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How to Freestyle Your Own Golden, Bubbly Lasagna

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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.

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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.

How to Make Fresh Pasta Dough Like a Chef
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How to Make Fresh Pasta Dough Like a Chef

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:

Nigel Slater's Really Good Spaghetti Bolognese

Nigel Slater's Really Good Spaghetti Bolognese by Kristen Miglore

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Danny Bowien's World Championship Pesto

Danny Bowien's World Championship Pesto by Genius Recipes

Sabayon: The Custardy Italian Sauce You Can Make Without a Recipe

Sabayon: The Custardy Italian Sauce You Can Make Without ... by Merrill Stubbs

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Vegan Lentil Bolognese with Cashew Parmesan

Vegan Lentil Bolognese with Cashew Parmesan by Gena Hamshaw

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.

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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.

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:

Birthday Lasagna

Birthday Lasagna by Merrill Stubbs

Vegan Lasagna with Roasted Vegetables

Vegan Lasagna with Roasted Vegetables by Gena Hamshaw

Extra-Crispy Lasagna

Extra-Crispy Lasagna by Emma Laperruque

Vincisgrassi (Wild Mushroom and Prosciutto Lasagna)

Vincisgrassi (Wild Mushroom and Prosciutto Lasagna) by Emiko

Green Vegetables Lasagna with Zucchini, Peas, and Green Beans

Green Vegetables Lasagna with Zucchini, Peas, and Green B... by Renée Kemps

Vegetarian Lasagna

Vegetarian Lasagna by Feed Me Dearly

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

Tags: Lasagna, Pasta