Need to know everything about making Lasagna!

I am planning on making lasagna for a few guests soon and want to do it right! I need to know everything about making lasagna and would love to get a lot of different opinions because I have a lot of questions for what is best to do. First, if I am cooking for 3-4 adults and want some left overs, what size of pan/depth is appropriate? Second, in my research thus far, I have seen a couple recipes mention béchamel sauce. What place does it have in a classic version of lasagna? Is it good/normal to add in addition to the tomato sauce/what recipes would you suggest? Third, I am looking for a great homemade sauce recipe as well. I don't want it to be vegetarian, so is Bolognese the right choice? If so, what recipes do you prefer that go the best in lasagna/what types of meat? Fourth, I love melted cheese (who doesn't?) and know that my mother used to use ricotta and mozzarella (I think), and I think a blend of the traditional cheeses is something that I want to do. Fifth, I have seen several variations of how to prepare the noodles. I have seen people suggesting to leave them raw, boil them or put them in a pan and pour hot water over them and letting them soak. What would be best for a cheesy lasagna? Also I am interested in home-making the noodles (if you're going to cook, why not go all out?). Is this a good idea or even feasible? What kinds of recipes are good for this? Sixth, I want to serve it with crusty garlic bread and salad. I have a great Italian salad recipe that I want to use (and am very happy to share!) , but I would like to see how others prepare their crusty/traditional garlic bread and if you have a favorite recipe to make the crusty bread and garlic topping as well. Seventh, what wines would you choose to serve with this meal? Perhaps one from Italy to stay on theme. Eighth, does anyone have any good ideas for what dessert to serve with this meal as well? Maybe cannoli, gelato (if it is possible to make without an ice cream maker) or tiramisu? What pairs well with it/what recipes do you prefer? And my last question in this VERY long post is to ask if anyone has any other tips about all of this that they think might be helpful to me. I appreciate all of you that took the time to even read this novel of a post. Any help/suggestions would be greatly appreciated even if you only have insight into one of the topics. Thanks so much!

  • Posted by: Sjcorcor
  • September 13, 2014


Dominic B. September 15, 2014
I make everything myself, but the first lasagna I ever made was stoufers. I moved up from there. One step at a time. I only found a recipe for pasta that me an my 3 yr old can make together.
On the other hand I totally agree with this post.
from aagresi
aargersi September 15, 2014
Here are my several cents' worth!
1) I am on team dried pasta - pick you challenges and don't take them all on the first time
2) sauce - there's no rule that says you can't have both! Why not a tomato layer at the bottom of the pan, then noodles, cheeses and meats (more on that) then béchamel, then noodles then red sauce? Or top with béchamel - something along those lines. One thing I have learned over time is to use more sauce than initially looks necessary - the noodles will soak some up, and you want it to shine through in the dish (well, I like a lot of sauce anyhow)
3) meats: you could use a combination of grounds meat(s) (say beef and veal or pork) and/or - add some loose Italian sausage in with the meat. In any case, cook it in advance, don't put raw meat in the lasagna (this being your first go at it - that bit may not be obvious at the outset)
4) cheese - YES to ricotta and mozzarella, and I will also usually add parmesan, you might also consider asiago, pecorino, etc. Do you have a cheese person that you like at your grocery? I rely heavily on my cheese guy and my wine guy!
5) WINE - well the main answer is yes. Consider having both reds and whites (some folks don't like one or the other no matter what) Villa Anitori is a readily available, not too expensive and reliable producer. But if you have a wine guy or gal - ask them for help!
6) The Other Stuff - garlic bread and salad are sound accompaniments and the idea of a purchased dessert sounds like a good one - again - pick where your efforts will be directed and really shine. I like to make a compound (REALLY compound) butter with garlic, parmesan, fresh parsley, pepper, maybe red pepper flakes, and schmear that on a halved Italian loaf and let it toast up in the oven while the lasagna rests.

Good luck and report back!
sexyLAMBCHOPx September 15, 2014
Spoken like a chef, not a home cook.
ChefJune September 15, 2014
Makiing homemade pasta is fun, messy and very rewarding. That said, lasagne is not a dish I would make the noodles for. A good dried lasagne noodle will work just fine. (Probably 98% of all lasagne makers use dried pasta.) I always purchase imported Italian pasta, and there are many good brands. DeCecco is probably the most widely available.
Since it's your first time making it, I'd go with a recipe that has lots of explanation included. Nancy Harmon Jenkins' recipe that she linked to in this thread would be a good one, as would Marcella Hazan's.
Nancy H. September 15, 2014
Interesting comment, June, and it reflects a discussion I've been having with my daughter Sara as we prepare a book about pasta. Sara (chef at Porsena in NYC) says she would NEVER countenance using anything but freshly made pasta, and I say, hmm, there are times when it's just too much trouble. I do agree that the finest result comes from silky hand-made pasta butbutbut, there are times indeed when life's too short and you just have to make do.
Dominic B. September 15, 2014
Dominic B. September 15, 2014
First things first in my opinion lasagna has become a staple in my house.
I'll post my recipe today for you to see
Bolognese sauce with a béchamel sauce is by far the best. I'm not sure when your planning the dinner
Nancy H. September 13, 2014
Sorry! This is the correct link for that Saveur article I mentioned:
Nancy H. September 13, 2014
Here's a whole article I wrote several years ago for Saveur about lasagna bolognese, the classic dish from Bologna: You'll find a couple of different recipes in the article but Anna Nanni's is the most classic. Anna is (or at least she was) the pasta + ragu maker at a wonderful restaurant called da Amerigo, in Savigno, just outside Bologna. Worth a visit too.
sexyLAMBCHOPx September 13, 2014
This Bolognese (meat-based) lasagna recipe is easy and delicious. I've probably made it at least 10x. What I like about it is that there is no ricotta. You would need to double or triple the recipe to serve your guests and if want leftovers. Do a test run exactly as wriiten and read all the comments. Fool-proof way to prepare is to use 2 8x8 pans. This can be made and baked the day before if kept the refrigerator then warmed in the oven. Here it is:

Emiko Davies has an Italian-centric recipe column for desserts, mains, sides - you may want to search for her recipes on this site.

There are so many versions of lasagna I enjoy and its hard to pin down one but the one above is tried and true to me and satisfies my lasagna cravings!

Also, search for garlic bread.
Nancy September 13, 2014
Sjccorcor...sounds ambitious, maybe even too much to manage well on first time. Yes bechamel and bolognese are trad sauces. Look to Marcella Hazan for a great trad recipe. She uses beef, but you may find other recipes using other meat. My recommendation - don't learn how to make noodles now, if you're just mastering the sauces and the whole production. Use good quality dry or fresh purchased from a deli/food shop. Most cooke & drain noodles before assembly, but good results also come with using uncooked noodles and added a little more liquid to help them bake to doneness. I would avoid garlic bread with a pasta main dish, but that's a questions of taste. Plenty of good Italian red out there at all price points for you to try. Maybe 2 varieties at table, to compare. Trad Italian meals also end with fruit, cookies and a sweet wine. Make your life easier - learn tiramisu or homemade gelato another time. Big tip - don't do so much new that you're tired, nervous, worried. Make a good decent meal with enough energy left to enjoy your friends and the evening. Here's Marcella's recipe. & have a wonderful evening!
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