagna
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Place the dish of lasagna on a sheet pan to catch any spills for easy cleanup. Bake the lasagna for 40 minutes.
- After 40 minutes, carefully remove lasagna from the oven, remove aluminum foil and toothpicks and discard those. Bake for another 10 to 15 minutes, uncovered, or until cheese gets a little golden brown and bubbly. Carefully remove from the oven.
- Once baked, let lasagna cool for 30 to 40 minutes before cutting into pieces. Garnish, if desired, with chopped parsley and basil. Serve.
A note on times provided: appliances vary, any prep and/or cook times provided are estimates only.
Tried this recipe?
If you do make this recipe, thank you!! It would mean so much if you could leave a comment below. Love to know how you enjoyed it, and it helps other readers too!