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 guys. Beyond excited, I tells ya!
If you are looking for a quick lasagna recipe, then this is not it.
Nope. Turn away now.
This meat lasagna recipe with cottage cheese 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 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 😉 ?
What Are The Ingredients for Lasagna?
MEAT SAUCE – which includes a mirepoix (mirepoix is finely chopped celery, carrot and onion cooked gently in olive oil), finely chopped 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 ‘whoa’, but seriously (though it takes time), it’s easy peasy.
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 Do You Make Lasagna From Scratch?
Full details in recipe card below, but here are the basics to make this homemade lasagna recipe—>
Step 1: Make 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.
- Simply wilt some spinach with a touch of olive oil and nutmeg. I used 10 ounces. 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 through a sieve OR placing cooked spinach in a clean tea towel and squeezing out water that way.
- Place cottage cheese in a bowl, along with spinach, mozzarella, parmesan (real parm, not the powdered stuff), parsley, egg, salt and pepper. Stir to combine and lay to one side.
Nothing to it, right??
STEP 2: 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.
- So, heat some olive oil in a large pot and add your mirepoix (a mirepoix provides a lovely aromatic base to sauces and the like). 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, breaking up into small crumbles with a wooden spoon or potato masher.
- Stir in tomato paste (a full can!), stirring to combine.
- Finally, stir in canned tomatoes, basil and bay leaves. Bring to a simmer, reduce heat so it’s just a little bubbling/simmering and cook for 50-60 minutes so sauce reduces/thickens and the flavour really intensifies. When the lasagna meat sauce reduced, you’ll be left with about 7-8 cups of sauce.
Tip—>Rinse out your canned tomatoes with a little water to get every last drop of goodness and pour that into the sauce (about 1/2 cup in total).
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 ‘meat 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, 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!
Step 3: Layer & Bake
Now for the super fun part (because we soon get to enjoy) – assembling and baking the lasagna!
How Many Layers Should a Lasagna Have?
I opt for 3 layers for homemade lasagna.
How to Layer Lasagna?
Start with a little sauce on the bottom of your baking dish (to prevent things from sticking) and then there’s 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 per package instructions before layering in the lasagna recipe.
- Spread 1/3 of the meat sauce on top of noodles.
- Then, dollop 1/3 of the cottage cheese mixture. I like to ‘dollop’ rather than spread over the meat sauce because (1) it’s thick and (2) I don’t want to muddle those layers too much.
- Top with 1.5 cups of shredded mozzarella
- Repeat TWO more times, but the last layer on top of the cottage cheese will be FRESH mozzarella, sliced thin or hand torn.
- Stick 6-8 toothpicks in the lasagna (stuck out so you can easily remove). This helps prevent the foil from sticking to the cheese. Ain’t nobody got time for lost cheese, am I right 😉 ?? Cover with foil, place on a baking tray (to catch any spills) and bake. Remove foil part-way through (along with toothpicks) and continue baking until the cheese gets all nice, golden brown and bubbly.
- Let cool a little before digging in. This gives the lasagna a chance to settle.
- Garnish with some fresh herbs, like basil and parsley. Enjoy!
Should I Cover Lasagna While Baking?
Yes! This helps to prevent things from drying out so don’t skip this.
As mentioned above, stick 6-8 toothpicks in the lasagna (stuck out so you can easily remove).
Cover with foil, place casserole dish on a baking tray and bake. Remove foil part-way through (along with toothpicks) and continue baking until the cheese gets golden brown and bubbly.
How Long Should Lasagna 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 duper 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, am I right 😉 ?
I like to let cool for 30 minutes after removing from the oven.
Can I Make Lasagna Ahead of Time?
You sure can!
If you want a make ahead lasagna to prepare for a family get together or whatnot, you certainly can make ahead of time. You can either –
- Make ahead of time (without baking) OR
- Make ahead of time (including baking)
Whatever method you choose, allow to cool before covering and refrigerating.
The next day, when ready to bake for your get together, remove lasagna from the fridge for 20-30 minutes or so (just to remove the little chill).
Either bake per recipe instructions (if you haven’t baked ahead of time).
If it’s baked ahead of time, simply reheat (more on that below).
Keep in mind, though, you may have to bake a little longer until it’s heated through and the top is brown, bubbly and nice-n-melty (especially since it was in the fridge).
What Type of Cheese Should I Use For Lasagna?
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!
How to Reheat Lasagna?
Didn’t finish all of this bad boy in one sitting? No worries! Once lasagna has cooled slightly, cover and refridgerate.
When ready to enjoy, you can do a few things –
Heat in Oven
Place lasagna in oven. Cover with foil and cook on 350 F for about 20-30 minutes or until lasagna is completely heated through and cheese is melty.
Note: Time will vary depending on how much lasagna you have. For example, if you are reheating just one piece it will take less time than if you were reheating the entire pan of lasagna.
This is my preferred method (because it’s a good balance between microwave and oven).
Cut lasagna into serving sizes and place in a non stick pan on medium heat with a little water (2-3 tablespoons), cover and cook until heated through and cheese is melty again, about 10-15 minutes.
Place lasagna servings on a microwave safe plate or container and heat on about 1 minute intervals until heated through (should only take a couple of minutes).
How Long Does Lasagna Last in Fridge?
Properly stored (and covered) in refrigerator enjoy lasagna within 3-4 days.
Can I Freeze?
You sure can! Allow lasagna to completely cool before freezing.
I like to portion before freezing. That way you can grab as much as you need without having to reheat an entire lasagna.
Tip—>Place cooled lasagne into fridge to kinda solidify a bit. It’s easier to cut into neat portions that way.
Then, place into a freeze safe container(s), label with what it is and date. Freeze for 2-3 months.
When ready to enjoy, thaw overnight in refrigerator, reheat and enjoy!
What Goes with Lasagna?
- Mixed green salad
- Caesar salad – this delicious recipe from the lovely Marissa of Pinch and Swirl is so yummy (and it’s paired with a scratch made dressing!)
- Garlic bread
- Roasted broccoli or broccolini
More Tips for Making this Homemade Lasagna 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 ol’ 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).
Like this Homemade Lasagna Recipe? You May Enjoy These Too!
- Chicken and Sausage Recipe (with peppers and red sauce) – This easy one pan recipe is hearty, delicious and so good with a big hunk of crusty bread for dunkin’.
- Homemade Meatballs Recipe with Tomato Sauce – Enjoy as is, with pasta or on a sandwich…so good either way!
Hope you love this homemade lasagna recipe as much as we do! Hubby happens to this it’s the best lasagna recipe 😉
And if you’re looking for a veggie lasagna, you may want to check out this meatless lasagna recipe.
P.S. If you think this comforting homemade lasagna recipe will make your belly happy too, please be sure to hit that little Pin button. Many thanks, you guys! XO
The BEST Homemade Lasagna Recipe
Cottage Cheese Layer
- 1 tsp olive oil
- 10 oz baby spinach -I used about 300 grams
- 1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
- 2 cups cottage cheese -I used 2%
- 2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese -also known as 'pizza mozzarella'
- 2/3 cup parmesan cheese -shredded
- 1/3 cup parsley -roughly chopped, about 5 tbsp
- 1 egg -I used ‘large’
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 1/4 tsp black pepper
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 2 stalks celery
- 1 carrot
- 1 large onion
- 227 g baby bella mushrooms -or white button
- 6 cloves garlic -minced
- 1 tsp salt -divided
- 1/2 tsp black pepper -divided
- 1 lb ground meat -'lean' or 'extra lean'
- 1/2 lb ground pork
- 1/2 lb Italian sausage -about 2 sausage (removed from casings)
- 1 tsp dried oregano
- 1 tsp fennel seeds
- 1/2 tsp chili flakes
- 156 ml can tomato paste
- 2 796 ml cans tomatoes -I used 'whole tomatoes' with their juices and crushed with my hands (or use a potato masher)
- 1/2 cup water -rinse out tomato cans
- 1/2 cup fresh basil -roughly chopped
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 tbsp balsamic vinegar -optional
Other Lasagna Ingredients
- 3 cups shredded mozzarella cheese -also known as 'pizza mozzarella'
- 360 grams fresh lasagna noodles -about 6 large sheets (or your favourite lasagna noodle). If your sheets are the smaller dried variety, you'll need up to 10 sheets.
- 250 g fresh mozzarella -20% milk fat or you could use 2 cups of shredded mozzarella cheese
- parsley -garnish (optional)
- fresh basil -garnish (optional)
Cottage Cheese Layer
- In a pot on medium heat add olive oil. Add baby spinach and nutmeg. Cook until just wilted. Remove from pan and drain excess moisture well by squeezing with a clean kitchen towel or by pressing into a fine mesh sieve. Chop.
- In a bowl combine cottage cheese, mozzarella, parmesan, parsley, cooked chopped spinach, egg, salt and pepper. Stir to combine. Lay to one side.
- Roughly chopped celery, carrot and onion. Then, using a food processor, blitz up the chopped celery, carrot and onion finely (or, alternatively, just finely chop without using a processor). Remove and lay to one side. Next, finely chop mushrooms (or use food processor to blitz), remove and lay to one side.
- On medium low heat in a large Dutch oven add olive oil. Add blitzed celery, carrot and onion. Stir and cook 10 minutes or until softened, stirring occasionally.
- To veggie mixture, add mushrooms and garlic. Stir and cook another 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Season with 1/4 tsp each of salt and pepper.
- Turn heat to medium and add ground beef, pork and sausage. Add oregano, fennel, chili flakes and remaining 3/4 tsp of salt and 1/4 tsp of black pepper. Break up with a spoon or potato masher as it cooks so you have smaller bits. Cook 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.
- Stir in tomato paste and cook 3 minutes. Stir in cans of tomatoes (rinse out cans with some water and get every last bit of goodness and pour into pot; I used 1/2 cup of water in total), basil and bay leaves. Bring to simmer, reduce heat to a low simmer and cook 50-60 minutes or until sauce has reduced and flavour has intensified. Remove bay leaves and discard.
- Stir in balsamic vinegar, if using.
- Preheat oven to 375 F. Note: If using fresh pasta, no need to cook. If using dried noodles, cook per package instructions and proceed with the recipe.
- Spread 1/2 cup of the meat sauce along the bottom of a 9 x 13 inch baking dish.
- Place one layer of noodles on top of meat sauce to cover all of pan. Just cut to make fit.
- Spread 1/3 of the meat sauce over noodles.
- Dollop 1/3 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, 1/3 of meat sauce, 1/3 of cottage cheese mixture and 1.5 cups of mozzarella.
- Again, noodles, final 1/3 of meat sauce, final 1/3 of cottage cheese mixture.
- For the last layer, top with fresh mozzarella instead of shredded (I used a fresh mozzarella ball and sliced thinly (or you could tear)).
- Place about 6-8 toothpicks into lasagna (mostly sticking out). And cover with foil. The toothpicks help prevent the foil from sticking to the cheese. Baked 40 minutes covered. I like to place casserole dish on a baking tray to catch any spills for easy clean up.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.
- After 40 minutes, carefully remove lasagna from oven, remove foil and toothpicks and discard those. Bake another 10 -15 minutes, uncovered, or until cheese gets a little golden brown and bubbly. Carefully remove from oven.
- Once baked, let lasagna cool for 30-40 minutes before cutting into. Garnish with chopped parsley and basil, if desired. Enjoy!
- 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 ol’ 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.
- Let the lasagna rest after baking!! I can’t stress this enough. Firstly, it’s hot as….well, just super duper 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.
- Allow the lasagna to cool a little before garnishing with fresh herbs (so they don’t wilt or turn brown from the heat).
- See body of post above for even more tips on how to make lasagna.