This classic lasagne alla Bolognese recipe from Bologna in the Emilia Romagna region of Northern Italy makes the best lasagne recipe ever. Rich and comforting, this traditional lasagne Bolognese begins with a great Bolognese ragù that’s layered between flat pasta sheets and besciamella, Italy’s béchamel sauce, and Parmigiano Reggiano.
Our lasagne alla Bolognese recipe makes a very traditional version of the Italian comfort food in the style that you’ll find in Bologna in Emilia Romagna in Northern Italy, one of our favourite regions in Italy. That means thinner sheets of pasta, a sparing use of besciamella, Italy’s version of France’s béchamel sauce, no mozzarella, and a flavour profile that’s more savoury than sweet.
Just a short drive from the Italian Lakes and its wonderful gastronomy, grand hotels and gorgeous gardens and villas, the Northern Italian region of Emilia Romagna is a paradise for foodies and wine lovers. Home to Italian specialties such as Parmigiano Reggiano (parmesan cheese), Prosciutto di Parma (Parma ham) and balsamic vinegar from Modena, along with so many wonderful Northern Italian wine varietals, the region is Italy’s gastronomic heart, and Bologna is its capital.
The origin of Mortadella, a tiny macaroni-like pasta called gramigna, and tagliatelle alla Bolognese (spaghetti is never used here), Bologna has also gifted the world lasagne alla Bolognese, or Bolognese lasagne – not lasagna, which refers to one sheet of pasta; lasagne is plural.
With the weather starting to cool in much of the southern hemisphere as winter approaches, and many of us in the northern hemisphere still staying home and quarantine cooking, we thought it time to share one of the most comforting of comfort food recipes.
Lasagne alla Bolognese Recipe from Emilia Romagna – The Best Lasagne Recipe Ever
I’ve been making this classic lasagne alla Bolognese recipe for a couple of decades and it’s perfect every time. We often make this lasagne alla Bolognese recipe the second day after making a batch of ragu alla Bolognese – or more correctly ragù alla Bolognese. If we’ve indulged a little too much on the sauce, we will throw a tin of tomatoes into the ragu and mix it over low heat before assembling the lasagne all Bolognese.
While fresh pasta is used in Bologna, it’s perfectly acceptable to use dried pasta sheets for this lasagne alla Bolognese recipe. You probably won’t be able to tell the difference when the dish is cooked. If you make lasagne Bolognese regularly, it’s best to stick to the same brand of lasagne sheets to ensure consistency.
We prefer to always use the Barilla brand as it’s the best dried pasta brand we have access to here in Siem Reap, you can find it almost everywhere, and its cooking times are consistent. A quick note too that gluten-free pasta has come a long way and the Barilla gluten-free penne pasta we cooked for a friend with celiac disease (who was visiting before the lockdown) was very good.
Just like making pizza, less is more when it comes to assembling your lasagne. A traditional lasagne alla Bolognese recipe calls for thin layers of ragu and a sparing use of besciamella or béchamel sauce, and a light sprinkling of cheese. And that cheese should be Parmigiano Reggiano (parmesan cheese) if at all possible. Try not to let cheddar or any other kinds of cheese near this if you can help it. And no, not even mozzarella. And no, not even to top it with.
Tips for Making This Lasagne alla Bolognese Recipe
A great lasagne alla Bolognese recipe requires a great ragù alla Bolognese, so click on the link to my recipe where you’ll find plenty of tips to making a hearty, rich Bolognese meat sauce and I’ll share some tips here to making besciamella, which is an art, and to impressing your dinner guests. However, I have included the full recipe here, including the ragù to make things simpler.
Besciamella or béchamel sauce is a white sauce that since the seventeenth century has been considered to be one of the mother sauces of French cuisine, which means it serves as a base for other sauces. Besciamella is a tricky sauce to make because you need to time everything well.
One of the most important steps to making a successful besciamella is to cook the flour out, otherwise the sauce will be grainy. There are plainer versions of besciamella out there, but why would you want a bland besciamella when it can have some flavour?
If you really want to impress your dinner guests, you’ll need to make this lasagne alla Bolognese recipe the night before they’re coming to dine. Don’t serve your lasagne Bolognese directly out of the oven. Don’t even serve it the night that you make it. Once out of the oven, let the lasagne cool down on the bench and then refrigerate it.
Then 20 minutes before you want to serve your lasagne Bolognese, heat the oven to as high as it will go. Remove the lasagne from the refrigerator, slice the portions, place them on an oven tray, on slide it onto the middle shelf of your oven. Reheat the lasagne until you can see the pieces bubbling. We love a little crunch, but take care. If your oven top element is causing the top layer of the lasagne to brown too much, cover it with a piece of aluminium foil.
My final tip will really impress dinner guests. When I first learnt to make lasagne in an Italian cafe in a former life, one of my jobs before service was to make gremolata, the zesty Italian herb garnish. Gremolata is made from equal amounts of crushed fresh garlic, lemon zest and finely chopped parsley leaves. While you can just use a knife for the garlic and parsley, I like to use a cleaver to crush the garlic and use a microplane to make fine lemon zest. It’s important that all these ingredients are fresh.
When you’ve plated your lasagne alla Bolognese, sprinkle the gremolata generously over each plate, and then drizzle olive oil over that. It makes the lasagne seem lighter and refreshes the palate. Gremolata is also fantastic drizzled over fish and chicken.
Classic Lasagne alla Bolognese Recipe from Emilia Romagna
- ¼ cup olive oil
- 4 tablespoons butter
- 250 grams brown onions chopped finely
- 250 grams celery stalks chopped finely
- 250 grams carrot chopped finely
- 5 garlic cloves sliced finely
- 500 grams veal minced
- 500 grams pork minced
- 250 grams beef minced
- 125 grams pancetta sliced finely
- ½ cup milk full cream
- 2 tablespoons tomato paste
- 1 cup dry red wine
- 2 cups chicken stock
- 800 ml milk
- 1 piece brown onion halved, coarsely chopped
- 4 pieces parsley stalks
- 4 pieces black peppercorns whole
- 2 pieces bay leaves dried
- 2 pieces cloves whole
- 50 g butter
- 50 g plain flour
- ½ tsp nutmeg ground
- 1 pinch salt
- 1 pinch black pepper ground
- 10 sheets lasagne dried pastry all'uovo
- 75 g Parmigiano Reggiano grated
- Before you start, get the mince up to room temperature.
- In heavy-bottomed saucepan or Dutch oven, add the pancetta and cook until crispy. Remove from the pan and set aside.
- Add the olive oil and butter to the fat over medium heat. Add the onion, celery and carrot and sweat down until the vegetables are translucent.
- In the meantime, combine the two portions of mince together in a large bowl. Add a little olive oil and, using your very clean hands, combine the mince.
- Add the garlic to the vegetables and stir for one minute to combine. Do not let the garlic burn or it will make the finished ragù bitter.
- Add the pork and beef mix and stir into vegetables. Brown over medium-high heat, stirring to keep meat from sticking together. This should take 15 to 20 minutes, so be patient, it’s worth it.
- Once the ragù is browned, add the tomato paste and work into the ragù until the paste ad really deepened in colour. Add the pancetta back into the ragù.
- Add the milk and simmer while stirring until the milk is reduced, around 2-3 minutes.
- Add the wine and stir until evaporated.
- Add the stock, bring to a boil and then lower the heat as low as you can go.
- Put the lid on the pot and simmer for 1 1/2 hours, stirring every 15 minutes.
- Remove the lid slightly and simmer for another 1 1/2 hours, moving the lid every 15 minutes until fully off. If the ragù is starting to dry out add some more stock or water, just enough so that you can see liquid bubbling around the ragù.
- The final ragù should have a film of oil around the pieces of mince. It should bubble around the sauce. If not, add more stock.
- Combine milk, onion, parsley stalks, peppercorns, bay leaves and cloves in a saucepan and simmer over medium heat. Remove from heat and set aside for 15 minutes to infuse.
- Strain milk mixture through a fine sieve into a large measuring cup.
- Melt butter in a saucepan over medium-high until foaming. Add the flour and cook, stirring constantly for 1-2 minutes or until mixture bubbles and begins to come away from side of pan. Remove from heat.
- Pour in half the milk gradually, whisking with a balloon whisk until mixture is smooth. Gradually add the remaining milk, whisking until smooth and combined.
- Place saucepan over medium-high heat and bring to the boil, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon, for 5 minutes or until sauce thickens and coats the back of the spoon. Remove from heat. Taste and season with nutmeg, salt and pepper.
- Preheat the oven to 220°C.
- Grease a lasagne pan with butter and spread a thin layer of ragu over the bottom. Spread a layer of besciamella over this and sprinkle with 15g of Parmigiano Reggiano.
- Lay a layer of lasagne sheets on top of this. Break the corners of the sheets going into the corners so they are a snug fit. Try not to overlap the sheets.
- Cover with a thin layer of ragu, then besciamella, being careful to make sure the ragu and besciamella cover the corners to help prevent burning. Sprinkle with 15g of Parmigiano Reggiano.
- Repeat this process 4 times so you have 5 layers of lasagne sheets in total.
- When it comes to the final pasta sheets, only put down a layer of besciamella and cheese.
- Bake in the oven for 20-30 minutes and check for doneness, you want a golden cheesy layer on top and the sauce should be bubbling.
- Let the lasagne rest for at least 10 minutes before slicing. If you do this sooner the lasagne layers will spread out over the plate.
- For best results, refrigerate overnight, cut individual slices and place in a very hot oven until reheated.
- Serve with a little drizzle of olive oil.
More Lasagne alla Bolognese Recipes in Italian Cookbooks
La Cucina: The Regional Cooking of Italy by The Italian Academy of Cuisine
Classic Food of Northern Italy by Anna Del Conte
The Oxford Companion to Italian Food by Gillian Riley
Delizia! The Epic History of the Italians and Their Food by John Dickie
Do let us know if you make this classic lasagne alla Bolognese recipe from Emilia Romagna and if you agree with us that it’s the best Lasagne recipe ever. We’d love to know how this lasagne Bolognese recipe turns out for you.