Weeknight Lasagna Recipes
You can feast on lasagna any time you want — yes, even on a busy weeknight — by using a few smart shortcuts. Check out these cooking tips and inventive recipes.
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Vegan Spinach Lasagna; photograph by Olga Ivanova
If there’s one pasta dish my Italian-American husband can’t resist on a restaurant menu, it’s lasagna. Even better when it’s got the Italian plural spelling, lasagne with an "E," which suggests the chef offers an authentic version. That means layering many thin sheets of fresh pasta with long-simmered Bolognese sauce, creamy béchamel (no ricotta cheese, thank you very much), and grated Parmesan (no mozzarella cheese, either!), then baking until it’s golden brown and bubbling.
I’m glad my husband orders lasagna in restaurants because I find the authentic recipe, the kind he seeks, to be a pain to make. Each of those elements takes time and messes several bowls or pans. So when I cook lasagna at home, especially after a busy workday, I rely on a handful of shortcuts. It lets me create something that hits the key notes without taking hours and leaving dirty pots and pans all over the kitchen.
Ready to make your own? Weeknight lasagna is easier than you think. Here are four shortcuts I use so we can enjoy a hearty portion of comfort food any time.
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The basic concept is straightforward if lengthy, and it leaves tons of room for experimentation
How to layer lasagna
Start by spreading about half a cup of sauce on the bottom of your casserole dish. Add a layer of noodles, followed by a layer of either béchamel or ricotta, then a layer of sauce and a sprinkling of Parmesan, mozzarella, or both. Repeat until you’ve used up everything and the baking dish is full.
How to store lasagna
Lasagna may seem sturdy, but it will pick up flavors from inside your fridge or freezer if you’re not careful. Refrigerate baked lasagna leftovers in an air-tight container. If you’re refrigerating a tray of lasagna you’ve baked or assembled ahead of time, wrap the entire baking dish tightly in plastic wrap, then aluminum foil.
How to freeze lasagna
When you can, freeze lasagna assembled but unbaked. Reheating an already-baked lasagna will yield something tasty, but it won’t have that magical element you get fresh from the oven. Use a disposable foil pan tightly wrapped in plastic and foil, or line your baking dish with heavy-duty aluminum foil before layering, freeze the lasagna, and remove it from the dish. Fully enclose the lasagna in foil, and when you’re ready to bake just pop it back into the dish, no need to thaw. Expect the baking to take 20-30 minutes longer than the recipe says.
How to reheat lasagna
A single serving of leftovers reheats just fine in the microwave, or you can cover it with foil and bake at 350 for 10-15 minutes. If you’re reheating a whole tray, cover with foil and bake for more like 30 minutes.
How long does lasagna last?
Well-wrapped, lasagna can stay in the fridge for three to five days. Frozen lasagna will stay good indefinitely, though flavors and textures may change if you hold it longer than three months.
Shortcut #1: Recipes using no-boil noodles
The day no-boil lasagna noodles were invented should be a national holiday, if you ask me. Skipping an entire step — and not having to dirty a pot and colander — is invaluable.
It has “easy” in the title, people. And that’s accurate. I like that this recipe adds a little extra flavor in the form of dried herbs and spices — it takes almost no effort, but the difference is notable.
Tofu, nutritional yeast, and Italian seasoning make an excellent substitute for lasagna’s ricotta mixture. And no-boil noodles, frozen spinach, and jarred sauce make this easy to put together and pop in the oven. The finished lasagna is every bit as hearty — and feels just as indulgent — as the kind with tons of cheese, but it’s much gentler on your arteries.
We’ve got shortcuts galore here: the no-boil noodles, of course, and also jarred marinara sauce (which you jazz up with lean ground turkey) and prepared pesto. With ricotta cheese, mozzarella cheese, and Parmesan cheese, it’s cozy and familiar with a bit of a twist.
Veggies galore make this vegetarian lasagna a keeper. I’m talking carrots, bell pepper, zucchini, onion, and spinach — and of course, a large can of tomatoes goes into the quick homemade sauce. (I do mean quick: It goes in raw!) Cottage cheese subs for ricotta here, but you can use whichever you prefer.
Shortcut #2: Semi-homemade lasagna recipes
No-boil noodles aren’t the only ingredient shortcuts on the block. You might wind up with something a little less than authentic, but it’ll taste amazing. And you’ll be eating lasagna on a weeknight.
Frozen Italian-style meatballs are the secret weapon here — they give you the meaty flavor you expect from a classic lasagna, without having to brown ground beef or Italian sausage. Thanks to no-boil noodles and prepared marinara sauce, this recipe practically makes itself.
If you’ve got ravioli in your freezer, I bet you’ll be eating lasagna for dinner tonight. This is my favorite lasagna shortcut. I mean, think about it: Ravioli already has two layers of pasta surrounding a layer of cheese. Put them straight from the deep-freeze into a baking dish with sauce, add a little more cheese, and you’ve got yourself a mighty fine lasagna. No need to deal with noodles at all.
Many experts believe pasta didn’t originate in Italy. Rather, they think the explorer Marco Polo brought it back with him from China. It makes sense that wonton wrappers stand in beautifully for lasagna sheets. They’re small, of course, which makes them perfect for layering in muffin tins — that’s right, you’re making individual lasagnas. They’re both adorable and elegant, and I love all the crispy edges.
A lasagna recipe with only five ingredients, and it’s on the table in 40 minutes? Sign me up. The secret’s in the lack of noodles — a roll of prepared polenta, sliced up, makes a wonderful stand-in. A jar of tomato sauce, a jar of pesto, shredded mozzarella cheese, and some pine nuts for crunch make this the easiest lasagna ever.
Shortcut #3: Make-ahead lasagna recipes
Preparing everything ahead of time means that when you want to enjoy lasagna for dinner, you only need to bake it
Here’s a fun weekend project. You’re making all the elements of a classic lasagna, including slow-simmered Bolognese sauce and a creamy Béchamel sauce. It does include one time-saver: You’re using fresh pasta sheets, so you don’t have to fuss with boiling the noodles. You just layer in the lasagna sheets and let the two sauces soften them to a perfect al dente as the dish bakes. Once baked, this stays good in the fridge for three days.
Using Italian sausage, jarred sauce, and no-boil noodles, this version combines several shortcuts with a delicious result. The make-ahead aspect couldn’t be simpler: You do all the layering one day ahead, and refrigerate overnight.
Gotta love a recipe that’s been developed with the freezer in mind. This vegetarian lasagna is blissfully simple. You sauté some fresh spinach and garlic in olive oil, and layer the mixture with noodles, a jar of good-quality tomato sauce, an egg-and-ricotta mixture, and (of course) plenty of mozz. Freeze it unbaked, and it’ll be ready for you when the mood strikes.
Not every lasagna recipe has tomatoes. Here you’re making a cream sauce that’s a lot like a béchamel — equal amounts of butter and flour cooked together, then simmered with whole milk — studded with sauteed garlic, onion, and mushrooms. Layered with noodles, spinach, and three kinds of cheese, it’s absolutely luscious. The recipe includes instructions for assembling and refrigerating or freezing.
Shortcut #4: Untraditional lasagna recipes
If you’re game to get a little playful with your lasagna, you could be eating in 15 minutes
OK, this one is the opposite of fast. But the assembly takes just a few minutes and then you walk away and do your thing while the crock pot works its magic. Come back four or five hours later, and dinner’s ready. To save even more time, I heartily endorse buying pre-peeled and cubed butternut squash and pre-washed and chopped kale.
Seriously, you could be digging into everything you love about lasagna — the creamy ricotta, the stretchy mozzarella, the al dente noodles, the meat sauce — in a quarter of an hour. The only difference is, it’s in soup form.
What if you could get all the flavors and textures of lasagna, without all that time in the oven? And without having to worry about layering the ingredients? That’s the beauty of skillet lasagna. To make it, you sauté Italian sausage with some aromatics in a large skillet, add broken-up lasagna noodles and jarred sauce, and let it simmer. When the noodles are al dente, dollop a Parmesan-ricotta mixture on top, sprinkle plenty of mozzarella over everything, and give it a few minutes under the broiler. Easy-peasy.
I saved the absolute easiest for last! How’s this for clever: Roasted cherry tomatoes, ricotta with chopped fresh basil, and shredded mozzarella get sandwiched between slices of buttered bread, then griddled until golden brown and crispy on the outside, melty on the inside.
More weeknight dinner ideas
Find out what else to serve for dinner during a busy week.