Cheesy, Meaty Lasagna

October 28, 2021
6 Ratings
Photo by Julia Gartland
  • Prep time 30 minutes
  • Cook time 4 hours 30 minutes
  • Serves 8
Test Kitchen Notes

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What You'll Need
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Cheesy, Meaty Lasagna
  • 1 pound ground beef, preferably not lean
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for greasing
  • 3 ounces pancetta or bacon, cut into 1/8” pieces
  • 1 large celery stalk, cut into 1/8” pieces
  • 1 medium yellow onion, cut into 1/8” pieces
  • 1 large carrot, cut into 1/8” pieces
  • 8 garlic cloves, finely grated, divided
  • 2 dried bay leaves
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons dried oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1/8 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 1/4 cup double-concentrated tomato paste
  • 1 cup dry white wine
  • 2 (28-ounce) cans whole peeled tomatoes, preferably San Marzano
  • 3 large sprigs basil
  • 1 large Parmesan rind
  • 1 pound dried lasagna noodles (I prefer the wide and short noodles)
  • 2 cups whole-milk ricotta
  • 1 1/4 cups grated Parmesan, plus more for serving, divided
  • 8 ounces whole-milk mozzarella, grated on the large holes of a box grater (about 2 cups grated)
  1. Place the beef in a large bowl and "pull" it apart with two forks as if you were shredding pulled pork, breaking up the clumps loosening the meat without compacting it. Set aside until ready to cook.
  2. Heat oil in a Dutch oven or large heavy pot over medium high and cook pancetta, stirring occasionally, until fat has rendered and golden brown on all sides, 5 to 7 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the pancetta to a large bowl leaving the fat in the pot.
  3. Spread the beef in an even layer in the same pot and cook undisturbed until lightly browned, about 3 minutes. Toss and continue to cook, breaking up any clumps with the back of a spoon, scraping up any browned bits from pot, until meat is lightly browned on both sides, 5 to 6 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the browned meat to a bowl with pancetta leaving the fat in the pot.
  4. Reduce heat to medium and cook celery, onion, carrot, half of garlic, bay, oregano, red pepper flakes, nutmeg and 2 teaspoons salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper, stirring occasionally, until tender but not browned, 6 to 8 minutes. Add tomato paste and cook, stirring constantly until very fragrant and brick red colored, about 2 minutes. Add wine, stir to combine and bring to a boil until reduced, very thick and no smell of alcohol remains, 6 to 8 minutes. Add tomatoes and bring to a boil, reduce to low, add basil, parmesan rind and simmer, stirring occasionally, until most of the liquid has evaporated away and mixture resembles a sloppy joe mixture, 2 to 2½ hours. There shouldn’t be any rapid bubbles while cooking. Instead, the ragù should release occasional small bubbles. If you have a small burner you should use it, the larger burners even at their lowest setting might cook the ragù too quickly. If the ragù reduces too quickly, add 1/2 cup of stock and continue cooking; repeat if necessary. The ragù needs the full 2 to 2 1/2 hour cook time to develop the flavors.
  5. After the ragù has finished cooking, discard bay, basil, and Parmesan rind. Using the back of a spoon, break up any remaining clumps of meat to make an even-textured sauce. Season with salt set aside until ready to assemble.
  6. Arrange a rack in the center of oven and preheat to 350°F. Cook noodles in a large pot of boiling salted water, stirring occasionally and separating noodles so they don’t stick to each other, until softened and bendable but are still hard and chalky in the center; 5 minutes. Transfer noodles to a large bowl of cold water and set aside until ready to assemble.
  7. Whisk ricotta, 1 cup Parmesan, remaining garlic, and 2 teaspoons salt in a medium bowl until thoroughly combined. Set aside until ready to assemble.
  8. Lightly oil a 9x13-inch glass or ceramic baking dish. Spread 1 cup ragù evenly on the bottom of the dish. Lay a single layer of noodles over ragù, 5 short noodles or 3 long ones (if using long noodles you will need to cut some noodles in order to fill all gaps). Spread 1 1/3 cups ragù over noodles. Dollop 1/3 cup ricotta mixture over ragù, spread slightly with a small offset spatula. Sprinkle with 1/2 cup mozzarella. Repeat with remaining ragù, noodles, ricotta mixture and mozzarella, creating 4 layers of pasta (or 5, depending on how deep your pan is) and ending with remaining mozzarella. It should come just above the top of the dish but will sink down slightly as it cooks. The top layer of pasta will get super crunchy when baked. Top with remaining 1/4 cup Parmesan.
  9. Cover with a lightly oiled piece of foil and set on a rimmed baking sheet (to catch drips). Bake lasagna until bubbling gently around the edges, about 1 hour. Remove from oven and increase oven temperature to 425°F, uncover, and continue to bake until top is browned and crisp around the edges, 15 to 20 minutes.
  10. Let sit 10 minutes before slicing and serving.

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • penni_perkins_orlandini
  • lyaz45
  • NXL
  • floptasticwonder
Rick Martinez

Recipe by: Rick Martinez

Rick Martinez is currently living his dream—cooking, eating and enjoying the Mexican Pacific coast in Mazatlán. He is finishing his first cookbook, Under the Papaya Tree, food from the seven regions of Mexico and loved traveling the country so much, he decided to buy a house on the beach. He is a regular contributor to Bon Appétit, New York Times and hosts live, weekly cooking classes for Food Network Kitchens. Earlier this year, he was nominated for a James Beard Award for “How to win the Cookie Swap” in Bon Appétit’s holiday issue.

4 Reviews

lyaz45 January 6, 2024
Love the ragu. I use it for spaghetti too.
NXL December 25, 2022
This is a good recipe, probably more garlicky than I prefer. The recipe did not specify cutting up the tomatoes, but I did that. I enjoyed the flavor of pancetta in the dish.
penni_perkins_orlandini November 19, 2021
I’ve made many lasagnas in my time, usually with bechamel instead of ricotta, and this version was such a huge hit with my family it is now my go to recipe. Delicious.
floptasticwonder November 13, 2021
I loved this lasagna. It may have been a few hours in the making, but it was worth it!!!