Lasagne al forno with Bolognese from Emilia-Romagna

Classic Lasagne al forno with Bolognese.

lasagne al forno with bolognese on white terracotta plate

Le lasagne alla bolognese

Lasagne al forno with bolognese sauce is probably one of the best known and most popular Italian pasta dishes, alongside its cousin tagliatelle bolognese. Nowadays, there are many different kinds of baked lasagne recipes including with seafood, vegetarian  versions and what Italians call ‘bianco’, without tomatoes. In fact, the original lasagne al forno was made without tomatoes because tomatoes didn’t exist in Italy until 18th century.

(Click to go straight to recipe)

lasagne al forno with bolognese ingredients

A little history of lasagne al forno

The origins of baked lasagna actually date back to the times of Ancient Rome and Greece. The Greek word ‘laganon’ and the Latin word ‘laganum’ were used to describe square or rectangular sheets of ‘pasta’ made from wheat flour and baked in the oven or on the fire and stuffed with meat.

Bolognese ragu in frying pan

The Roman ‘cookbook’ Apicius  (a collection of Roman recipes compiled in 1st century AD) includes a ‘lagana’ formed by thin sheets of dough stuffed with meat and cooked in the oven. But, of course this only vaguely resembled the lasagne al forno we know today.

Although lasagne pasta was popular in the Middle Ages, it wasn’t made with eggs until the invention of egg pasta in Northern Italy, in the Renaissance period. Béchamel sauce was also not invented until the Renaissance and tomato sauce didn’t enter the equation until the 18th century. So, it was only then that lasagne al forno started to look like the much-loved dish of today.

lasagne al forno with bolognese in white oven dish

Different Italian versions.

Here in Italy, two regions claim the invention of baked lasagna, Emilia-Romagna and Campania (Naples). However the Neapolitan version includes ingredients such as meatballs, sausage, hard boiled eggs and ricotta cheese rather than béchamel, as well as other cheeses like provola and pecorino. The lasagne pasta also usually has ruffled or wavy edges (lasagne ricce). Because it’s such a rich dish, Neapolitan lasagna is mostly made on special occasions, especially at Carnival time. This dish was traditionally served on Mardi Gras as a kind of last blow out before Lent, as it was filled with many ingredients that were banned during Lent.

lasagne al forno with bolognese in white oven dish ready for baking

Green lasagne al forno in Emilia.

Neapolitan lasagne al forno is magnificient, but the dish most non-Italians call baked lasagna or just lasagna is the one from Emilia-Romagna. This recipes is made with Bolognese ragu, béchamel sauce and normal lasagne sheets which are often homemade, but can also be bought fresh or dried. For this recipe I used fresh pasta sheets and didn’t precook them. Dried lasagne sheets need to be half-cooked before assembling the final dish.

Interestingly, the official recipe for this lasagne al forno from the Italian Academy of Cuisine is made with green pasta sheets made with spinach. (on my to-do list!)

lasagne al forno with bolognese in white oven dish

From pesto to vincisgrassi.

Lasagne al forno is made in other Italian regions too and they each add a local touch to the dish. In some mountain areas, for example, the meat sauce is often replaced by mushrooms. In Liguria, it’s made with pesto and here in Veneto with red radicchio from Treviso. Whilst in Umbria and Marche there is a particular version called vincisgrassi, in which the meat sauce is enriched with chicken or pork giblets.The meat sauce is replaced by porcini mushrooms, truffles and pecorino cheese in the Apennine mountains. In Sicily, there is also an ‘alla Norma’ version, with eggplant.  And last but not least, there’s the excellent Sardinian lasagna made with carasau bread.

a serving of lasagne al forno with bolognese on white plate with green rim

Homemade is best!

You too can make your own version of lasagne al forno. However, this classic recipe is divine and well-worth following. For best results I’d recommend making your own lasagne pasta sheets, béchamel sauce and Bolognese ragu. But not everyone has time for that, so cutting corners with store bought pasta and ready-made béchamel will still ensure your lasagne al forno is delicious. However, I’d definitely recommend making homemade Bolognese!

Buon Appetito!

(Go to next page for recipe. Just scroll down and click 2)
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18 Comments

  • Fred Nonterah
    March 7, 2018 11:37 pm

    Thanks for the history lesson Jacqui, never knew tomatoes weren’t grown in Italy until the 18th century. My wife is a big fan of lasagna and I’m she’ll love it, maybe I can surprise her with this recipe one day. Thanks for sharing!

    • admin
      March 9, 2018 7:14 pm

      Thanks so much for you comment Fred! I love that so many Italian dishes have a long history behind them. Makes eating them interesting! I’m sure your wife will love it! All the best from Verona! Jacqui

  • Kiki Johnson
    March 7, 2018 10:32 pm

    I make lasagna every single year for Christmas and during the year, I try out as many new recipes as I can to be able to surprise my family with a new twist each time. I will bookmark your recipe and try it next weekend! It looks SO good!

    • admin
      March 9, 2018 7:17 pm

      Grazie Kiki! Lasagna is popular in Italy at Christmas too. In fact, it’s very often served on holidays and special occasions! I’m sure you’ll love this version. It’s really the original of what most of us make! Buon appetito from Verona. Jacqui

  • MakingHerstory
    March 7, 2018 9:18 pm

    Looks yummy!! Love ask the information as well!!

    • admin
      March 9, 2018 7:19 pm

      Thanks so much MakingHerstory! I’m happy you like the dish and the info! All the best from Verona! Jacqui.

  • Jyothi
    March 7, 2018 6:41 pm

    Anytime lasagna. Looks delicious!

    • admin
      March 9, 2018 7:20 pm

      Thanks so much Jyothi, Yes I’m with you. Lasagna any time! Best wishes from Verona, Jacqui

  • Bobbi | Bobbi’s Kozy Kitchen
    March 7, 2018 3:58 pm

    YUM!! That looks SO good! Like, I wish I had it for breakfast today good 🙂

    • admin
      March 7, 2018 4:37 pm

      haha lasagne al forno for breakfast would be an unusual choice Bobbi, but why not! Regards from Verona! Jacqui

  • Stephanie
    March 7, 2018 2:30 pm

    I had no idea there was such a history behind lasagna! I like mine without meat and a lot of cheese. I’ve never heard of hard-boiled eggs in it, that would definitely be different!

    • admin
      March 7, 2018 4:47 pm

      Thanks for your feedback Stephanie. Yes, lasagne is a very ancient pasta here in Italy and so has a long history and many different versions apart from this one. There are a number of vegetarian lasagne al forno recipes which are delicious too. Here on the blog I have recipes for 2. Lasagne alla Norma and white lasagna with mushrooms and burrata. I’m sure you would like them! All the best from Verona! Jacqui

  • Amanda Wren-Grimwood
    March 6, 2018 11:46 am

    I love a lasagne and I love this version with the proper ragu. So rich and comforting!

    • admin
      March 7, 2018 8:24 am

      Thank you Amanda! Yes this is my absolute favourite way to make lasagne al forno. The ragu gives it such an awesome flavour! The ultimate comfort food! All the best Jacqui

  • Tristin
    March 4, 2018 7:11 pm

    I love all the different variations and customization ideas you give! Great recipe!!

    • admin
      March 7, 2018 8:40 am

      Grazie Tristin. I do love the different ways Italians make their pasta dishes. Although Italy isn’t a big country, each region has its own cuisine and it’s so interesting to try different versions of popular dishes! And of course there’s lots of room for creativity where pasta is concerned! Thank you for visiting. All the best from Verona! Jacqui

  • Brian Jones
    March 4, 2018 8:38 am

    A good lasagne is a thing of great beauty and it is such a forgiving dish too with loads of room for reheating and scaling. Yours looks delicious!

    • admin
      March 7, 2018 8:46 am

      I agree Brian, lasagne al forno is a divine combination of tastes that is hard to beat! And yes, it still tastes amazing reheated! All the best from Verona! Jacqui

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