The Best Make Ahead Lasagna Recipe

The best Make Ahead Lasagna Recipe has a homemade meat sauce with beef and sausage as well as THREE kinds of cheese. No need to boil the noodles ahead of time, either! Freezer-friendly. 

I love Vegetable Lasagna for a Meatless Monday or Slow Cooker Lasagna Soup for lazy weekends. I love to make my favorite Chicken Parmesan for a special meal, but I keep it simple with Italian Sausages and Peppers for big parties. See more Italian recipes here.

The best Make Ahead Lasagna Recipe has a homemade meat sauce with beef AND sausage as well as THREE kinds of cheese. No need to boil the noodles ahead of time, either! Freezer-friendly.
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This Make-Ahead Lasagna recipe is my personal favorite and something I made over 10 years ago and have continued to develop over time.

Here are the highlights:

  • The sauce is fantastic and homemade (ready in about 20 minutes)
  • The noodles go in uncooked (without being the gross, shred-on-your-fork, pre-boiled noodles).
  • You can make it the night before or days in advance.
  • But it only needs 5 hours of chill time in the fridge before you can bake it.

Watch out for:

  • The sugar. Leave it out if that's your style, be cautious with 2 tablespoons or throw your cares to the wind and add 1/4 cup. Some people in my family add 1/2 cup.
  • Recipe updates. An older version of this recipe contained 2 (6 ounce) cans of tomato paste and 1/2 cup of water. It also generated an additional quart of sauce. I have changed the recipe so you only make as much sauce as you need to make the lasagna.

Make it for your friends, family, neighbors, or the new mom in your life. Make it for yourself. Make it often. I hope you love it like I do.

How to Make Overnight Lasagna

This recipe is Make Ahead because instead of boiling the noddles, they soften in the sauce. This is the real genius of the recipe.

One pet peeve of mine? No-boil lasagna noodles (also called "oven ready").

Have you ever tried the no-boil lasagna noodles?  They literally shred on your fork.  I am not impressed.  At some stores (ahem, Target, and Walmart in Mexico) you will ONLY find no-boil noodles.

The best Make Ahead Lasagna Recipe has a homemade meat sauce with beef AND sausage as well as THREE kinds of cheese. No need to boil the noodles ahead of time, either! Freezer-friendly.

Yet I've never met a person shopping in that aisle (and yes I'm that crazy person that interacts with the general public) who actually likes the weird shredding situation that accompanies no-boil noodles. So, we make THIS make ahead lasagna with regular noodles.

Need a make ahead lasagna to freeze? You're in luck! This is my go-to meal when my Mom friends have a baby because it can be eaten immediately or frozen, and also because it's comforting and there will absolutely be leftovers. Just thaw overnight in the refrigerator and bake it as usual.

4.94 from 29 votes

The Best Make Ahead Lasagna Recipe

The best Make Ahead Lasagna Recipe has a homemade meat sauce with beef AND sausage as well as THREE kinds of cheese. No need to boil the noodles ahead of time, either! Freezer-friendly.
Course Main Course
Cuisine Italian
Keyword beef, pasta
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 1 hour 20 minutes
Total Time 1 hour 30 minutes
Servings 12 servings
Calories 662kcal

For the meat sauce:

  • 2 pounds ground beef and/or ground Italian sausage (I like to use one pound of each)
  • 1 medium onion chopped (about 1 cup)
  • 4 cloves garlic minced
  • 1 (28 ounce) can crushed tomatoes
  • 1 (15 ounce) can tomato sauce
  • 2 tablespoons sugar or to taste (see notes)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons dried basil
  • 1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
  • 1 teaspoon fennel seeds
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper

For the cheese filling:

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

For assembly:

  • 1 box lasagna noodles NOT no-boil
  • 1 pound mozzarella cheese shredded
  • 1 cup Parmesan cheese grated

To make the meat sauce:

  • In a large saucepan or Dutch oven over medium-high heat, add beef, 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, 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 1/2 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 1/2 cups (5 ounces) of mozzarella. Sprinkle with 1/3 cup Parmesan cheese.
  • Spoon 2 cups meat sauce over the cheese. Make another layer of noodles, ricotta mixture (heaping 2/3 cup), mozzarella (1 1/2 cups) and Parmesan (1/3 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 before serving.

Recipe Notes

Add sugar to taste. For some, t means omitting it entirely. For others, you can increase the sugar up to 1/4 cup.

Nutrition

Calories: 662kcal

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  1. Debra Connors

    I read in a comment that there was 2 cans of tomato paste and 1/2 cups of water in the sauce but it is not in the recipe. Can you help me out with that?

    1. meggan

      Hi Debra, I’m really sorry for the confusion. I was working on this lasagna recipe yesterday and made the changes last night, about 24 hours ago. In the previous version, you made enough sauce for the lasagna PLUS an extra quart of sauce you could use for something else. I didn’t like that, so I worked on the recipe so you’d only have as much sauce as you needed to make the lasagna. That meant removing the 2 6-oz cans of tomato paste and the water. They aren’t necessary. I also learned that the noodles will be soft enough to bake after just 5 hours, not the 8 hours I had previously written. I also updated some notes about the sugar – you can leave it out entirely, stick with the 2 tablespoons as written, or increase it to 1/4 cup if you love sugar in your spaghetti sauce. Sorry so much for the confusion, this changed literally 24 hours ago, but I think the recipe is better for it. I hope you agree. The lasagna was fabulous and I’ve eaten half a pan since it came out of the oven last night. Thank you! -Meggan

  2. Linda Madara

    Just made this for our family Christmas dinner. I was a little concerned with using uncooked lasagna noodles. But not to worry…it was fabulous. Everyone loved it. I will never cook a lasagna noodle again. So easy. THANK YOU. ⭐⭐🌟🌟🌟.5 stars

    1. Meggan

      You’re so welcome Linda! Thank you for the comment- it made my day! -Meggan

  3. Robin Macgillivray

    Can I substitute cottage cheese for the ricotta? And can I make on Sunday morning and bake on Monday night? Many thanks!

    1. meggan

      Hi Robin, yes and yes! You can sub in cottage cheese and you can make it Sunday morning and bake Monday night. Just keep it covered in the refrigerator until baking time. Thank you! -Meggan

  4. Naomi

    Do I allow it to get room temperature before baking?

    1. meggan

      Hi Naomi, no. I never have. Not necessary! Good question though. Thanks – Meggan

  5. Juli

    I’m curious what brand of lasagna noodles you use? In the video, they look like Barilla Oven Ready lasagna noodle (flat sheets).
    I’ve never seen NOT no-boil noodles that look like that.
    I’m making this for the family Christmas and want to do ahead of time…. so want to be sure I have the right noodles on hand.

  6. Robert

    I have been looking for the perfect recipe and this one doesn’t fail, who makes lasagna that often so if it’s not good it’s months before making again, your recipe will be shared with anyone who loves lasagna, also I feel your pain I’m from Wisconsin too and have to be extra cautious not to get sick, Thanks5 stars

  7. Dean Rodgers

    Give me a break. This is the best lasagna I ever ett.5 stars

  8. Kat dav

    Can i add some frozen spinach thawed to this recipe? To the ricotta mixture

    1. meggan

      Hi Kat! Yes, you sure can. I did that in my Vegetable Lasagna recipe, I added 1 thawed 10-ounce bag chopped spinach. Well, I actually added it to the mushroom mixture (the stuff that was standing in for the meat), but I think it would be fine mixed in with the ricotta. It should be great. You could also add it to the sauce if you wanted, that should work too (but I would probably add it to the ricotta like you’re suggesting, that sounds better). Thanks! -Meggan

  9. Erica Thompson

    Dumb question – Can I freeze this after making it or bake first then freeze?

    1. Meggan

      Hi Erica, not a dumb questions! You should refrigerate it overnight according to the directions to let the noodles soften. After it has had it’s refrigeration time, THEN go ahead and freeze it. No need to bake before freezing. -Meggan

  10. Don Hershey

    What is the proper way to seal/cover the uncooked lasagna before putting it in freezer5 stars

  11. SUE

    Do you have a comparable recipe for a vegetable lasagna?

  12. Tracy

    I made this for my son’s graduation party this weekend and it was a HUGE success! I made it exactly as the recipe stipulated and let it sit in my frig for three days prior (due to not having time to prepare it closer to the event). It turned out perfectly with such great flavor–even the sauce on it’s own would be great over pasta. I had the graduation catered by a local Italian restaurant and decided last minute to make the lasagna when the rsvps kept coming in– and the lasagna was the first to go! At the end of the party, family members were asking to take home what small amount remained. :-) The recipe’s definitely a keeper!5 stars

  13. Pam

    I would think 2 lbs of ground beef would work perfectly!

  14. AMBER

    Can’t wait to try. I am not a fan of sausage…would I substitute for 2lbs of ground beef instead? Or would 1.5 lbs be okay?5 stars

  15. TwirlyGirly

    I know this recipe was published long ago, bit since people are still commenting I thought I’d add my 2¢ regarding whether this can be cooked from frozen. It can. I don’t use the exact same sauce recipe (I’ve been making both lasagna & spaghetti sauce forever, so I don’t need to follow a recipe anymore). However, I’ve been making lasagna with regular lasagna noodles uncooked for years. As long as you let the lasagna sit in the fridge overnight after assembly before freezing it, it’s fine to just take it directly from the freezer into your preheated oven. As others have mentioned, the cook time is going to increase by at least 50%. One of the best investments I’ve ever made insofar as cooking equipment was the purchase of a Chef’s Alarm thermometer by ThermoWorks. Once the lasagna has thawed enough in the oven, I stick the probe right into the center of the lasagna, set the device to 165°, and forget it. It beeps when it’s done.

  16. Beth

    Hi Meggan, thanks for the recipe. I am planning a dinner party for 40 and plan on making your lasagna. I did a test run with the recipe last weekend and the family loved it. I was like many others and quite nervous that the noodles wouldn’t be done, but was pleasantly surprised and relieved when the knife went so easy into the pan for cutting into servings. Next week I will make 3 pans on Friday for cooking on Saturday. Thank you for sharing your overnight trick!5 stars

  17. Donna Ferrell

    Thank you so much for sharing this recipe! I have made this for Christmas dinner for the last three years and it is always a hit. Making it ahead of time takes the stress out of cooking and gives me more time with family on Christmas Day. Usually, I double the recipe so there are leftovers to share or to freeze and eat later. Another plus is very little cleanup! Better than any I have had at a restaurant!5 stars

  18. KellyAnn

    This is really a wonderful recipe. Thank you so much for sharing. A few notes to keep in mind for people trying it out for the first time. If you are using the foil “lasagna” pans, they are slightly bigger, and you will have to make adjustments for that. I had to purchase quite a bit more of all the cheeses to make up for that. Plus, the timing for cooking will be increased as well. A thermometer for checking doneness is a must in my opinion. I did make one change and added a basil paste since it’s winter, and I really wanted the basil flavor to shine. I’d highly recommend making this once before bringing it to a family affair, so you can work out any changes you need to make it your own. All in all, an absolutely great recipe!! Even my Italian relatives were clamoring for more! 5 stars

  19. Diane T

    Why does the problem of being to thick not get addressed?Diane

    1. meggan

      Hi Diane, it’s my fault and I’m sorry about that. I’ve been traveling a lot for the holidays, and I’ve been sick since I got in to Wisconsin a week ago, but I know your question goes back a lot further than that. I know you mentioned the 2 6-ounce cans of tomato paste, but you also added the 28 ounce can of crushed tomatoes and the 15 ounce can of tomato sauce, right? I’ve made this sauce a ton, even just on its own as a meat sauce and have never had a problem of it being too thick. I always have AT LEAST a quart left, and it sounds like you didn’t. So you could please let me know if you definitely adding the other 28 + 15 ounce cans of tomato sauce. Sorry for the delay, and thanks for your patience. Let me know what you think. I really don’t understand why the sauce is so thick for you and that you have none left over. Makes no sense! Just for your own info, if you want to see a picture of JUST the meat sauce, here’s the post for it. The only difference here is I reduce the tomato paste by 1 can (instead of 2) and omit the water. https://www.culinaryhill.com/homemade-meat-sauce/

  20. Jenn

    If I double the ricotta would I double the egg?5 stars

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