Lasagne alla Bolognese – No Ricotta Required!

25 Jan

Lasagne alla Bolognese Recipe, The Lasagne All Others Aspire To Be
Recipe by

Bologna, the unofficial food capital of Italy within the region of Emilia-Romagna where prosciutto, mortadella, and salami are heavily produced and at one time the home of the legendary Roberto Baggio, amazing the Rossoblù tifosi in the late 90’s. You knew I was gonna get Baggio in here, didn’t you – he was kind of a big deal back then. How he didn’t turn into 500 lbs. with all of the amazing food surrounding him is beyond me and one dish specifically is synonymous with Bologna and increasing your waistline; Lasagne alla Bolognese! The rich and hearty filling of meat, besciamella (béchamel sauce) with grated Grana Padano and Reggiano Parmigiano make this lasagne the ultimate and classic comfort food of not just the region, but for all of Northern Italy. Today I’m sharing my recipe for Lasagne alla Bolognese that includes a touch of Rome (shocking) but stays true to this traditional Bologna classic. Preparing Lasagne alla Bolognese recipe from Paggi Pazzo

By comparison, most American lasagne is filled with heavy ricotta cheese and extra sauce that piles up 2 feet high as if you were building a skyscraper, not the type of lasagne you are likely to find in Italy. The Lasagne alla Bolognese by contrast is compact and filled with hardy goodness! To start it’s important to prepare the Bolognese sauce, also known as Ragù, which consists of ground beef, pancetta (you can add or use ground pork as well), carrots, celery, onion, and tomato sauce. I first add the onions, carrot, and celery and saute them in olive oil before adding pancetta (sliced in little chunks). After 5 minutes of the pancetta cooking with the vegetables, I add the ground beef seasoned with salt and pepper, which I cook for about 10-15 minutes until the beef is almost browned. Then add crushed tomatoes and slow cook for at least 90 minutes to 2 hours (I also reduce the sauce to help the meat absorb the crushed tomatoes).Ragù Bolognese Sauce for Lasagne alla Bolognese from Paggi Pazzo

While the sauce is cooking, you have plenty of time to prepare the lasagne pasta and the besciamella. For the pasta, I use Barilla lasagne pasta and add them to boiling water for about 1-2 minutes to soften (I don’t salt the water because the Grana Padano and Reggiano Parmigiano offer plenty of salt). Feel free to make your own lasagne pasta if you have the time (show-off!) as the authentic recipe calls for spinach lasagne pasta. For the besciamella, which is actually a traditional French sauce found in many Northern Italian cuisines (Viva La Resistance!), add butter to a pan at low heat and then stir in flower with a whisk. In another pan heat milk (I use 2% to keep it healthy and classy at Paggi Pazzo) and once the butter and flower begin to make a paste, add the milk slowly while whisking and adding a little more every time the sauce begins to thicken. Now I’m not a big fan of the besciamella so I actually used 1/2 of the usual amount for the lasagne and substituted the other half with chopped fresh mozzarella, but depending on your taste feel free to exclude the fresh mozzarella.

Now you’re ready to put the Lasagne alla Bolognese together so add a little bit of the sauce to the bottom of a large pan topped with sheets of the lasagne pasta. Then add a healthy heaping layer of the Bolognese Ragù sauce, a light dressing of the besciamella, chopped fresh mozzarella, grated Grana Padano and Reggiano Parmigiano, and repeat once more. The bigger the lasagne my friends (3-4 layers) does not make it better so trust me on this one; the lasagne will taste so much better if it’s not overwhelmed with too much of one ingredient or many. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees and let it cook for 45 minutes before enjoying a Bologna masterpiece!

My wife and I really enjoyed the lasagne and to her credit, she admitted that the more classic Italian lasagne was better than the ricotta filled imitations she’s had in the past. To accompany the Lasagne alla Bolognese I cracked open a bottle of Nobile de Montepulciano, an excellent red from Tuscany but if you want to keep the Bologna theme going, Sangiovese is a popular Emilia-Romagna wine. So there you have it, Lasagne alla Bolognese recipe from Paggi Pazzo, be sure to invite over some friends (or give me a call)!

Bologna Style Lasagne recipe from Paggi Pazzo

Lasagne alla Bolognese Recipe

Prep time: 15 min

Cook time: 2 hours 45 min

Total time: 3 hours

Yield: 10 servings


  • 28 ounces crushed tomatoes (San Marzano)
  • 4 ounces fresh mozzarella
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 10 ounces or 12 sheets lasagne pasta (Barilla)
  • 1/4 cup of flour
  • 1 tablespoon salt and pepper
  • 1/4 pound pancetta
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 3 large carrots
  • 4 celery sticks
  • 1 pound ground beef
  • 1 onion
  • 3/4 cup milk
  • 1 cup Grana Padano
  • 1 cup Reggiano Parmigiano

Cooking Directions

  1. In order to make the sauce, add oil to pan at medium heat for 2 minutes.
  2. Add finely chopped onion, carrots, celery, and fresh bay leaves and saute for 10 minutes
  3. Add pancetta and cook for another 5-7 minutes before adding ground beef. Then season with salt and pepper and cook until meat is slightly browned
  4. Add crushed tomato sauce and cook at low temperature for at least 90 minutes and until most of sauce has evaporated into beef
  5. Boil water in a pan and then add lasagne sheets for 1-2 minutes until softened
  6. For besciamella, heat milk in one pan and in another pan add butter at low heat and once completely melted, add flour with a pinch of salt and whisk
  7. Once butter and flour become a paste, slowly add heated milk and whisk consistently (continue adding milk until it forms a creamy texture – if besciamella becomes too thick, remove from stove)
  8. Preheat oven at 400 degrees and lightly dress bottom of pan with Bolognese Ragù sauce
  9. Grate Grana Padano and Reggiano Parmigiano into a bowl and chop fresh mozzarella
  10. Add 4 lasagne sheets to bottom of pan, then layer with Bolognese Ragù sauce, besciamella, chopped fresh mozzarella, and grated Grana Padano and Reggiano Parmigiano (repeat again for second layer)
  11. For any remaining besciamella and cheeses, use to top lasagne
  12. Cover lasagne with sheet of aluminum foil and place in oven and cook for 45 minutes
  13. Once done, remove from oven and let rest for 10 minutes before slicing and serving and enjoying the splendors of Bologna!

Lasagne alla Bolognese Recipe

5 out of 5
stars based on 8 ratings.

Click here for full Lasagne alla Bolognese Recipe and other Paggi Pazzo recipes.

5 Responses to “Lasagne alla Bolognese – No Ricotta Required!”

  1. Paige Hoggarth Bosertinos February 11, 2012 at 9:11 am #

    So when you put that finished product on the grill you should not expect to cook them the same way?

    • Paggi Pazzo February 11, 2012 at 4:13 pm #

      Uhhhhhhh…. Paige, did you read the recipe post? There’s kind of not a mention of grilling lasagne alla bolognese. Now don’t get me wrong, it’s not as if I wouldn’t try but I think those in Bologna kind of know what they’re doing…. Nonetheless, thank you for your post (I think?) 🙂

  2. Linda January 31, 2012 at 2:25 pm #

    I’ve never been a huge lasagna fan but this dish was delicious! The sauce and meat were so tasty – I didn’t miss the ricotta at all. Excellent job!

  3. Renata January 30, 2012 at 5:12 pm #

    The region of Romagna, where Bologna is located, is called “la grassa” (the fat one) for a reason, but you were able to make the sauce less heavy, good for you. The finished product looked very inviting and I could not wait to try it. Once again Paggi Pazzo produced a winner. I am so curious to see what you will do next. Proud of you

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