This is a very simplified beef lasagna recipe using a homemade marinara sauce. Make it plain or customize however you like!
When I host a big dinner, lasagna is almost always on the menu. Why? A couple of reasons. Lasagna really knows how to feed a crowd, it looks amazing, and you can even make it ahead of time and just bake it the day you want to enjoy it! And don't even get me started on how delicious and filling it is.
How To Make Simple Beef Lasagna:
Making The Lasagna Sauce:
To start, add your butter to a large skillet with some extra-virgin olive oil. Place over medium heat until your butter is melted.
Add chopped onions. Still on medium heat, cook until your onions turn translucent. It should take between 2 to 3 minutes for them to be ready.
Add peeled and chopped garlic. Cook for another minute just to get rid of some of the raw garlic flavor.
Add lean or extra-lean ground beef to the skillet. Break up your beef into small chunks while you cook it. You need to cook your beef until it starts to brown. It took me about 8 minutes on medium heat to get to this point:
If you're using lean ground beef, you may end up with a lot of fat and liquid in your pan during this step. If you do find there's too much liquid, simply drain it and continue cooking your meat.
Toss in your spices, sugar, salt, and tomato paste. Cook this for another minute or so to toast the spices and the tomato paste.
Add tomato puree and water to the skillet.
Bring your sauce to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer. Simmer the sauce for about 10 minutes on medium-low heat to reduce the liquid slightly.
If you're planning on making your lasagna ahead and storing it in the fridge before baking, you should leave your sauce a bit more runny so your lasagna doesn't dry out while it sits.
Remove the sauce from the heat and set aside while you work on the lasagna noodles.
Lasagna Noodle Prep:
Cook your lasagna noodles according to your package instructions. Your noodles should be cooked until they're just slightly harder than you like them. The noodles are going to continue cooking in the oven so it's fine for them to be a little underdone. My package said to cook the noodles for 10 minutes, but I boiled them for 9.
Assembling The Lasagna:
Start assembling your lasagna.
Spread a thin layer of sauce on the bottom of your baking dish to keep your lasagna from sticking.
Next, lay down 3 to 4 lasagna sheets (depending on the size of your dish).
Top the lasagna sheets with ¼ of the sauce.
Continue the process by alternating layers of 3 to 4 lasagna noodles with ¼ of the sauce.
Make sure the top (and final) layer of your lasagna is sauce (not noodles) so it doesn't dry up when baking.
Top with grated cheese. I used mozzarella here, but you could use any cheese you think suits lasagna.
Baking The Lasagna:
Cover your lasagna. If your baking dish has an oven-safe lid, you can use it to cover your lasagna. You can also use aluminum foil here.
If you choose to cover your lasagna with a lid, keep in mind that you may need to bake it for less time because you'll have some steam escaping from the sides. This isn't a problem with aluminum foil.
Bake in a preheated 350°F oven. Bake for 25-30 minutes covered. Uncover, then bake for another 10-15 minutes, or until the top is slightly golden.
Cool for 10 minutes to make slicing easier. This is optional, and I admit I'm always impatient so I usually ignore this step. But if you want to get nice and clean slices, waiting the 10 minutes is best so the cheese can set up a bit.
I forced myself to wait this time just so I could show you all how the slices look after the 10 minutes.
Beef Lasagna Substitutions:
Meat: I usually make this recipe using lean or extra-lean ground beef. If you wanted to, you could reduce the amount of ground beef you use and add some sausage or ground pork to the recipe for some extra fat. You could also use ground lamb, ground chicken, or ground turkey as your meat instead. If you wanted to make this lasagna vegetarian, finely chopped mushrooms make a great meat substitute. Just make sure you use a vegetarian mozzarella on top.
Tomato Puree: For the tomato puree, I just took 6 medium-sized Roma tomatoes and pureed them in a food processor until they were completely broken down. A 15 oz can of tomato puree works just as well here. On days when I want to make this extra simple, I often just use extra tomato paste and water in place of the puree.
Spices: I used oregano, basil, and celery salt for this recipe. Thyme and Italian seasoning also work very well in this lasagna. But you can use any spice blend you like.
Beef Lasagna Add-Ins:
This recipe is meant to be very basic, so you have a lot of options when it comes to add-ins. Spinach, mushrooms, diced tomatoes, carrots, fresh celery (in place of the celery salt), and zucchini are just some of the types of produce you could add to your lasagna.
For the sake of keeping this recipe very simple and quick, I've omitted any cheese filling (typically ricotta and mozzarella) that you sometimes see in a classic beef lasagna. I personally don't miss it in this recipe, and I even feel like it tastes better without it.
If you did want to add a very basic cheese center, you just combine 1 ½ cups of whole milk ricotta, ¾ of a cup of mozzarella, ¼ of a cup parmesan, ¾ of a teaspoon of salt, and 1 egg.
If you're not a fan of a ricotta filling, you could also add a layer of Mornay sauce or Béchamel sauce (also called white sauce).
This lasagna also taste great with ¼ cup of parmesan sprinkled on top with the mozzarella if you want some extra crunch.
Simple Beef Lasagna Recipe
- 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
- 1 medium yellow onion, chopped
- 3 cloves garlic, chopped
- 1 pound lean or extra-lean ground beef * see notes
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1 teaspoon dried basil
- 1 teaspoon granulated sugar (optional) ** see notes
- 1 & ½ teaspoons salt
- ½ teaspoon celery salt
- 2 cups (or one 15 ounce can) tomato puree *** see notes
- 3 tablespoons tomato paste
- ¾ cup water
- 12 to 16 lasagna noodles, cooked for 1 minute less than package instructions **** see notes
- 2 cups mozzarella cheese, grated
- Cook lasagna sheets according to package instructions. I recommend cooking your noodles until just slightly harder than you like them. They'll continue to cook in the oven, so it's fine if they're not fully softened. Drain and rinse with cold water to prevent sticking. Set aside.
- Add butter, olive oil, and your onion to a large skillet. Place over medium heat and cook until the onions soften and turn translucent (about 3 to 5 minutes). Add the garlic and cook with the onions for another minute or so.
- Add your beef to the pan. Brown the beef and break it up while you cook it. If you find there's a lot of liquid in your pan, drain the beef mixture and continue cooking until it browns slightly (about 5 to 10 minutes).
- Add basil, oregano, celery salt, sugar, salt, and tomato paste. Cook for another minute or so just to toast and blend everything together. Add your tomato puree and water. Bring the sauce to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer for about 10 minutes (just to thicken the sauce slightly).
- To assemble your lasagna, start with a thin layer of meat sauce on the bottom of your baking dish. This helps keep your lasagna noodles from sticking. Lay down 3 to 4 lasagna sheets (depending on the size of your baking dish). Top the noodles with ¼ of the meat sauce. Continue layering by alternating between 3 to 4 lasagna sheets and ¼ of the sauce. Complete the layering process with a top layer of sauce to make sure you're top lasagna sheets don't dry out in the oven. Top lasagna with a healthy amount of mozzarella cheese!
- Cover your lasagna with an oven-safe lid or aluminum foil. If using a lid, bake for a slightly shorter amount of time to avoid having your lasagna dry out (more information in the blog post above). Bake in a preheated 350°F oven for 25-30 minutes covered. Uncover and bake for another 10-15 minutes, or until the top is slightly golden.
- Cool your lasagna for about 10 minutes to make slicing easier. Serve warm.