Comfort food lovers, meet your new favorite dish! With its layers of tender meatballs, gooey mozzarella and creamy ricotta tucked in between delicate pasta, this meatball lasagna is a guaranteed crowd pleaser. For one unforgettable meal, gather good company and serve this meatball lasagna with a loaf of crusty garlic bread and a bottle of chianti.
The next time you find yourself in Vegas, do yourself a favor and leave the Strip for a dinner at Capo's Italian Steakhouse and Speakeasy. Last spring, Matt and I visited Capo's, where we had an incredible meatball-filled meal. Not only did we get the giant meatball appetizer but I also sprung for the meatball lasagna. After stuffing myself with cheesy, meaty goodness, I knew I needed to create my own meatball lasagna to share with you.
Besides, I only get a chance to visit Capo's every so often, and I need more meatball lasagna in my life than the occasional Vegas trip. One bite of this meatball lasagna, and I'm sure you'll agree.
Now to gather our ingredients. Here's your shopping list for this meaty lasagna.
- Italian meatballs
- Sauce from the meatballs (see above link)
- Lasagna noodles
- Fresh basil
- Fresh parsley
Obviously, we need meatballs and sauce to make said lasagna. I covered this in detail in my Italian meatball recipe and included three different ways you can make the meatballs, so you should head over there for a closer look. I'll include the basics in the recipe card below --- just know you can find more information if you hop over to my Italian meatball post.
Once our meatballs and sauce finish cooking, we can start on the rest of our lasagna. Go head and start boiling water and cooking the noodles according to the package directions. Once the pasta is ready, I like to keep the noodles on greased parchment paper to keep them from clumping.
As our pasta cooks, we start on our ricotta filling, which is as easy as can be. We mix together ricotta, slightly beaten eggs, freshly grated Parmesan, nutmeg, basil, salt and pepper. That's it.
From here, we're ready to assemble our lasagna. We start by spreading a layer of tomato sauce on the bottom of our baking dish. This keeps the noodles from sticking. Now we place our first layer of noodles on top of the sauce and spread the ricotta mixture and mozzarella on the pasta. We top the cheesy layer with our meatballs and sauce, repeat and finish our last layer with plenty of meatballs, sauce and mozzarella.
How easy was that? Now we pop our meatball lasagna in the oven and bake!
Does Lasagna Need to Set Before Cutting?
Absolutely. If you cut into lasagna before allowing it to set after baking the oven, you'll be left with a soupy mess. This step is not optional for a good lasagna.
Once you pull the lasagna from the oven, let it sit on the counter for 15 to 20 minutes. Don't worry. The lasagna will still be plenty warm once you cut into it.
While the lasagna sits, this is the perfect time to warm up some garlic bread, pour drinks and all that jazz. After the lasagna sets, serve and enjoy this unforgettable meal.
What Pan to Use
I realize a 9-inch-by-13-inch-by-2-inch pan is a common baking dish, but I highly recommend using lasagna pan or at least a deep-dish 9-inch-by-13-inch-by-3-inch baking pan. With a deeper lasagna pan, you can pack those layers with loads of cheese and meatballs without worrying about overfill. I use this lasagna pan from Cost Plus World Market, and it's perfect.
See? This lasagna is packed full, but we still have overfill insurance. If you love making lasagna, I truly believe a lasagna pan is worth the purchase.
Can You Make Ahead of Time?
Without a doubt. As I've discussed here many times, I love a make-ahead meal for company, and who doesn't drool over a big piece of lasagna?
To make this lasagna with meatballs ahead of time, simply assemble the layers, cover and place in the refrigerator for up to a day. Take the lasagna out two hours before baking to give it time to come down to temperature and then bake. Entertaining doesn't get much easier than that.
You can even make the meatballs ahead of the lasagna. Either store the meatballs in the sauce for a few days or freeze them. This significantly cuts down the cooking and prep times and especially comes in handy during the holidays.
Say you want to make this meatball lasagna for Christmas or New Year's Eve. Make a batch of the meatballs and freeze them at the beginning of December --- or even months earlier. Now all you have to do is prepare your lasagna noodles, mix together your ricotta filling and assemble. Take care of those steps the day before the holiday, and you're in for some easy hosting duties.
Looking for a beer? Try an amber ale with this meaty lasagna. You'll love how the malt complements the sweet tomatoes, and it has plenty of bubbles to cut through such a bold dish.
I always love a chianti with a tomato sauce-based pasta, and it works perfectly here. The high acidity keeps your palate cleansed from the meatballs and layers upon layers of creamy cheese while balancing the tomatoes. I wouldn't turn down a cabernet sauvignon with this lasagna either.
When you need a comforting yet impressive meal, I hope you try this meatball lasagna. With its cheesy, meaty layers and delicate pasta, everyone is sure to love this delicious dish. Please let me know how you enjoyed this meatball lasagna recipe in the comment section and don’t forget to sign up for my newsletter. You can also catch me on Instagram, Pinterest, Facebook and Twitter.
Love a Cozy Pasta Dish?
- Chorizo and pumpkin baked ziti
- Morel mushroom pasta in Parmesan cream sauce
- Tex-Mex avocado pasta with chili-tequila roasted shrimp
- Grilled lobster fettuccine in lemon Alfredo sauce
Comfort food lovers, meet your new favorite dish! With its layers of tender meatballs, gooey mozzarella and creamy ricotta tucked in between delicate pasta noodles, this meatball lasagna is a guaranteed crowd pleaser. For one unforgettable meal, gather good company and serve this meatball lasagna with a loaf of crusty garlic bread and a bottle of chianti.
For Homemade Tomato Sauce
1 tablespoon olive or canola oil
1 cup chopped onion
5 garlic cloves, minced or grated
1 (6)-ounce can tomato paste
½ cup chianti, optional
3–4 (28)-ounce cans crushed tomatoes (see note)
10 fresh thyme sprigs
5 fresh rosemary sprigs
4 fresh oregano sprigs
2 bay leaves
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon pepper
½ cup chopped fresh basil
For Italian Meatballs
1 cup soft bread crumbs, torn from white sandwich bread, no crust (see note)
1 cup heavy cream or milk
6 garlic cloves, minced or grated
1 cup freshly grated Parmesan, using the small holes of a box grater
1 cup grated onion, using the large holes of a box grater
½ cup chopped fresh parsley
2 tablespoons Italian seasoning
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon pepper
1 teaspoon anchovy paste (optional)
1 pound ground beef, preferably 80 percent lean and 20 percent fat
1 pound ground pork
For Meatball Lasagna
1 pound dried lasagna noodles
30 ounces ricotta
3 eggs, slightly beaten
1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
½ cup chopped fresh basil
½ teaspoon nutmeg, preferably freshly grated
Salt and pepper
5 cups shredded mozzarella (see note)
6 cups crumbled meatballs
4 cups tomato sauce
Fresh parsley, chopped, for garnish, optional
- Before starting on our meatballs, we make our sauce, so it can get a head start simmering. Heat olive or canola oil in a large stockpot over medium heat. Add chopped onion and cook until soft, about five to eight minutes. Add the garlic cloves and cook for 30 seconds, stirring constantly.
- Stir in the tomato paste and chianti. Cook until the chianti is nearly fully reduced.
- Pour in the crushed tomatoes with the juice. Tie the thyme, rosemary and oregano together with kitchen twine. Add the bundled herbs with bay leaves and stir in salt and pepper. Mostly cover, leaving a crack open, and bring to a simmer. Stir occasionally and keep the heat as low as possible to maintain a simmer.
- Now we start on the meatballs. In a bowl, combine the bread crumbs and heavy cream or milk. Allow the bread crumbs to soak as you prepare the other ingredients.
- Beat the eggs in a large mixing bowl. Stir in the garlic cloves, Parmesan, onion, parsley, Italian seasoning, salt, pepper and anchovy paste if using. Drain the bread crumbs in a fine-mesh sieve. Stir in the bread crumbs.
- Add the ground beef and pork. Using a gentle touch, stir with a wooden spoon to form one cohesive mixture. You could even use your hands to mix the ingredients together. Mix just until combined.
- Lightly oil your hands and form into balls slightly larger than the size of a golf ball. Drop directly into the simmering sauce. Simmer on low to medium-low heat until cooked through, about two to three hours, stirring occasionally. Try to be as gentle as possible when stirring. Alternatively, you could bake the meatballs in a 450-degree oven for 15 minutes or fry in a skillet before simmering. For more details on those instructions, see notes for link.
- After simmering, stir in the freshly chopped basil, remove the other herbs and turn off heat.
For Meatball Lasagna
- Heat oven to 375 degrees. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Cook lasagna noodles according to package directions. Using tongs, remove each lasagna noodle and place on lightly greased parchment paper. This prevents the noodles from clumping together.
- Mix together ricotta, eggs, Parmesan, basil and nutmeg. Season with salt and pepper and set aside.
- Spread ½ cup tomato sauce from meatballs on bottom of a greased lasagna pan or a deep-dish 9-inch-by-13-inch-by-3-inch pan. Place noodles on top to cover the bottom of the pan. If necessary, you can cut a noodle to fill a small space if they don't span over the entire pan. Spread ½ of the ricotta mixture on top of the noodles and then 1 ½ cups of shredded mozzarella. Top with 2 cups crumbled meatballs and 1 cup sauce. Place another layer of lasagna noodles on top. Repeat the ricotta, mozzarella, meatball and sauce filling. Place another layer of lasagna noodles on top. This is the final layer of lasagna noodles. Spread 2 cups of crumbled meatballs on that final noodle layer and 2 cups of sauce on top of the meatballs. Make sure the noodles are fully covered in sauce. Top the meatballs and sauce with 2 cups shredded mozzarella. Cover with foil, trying not to let the foil touch the cheese.
- Bake covered for 30 minutes. Remove the foil. Bake for another 15 minutes. Remove from oven and allow to sit in room temperature for 15-20 minutes. This step is crucial to allow the filling to set, so don't skip it. Once the lasagna sits and the filling sets, cut into squares and serve. Enjoy!
- Do not use the fresh mozzarella stored in water. It's too wet and can make lasagna soupy. Just get a block of mozzarella and shred it. Shredding it yourself is better than buying a bag of shredded mozzarella because it melts better.
- Do not use canned Parmesan. It doesn't melt properly and will leave you with a grainy texture.
- Visit my original post for more details on how to make Italian meatballs.
- Nutritional information is only an estimate. The accuracy of the nutritional information for any recipe on this site is not guaranteed.
- Category: Main Dishes
- Method: Baking
- Cuisine: Italian
- Serving Size: 1 slice
- Calories: 750
- Sugar: 18
- Sodium: 2,487
- Fat: 40
- Saturated Fat: 0
- Unsaturated Fat: 0
- Trans Fat: 0
- Carbohydrates: 44
- Fiber: 0
- Protein: 46
- Cholesterol: 100
Keywords: meatball lasagna