In the central and northern regions of Italy, Lasagne are simple and only made with Bèchamel (white sauce), Ragù (Bolognese sauce), pasta and Parmigiano cheese. Quite different from the loaded Lasagna of the southern Italy, but not less delicious! If you’re ambitious and want to make everything from scratch, you’ll find all the instructions and tips in this recipe.
I call this recipe “Tuscan Lasagna” for the simple reason that I was born and raised in Tuscany and this is how all the people I know make Lasagne. But the same recipe is also used in many other regions of central and norther Italy. Especially in Emilia Romagna, where the Bolognese sauce was born.
American are used to the loaded Lasagna recipes from Italo-Americans which are usually immigrants from the South of Italy. Especially from Naples, where every food is loaded and comforting. In the South is common to make Lasagne with Ricotta and little meatballs. But you will never find Ricotta in Lasagne made in more northern regions.
The difference between fresh and dried pasta sheets
I have to admit that I rarely make fresh pasta when I make Lasagne. The main reason is that fresh pasta cooks in just a couple of minutes so it will come out inevitably overcooked in a Lasagna. Which is fine since with all the layers you probably won’t even notice, but I still like my pasta with a little bit more bite.
The upside of using fresh pasta is that you can choose the thickness, if you prefer many thin layers or less thick ones. You can also cut the sheets of the perfect size of your pan. Avoiding the annoying tetris you have to do with the dried pasta which will never ever fit any pan shape or size. Ever.
In big supermarkets you can also often find fresh Lasagne sheets in the fridge. They are a good compromise between the dried pasta and the homemade fresh ones.
In any case, I suggest to not pre-boil the pasta (yes, even the dried one). The sauce will be enough to fully cook the pasta during the baking time, trust me.
How to make Lasagna
The most difficult part of Lasagna is getting all the elements ready: making the pasta, the Ragù and the Bechamel sauce. Once you have everything ready, it comes the fun and easy part: assembly of the layers!
- Make the Pasta: If you choose to make homemade fresh pasta for your lasagna, you should make about 3-4 portions, depending how thin you’re stretching it. Start with 4 portions, if it’s too much you can still freeze the leftover pasta.
- To make 4 portions of fresh pasta: 4 Eggs, 200g (1 2/3 cups) of all-purpose flour and 200g (1 2/3 cups) of Semolina flour.
- Make the Ragù: Ragù is the Italian name for Bolognese sauce, as Bolognese is just one of the many varieties of Ragù. I always make my Tuscan Ragù sauce, the way my family always did it. It takes a couple of hours to make so I would suggest to make it the day before if you want to bake your Lasagna for lunch.
- Make the Bechamel: Béchamel or white sauce is very easy to make. So easy that I never buy the jarred one which is full of useless ingredients and preservatives. You only need butter, flour and milk. It takes about 10-15 minutes to make and you can also make it in advance and keep it in an airtight container in the fridge for a couple of days. The directions to make it are in the recipe card.
- Assembly: This is the fun part! The only rules are: always start with a wet layer and always finish wish cheese. You should always cover the bottom of the pan with a layer of sauce (doesn’t matter which one) before you add the pasta, this will prevent the pasta from sticking to the pan. And always finish the top with a generous layer of grated Parmigiano cheese to achieve a golden crust. The crispy golden crust is one of the best parts of a Lasagna, don’t you agree?
If you like this recipe, try also these other Lasagnas:
- Lasagna with Artichokes and Mozzarella
- White Lasagna with Mushrooms and Zucchini
- Lasagna with Pumpkin and Sausage
Classic Tuscan Lasagna
- 1.3 Kg (3 lbs) Tuscan Ragù see post for directions
- 1 package Lasagna sheets about 4 portions of fresh pasta
- 200 g (2 cups) Parmigiano cheese grated
For the Béchamel sauce:
- 1 L (4 cups) Milk
- 100 g (1/2 cup) Butter
- 100 g (1/2 cup) Flour
- Black Pepper
- Nutmeg ground
Prepare the Bechamel:
- In a pot, melt the butter and add the flour. Mix until you get a paste and cook it for a minute or two until it gets thicker.
- Add the room temperature or warm milk and turn down the heat. Mix occasionally, to melt the roux and to make sure it doesn’t stick to the pot.
- Let it simmer for 15-20 minutes until it gets thick enough to coat a spoon, then season with salt, black pepper and a pinch of ground nutmeg to taste.
Assemble the layers:
- Preheat the oven at 200°C (400°F).
- Spread a thin layer of white sauce on the bottom of the pan, cover with a layer of pasta, then a layer of Ragù sauce, a layer of bechamel sauce and grated Parmigiano.
- Repeat the layers, pressing down a little bit when you add the pasta. When the pan is full, finish with a last layer of pasta, sauce and a generous amount of grated Parmigiano cheese.
- Bake in the middle rack of the oven for about 35-40 minutes. If the crust is not crunchy enough, finish with 3-4 minutes under the broiler. If instead you notice the crust getting too brown before the cooking time is over, cover the pan loosely with foil.
Nutritional information is only an estimate. The accuracy of the nutritional information for any recipe on this site is not guaranteed.
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