How to Freestyle Your Own Golden, Bubbly Lasagna

March  8, 2018

First, you learned to make pasta from scratch—flour, eggs, maybe some salt. Then, you stuffed bite-size ravioli, playing with the flavors of your dough, fillings, and sauce. Now, it’s time to tackle an even bigger (but just as doable!) pasta adventure: ooey, gooey, saucy lasagna.

Homemade lasagna isn’t nearly as scary as you think. The formula is just pasta, two basic sauces, and cheese, most of which can be prepped ahead. And if you fancy a shortcut—say, using premade Bolognese or store-bought noodles—those are A-OK, too. We’ll walk you through all the steps to making your own layered masterpiece.

The Pasta

We know you know that making pasta is as simple as flour and eggs, and one pro of making your own is that you can experiment with the flavor and how thick to make each piece. But no matter whether you make or buy your pasta, don’t put dry noodles in your dish; they’ll absorb too much moisture from your sauces, drying out the dish. While many recipes say to parboil pasta before layering, The Food Lab’s J. Kenji López-Alt says one way to balance moisture and that great al dente bite is to soak noodles in lukewarm water while you make your sauces.

The Sauce

The beauty of lasagna is that it can go whatever way you please. If you want something bright and zippy, make herbaceous pesto. Hungry for cozy bites? Try a velvety butternut squash purée or mushroom sauce. Personally, I’m a fan of the classic Bolognese and creamy béchamel, but there’s no limit to what you can layer. Here are some recipes to riff on:

The Cheese

Some swear by silky mozzarella; others, spoonfuls of ricotta. Some forgo the soft cheeses for nutty Parmigiano-Reggiano. It’s really a personal preference—you could even experiment with Gruyère, if you’re feeling fancy.

The Assembly

Now that you’ve gathered all the pieces, it’s time to put everything together. Start with a thin, even layer of sauce to keep your noodles from sticking like glue to your pan. If you’re using the Bolognese/béchamel combo I mentioned above, start with béchamel. Then, add your first noodle layer, making sure not to overlap (you can cut or tear your noodles to fit). Next, another layer of sauce (this time Bolognese) and then another (béchamel) before sprinkling on a blanket of cheese. Repeat this combo of noodles, sauce, and cheese as many times as you can fit into your pan, reserving some cheese for golden, bubbly goodness on top.

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Now, it’s time to bake at a balmy 400° F. Depending on the size of your dish, budget between 25 to 45 minutes. You want the top to be browned and the noodles to pull away from the pan’s edges. Make sure to wait 10 minutes or so for everything to cool, then serve yourself a well-deserved slice of comfort.

Not ready to freestyle? Here’s some lasagna inspiration for you:

What’s the next pasta project you’d like to see?

See what other Food52 readers are saying.

Katie is a food writer and editor who loves cheesy puns and cheesy cheese.


Lindie March 10, 2018
I make my bolognaise sauce a few days in advance. I'm sure it improves with a bit of time and makes the work on the day less. Then on the day I make the béchamel. make a lot you can never have enough. I start layering with a thin layer of béchamel, then store bought dried pasta, then bolognaise.etc. After each layer of béchamel a sprinkling of cheese of your choice ( I use mozzaralla and pecorino). but very important; keep a boiling kettle of water close by and ladle some (about a few tablespoons of water) over the pasta before you add the next layer. End with béchamel, a sprinkling of dried bread crumbs, little bit of melted butter over the crumbs and extra in the corners for extra crispy bits in the corner and cheese of course. Get afriend to help and makean extra one for his/her freezer, one for your your freezer and one to eat on the day. Maybe an extra for a needy person. A glass of wine and an extra pair of hands make light work.
FS March 9, 2018
I like lasagna as much as the next person, but I will never ever make the pasta from scratch. Making two sauces is already a stretch for my time-poor, sore backed self ... so store bought pasta comes to the rescue, along with (gasp!) store bought sauce and cheese. It's still a good meal with much less effort.
Pat March 9, 2018
I have tried homemade egg pasta lasagna all three ways: uncooked, soaked in water and cooked briefly in boiling water. Uncooked they seemed gluey, soaked in water soft and cooked briefly had the best texture -- a little al dente. If I am too lazy to make pasta, I use the Barilla no-cook and slide it through a pan of boiling water. Almost as good as mine!