Sweet & Spicy Italian Sausage Lasagna

Updated: Dec 24th, 2023 · By Bethany Kramer
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This Italian sausage lasagna is one of my family’s favorite lasagna recipes, and for good reason! Each layer is made up of tender pasta noodles, sweet & spicy Italian sausage, three Italian cheeses, and lots of fresh herbs. It’s cheesy, rich, and simply irresistible! From my family to yours!

A white dish with sausage lasagna in it arranged on a wooden board with a napkin and herbs placed around it.

Several years ago, my mom and I developed this lasagna recipe together. And years later, it is still one of the best lasagnas I’ve ever eaten!

We use quality Italian sausage (a blend of sweet sausage and spicy sausage) and layer it with an herbaceous cheese blend, rich marinara, and tender pasta noodles. Every bite is better than the last and it’s irresistible, to say the least!

I have so many fond memories of growing up helping my mom in the kitchen. Either helping her layer lasagna or being the “sauce stirrer” as the marinara simmered throughout the day for the lasagna. They are irreplaceable memories that fueled the love I have now for recipes like this!

This recipe will always remind me of my aunt Valerie who has since passed away. When we first made this recipe, we used her favorite Italian sausage from Brooklyn Pork Store. Because of her, really, this lasagna recipe was inspired to be.

I hope you love this recipe just as much as my family and I do!

Ingredients – What You Need

Ingredients for sausage lasagna arranged on a wooden background.

Lasagna noodles: you can use either boiled lasagna noodles or oven-ready noodles (that require no boiling to soften them). If I use oven-ready noodles, I love using these whole wheat noodles to make them healthier!
Italian sausage: to add a blend of flavor, use a combo of sweet & spicy Italian sausage.
Marinara: I always recommend using a quality marinara for lasagna. For homemade use our San Marzano Tomato Sauce or our favorite store-bought brand!
Mozzarella: to create lots of melty cheesy goodness!
Parmesan: for a little salty flavor – this cheese is used in the ricotta filling as well as the lasagna layers.
Ricotta: only a little is used in this recipe to create the filling, if you aren’t a fan of ricotta you can leave it out completely or swap it for cottage cheese.
Fresh basil: a must for fresh herb flavor! This recipe uses fresh basil in both the ricotta filling and layering throughout the lasagna. So you will need quite a bit of fresh basil to make it!
Oregano: I recommend using fresh oregano, this is used for the ricotta filling.
Garlic: use fresh garlic for the best flavor! Or save time by using 1 teaspoon of garlic powder.
Egg: this is used to help bind the ricotta filling together.

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Step-by-Step Instructions

If you use boiled noodles, cook them in a large pot of well-salted boiling water as the package instructs.

Step 1 – remove the sausage from the casing and cook in a skillet pan until fully cooked through (about 5-7 minutes). If the sausage is oily, place it on a plate lined with paper towels to soak up the extra oils.

Step 2 – in a medium-sized bowl, mix together ricotta, parmesan cheese, basil, garlic, egg, and salt & pepper.

Step one and two of how to make sausage lasagna. Browning the sausage in a pan, and mixing the ricotta cheese in a bowl.

Step 3 – the first layer in the lasagna dish is spreading a layer of marinara on the bottom of the dish. Then layer with noodles, and spread a thin layer of the ricotta filling over top.

Step 4 – then top with an even layer of cooked sausage and fresh basil.

Steps three and four showing how to layer sausage lasagna in a dish.

Step 5 – Layer more sauce over top, then finish with mozzarella and parmesan cheese. Repeat layers: noodles, ricotta filling, sausage, fresh basil, sauce, and cheese until the layers are done.

Step 6 – final layer should be topped with sauce, mozzarella, and parmesan. Cover with foil and bake at 375F for 20 minutes, then remove foil and bake uncovered for an additional 20 minutes – broil on HIGH for the last 30-60 seconds to brown the top. Serve!

Steps five and six showing how to layer cheese and sauce in a sausage lasagna.

Tips for Success

Lightly layer ricotta filling – I prefer to use less ricotta in this lasagna because I really want the flavors of the sausage and herbs to shine. I find only using a thin layer throughout works perfectly! But if you prefer more ricotta, you can of course add it.

Fresh basil is a must – As you’ll find with a lot of my baked pasta recipes, I’m a big believer in using a lot of fresh herbs to get the most flavor. This recipe uses quite a bit of fresh basil, and it cannot be replaced with dried herbs. I only recommend using fresh for the best flavor!

Save time and use oven-ready noodles – of course using traditional boiled lasagna noodles is the best option! But to save time, you can also use oven-ready lasagna noodles that don’t require any boiling in water. Just layer them and they’ll soften and bake in the oven! You can use regular or whole wheat – we personally love whole wheat noodles and use them often.

Don’t like ricotta? If you aren’t a fan of ricotta that’s okay! You can swap it for cottage cheese or skip the filling altogether and layer it with mozzarella, parmesan, sauce, herbs, and sausage.

Make your own tomato sauce: If you’d like to really make this dish a labor of love and take it to the next level, you can make your own tomato sauce using my family’s San Marzano tomato sauce, or spice it up and use this arrabbiata sauce! If you want to save time and not make your own sauce, you can use our favorite store-bought sauce!

A spatula lifting out a slice of sausage lasagna in a white dish.

Frequently Asked Questions

How many layers should my lasagna have? Typically, lasagna should have 4 solid layers. This also depends on the depth of your pan and its size.

What kind of sausage is best for lasagna? Italian sausage is what I recommend! The spices and seasonings pair perfectly with all the lasagna ingredients. If you prefer to use a healthier sausage option, you can opt for turkey or chicken sausage!

Why did my lasagna turn out dry?
Not having enough sauce can cause your lasagna to dry out after baking. Avoid dry lasagna by always having a little extra sauce on hand. Sometimes with lasagna, it’s hard to gage how much sauce you need, I always make more than what I think I need. This question also has to do with how you bake your lasagna – which I explain below.

Why did my lasagna turn out watery?
This can be a couple of reasons. If you’re cooking with a homemade sauce, this can sometimes have more liquid to it than store-bought. Also, having too much sauce can of course create more liquid. I bake the lasagna for the last 20 minutes uncovered to help dry up any excess moisture. If by the end of your bake time, your lasagna is still watery, bake 5-10 minutes longer uncovered until liquids have cooked down.

How to Store Leftovers & Freezing Tips

How to store leftovers: allow lasagna to cool before storing in an airtight container. Keep it chilled in the refrigerator for 3-5 days. 

How to freeze & reheat lasagna (two ways): First way to freeze this lasagna would be to prepare the lasagna (do not bake), and freeze for up to 2 months. Then thaw and reheat as instructed. Or you can bake the lasagna, allow it to cool – then freeze it for 1-2 months. Thaw and reheat in the oven at covered 350F until the center is hot.

Tip: when freezing the lasagna, wrap it first in plastic wrap tightly, then cover tightly with foil.

More Lasagna Recipes To Try

A white dish with sausage lasagna in it arranged on a wooden board with a napkin and herbs placed around it.

Sweet & Spicy Italian Sausage Lasagna

5 from 15 votes
This Italian sausage lasagna is one of my family's favorite lasagna recipes, and for good reason! Each layer is made up of tender pasta noodles, sweet & spicy Italian sausage, three Italian cheeses, and lots of fresh herbs. It's cheesy, rich, and simply irresistible!
From my family to yours!
Prep Time 25 minutes
Cook Time 40 minutes
Total Time 1 hour 5 minutes
Serves 9 slices

Ingredients

  • 1 box lasagna noodles (boil or oven ready)
  • 8-10 cups tomato sauce (see notes)
  • 1/2 cup parmesan cheese
  • 4 cups mozzarella cheese
  • 2 link spicy Italian sausage or 1/2 pound of bulk sausage
  • 2 link sweet Italian sausage or 1/2 pound of bulk sausage
  • 1/2 cup fresh basil, chopped

Ricotta Filling

  • 2/3 cup fresh parmesan cheese, shredded
  • 1 cup ricotta cheese
  • 2 tbsp fresh basil, chopped
  • 1 tsp fresh oregano, chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves
  • 1/4 tsp (each) salt & black pepper
  • 1 egg

Instructions

  • Preheat the oven to 375F.
  • Cook the lasagna noodles: if using boiled noodles, heat a large pot of salted water with a drop of olive oil in the water, and cook the pasta as the package instructs until al dente. Stir the lasagna noodles when adding them to the water. Drain the pasta noodles when finished, then place them back in the pot and cover them with cold water.
  • Cook sausage: in a pan, cook the sausage. Remove the sausage from the skin and break it up into pieces (no oil is needed to cook the sausage as it naturally will create oils). Cook sausage until fully cooked – about 5-7 minutes.
  • Mix the ricotta filling: in a small mixing bowl, mix together ricotta, parmesan, garlic, fresh basil & oregano, salt & pepper, and egg.
  • Layer lasagna: In a large 13×9 baking dish, layer: 1 1/2 cups sauce, lasagna noodles (dab them dry of any excess water), ricotta filling (2 Tablespoon size scoops in the center of each noodle), cooked sausage, mozzarella cheese, and fresh chopped basil. Repeat the process until the ingredients are used up. Finish the final layer with sauce, mozzarella, and parmesan cheese.
  • Bake: Then cover with foil and bake for 20 minutes, then remove foil and bake for an additional 20 minutes. Broil for the last 30-60 seconds to brown the top. Serve with fresh basil!

Notes

Save time and use oven-ready noodles – of course using traditional boiled lasagna noodles is the best option! But to save time, you can also use oven-ready lasagna noodles that don’t require any boiling in water. Just layer them and they’ll soften and bake in the oven! You can use regular or whole wheat – we personally love whole wheat noodles and use them often.
Course Main Course
Cuisine American, Italian
Keyword italian lasagna, sausage lasagna
Freezer Friendly Yes
Author A Simple Palate

Nutrition

Serving: 1Lasagna slice | Calories: 468kcal | Carbohydrates: 41.3g | Protein: 37.1g | Fat: 17.4g | Saturated Fat: 8.1g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 1.8g | Monounsaturated Fat: 6.5g | Trans Fat: 0g | Cholesterol: 79.1mg | Sodium: 725.8mg | Potassium: 0mg | Fiber: 7.6g | Sugar: 10.4g | Vitamin A: 23IU | Vitamin C: 21mg | Calcium: 0mg | Iron: 18mg

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46 Comments

  • Cindy A says:

    5 stars
    Can you give instructions for unthawing and reheating this? How long does each usually take and do you reheat it covered or uncovered?

    • Bethany Kramer says:

      Hi Cindy! I can add those instructions into the post. I would thaw it overnight in the fridge or for several hours at room temperature. I would reheat it as the recipe instructs, covered then uncovered! Hope you enjoy it!

  • Melody Wagstaff says:

    5 stars
    I’m having to come back to my Pinterest pin of this recipe because I just cannot locate my hard copy. It was SO LOVED by both sides of my family I’m using this as my make ahead Christmas Eve meal. The tomato recommendation was AWESOME! My mother doesn’t eat regular red sauce meals due to it bothering her stomach. She had extra the last time I made this and was in shock there could be a low acid tomato she could eat. The sauce recipe makes an INCREDIBLE amount and I was able to make many smaller lasagna’s for my small family. It froze terrifically and baked up afterwards just as wonderful as the first batch.

    Thank you so much for sharing this family jewel of a recipe. It’s now my family’s special treat recipe as well! Happiest of holidays!

    • Bethany says:

      Melody, your words made my day. I’m SO thrilled you all enjoyed this recipe so much AND the sauce! That makes me so happy your mom could finally enjoy a red sauce. San Marzano’s are the best for that reason! Thanks so much for sharing, have a wonderful Christmas and New Year! 🙂

  • Arel says:

    5 stars
    I tried this recipe and it turned out really good. Thanks for the recipe.
     

  • Teri Coffey says:

    I can’t wait to make this! Are you supposed to drain the sausage before adding the sauce?

    • Bethany says:

      Hi Teri, I have never had to drain the sausage because it’s never had too much grease/cooking oils. But if you find yours does make a bit of oil, you can remove the sausage and add it to a plate with paper towels to soak up extra oils. Hope you enjoy the recipe!

  • Pearl says:

    5 stars
    Turned out great and I always make your sauce! Thank you for creating delicious recipes that never disappoint!

  • Nicole says:

    5 stars
    I’ve never been a fan of lasagna. It was always boring and I don’t like ricotta cheese. I could never find a recipe that was adaptable to my tatsebuds. This recipe has CHANGED THE GAME! It was delicious. I subbed cottage cheese for the ricotta. This recipe change my entire outlook on lasagna. Thank you!!!!

    • Bethany says:

      That is the sweetest compliment! Thank you so much, Nicole! I’m truly thrilled it changed your mind on lasagna. 🙂

  • Danielle says:

    Hi Bethany, I would like to make the homemade sauce for the lasagna and also for a pot of meatballs to simmer them in. How much would I need to increase the sauce by to make all of it together? I didn’t know if the lasagna recipe uses the whole batch of sauce or if any leftover.

    • Bethany says:

      Hi Danielle, If you did 5 cans of san marzano’s for the sauce, it should be enough for lasagna and the meatballs! 🙂

  • AmandaG says:

    5 stars
    This is truly outstanding! I went semi-homemade by using Bertolli organic tomato basil sauce. I also used a mix of sweet and spicy chicken and pork sausage. I used both fresh basil and dried, and minced garlic. I love the lightness of the ricotta – all other lasagna I’ve made and tried was too heavy on it and the restrained use of it here really does let the flavors shine through. The parmesan also gives the recipe some depth of flavor. I’m keeping this recipe for life!

  • Speters says:

    What is the final number of noodles? How many noodles per layer?

  • Rich says:

    5 stars
    I can’t believe the huge difference using the San Marzano tomato’s. This is the best thing I’ve ever made. I have 2 huge zip lock bags of the gravy to freeze and use for all kids of dishes. Thank you so much for this recipe.

  • Albertina says:

    5 stars
    Thank you for this great recipe. I made them today for the 2nd time and they were amazing. Perfect recipe and instructions too.

  • Larry S. says:

    I see you cook your lasagna in a glass dish… Does this work better than the stainless steel pans?

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