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.
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.
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.
The Best Make Ahead Lasagna Recipe
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
- 1 box lasagna noodles NOT no-boil
- 1 pound mozzarella cheese shredded
- 1 cup Parmesan cheese grated
- Minced fresh parsley for garnish
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, then garnish with parsley before serving if desired.