Lasagna is one of my favorite quick and easy meals! There’s plenty of room for variation, so I can use up the solo zucchini in the fridge, or the last smidge of some random cheese.
(Guess what: Melted cheese is melted cheese. It’s all delicious and the details are less important than you think!)
This super easy lasagna recipe is the perfect weeknight meal when you need comfort food and something the whole family will love.
In fact, it’s so easy, that it’s a great first “real dish” for your kids to start making for family meals, once they’re ready to move past spaghetti and scrambled eggs. Just have them skip the meat or veggies for a really basic first family dinner they can be proud of!
How to swap ingredients to make this easy lasagna your own
Vegetarian? Replace the meat in the recipe with diced, dry-roasted vegetables. Which vegetables? Whatever you have on hand, or whatever your kids will eat. We like zucchini or eggplant, but a mix of carrots and onions would work. Or try diced green beans or mushrooms…seriously, you pick!
You can also mix meat and vegetables.
As for which meat to use, ground beef is tradition. In this recipe I’ve recommended ground venison, but anything works. Got leftover pulled chicken? Breakfast sausage? Ground turkey? All good.
About those oven-ready noodles…
Oven-ready lasagna noodles are a real time (and mess) saver, but they aren’t all created equal.
Briefly, pre-cooked lasagna noodles are thinner than standard lasagna noodles, and because they’re precooked, they’re designed to cook as the dish cooks, becoming soft again from the moisture from the tomato sauce.
My personal favorite brand of oven-ready lasagna noodles is Barilla, and for those of you trying to remember why you might have stopped buying them at one point, they have made things right since 2013, when their chairman made some offensive remarks about LGBTQ families. Since then, Barilla has become a really forward-thinking, inclusive company, even earning a straight 100 rating from the Human Rights Campaign (PDF). Plus, their pasta noodles really are good as ever.
For this easy lasagna recipe though, I use Trader Joe’s lasagna noodles, because I’m making two smaller lasagne in square pans, and TJ’s noodles fit those smaller, square pans perfectly. However, their noodles do turn out crunchier than I like.
To solve that problem, I run water over each noodle before placing in the pan.
Another tip: You may want to press the edges of the top layer of noodles into the sauce when you remove the lasagna from the oven before putting it back in for the final 15 minutes of cooking. That way the edges stay crunchy (which is good!) but the center stays perfect.
Store-bought sauce or homemade?
That said, a 24-ounce jar of jarred sauce can be just as good! I alternate between jarred and homemade, depending on what I have on hand.
Adapt for family size
If your family won’t eat a whole pan, divide the ingredients in half and make two smaller pans. I make one for the freezer, which we’ll eat ourselves, or save one to give to someone in need.Easy Weeknight Lasagna Recipe photos © Anne Wolfe Postic for Cool Mom Eats
The Best, Easy Lasagna for Any Night of the Week
1 1/4 pounds ground meat OR 3 to 4 cups chopped vegetables OR a mix of the two
3 cups thick marinara sauce
6-8 oz oven-ready lasagna noodles depending on thickness; should be enough for three layers
15 oz. ricotta cheese, store-bought or homemade*
3 cups shredded mozzarella
1 teaspoon seasoning salt (or 1/4 teaspoon salt plus 3/4 teaspoon Italian seasoning)
3/4 cup grated Parmesan
1. If using meat, start by browning the meat in a pan on the stove. If using vegetables, dry roast them. They’ll regain moisture from the sauce as the lasagna cooks.
2. Add marinara to pan and turn off heat. (Or mix vegetables with the marinara.)
3. Mix ricotta and 2 cups of the shredded mozzarella in a bowl with seasoning salt.
4. Spray a 9 by 13-inch casserole dish with cooking spray and spread about 1 heaping cup of the tomato sauce at the bottom of the dish, or enough to lightly cover it.
5. Cover sauce with one layer of noodles.
6. Spoon half of the remaining tomato sauce mixture over the noodles, followed by half of the ricotta and mozzarella mixture.
7. Add another layer of noodles and top with the rest of the tomato mixture, followed by the rest of the ricotta and mozzarella mixture.
8. Top with a final layer of noodles and remaining 1 cup of mozzarella.
9. Cover dish with foil, bake at 375º F for 40 minutes.
10. Remove from oven and add grated Parmesan over top, pressing noodles that have curled up down into the liquid with a wooden spoon.
11. Bake uncovered for an additional 15 minutes.
12. Let lasagna rest for 10 minutes, slice, and serve.
If you don’t eat it all, let the lasagna cool completely and freeze it in individual portions for a great DIY microwave meal to take to work or school!
*Thanks to a rainy day (and no desire to go to the store) I recently learned how to make ricotta at home. And it’s so dang easy! I used this easy homemade ricotta recipe thanks to simple directions from The Kitchn (you can even swap in 2% milk if you’d like) and I had great luck with it, if you want to give some homemade ricotta a shot yourself.