The best Make Ahead Lasagna has three kinds of cheese, two different meats, one fantastic homemade sauce, and oodles of real noodles that require absolutely zero boiling. It all adds up to an award-winning, freezer-friendly recipe I’ve been making (and loving) for over a decade. 

The best make ahead lasagna slice on a white plate.

Over the years, I tweaked this recipe to get everything exactly right. Here’s what I love about it:

You can make it ahead. The lasagna needs at least 5 hours to chill and let the sauce soften the noodles, but you can definitely make it the night before (even 3 days before) and bake it when you need it. Want your own freezer lasagna? Wrap it up in foil once you assemble it, no need to bake it beforehand. Then stash it away for dinner emergencies.

It uses real lasagna noodles. I’ve always hated the “oven-ready,” pre-boiled, no-boil lasagna noodles, which fall apart in the pan. Real noodles taste better, period. And with this recipe, you don’t even cook or soak them.

Homemade meat sauce. A quick and easy, 20-minute meat sauce loaded with ground beef and Italian sausage.

Table of Contents
  1. Recipe ingredients
  2. Ingredient notes
  3. Step-by-step instructions
  4. Recipe tips and variations
  5. The Best Make Ahead Lasagna Recipe

Recipe ingredients

Labeled ingredients for the best make ahead lasagna in various bowls.

Ingredient notes

  • Ground meat: You can do 2 pounds of ground beef, 2 pounds of ground Italian sausage, or 1 pound of each.
  • Sugar: Even a tablespoon is too much for some people. If you don’t like the sound of sugar in your meat sauce, please leave it out. In my family, people add ¼ cup or even up to ½ cup.
  • Italian seasoning: It’s easy to make your own homemade Italian seasoning with dried basil, oregano, rosemary, thyme and marjoram.
  • Fennel seeds: The seeds make the Italian sausage flavors pop. If you love the taste of a sweet tomato sauce, use just ground beef (no sausage), at least ¼ cup sugar, and omit the fennel seeds.
  • Ricotta cheese: Make your own ricotta with just 4 ingredients: Milk, lemon juice, vinegar, and salt.
  • Lasagna noodles. NOT “oven ready” or “no-boil noodles.” Those pre-cooked noodles will shred on your fork in the most unappetizing way, while the “real” noodles will soften in the fridge in just 5 hours

Step-by-step instructions

Recipe revision: I updated this Lasagna recipe to make just the amount you need (2 quarts). In the past, my recipe made a quart of extra sauce. You can download a PDF of the original lasagna recipe ( <– click this link) if you are looking for that.

  1. To start, cook the beef (or sausage) and onion over medium-high heat in a Dutch oven or large pot. Once browned, you can drain off some of the extra fat, if you like, but you don’t have to. Then add the garlic and stir for about 30 seconds.
Browned meat and onion in a saucepan.
  1. After that, add the crushed tomatoes, tomato sauce, sugar, basil, Italian seasoning, and fennel seeds. Then simmer the sauce for about 15 minutes, giving it a stir every once in awhile. Taste the sauce and adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper. Then set it aside until you’re ready to build the lasagna.
S saucepan full of homemade meat sauce.
  1. In a bowl, mix the ricotta, egg, parsley, and salt together. To build the lasagna, spread 2 cups sauce on the bottom of the baking dish, then layer uncooked noodles.
Lasagna noodles being added to a white baking dish.
  1. Then spread a heaping 2/3 cup ricotta cheese, 1 ½ cups mozzarella cheese (about 5 ounces) and ⅓ cup Parmesan cheese.
The best make ahead lasagna being assembled in a white baking dish.
  1. Repeat the above layers, in that order,  two more times (2 cups meat sauce, noodles, heaping 2/3 cup ricotta cheese, 1 ½ cups mozzarella cheese, ⅓ cup Parmesan cheese) ending with the Parmesan cheese on the very top of the lasagna.
Pre-baked best make ahead lasagna in a white baking dish.
  1. Finally, spray a large sheet of foil with nonstick spray and cover the baking dish. Then refrigerate at least 5 hours, overnight, or up to four days before you bake it. When the lasagna is ready, preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Bake the lasagna for 25 minutes with the foil kept on, then remove the foil and bake for another 25 minutes until hot and bubbly. You know dinner is a “go” when the internal temperature of the lasagna reaches 165 degrees.
The best make ahead lasagna in a white baking dish.

Recipe tips and variations

  • Yield: As written, the lasagna is made in a 9” by 13” baking dish, enough for 12 servings.
  • Storage: Store leftovers covered in the refrigerator for up to 4 days.
  • Make ahead: Make this recipe up to 3 days before you need it and keep it in the refrigerator.
  • Freezer: Wrap the unbaked lasagna tightly in plastic wrap and freeze it for up to 2 months. Thaw overnight in the refrigerator, then bake as directed (preheat oven to 375 degrees, bake 25 minutes with foil, 25 minutes without foil). To bake the frozen lasagna straight from the freezer, bake 1 hour covered with foil and 24 minutes without the foil (the lasagna must reach 165 degrees on an internal thermometer).
  • Store-bought sauce: You’ll need 2 quarts of sauce for one pan of lasagna. You might want to add a little extra water if the sauce is on the thick side. This lasagna recipe uses a wet sauce so the noodles can soften in the liquid.
  • Disposable aluminum pans: I’ve made this in aluminum pans without a problem. They’re just fine!
  • Pesto: Got a jar of pesto in the pantry, or homemade pesto in the refrigerator? Add a surprise layer somewhere for lots of extra flavor.
The best make ahead lasagna in a white baking dish.

Italian Seasoning

An easy recipe for homemade Italian Seasoning. If you don’t have the store-bought blend on hand, you can easily make your own! If you’re missing one of the ingredients, just leave it out.

6 minutes
View Recipe

Round out your menu

The best make ahead lasagna slice on a white plate.

The Best Make Ahead Lasagna

The best Make Ahead Lasagna has three kinds of cheese, two different meats, one fantastic homemade sauce, and oodles of real noodles that require absolutely zero boiling.
4.95 from 156 votes
Prep Time 10 mins
Cook Time 1 hr 20 mins
Total Time 1 hr 30 mins
Servings 12 servings
Course Main Course
Cuisine Italian
Calories 498

Ingredients 

For the meat sauce:

  • 2 pounds ground beef (see note 1)
  • 1 medium onion chopped (about 1 cup)
  • 4 cloves garlic minced
  • 1 (28 ounce) can crushed tomatoes
  • 1 (15 ounce) can tomato sauce
  • 1 (6 ounce) can tomato paste
  • 2 tablespoons granulated sugar or to taste (see note 2)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons dried basil
  • 1 teaspoon Italian seasoning (see note 3)
  • 1 teaspoon fennel seeds (see note 4)
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper

For the cheese filling:

  • 1 (15 ounce) container ricotta cheese (see note 5)
  • 1 large egg
  • 2 teaspoons dried parsley
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

For assembly:

  • 1 box lasagna noodles NOT no-boil (see note 6)
  • 1 pound mozzarella cheese shredded
  • 1 cup Parmesan cheese grated
  • fresh parsley minced, for garnish

Instructions 

To make the meat sauce:

  • In a large saucepan or Dutch oven over medium-high heat, add beef (or sausage) and onion, and cook until mostly browned, about 5 minutes. Drain if desired. Stir in garlic until fragrant, about 30 seconds.
  • Stir in crushed tomatoes, tomato sauce, tomato paste, sugar, basil, Italian seasoning, and fennel seeds. Simmer uncovered for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Season to taste with salt and pepper (I like 1 teaspoon salt and ½ teaspoon pepper). You should have about 2 quarts of sauce.

To make the cheese filling:

  • Meanwhile, in a large bowl, combine ricotta cheese with egg, parsley, and salt. Chill until the sauce is finished.

To assemble the lasagna:

  • In the bottom of a 9-inch x 13-inch baking dish, spread 2 cups meat sauce. Arrange a single layer of uncooked noodles over the meat sauce (I do 3 full-size noodles lengthwise and then a partial noodle crosswise). Spread with a heaping 2/3 cup of the ricotta mixture. Top with about 1 ½ cups (5 ounces) of mozzarella. Sprinkle with ⅓ cup Parmesan cheese.
  • Spoon 2 cups meat sauce over the cheese. Make another layer of noodles, ricotta mixture (heaping 2/3 cup), mozzarella (1 ½ cups) and Parmesan (⅓ cup). Repeat layers 1 more time, for a total of 3 layers.
  • Spray a large piece of foil with nonstick spray and cover baking dish. Refrigerate at least 5 hours or overnight.

To bake the lasagna:

  • Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Bake, covered with foil, for 25 minutes. Remove foil and bake an until hot and bubbly, about 25 minutes longer. Cool 5 minutes, then garnish with parsley before serving if desired.

Recipe Video

Notes

  1. Ground meat: You can do 2 pounds of ground beef, 2 pounds of ground Italian sausage, or 1 pound of each.
  2. Sugar: Even a tablespoon is too much for some people. If you don’t like the sound of sugar in your meat sauce, please leave it out. In my family, people add ¼ cup or even up to ½ cup.
  3. Italian seasoning: It’s easy to make your own homemade Italian seasoning with dried basil, oregano, rosemary, thyme and marjoram.
  4. Fennel seeds: The seeds make the Italian sausage flavors pop. If you love the taste of a sweet tomato sauce, use just ground beef (no sausage), at least ¼ cup sugar, and omit the fennel seeds.
  5. Ricotta cheese: Make your own ricotta with just 4 ingredients: Milk, lemon juice, vinegar, and salt.
  6. Lasagna noodles. NOT “oven ready” or “no-boil noodles.” Those pre-cooked noodles will shred on your fork in the most unappetizing way, while the “real” noodles will soften in the fridge in just 5 hours
  7. Yield: As written, the lasagna is made in a 9” by 13” baking dish, enough for 12 servings.
  8. Storage: Store leftovers covered in the refrigerator for up to 4 days.
  9. Make ahead: Make this recipe up to 3 days before you need it and keep it in the refrigerator.
  10. Freezer: Wrap the unbaked lasagna tightly in plastic wrap and freeze it for up to 2 months. Thaw overnight in the refrigerator, then bake as directed (preheat oven to 375 degrees, bake 25 minutes with foil, 25 minutes without foil). To bake the frozen lasagna straight from the freezer, bake 1 hour covered with foil and 24 minutes without the foil (the lasagna must reach 165 degrees on an internal thermometer).
  11. Store-bought sauce: You’ll need 2 quarts of sauce for one pan of lasagna. You might want to add a little extra water if the sauce is on the thick side. This lasagna recipe uses a wet sauce so the noodles can soften in the liquid.
  12. Disposable aluminum pans: I’ve made this in aluminum pans without a problem. They’re just fine!
  13. Pesto: Got a jar of pesto in the pantry, or homemade pesto in the refrigerator? Add a surprise layer somewhere for lots of extra flavor.

Nutrition

Serving: 1sliceCalories: 498kcalCarbohydrates: 33gProtein: 30gFat: 27gSaturated Fat: 12gCholesterol: 105mgSodium: 528mgPotassium: 351mgFiber: 2gSugar: 4gVitamin A: 343IUVitamin C: 1mgCalcium: 325mgIron: 3mg
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Comments

  1. Do you think this could be done with gluten free lasagna noodles? Sounds amazing but I need to make a small gf one for 2 family members with celiac

    1. Hi Diana, I’m sorry but I don’t know. You could always boil the GF noodles the traditional way and layer them in like a traditional lasagna. Worst-case scenario, your lasagna might be a little soupy. Obviously, some of the moisture from the sauce goes into the noodles, tightening up the sauce. You could make the sauce less liquidy, but I don’t know by how much. I’m so sorry about that. I will add it to our test list though, I think they will work fine but I really don’t know a lot about GF noodles. – Meggan

  2. I just tripled this recipe and made it in 9×12 aluminum lasagna pans for a family dinner. I let it sit overnight in the fridge. I followed the directions to a T since I very rarely make lasagna. (like every 5 years)This lasagna came out perfect. Perfect combinations of ricotta and gooey mozerella. The noodles were firm and not mushy. I did follow the 3 noodles and one on the end instruction which made it a little light on the noodles, but no complaints we finished off everything.5 stars

  3. This lasagna is amazing! We are making it today for the second time. I have never been a real lasagna lover, but this one may have converted me! Than you!!!5 stars

    1. Hi Amy, no, you don’t have to cool the sauce. I always assemble the lasagna while the sauce is still warm. It cools down pretty fast once you start spreading it out anyway, so it won’t be piping hot by the time you’re done assembling the lasagna. Hope this helps! – Meggan

  4. Thanks for the ZERO BOILING lasagna recipe. This is the first time I’ve attempted lasagna in years because you made the process so much easier! I used your directions and cheese amounts with an Italian sausage sauce. WOW, this was so much easier/quicker, not to mention less stress doing battle with pasta. The pan is in the fridge for tomorrow. Again, thanks!! :)5 stars

    1. I never have to boil pasta for lasagna again. The lasagna turned out even better than expected since the pasta was perfect. The amounts of cheese worked out as well. Again, thanks! :)5 stars

  5. Anyone tried putting in the disposable loaf pan 8×3 in ? How many did it take to use entire recipe. I need small servings

    1. Hi Patty, I tried this out over the weekend in two 8 1/2-inch by 4 9/16-inch by 2 3/4-inch aluminum loaf pans. I put about 1/2 cup sauce to cover the bottom of each pan. I broke the noodles in half and overlapped four halves per layer. I topped the noodles with about 1/2 cup of the ricotta filling, then 1/2 cup of mozzarella, and about 1 tablespoon of parmesan. I then scooped about 1/2 to 3/4 cups of meat sauce on top. I repeated the layers one more time, then topped with 4 noodle halves, 1/2 cup of mozzarella, and 1 tablespoon of parmesan. I froze one, and wrapped one for the next day. I baked the refrigerated one at 375 for 25 minutes, then removed the foil and baked an additional 25 minutes. Because the load was thicker, it wasn’t hot in the middle, so I cooked for an additional 20 minutes. The frozen one took quite a bit longer, 55 minutes with foil and about 45 minutes more without the foil. I had a quart of sauce leftover, which I’ve since frozen for later. I would recommend if you are making loaf pans, make double the ricotta filling unless you plan to make that layer thin. (I LOVE the filling.) Best of luck! – Meggan

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