How To Make the Easiest Lasagna Ever

updated Sep 4, 2023
Easy Lasagna

A step-by-step guide to making a simple beef and cheese lasagna.

Serves8 to 10

Prep20 minutes to 25 minutes

Cook1 hour 10 minutes to 1 hour 30 minutes

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Credit: Joe Lingeman; Food Styling: Barrett Washburne

Lasagna is a once-a-year project for me. I love it deeply, but it’s rare that I can carve out time for it. When it does happen, it’s in the dead of winter when I have absolutely nothing else to do but spend the entire day in the kitchen.

Quick Overview

Tips For Making the Easiest Lasagna

  • Use a store-bought pasta sauce that tastes great.
  • Make sure the lasagna noodles are completely covered in the sauce.
  • Let it rest on a cooling rack for at least 15 minutes before slicing a square.

While it’s impossible to beat the classic version — with a homemade ragu and, when I can manage it, homemade pasta — I’m all about an easier version that makes lasagna a much more frequent occurrence. This recipe is exactly that. This lasagna is about as low-lift as you can get while still achieving cheesy, crowd-pleasing results.

Credit: Joe Lingeman; Food Styling: Barrett Washburne

3 Reasons This Is the Best, Easiest Lasagna Ever

This lasagna isn’t complicated. There are three things about it that really make it the best (and the easiest). These are also tips that will ensure cozy casserole success.

  1. This recipe uses store-bought sauce (make sure you get one you love). There are just three components that make a lasagna great: the pasta, the cheese, and the sauce. Since this recipe starts with a jar of marinara for ease, make sure it’s one that tastes great. My favorite brand is Rao’s, but choose your personal favorite.
  2. The lasagna noodles cook right in the sauce. Since the noodles aren’t pre-boiled, they’ll cook from the heat and steam in the oven. It’s important that they’re completely covered in the sauce so they cook evenly. A dry corner will result in a crunchy, un-cooked corner.
  3. The lasagna can (and should) rest before eating. Like all lasagnas, this one is great made ahead, and actually will be better made a little ahead of eating. Yes it’s tempting to cut into the lasagna right when you pull it from the oven, but let it rest on a cooling rack for at least 15 minutes. This will help firm up all the layers and make it much easier to slice a square. And of course you can make it a day ahead or in the morning then reheat.

Why I Don’t Call for No-Boil Noodles

While classic dry lasagna noodles are typically boiled before they’re layered, there’s no real reason why you have to cook them ahead of time — they can actually be layered in with the sauce and cheese as is. And yes, this is just regular lasagna noodles! No-boil lasagna noodles are a modern convenience, but honestly I’m not a huge fan of them — I find they almost always get overcooked in the casserole.

Regular sturdy lasagna noodles take longer to cook than no-boil noodles, but as long as they’re completely covered in sauce and the lasagna is tightly covered with aluminum foil, they cook perfectly right in the oven and never get overcooked.

Easy Lasagna

A step-by-step guide to making a simple beef and cheese lasagna.

Prep time 20 minutes to 25 minutes

Cook time 1 hour 10 minutes to 1 hour 30 minutes

Serves 8 to 10

Nutritional Info

Ingredients

  • 1

    medium yellow onion

  • 1 tablespoon

    olive oil

  • 1 pound

    lean ground beef

  • 1/2 teaspoon

    kosher salt

  • 1/4 teaspoon

    freshly ground black pepper

  • 1 (24 to 25-ounce) jar

    marinara sauce (3 cups), such as Rao's or Newman's Own

  • 12 ounces

    low-moisture mozzarella cheese, shredded (about 3 cups), divided

  • 15

    dry lasagna noodles (not no-boil, about 2/3 of a 1-pound box), divided

  • 15 to 16 ounces

    whole-milk ricotta cheese (about 2 cups), divided

Equipment

  • Chef’s knife

  • Box grater

  • Cutting board

  • Measuring cups and spoons

  • 12-inch or larger regular or cast iron skillet

  • Wooden spoon

  • 9x13-inch baking dish

  • Aluminum foil

Instructions

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  1. Heat the oven to 400ºF. Arrange a rack in the middle of the oven and heat the oven to 400°F.

  2. Brown the beef and onion. Finely chop 1 medium yellow onion. Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a 12-inch or larger regular or cast iron skillet over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add the onion, 1 pound lean ground beef, 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, and 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, and cook, breaking the beef up into small pieces with a wooden spoon, until the beef is cooked through, 6 to 8 minutes. Remove from the heat and let cool for 5 minutes.

  3. Prepare the baking dish and assemble the meat sauce. Open 1 (24 to 25-ounce) jar marinara sauce (3 cups). Spread a thin layer of the sauce in the bottom of a 9x13-inch baking dish. Stir the remaining sauce into the ground beef mixture.

  4. Begin layering the lasagna. Shred 12 ounces low-moisture mozzarella cheese if needed (3 cups). Place 5 lasagna noodles in the baking dish, breaking them if needed to create a single layer (it’s OK if the noodles overlap slightly). Dollop and spread 1 cup of the ricotta cheese over the noodles. Dollop and spread about 1 1/2 cups of the meat sauce on the ricotta, then sprinkle with 1 cup of the mozzarella.

  5. Continue layering the lasagna. Arrange 5 more noodles over the mozzarella, followed by 1 cup of the ricotta cheese, 1 1/2 cups of the meat sauce, and 1 cup of the mozzarella. Top with a final layer of 5 noodles and the remaining sauce, spreading the sauce thin so that it almost completely covers the noodles. (Reserve the remaining 1 cup mozzarella for the end of baking.) Cover the dish tightly with aluminum foil.

  6. Bake the lasagna for 1 hour. Bake for 1 hour. Check to make sure the noodles are done by poking the lasagna with a knife; the knife should slide easily through all the layers. If it doesn't, cover and cook for 15 minutes more.

  7. Sprinkle with the remaining mozzarella and finish baking. Uncover the lasagna and sprinkle with the remaining 1 cup mozzarella. Bake uncovered until the mozzarella is melted and lightly browned, and the sauce is bubbling, 8 to 10 minutes more.

  8. Cool the lasagna for 15 minutes. Let the lasagna cool on a wire rack for at least 15 minutes before serving.

Recipe Notes

Make ahead: The lasagna can be assembled and refrigerated up to 2 days in advance, or frozen for up to 1 month. Thaw the frozen lasagna for 2 days in the refrigerator before baking.

Storage: Leftovers can be stored, tightly wrapped, in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.