Thousand Layer Lasagna

Thousand Layer Lasagna Recipe

If I told you this was the only lasagna recipe worth making, would you believe me? Well, let me give it a shot. This is thousand layer lasagna, first posted in 2006. Imagine dozens and dozens of whisper-thin sheets of fresh pasta brushed with the most vibrant red tomato sauce imaginable all intersecting layer after layer of warm, oozy, fresh mozzarella. Where the sauce and cheese and pasta touch the pan, particularly in the corners, everything gets crunchy and caramelized.

I'll fight you for a corner piece. Seriously.

This isn't a lasagna path for the faint-hearted. Making a dish of this magnitude takes commitment and patience - and time. Plenty of it. Although, not as much time as if you asked me about it last week. It dawned on me over the weekend, standing in front of the the fresh pasta vendor at the market, that I could shave a few hours off the production of it. That's right. Hours. This thing is a weekend project if there ever was one. The good news is that it makes a lot, and there's no chance you'll go hungry throughout the week. And it is so. good.

lasagna recipe

Fresh Pasta Straight from the Pasta Shop

A while back some of you were asking me about this recipe. I posted a picture of a pesto/ricotta version of it here (although, now that I'm looking at it - definitely not deep-dish enough)...I promised a proper write-up. So here it is. I do a bunch of variations it. Today I'll show you the tomato-based starter version, but feel free to experiment through the seasons. I've done roasted butternut squash + brown butter, or pesto and ricotta - play around, but keep the sauces + fillings simple and not too chunky. Part of the magic comes from the baklava-like layering of the pasta one on top of the next - just enough going on between each layer to keep it all moist, flavorful, and feathery-light. Well, as feathery-light as lasagna gets. Here's how it works...

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Thousand Layer Lasagna Recipe

5 from 1 vote

I used to make this from scratch. Homemade pasta sheets, etc. This time I got a jump start by paying $3 for a pound of fresh egg pasta sheets at the farmers' market. Fantastic return on $3. You still need to run those sheets through a pasta machine a few times to achieve the most thin and delicate sheets of pasta possible - but starting from pre-bought was a bit of a revelation for me, and a big timesaver. If you don't have a pasta machine (they are actually quite affordable!), try a rolling pin - not quite the same, but will help thin out the sheets. It also dawned on me that I might be able to get away with skipping the pre-boil step in this recipe altogether and dial up the amount of sauce a bit (though I've never tried it this way). I suspect you might be sacrificing some of the tenderness of the noodles to save the time it takes to boil and drain, just a thought. Make sure the pasta sheets you buy are fresh and moist. Proper seasoning is important throughout this recipe, if you under salt it is going to taste flat and the flavors won't pop. The right amount of salt brings the pasta forward and focuses the tomato and lemon flavors in the sauce.

  • 1 pound fresh egg pasta sheets (or make some from scratch)
  • butter to prep baking dish
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon fine grain sea salt
  • 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 clove garlic, chopped
  • 1 28-ounce can crushed organic tomatoes
  • zest of one lemon
  • 3 4-ounce balls of fresh mozzarella, torn up into little pieces
  • a handful of slivered basil (optional)
  • freshly grated Parmesan (optional)
  1. Preheat your oven to 375. Start by clearing off every flat space in your kitchen, you are going to need and use all of it.
  2. Fill your biggest pot full of water and bring to a boil.
  3. Lavishly butter a deep, square baking dish. The one I use is 9x9 and 2 1/2-inches deep.
Make your Tomato Sauce
  1. Place the olive oil, salt, pepper flakes, and garlic in a pan. Dial the heat up and saute for a minute or two. Add the tomatoes and slowly bring to a simmer as well. Remove from heat, stir in the lemon zest and taste for seasoning. Add more salt if needed. Set aside.

Prepare the Lasagna Noodles
  1. Thin out your pasta using a pasta machine. Start by cutting the big sheets into 2-inch(ish) wide ribbons. This means making 2 cuts along the sheets. This should yield you about 12 2-foot strips. Run them through the pasta machine. I go to the 8 setting, one shy of the very thinnest setting. The sheets should almost be translucent. Cut the strips into manageable rectangles roughly 4-inches in length.
  2. To pre-cook the pasta, fill a large bowl with cold water and a few glugs of olive oil. Place a large flour sack or cotton dish towel across one of your counters. Salt your pot of boiling water generously. Ok, now you are ready to boil off your pasta. Believe it or not, you are on the home stretch. Place a handful of the pasta rectangles into the boiling water to cook (I've found I can get away with about 20 at a time), fish them out (I use a pasta claw) after just 15-20 seconds, don't over cook. Transfer them immediately to the cold olive-oil water for a quick swim and cool-off. Remove from the cold water bath and place flat and neat on the cotton towel. It is ok for them to overlap, I don't have a problem with the sheets sticking typically. Repeat until all your pasta is boiled.

Assemble the Lasagna and Bake
  1. Ladle a bit of the sauce into the bottom of the prepared baking dish. Cover the bottom with a layer of pasta sheets. Now a thin layer of sauce, and a bit of cheese. Go for another layer of pasta, then sauce, then pasta again, then sauce and cheese. Keep going until you've used up all the sauce and pasta. You want to finish with a layer of pasta. Top with the last of the sauce and the very last of the cheese so you have a nice cheesy top.

  2. Bake until everything is melted and fragrant, 35 minutes or so. Let it sit for 10 minutes before serving, so everything has a chance to set up a bit. Dust with parmesan and a bit of slivered basil.
Prep Time
30 mins
Cook Time
45 mins
Total Time
1 hr 15 mins
If you make this recipe, I'd love to see it - tag it #101cookbooks on Instagram!

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Very nice indeed! Fresh pasta is the best! Snehal, sometimes dried lasagne become that way because lack of sauce. When using dried lasagne, there's no need to cook them, just use extra tomato sauce, and maybe even extra bechamel sauce. Also, cook them to packet instructions usually 25minutes at 200C!


Ahhh...Where's the MEAT?! I am almost in tears, a lasagne without MEAT! I love all your recipes but I can't do this without some delicious ground beef mince! :)


it rocks. the taste is so good. well... I did let a chef prepare it for me, but still it was amazing. try it yourself


One can never go wrong with lasagna - and if it's THIS lasagna, oh, my! :)

Patricia Scarpin

Thank you so much Heidi your recipes and ideas are inspirational! This has been my mainstay lasagna recipe since it was originally posted, it is a wonderfully hearty dish. Last time my friends were in from Australia I made this for them, he said it was better then his mother's, thats a hard one to top! They are coming back next month and it's already been requested! Just amazing Heidi!


Yes it can be an all weekend project. Well worth the work, but I can never get my noodles quite that thin. They are beautiful for sure.

Sue (coffeepot)

Heidi: wow I never saw a better recipe for lasagne than this, the layers, cant wait to try it. Lasagne it is for me this weekend.

If anyone ever tells you they've got this great "ten minute" lasagne recipe ... take them of your invitation list. Lasagne takes time and patience, and this is a great recipe !!!!!


That looks so good! I have only tried making lasagna using store-bought instant [hard] sheets that don't need cooking. Most of the time they work well, but there are those rare times when everything becomes chewy, mottled, crunchy hard [maybe I am not using enough sauce at those times]. Any idea why that happens? I can't wait to try it with fresh sheets of pasta :)


I made this last weekend and it was certainly worth the effort! Thanks!


Heidi: This looks absolutely delicious. I used to try to get my mom to do turkey AND lasagne on Thanksgiving so I could gorge on my two favorite foods. I can't wait to make this now that I have the pasta attachment for my KA.

French Laundry at Home

I've never preboiled my lasagna noodles either, I just add a cup of water to the sauce. I made lasagna last night, and it was fab!


Oh, this looks beautiful. I had the most amazing lasagna in Italy and have been on a quest to recreate it. Question -- Did you have lingering thoughts about adding either bechamel or ricotta to the lasagna?


There is no other Italian dish that I love MORE than Lasagna. Whenever I go to an Italian restaurant and I see Lasagna on the menu, I order it because I just can't help myself! It is my favorite! I think I make a pretty darn good lasagna which I need to post one of these days on my site, but this one takes it to another level. The thing that I really like about lasagna is multiple layers, and when I say multiple layers, I mean as many as I can possible fit into that pan so that’s why I bought Batali’s Extra Deep Lasagna pan so if you want more and more layers, give that a shot. I don’t own a pasta maker/machine but I desperately need to purchase one (not the Kitchen-Aid mixer) so if any of you have any suggestions on a good quality pasta maker/roller please email me!!! As for Heidi’s recipe, I’m definitely going to try this because I never thought about using fresh pasta and then thinning it out as thin as I could possible get the dough – how awesome! Matt


i love the idea of the thin noodles. it seems like this would be the perfect springtime lasagna, a dish that sometimes seems too heavy for this warm weather


I remember the first time I made this after getting a pasta machine (the KitchenAid type) - it was outstanding. I still use this method 99% of the time that I make lasagna. Courtney - I have used wonton wrappers before (I can't buy fresh sheets of pasta in my area), but I only used them when making a plated version (i.e. no baking).

i know its cheating, but could you use wonton wrappers? they are about the size of the squares you'd be cutting, and i've seen them used on the food network as ravioli and tortelini?


I had lasagna like this in Italy and it was beyond fabulous. This looks just wonderful.

When I use fresh homemade pasta I never preboil, just use more sauce.


This would work well with the aparagus pesto in your new book Heidi - it's fab and I have a lovely garlic-scented jar full in the fridge from last night's dinner. I think serendipity is the word I'm searching for!

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