Lasagna al forno with besciamella sauce is a classic lasagna from the Bolognese region of Italy that is made with a classic ragu sauce along with besciamella (or bechamel sauce). This authentic Italian lasagna is so delicious and I will show you all the steps to make this lasagna al forno from start to finish.
What is Lasagne al Forno
Lasagna al forno is a lasagna from the Bologna region of Italy. It is made with lasagna pasta noodles, Italian bechamel sauce (also known as besciamella) and ragu (sauce made with a mixture of pork, beef, carrots, celery, wine and tomatoes).
Al forno in Italian means from the oven or a dish that was baked in the oven. So lasagna al forno means lasagna that is baked in the oven. If it were rigatoni, it would be rigatoni al forno.
It is a wonderful and delicious meal you can serve when you are entertaining lots of guests and it makes a great Italian family dinner.
I love making this classic lasagna bolognese for guests for dinner and following it with some ricotta pie and coffee for dessert. It makes the most special meal.
I sometimes swap out the lasagna noodles for fried Italian eggplant if I want to make an eggplant parmesan with this recipe.
There is no cheese in a classic lasagna bolognese other than a little Parmesan that is sprinkled on the layers and over the top. Italy has other versions of lasagna that have added ricotta and mozzarella cheese to this classic lasagna but a lasagne al forno (lasagna bolognese) does not have any cheese in it.
This is the original lasagne of Italy and it is so delicious and in my opinion, so much better than the heavier versions with cheese.
Ingredients to make this lasagna bolognese
- Bolognese sauce (from our sister site) The bolognese is made from ground beef, ground pork, white wine, carrots, celery, salt and pepper. It is cooked for a few hours so I like to make a big pot of the ragu sauce and use half to go over tagliatelle for dinner one night and the other half I will freeze to make this lasagna al forno on a different day. If you do not have time to make a classic bolognese, you can make an American meat sauce that takes very little time 🙂
- Lasagna noodles. I have included my preferred method of how to cook lasagna noodles below.
- Besciamella sauce (this is a mixture of flour, butter, milk, nutmeg, a little parmesan, salt and pepper.) The parmesan is completely optional but I find it adds a little bit more flavor to this Italian white sauce.
- Pasta water. More on that below!
How to make Lasagna Bolognese (aka Lasagne al forno)
Making the Ragu
As I mentioned above, a classic Italian ragu takes a couple of hours to simmer and develop its flavors. For me, this part of the lasagna is great to do ahead of time.
If you do not mind starting the sauce early in the day and then making the lasagna later on for dinner then you can make the ragu and lasagna all in the same day.
For the ragu recipe, our favorite recipe and the one we use for this classic lasagna is this authentic bolognese from our sister site. If you would rather make a quicker meat sauce, our Italian American meat sauce is a great alternative to the ragu.
Making the besciamella (Italian white sauce)
Making this Italian white sauce or bechamel is very simple. It takes only a few ingredients and about 10 minutes.
Here is what it looks like:
Cooking the lasagna noodles
The last step to getting all of the parts to this classic lasagna bolognese together is cooking the lasagna noodles. I have access to dried lasagna noodles so that is what I use when making this recipe.
When cooking the lasagna noodles, you want to make sure that you cook them for only ¾ of the time that the box says to cook them. You want the lasagna noodles to be a little flexible but not too much since they will continue cooking in the oven.
Another tip is when the noodles are done cooking, lay them out on kitchen towels side by side so they do not stick to one another. The noodles will be very hot so kitchen tongs work well for grabbing them.
Here is what it looks like:
How to assemble lasagna al forno
Once everything is ready, now you get to assemble the lasagna!
- First you want to butter a large baking dish. I like using a 9x8 pan because it is a little smaller than a 9x11 pan which gives me a taller lasagna. It also fits my lasagna noodles perfectly so there is less cutting them to fit.
- The next thing you want to do is add a little sauce to the bottom of your baking dish. I like to add 1 cup of reserved pasta water to the ragu sauce since ragu is very thick and you want the sauce to cook the pasta a little while it is in the oven.
- Next you add your first layer of lasagna noodles followed by a thin layer of the besciamella sauce then a little more ragu. You always want to add the besciamella sauce first then the ragu because it is easier to smooth the white sauce on its own.
You will keep repeating these steps to assemble the lasagna until you get to the last lasagna layer. Once you lay down the last lasagna noodles, you are going to add the ragu on top of the lasagna noodles then top the whole thing off with the final bit of besciamella.
The besciamella layer that is on the top along with a little Parmesan sprinkled over the top will brown and get nice and thick. That is why the besciamella needs to be the last layer before baking.
That is it! This lasagna al forno is so easy to make, it just requires a little planning out to get all of the parts together for the lasagna.
If you want to keep things simple and easy, I do recommend making that ragu ahead of time so the only part you are actually cooking on the day you want to make the lasagna is the lasagna noodles and besciamella sauce.
More traditional Italian recipes
Lasagne al Forno (Lasagna Bolognese)
- 1 9 x 8 or 9 x 11 baking dish
- 1 lb dried lasagna noodles
- 3 cups Bolognese sauce
- ½ cup grated parmesan
- 2 ¼ cups whole milk
- 4 tablespoon unsalted butter
- 4 tablespoon all purpose flour
- ¼ cup grated Parmesan
- ⅛ teaspoon grated nutmeg
- ⅛ teaspoon kosher salt
- a few swirls of freshly ground black pepper
- In a medium sauce pan heat milk over medium heat until it just reaches a light simmer then turn off the heat and set aside.2 ¼ cups whole milk
- In a small saucepan, melt butter over medium heat.4 tablespoon unsalted butter
- Add flour and whisk into the butter and cook for 3 minutes, stirring often.4 tablespoon all purpose flour
- Now add the warm milk one ladle full at a time while mixing it into the flour and butter mixture.
- Keep adding one ladle at a time and mixing until all of the milk is used.
- Now add Parmesan, nutmeg, salt and pepper.¼ cup grated Parmesan, ⅛ teaspoon grated nutmeg, ⅛ teaspoon kosher salt, a few swirls of freshly ground black pepper
- Remove from the heat and add a piece of plastic wrap over the besciamella making sure to lightly press the plastic wrap on to the surface of the sauce to prevent a film from forming.
- 3 cups Bolognese sauce
Cook Lasagna Noodles
- Bring a large pot of water to a boil.
- Salt the water then cook lasagna noodles for just a little more than half of the time suggested on the box.1 lb dried lasagna noodles
- Reserve 1 cup of pasta water.
- Drain the pasta and with tongs, place each lasagna noodle on to a kitchen towel side by side.
Assembling the lasagna
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
- Butter a 9 by 8 inch or 9 by 11 inch inch baking dish
- Add reserved pasta water to the sauce and mix well.
- Spread an even layer of ragù on the bottom of the baking dish
- Now add one layer of lasagna noodles trying not to overlap them. You can cut them if you need to.
- Now add a couple of tablespoons of the besciamella sauce and spread evenly over the pasta.
- Sprinkle some Parmesan over the white sauce.½ cup grated parmesan
- Now top the besciamella with a couple of tablespoons of the ragu and spread evenly.
- Repeat these layers until you get to the last layer.
- For the last layer you want to top the pasta with ragu then the besciamella then a light sprinkling of parmesan.
- Bake the lasagna for 20-25 minutes or until it is bubbling and starting to brown on top.
- Let cool for 10 minutes then slice and serve.