Classic Lasagna: It's All in the White Sauce

The most common cook's sauce becomes the key to this layered lasagna. A basic white sauce -- bechamel -- adds a rich, garlicky layer to this decadent pasta. See how to make it!

Have you ever wished you could make a delicious classic lasagna? It's the rich béchamel sauce that truly defines classic lasagna. And here is a classic recipe your family and friends will love. First, cook 12 dried lasagna noodles according to their package directions. Drain the noodles. Rinse them in cold water and then drain them a second time. Place the noodles in a single layer on a sheet of foil and set them aside. A classic béchamel sauce is a secret to a rich saucy lasagna. Mince 3 cloves of garlic. Over medium heat, add 2 tablespoons of butter to a medium saucepan. When the butter's melted, add the garlic. Cook and stir it for a minute. Add 3 tablespoons of flour, a quarter teaspoon of salt and a quarter teaspoon of ground black pepper. Stir it together using a whisk. Pour in 2 cups of milk all at once and whisk the sauce vigorously. Cook and stir the sauce until it thickens and bubbles. You want to get all of the flour cooked out, so cook it for another minute once it boils. Remove it from the heat. Stir in a quarter cup of grated parmesan cheese and then set the béchamel sauce aside. It's time to make the meat sauce. Chop one large onion. You'll need one cup. Mince 2 cloves of garlic. Over medium high heat, add 8 ounces of ground beef to a large skillet. Then add 8 ounces of both Italian or pork sausage or if you prefer, make it an all-beef lasagna by adding more ground beef. Break the meat up with your spoon. Add the onion. and the garlic. Cook and stir until the meat is brown. Once the meat is brown, drain off any excess fat, return the skillet to the heat. Add 1 14-1/2 ounce can of diced tomatoes with its juice. One 8 ounce can of tomato sauce. One tablespoon of crushed dried Italian seasoning, one teaspoon of crushed fennel seeds and a quarter teaspoon of ground black pepper. Bring the sauce to a boil then reduce the heat. Cover the pan and simmer the sauce for about 15 minutes. Stir the sauce occasionally to keep it from sticking to the bottom of the pan while the meat sauce is simmering, let's mix up the ricotta filling. Lightly beat an egg in a medium bowl. Add 1 15 ounce container of ricotta cheese or 2 cups of cottage cheese and a quarter cup of grated parmesan. Mix the ricotta filling until it's creamy and set it aside. Now we're ready to assemble the lasagna. Pre-heat the oven to 375 degrees. Then spread a quarter cup of the meat sauce in the bottom of an ungreased 3 quart rectangular baking dish. Arrange 3 of the noodles lengthwise over the sauce. Spread a quarter of the ricotta filling over the noodles. Then spread a quarter of the béchamel sauce over the filling. Top that with a quarter of the meat sauce and sprinkle half a cup of shredded mozzarella cheese on top. Repeat this layering two more times. And for our last layers, let's put on the remaining 3 noodles, the remaining ricotta filling, the remaining béchamel sauce and the remaining meat sauce. Make sure you cover the top completely with the sauce. Now sprinkle on another half cup of mozzarella cheese. If you like, you can sprinkle on some additional grated parmesan cheese. We're going to bake this lasagna now. But if you like, you can cover the assembled lasagna and refrigerate it for up to 24 hours. Bake it uncovered at 375 until it's heated through about 45 to 50 minutes. Since this lasagna has not been refrigerated, bake it for 30 to 35 minutes or until it's heated through. Allow the lasagna to stand for 15 to 20 minutes before serving. This will give the layers time to set. To round out your Italian dinner, serve the classic lasagna with the green salad and crusty bread. Hopefully, you'll have some leftovers because this lasagna is just as delicious for lunch the next day.