This easy homemade American lasagna with three layers of lasagna noodles, meat sauce, and lots of creamy ricotta, mozzarella, and parmesan cheeses.
If you love lasagna but the thought of making it yourself turned you off, this recipe is for you. This recipe for American lasagna truly is easy and delicious. Trust me. If it wasn't easy, I would not be making it! Give yourself just 20 minutes of prep time and enjoy a fresh lasagna for dinner tonight.
Oh, and it's make-ahead and freezer-friendly, too. You're welcome!
Why You'll Love This
I call it American lasagna because authentic Italian lasagna is not made with jarred marinara sauce. Authentic Italian lasagna is made with Bolognese Ragu and bechamel (which is like a roux).
Since I'm all about easy recipes, we'll stick with a homemade meat sauce that begins with a pretty dang good jar of marinara sauce.
Nothing is more comforting than a plate of homemade lasagna right out of the oven. Three layers of pasta, hearty meat sauce, creamy ricotta, and melty mozzarella cheese are enough to warm the coldest of hearts.
Why This Recipe Works
This American lasagna recipe is easy to make and a hearty, filling meal!
Easy, flavorful meat sauce. We start by making the easy lasagna sauce. After cooking the ground beef and sausage, we add a jar of store-bought marinara sauce (I love Rao's marinara sauce, but use your favorite). The addition of meat, spices, and seasonings takes jarred pasta sauce to the next level without much fuss.
Cheesy filling. The cheese filling consists of just 4 simple ingredients: ricotta cheese, parmesan cheese, mozzarella cheese, and Italian seasoning. No need to add an egg!
Lasagna noodle preference. This recipe uses the lasagna noodles that you boil first, however, you can use no-boil oven-ready lasagna noodles or refrigerated lasagna noodles. Whatever type of noodles you choose to use, the rest of the recipe stays the same.
Easy lasagna layers. Now that you have the lasagna noodles, meat sauce, and cheese mixture ready to go, all you need to do next is create three delicious layers in a casserole dish and bake it in the oven. This is the best lasagna recipe because it's easy and out of this world delicious!
What Goes into this Recipe
The ingredients for this American lasagna are easy to find at most stores.
Ground beef - I prefer a leaner mix of 90/10, but 85/15 or 80/20 will also work. You may need to skim off a bit of excess fat if you choose to use a higher fat mix.
Italian sausage - you can either purchase it bulk ground, or purchase links that you remove the casings from.
Marinara sauce - use your favorite brand; I find that the no sugar added version, or the low sugar option, has more "tomato" flavor.
Tomato sauce - this actually thins out the marinara sauce just so it will better soak into the lasagna noodles. Plus, it adds more of that tomato flavor we love!
Ricotta cheese - this recipe uses ricotta cheese because it simply binds the mozzarella and parmesan cheese better than cottage cheese. If you choose to use cottage cheese, you'll have to add an egg to help bind the cheeses. You simply don't need an egg if using ricotta cheese.
Cheeses - mozzarella and parmesan cheese! You could use romano instead of the parmesan or a mixture of the two!
Lasagna noodles - since this is an easy recipe, you can use the no-boil lasagna noodles. But if all you have is regular, uncooked noodles, those are perfectly fine. Your choice 🙂
Seasonings - no fancy seasonings are required! You'll need minced (jarred) garlic, dried Italian seasoning, dried parsley, pepper, and a little salt.
How to Make American Lasagna
It may look like a lot of steps, but every step is easy! It does take some time, but it's so worth it. Your family will love this American lasagna!
Step 1: Add the ground beef and sausage to a heavy 5-quart pan (y’all know I used my Calphalon pot that I love and have had for many years!). Break up the meat and sausage with a spatula and cook until done, about 6-8 minutes. Drain off excess fat.
Step 2: Add the jar of marinara sauce and tomato sauce. Now add the minced garlic, Italian seasoning, black pepper, and parsley. Stir well to combine all the ingredients.
Let the sauce slow simmer while covered for about 30 minutes. After 30 minutes, taste the sauce for flavor. Add salt if desired*.
*Remember that the cheese mix contains salt, so be conservative with your extra seasoning.
Step 3: Cook the pasta according to the package directions and drain thoroughly. You can skip this step if using no-boil/oven-ready pasta or refrigerated lasagna noodles.
Step 4: In a small bowl, combine the ricotta cheese, 1 cup of the mozzarella cheese, ¼ cup parmesan cheese, and ½ teaspoon of Italian seasoning. Divide the mixture into 3 roughly equal parts.
How to Layer Lasagna
Layering a lasagna is quite easy to do. It's just a matter of having everything you need within arm's reach. Three layers are perfectly fine.
Step 5: Preheat oven to 350F. In a 9x13 casserole dish, spread a very thin layer of meat sauce on the bottom of the dish.
Step 6: Assemble lasagna as follows:
Layer 1: Place 3 lasagna noodles in the casserole dish. Spread a layer of ricotta cheese mixture on top of noodles. Then add a layer of meat mixture (about 1 cup).
Layer 2: Repeat with another layer of three noodles, a layer of ricotta cheese mixture, and 1 cup of meat sauce.
Layer 3: Layer the remaining three lasagna noodles, a layer of ricotta cheese mixture, remaining meat sauce, 1 cup mozzarella cheese, and ¼ cup parmesan cheese.
Step 7: After layering the lasagna, spray a sheet of aluminum foil with non-stick spray and cover the lasagna with the sprayed side down (this prevents the cheese from sticking to the foil). Bake for 30 minutes.
Step 8: Remove foil and bake for another 10-15 minutes or until the cheese is nice and browned. Arguably the most difficult step of them all is this last one. Let lasagna rest for about 10 minutes.
You can view my Google Web Story for tips on how to make American lasagna with ricotta cheese.
Do Not Skip Letting the Lasagna Rest! The sauce and cheese layers have a tendency to run out of the pasta layers if you don't give it resting time prior to cutting. Finally, cut the finished lasagna into 12 squares and enjoy! Serve with a green salad such as my Crunchy Broccoli Ramen Salad!
Frequently Asked Questions
Lasagna is a great make ahead meal. Prepare the lasagna and keep it refrigerated for up to 2 days, then bake as directed.
Lasagna freezes very well. There are two different methods:
Bake then Freeze: Make and bake the lasagna as directed, let it cool completely, then freeze in an airtight container for up to 3 months. You can also freeze individual portions of baked lasagna for easy lunches on the go.
Prep then Freeze: Prepare the lasagna but don't bake it. When ready to eat, thaw in the refrigerator, then bake as directed.
Alternatively, you can cook frozen lasagna without thawing, but you will have to bake it longer. Plan to bake it for about 90 minutes and cover the dish with foil (check the lasagna after 1 hour just to make sure it isn't getting overbaked).
Store any leftover American lasagna in airtight containers in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. I prefer to use BPA-free glass containers with locking lids. Check out this 18-piece set of glass food storage containers with locking lids from Bayco, available now on Amazon.
Of course! If you want to make a meatless lasagna, I like to use lots of vegetables such as mushrooms, zucchini, and onions in place of the meat. Just be sure to sauté them prior to adding them to the sauce to prevent too much water from releasing into it.
Alternatively, there are some great plant-based meat options out there nowadays, so feel free to use those in place of the meat.
There is always a debate about using ricotta or cottage cheese in lasagna. The fact of the matter is, people will use whatever cheese they're accustomed to or prefer. For me, ricotta cheese is the traditional, authentic Italian choice. Plus, I'm not a fan of cottage cheese, therefore, I choose ricotta!
However, if you do decide to use cottage cheese, I recommend adding an egg to the cheese mixture to help bind it for baking.
What Dessert Goes with Lasagna
If you're wondering what kind of dessert to serve after the meal, try my Chocolate Orange Sheet Cake or Fresh Strawberry Cream Pie.
American lasagna is easily changeable as far as the meats. It's full of flavor and great for a family meal or dinner party.
- Don't eat pork products? Don't fret! Simply substitute a ground sausage made from beef, turkey, or chicken instead.
- Perhaps my biggest "cheat" for this recipe is using a store bought jar of marinara sauce. I like Rao's because there is no sugar added (and it's also the Barefoot Contessa's favorite), but you can use any jar that your family likes.
- To bump up the flavor quotient of store bought sauce, I add a mixture of meats, minced garlic, dried Italian seasoning, and parsley, plus some extra tomato sauce to stretch it for a whole lasagna. Nobody will be able to tell it isn't 100% homemade!
- My cheese mixture uses three kinds of cheese - creamy ricotta, melty mozzarella, and pungent parmesan. Oh, and you don't need to use an egg to bind it! I told you, this lasagna recipe is extra easy.
- Finally, you're going to need lasagna noodles. I personally like to buy dried noodles that you boil and drain first before assembly, but oven-ready and refrigerated noodles are also perfectly acceptable.
More Pasta Recipes
If you tried this Easy American Lasagna recipe, please rate and review it below so I know how it turned out.
If you'd like more recipe inspiration delivered straight to your inbox, you can sign up for my email newsletter.
You can also follow me on Pinterest, Instagram, or Facebook for more delicious recipe ideas!
Easy American Lasagna
- heavy 5-qt sauce pan
- Pasta strainer
- measuring cup(s)
- measuring spoons
- small bowl
- 9" x 13" casserole dish
- 1 pound ground beef
- ½ pound sweet Italian sausage
- 1 teaspoon minced garlic
- 24 ounces jarred marinara sauce (Rao's is excellent)
- 8 ounces tomato sauce
- 3 teaspoons dried Italian seasoning (DIVIDED)
- 1 teaspoon dried parsley flakes
- ¼ teaspoon black pepper
- salt to taste (go easy on the salt since the cheeses contain plenty of salt. Always test sauce before adding salt)
- 15 ounces whole fat ricotta cheese
- 2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese (DIVIDED)
- ½ cup shredded parmesan cheese (DIVIDED)
- 9 lasagna noodles
- Add the ground beef and sausage to a heavy 5-quart pan. Break up the meat and sausage with a spatula and cook until done, about 6-8 minutes. Drain off the fat.
- Add the jar of marinara sauce and tomato sauce. Add the minced garlic, 2-½ teaspoons Italian seasoning, black pepper, and parsley. Stir well to combine all the ingredients. Let the sauce slow simmer, covered, for 30 minutes. After 30 minutes, taste the sauce for flavor. Add salt if desired, but remember that the cheeses contain salt so I would be careful about adding a lot of salt at this time.
- While the sauce is cooking, cook the pasta according to the package directions. You can skip this step if using no-boil pasta or the refrigerated lasagna.
- In a small bowl, combine the ricotta cheese, 1 cup of the mozzarella cheese, ¼ cup parmesan cheese, and ½ teaspoon of Italian seasoning. Divide the mixture into 3 equal parts; it doesn't have to be perfect but try to have 3 similar size portions.
- Preheat oven to 350F. In a 9x13 casserole dish, spread a very thin layer of meat sauce to the bottom of the dish.Layer 1: Place 3 lasagna noodles in the casserole dish. Spread a layer of ricotta cheese mixture on top of noodles. Then add a layer of meat mixture (about 1 cup).
- Layer 2: Repeat with another layer of three noodles, a layer of ricotta cheese mixture, and 1 cup of meat sauce.
- Layer 3: Layer the remaining three lasagna noodles, a layer of ricotta cheese mixture, remaining meat sauce, 1 cup mozzarella cheese, and ¼ cup parmesan cheese.
- Spray a sheet of aluminum foil with non-stick spray and cover the lasagna with the sprayed side down (this prevents the cheese from sticking to the foil). Bake for 30 minutes. Remove foil and bake for another 10-15 minutes or until the cheese is nice and browned. Let lasagna rest for about 10 minutes. Cut into 12 squares!
- Store leftover lasagna in airtight containers for up to 3 days in the refrigerator.
- Make-ahead up to 2 days in advance. Keep covered in the refrigerator. Bake as directed.
- Freeze lasagna for up to 3 months, baked or unbaked.
- Alternatively, you can bake the frozen lasagna without thawing, but you will have to bake it longer. Plan to bake it for about 90 minutes and cover the dish with foil (check the lasagna after 1 hour just to make sure it isn't getting overbaked).
- Serve with a simple green salad and garlic bread for a complete meal.
- Easily make this lasagna vegetarian by substituting sautéed veggies or plant-based meats for the meat sauce.
This recipe was originally published in 2020 and was updated in 2022.
Nutritional information is provided as a courtesy to my readers. I'm not a nutritionist and I don't guarantee the accuracy of this data. The data may differ according to the brands I used versus the brands you use. To calculate the data yourself using your brands, try using an online nutrition calculator or app.
I made this tonight and it was easy and delicious! I used no-boil noodles to make it even easier. My picky 4 and 6 year old both enjoyed it too!
Thank you so much, Stephanie! I’m happy to hear that the whole family enjoyed the lasagna. And those no-boil noodles are great
Really enjoyed this dish
Thank you, Mary! I’m glad you liked it!