Italian Lamb Lasagna

Lamb Lasagna

Italian Lamb Lasagna, a delicious layered pasta dish of flavorful lamb ragù and creamy béchamel sauce, is so good that it will be featured as the main course this Easter Sunday. A savory Italian Easter pie called Pizza Gaina will start the happy celebration.

For centuries Easter has been a feast day and the most popular main course in Italy, where the holiday is known as Pasqua, has traditionally been lamb, most often grilled or roasted with garlic, rosemary and olive oil. While delicious, I wanted to prepare something different this year.

Lamb Lasagna
Lamb Lasagna

A pasta course is also served on Easter but we are eating lighter now. With that in mind, I decided to combine two Italian traditions, pasta and lamb, and just make lamb lasagna. Lighter than lasagna made with lots of mozzarella, ricotta, and a thick Bolognese sauce, the Italian lamb lasagna I’m making will make a delicious Easter lunch.

Lamb Lasagna

Recipe serves 4, adjust accordingly

Lamb Ragù 

  • 1 lb. ground lamb
  • 1 Tbsp. olive oil plus additional 2 Tbsp.
  • 1 Tbsp. butter
  • 1 stalk of celery, chopped
  • 2 carrots, chopped
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 3 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 c. red wine
  • 1 c. beef stock
  • 2 28 oz. cans whole peeled tomatoes (I used San Marzano)
  • 1 Tbsp. dried oregano
  • 1 Tbsp. dried basil
  • l large bay leaf
  • a couple sprigs of fresh thyme
  • a pinch of red pepper flakes
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • a pinch of sugar, to adjust the acidity of the tomatoes, if necessary

Heat 1 Tbsp. olive oil in a pot over medium heat. Add the lamb and season with salt. Cook until brown, about 5 min., stirring and breaking the lamb up into small pieces. Remove the lamb to a bowl with a slotted spoon and set aside. In the meantime, put the celery, carrots and onions into a food processor and pulse until finely chopped. Drain the lamb fat from the pot and add the additional 2 Tbsp. of olive oil and the butter. Add the vegetables and a pinch of salt and cook until translucent. Add the garlic and cook 1 minute. Add the red wine and scrape the brown bits off the bottom. Bring to a simmer and cook until reduced by half then add the stock.

Puree 1 can of the tomatoes and add to the pot. Squash the other can of tomatoes with your hands until broken down then add to the pot. Add all the seasonings and let simmer for 10 minutes. Add the lamb back to the pot and let simmer until the sauce is the consistency you desire. Remove the bay leaf and thyme sprigs. Taste and adjust seasonings if necessary.

Béchamel 

  • 2 1/4 c. milk
  • 3 Tbsp. butter
  • 3 Tbsp. flour (I used Wondra)
  • 4 Tbsp. grated Pecorino-Romano or Parmesan cheese
  • a pinch of nutmeg
  • salt and ground white pepper to taste

In a saucepan, melt the butter on medium heat. Slowly whisk in the flour, making sure any lumps dissolve. Pour in the milk a little at a time and continue to whisk until it starts to thicken. Add the nutmeg, salt, pepper and cheese. Whisk until the cheese is melted and the béchamel thickens. If it gets too thick, add a little more milk.

Assemble the lasagna:

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

  • 1 8 oz. box of oven ready lasagna (I used Ronzoni)
  • ragù, recipe above
  • béchamel sauce, recipe above
  • 4 Tbsp. of grated Pecorino-Romano or Parmesan cheese

Start with a layer of ragù in the bottom of a 9 x 13 inch lasagna pan then place 3 pieces of pasta on top. Add a layer of ragù topped with a layer of béchamel. Repeat with pasta, ragù and béchamel two more times. Finish with the remaining 3 pieces of pasta. Spread the remaining béchamel sauce completely over the pasta, then sprinkle with the cheese. Cover with foil and bake for 35 minutes. Uncover and bake until the top is golden about 10 minutes. Let stand for 15 to 20 minutes before cutting so the lasagna firms up.

Italian Lamb Lasagna
Italian Lamb Lasagna For Easter

**

While the lasagna is baking, I’ll serve a small portion of an Italian Easter Pie, Pizza Gaina, you can find the recipe here. Similar to a quiche, they go by many names, Tarta Pascualina, Pizza Rustica, Pizza Chena, or Pizza Gaina and are made with ricotta cheese and sautéed greens or a variety of cheeses and cured meats. It is one of my husband’s favorite Italian Easter dishes that his mother always prepared. Served to celebrate the end of lent, it can be a meal all by itself.

Italian Easter Pie Called Pizza Gaina
Savory Italian Easter Pie Called Pizza Gaina

**

Notes:

  • Lamb fat can have a strong taste, so I like to drain the fat after browning, and replace it with a mixture of olive oil and butter.
  • I like to use no boil lasagna in place of the traditional boxed noodles that you pre-boil, I find that they are thinner, more tender and I think much like homemade. Of course, you also have the option to use fresh sheets of pasta for the recipe.
  • The lasagna can be created ahead of time and not baked. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate. When ready to cook, remove the plastic wrap, cover with foil and bake for  35 minutes, remove foil and bake 10 minutes to brown.
  • If frozen, bake the lasagna for about an hour and a half, remove the foil and bake for an additional 10 minutes.
  • You can also bake the lasagna a day ahead. Reheat covered at 400 degrees for 30 to 45 until hot and bubbly.
  • If you want to serve ragù on the side with the lasagna, add an additional can of tomatoes to the ragù recipe.

****

I served the lamb lasagna to friends over the weekend and everyone enjoyed it. My husband said he now prefers the lasagna made with béchamel over one that is made with ricotta and mozzarella, saying it is much lighter. When I prepare the lamb lasagna for our Easter lunch, I’ll be serving a salad made with fresh spring peas and asparagus topped with sliced hard boiled eggs. Garlic bread and a good bottle of red wine and we will be happy. Whether you decide to prepare the lamb lasagna for your Easter meal or serve it for a weekend dinner during the year, I do hope you will enjoy it as much as we did.

 

 

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136 thoughts on “Italian Lamb Lasagna

  1. Lasagna is great, isn’t it? Haven’t made one with lamb — sounds like a nifty idea. I sometimes make a lamb ragu for pasta, though — lamb and pasta really combine so wonderfully. This looks terrific — and no way could I eat both a pasta dish and a meaty main these days! Really nice recipe — thanks.

    1. Hi John, A holiday meal at an Italian’s home usually has so much food that you tend to eat all day. Baked or stuffed pasta usually makes an appearance so I thought why not make one with lamb and serve it as the main course. I’m glad you like the recipe, thank you!

    1. Thank you Jovina, I glad you like what I’ve decided to serve for our Easter meal this year. While I grew up eating ham, my Italian husband grew up having lamb for the holiday and that is usually what we have.

    1. Thank you Judy, we really enjoy lamb as well. After making the lamb lasagna earlier this year and loving it, I thought it would be perfect to serve for our Easter meal this year.

  2. I have never thought to use lamb for lasagna so that will be something new to try. Phil is a happy man when I make lasagna and he will be even more so when it has lamb.

    1. Linda, for all the times and variety of ways I’ve made lasagna, I had never thought to use lamb either and we both love it. I hope you will enjoy it if you get the chance to prepare it.

    1. Hi Mandy, I thought the same thing when I saw it listed on the menu of one of our local caterers. I’m so glad I made it and now I’m going to make it again for Easter. Thank you for your compliment and wish…I hope you have a nice weekend as well.

  3. I usually make my lasagna with minced beef, but I’m sure it will be delicious with lamb too. I tend to use minced lamb in moussaka, which is also a great and flavoursome dish. Thanks for sharing and alternative method to an old-time favourite dish.

    1. Hi Fatima, Isn’t it funny that we can make Greek moussaka with lamb but never thought of using it in Italian lasagna. I really think you would enjoy it, I know my husband, friends and I all did.

    1. Hi Pam, I’m happy to share the lamb lasagna recipe with you. It was the first time I had made lasagna with lamb as well as with the béchamel sauce. We love it as it is so much lighter than when made with mozzarella and ricotta. Have a nice weekend as well.

    1. I appreciate your nice compliment David. We usually make a leg of lamb for Easter but I want to do something different this year…I thought the lamb lasagna would be nice.

    1. Thank you Susan, this lasagna is much lighter than what I usually make, even my vegetable one. It is a recipe that can be adjusted to any number of people so I thought it would work nicely for an Easter dish.

    1. Thank you Bobbi, we both really enjoy lamb as well. Why I never thought to use lamb until recently, I don’t know. It is perfect for a make ahead meal and is even better the next day.

    1. Hi Liz, I served this to guests…there wasn’t a drop left. The béchamel sauce really makes for a much lighter pasta dish, I’m glad you like it. Thank you.

    1. Hi Kay, We usually have lamb on Easter and I think the lasagna will be a nice way of using it this year. Thank you for your nice compliment.

  4. It looks and sounds absolutely delicious! I love lamb, cook it quite regularly but never in Italian dishes. It sounds like a great idea and a nice change from the usual pork&beef.

    1. I appreciate your compliment Sissi. Whenever I’ve used ground lamb in the past, I’ve made Greek style burgers. I’m going to definitely be experimenting with it in more dishes where I normally would use beef.

  5. As I follow Historical Jesus and have never celebrated Easter I may nor use your recipe on that occasion. However it is an appetizing change of meats, as others have said ere me, which is already being used in moussaka. Personally I do make my own lasagne sheets over which I have more control ,. . . our supermarket brands would greatly differ anyways. Do like your side . . . the offering will be on the table: perchance even over the holiday period . . .

    1. Hi Eha, I just found you and several other readers in my spam file…glad I could pull you out. Good for you for making your own lasagna sheets, I’m sure your version is very good.

  6. Karen, that’s a very tasty looking lasagna. I quickly learned after moving to Sweden that lasagna with ricotta is foreign to most over this way. Here lasagna is mostly made with béchamel sauce. I was never that fond of lasagna with ricotta, but now love lasagna with béchamel. We enjoy lamb in all forms, so I’m looking forward to giving your recipe a try.

    1. Thank you Ron. I’m with you about lasagna with béchamel, it is light and delicious. I hope you will enjoy the lamb lasagna recipe if you get a chance to prepare it.

  7. I, too, love lamb and lasagna. Anxious to try this, Karen. (And lighter ain’t all that bad!) I’m making an Easter Pie as well — been a long time since I’ve done so; need to keep up the tradition.

    1. What a delightful surprise to hear from you Rosemary. 😀 I’m happy that you enjoyed the post and that it reminded you of your long time Easter traditions. I hope you will enjoy the recipe if you get a chance to prepare it.

  8. Karen, I’ve only ever made lasagna with the ricotta and mozzarella mixture! You can bet I will try it your way next time as I absolutely love bechamel sauce 🙂 Looks and sounds fantastic!

    1. Hi Marcelle, This is the first time I’ve not used ricotta and mozzarella, instead using the béchamel. I think you will really enjoy what a light lasagna it makes this way. Thank you for your nice compliment.

  9. I made a lasagna years ago that included a béchamel sauce but never one with lamb! This is good enough for Easter dinner for sure. LOVE it Karen – thanks for sharing.

  10. This sounds delicious, Karen! I love that you channeled the lamb vibe but mixed it with pasta, too. The béchamel sauce is a great way to tie the two together. I know where I’m coming for Easter dinner this year! 🙂

    1. Hi Annie, I do think you family would enjoy the lamb lasagna as a little change from what you usually prepare. Thank you for your nice compliment.

  11. Karen, this sounds wonderful! What a great alternative to a “traditional” Easter dinner! I may just make it this Easter, I think my family would love it! Thanks!

  12. Lasagna with lamb…that sounds really, really delicious! Lamb is our favorite red meat and who doesn’t love lasagna? 🙂 Fabulous dish!

  13. I thought traditional lasagne was rich, but this is decadent, Karen! The béchamel sauce is an amazing addition. I don’t think I’ve had anything quite like this, and I plan to share this recipe with my daughter-in-law. She’s always trying new recipes with lamb! Guests must be thrilled to come to your home for dinner. I’m sure that’s true! 🙂

    1. Hi Debra, You will be pleasantly surprised at how light lasagna is when made with béchamel instead of ricotta and mozzarella. Thank you for your nice compliment about my cooking, it is much appreciated.

  14. I absolutely love lamb but wish more family members enjoyed it. In lasagna form or even an Easter Pie I bet they could not tell what was in it. Both recipes sound delicious and I have printed them out – maybe the pie this year and not the main course. I always (cheat) get a honey baked ham for Easter and everyone always looks forward to leftovers.

    1. You gave me a chuckle Judi, you are probably right about the lasagna. If you didn’t tell your family it was lamb, they would probably like it and just think it was different. My mother always made ham for Easter, so I know where you are coming from.

  15. I love this idea, Karen! Definitely a great alternative to the “traditional” Easter foods like Ham and rolls and mashed potatoes. Looks delish!

  16. I’ve been cooking with lamb a lot lately and loving it! This recipe sounds wonderful and delightful for a celebration like Easter. And now I’m off to check out that delicious looking savory pie. Yum! Happy Easter!

  17. Well, where am I going to find an Italian lamb? Just kidding! I love a homemade lasagna. I think it’s perfect Easter food! I’ve made lasagna for Christmas many times. But never with lamb! Sounds so delicious.

  18. Oh good heavens… I made the mistake of reading this post before dinner… very bad idea! I adore lamb and honestly never thought of using it in lasagna (what was I NOT thinking??) Absolutely brilliant! Have to say that I love you made it with bechamel… so many recipes these days leave it out and, well, it’s just not lasagna without bechamel!!!

    1. Hi Nancy, I’m glad you like the idea of lamb for a lasagna and yes to the béchamel. It certainly makes for a light and delicious lasagna. Thank you for your compliment.

  19. Somehow I have never used ground lamb, your lasagna looks delicious…loving all the layers of it. Thank you so much for the recipe Karen…I hope you are having a fabulous week!

  20. Looks wonderful, Karen! I love ground lamb or any type of lamb, really. I personally would love this for Easter. The ground lamb with bechamel sounds delightful – I’m afraid my family would miss the country ham for Easter though, ha. We are having leg of lamb, though! Might make something like this another time though!

  21. My mother (Rhode Island) always made our family of seven roast lamb on Easter. This lamb lasagna sounds over the top amazing. We’re eating lighter these days too. I love that you can make this ahead, unlike roasted main dish meats. Thanks for sharing this delectable dish, Karen. I know we will all love it!

    1. Hi Allie, When you are cooking for a crowd, being able to have a dish like lasagna that can be made ahead certainly helps out. Thank you for your nice compliment.

  22. Looks and sounds very tasty Karen. Lamb is a favourite meat in Australia – there is the adage that Australia was ‘built on the sheeps’ back’…we eat a lot of it. I think this is a lovely way to serve it. Thanks!
    I made a low carb lasagne last week…I must say I was highly sceptical, but the pasta sheets made from eggs, cream cheese and psyllium husk was surprisingly good.

  23. Now that kind of meal is a grand, celebratory event all by itself! I’ve never made a meat lasagna before but I can certainly appreciate all of the time and hard work that goes into such a production.

  24. This looks and sounds lovely. I wish my husband enjoyed lamb like I do. Sorry, I’m a bit behind on blogs. We’ve been visiting my mother in Park City, Utah. One day at lunch at the J & G Grill, I ordered veal bolognese, which isn’t something i typically order, and I’m still dreaming about it. Not lamb lasagna, but sort of in that same comforting food category for me!!!

    1. Sorry to be so late in getting back to you…we appears we are both behind on our blogs. 🙂 Thank you for your nice compliment about the lamb lasagna…it is a shame that your husband doesn’t like lamb but I know there are a lot of people that don’t. Your veal bolognese sounds like it was a memorable meal.

  25. your easter lunch sounds wonderful karen tho i would use beef mince rather than lamb. I love the look of the savoury pie. i bet it was delicious. hope your easter break was fabulous. cheers sherry

  26. Since my husband doesn’t prefer lamb, it is something that I always order in a restaurant if I find it on the menu. I can imagine how delicious the flavor of this lasagna with lamb! This is the first time I’ve ever read about lamb lasagna! So creative Karen! I hope you had a wonderful Easter!

    1. Hi Roz, It appears that there are a lot of picky husbands among my blogging friends who don’t care for lamb. We thought the lamb lasagna turned out great and as you say, it was something a little different. We had a lovely Easter, I hope you did as well.

  27. You’re on an Italian kick- and I’m happy !! This is almost exactly how my Mom made lasagna, but no stock and unfortunately, no lamb!! I’ll have to pull out her recipe to take a peek! Yum!!

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