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Pesto Lasagna

This is a great lasagna for summer.  It contains no meat and there is no tomato sauce.  It makes use of that great summer basil and it can either be a side dish to grilled meats or a main dish. 

If you want to save some cooking time, you can use no-boil lasagna noodles. Keep in mind, though, that these noodles require a lot of liquid or sauce in order for them to cook properly.  They absorb a lot.  So if you use these instead of regular cooked lasagna noodles, you have to make sure each layer is covered in plenty of sauce.   
Another tip for you when making lasagna is to use the No-Stick aluminum foil.  I can't believe how many people do not know about this product.  Reynolds makes a non-stick foil that is my everyday foil.  Foods don't stick to it and it's perfect for lasagna - you take it off the top and the cheese doesn't stick to it.  Once you use it, you'll never buy anything else.

Pesto Lasagna


for a printable recipe, click here

makes an 8x8 pan
4-8 servings

* note:  for this recipe in an 8x8 pan, you can make a smaller size lasagna using only 10 noodles (5 layers with only 2 sheets per layer).  You can also make a larger lasagna in this pan, using all the space by having 4 noodles per layer.

note on lasagna noodles: I find that regular lasagna noodles work best with this recipe.  That is, lasagna noodles that you cook first. Fresh sheets of pasta, cooked,  also work as well.  If you are using lasagna noodles which you have cooked, you don't have to use quite as much bechamel sauce.  If you are using the "no-boil" lasagna noodles, the noodles must be coated heavily with sauce, so that they cook properly.  They tend to absorb a lot of sauce.   I don't like them as well, but they will work alright if you want to save some time.  Just be sure to wrap the lasagna tightly with foil while cooking.


for the pasta:

  •  10 - 20 no-cook lasagna noodles or fresh pasta sheets, cooked or regular lasagna noodles, cooked *

for the pesto:

  • 3 ounces Parmigiano Reggiano, cut into chunks
  • 1-1/2 cups packed fresh basil leaves
  • 1 garlic clove
  • 1/4 cup pine nuts
  • 1/2 cup olive oil 

for the bechamel: 

  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 2 cups milk (whole or lowfat)
  • 1 chicken bouillon cube (half, if using Knorr)
  • 1/8 teaspoon grated nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground white pepper 

for the assembly and topping:

  • 1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 3/4 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano 



Make the pesto:

Place the chunks of Parmigiano cheese into the food processor and process until finely ground.  Add the basil, garlic and pine nuts to food processor.  Process, using pulses, till finely chopped.  With machine running, add the olive oil until pesto is smooth.

Make the bechamel:

In a heavy medium saucepan, melt the butter.  Whisk in the flour and stir for a couple of minutes, until the flour is cooked.  Add the bouillon cube and allow to dissolve.  Whisk. Add about a third of the milk, slowly, and whisk over medium heat.  Add the nutmeg and pepper.  When the sauce is smooth, add another third of the milk and whisk.  When the sauce is smooth again, add the rest of the milk and whisk until smooth. Transfer to a heat proof bowl or Pyrex cup and let cool slightly.

Assemble lasagna:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

In an 8x8 pan, place about 1/3 cup of the bechamel to coat the bottom of the pan. Lay first layer of lasagna noodles.  Add enough bechamel to coat the noodles.  Add some pesto and spread into the bechamel.  Add a handful of the grated Parmesan. Continue to layer the noodles, bechamel, pesto and Parmesan until the last layer of noodles.  On top of this, just spread the bechamel only, add the rest of the Parmesan and top with the mozzarella.  Sprinkle the oregano on top.  Wrap tightly with foil (preferably Reynolds No-Stick foil).

Bake for one hour (if using regular, cooked noodles) or one hour and 15 minutes (if using no-boil noodles). Remove foil and bake for 10 minutes more, until top is golden.  Remove from oven and allow to sit for 15 minutes before slicing.


Lots more lasagna recipes:

Lasagna with Red Pepper Tomato Sauce  

Individual Lasagna Gratins

Roasted Vegetable Lasagna

My Mom's Zucchini Lasagna


Spinach Lasagna with Bolognese Sauce

PrintView Printer Friendly Version

Reader Comments (55)

I have the basil in my fridge and will be making this soon! Thanks

July 23, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterJulie

We LOVED this at your house! I can't wait to make it!

July 23, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterLeta

Add me to the list of people who don't know about non-stick aluminum wrap. thanks! I'll be on the lookout for it in the supermarket.

I've had and made pesto lasagna. It is delicious! You sure have a lot of lasagnas in your archives. I have to check them out.

July 23, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterJoan Nova

I made this tonight for dinner and it was fantastic. Will be making again for sure. Thanks for this recipe and all the others.

July 23, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterGale

I just made your mom's zucchini lasagne and loved it. I will be posting it soon.
Now I have a project for all my basil!

PS When I run out of the Reynolds non stick foil, I just spray my regular foil w/ PAM.

July 24, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterstacey snacks

That pan coming fresh out of the oven looks irresistible. Thanks for the tip on the nonstick foil. Will have to get some.

July 24, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterciaochowlinda

Oh how lovely!! Your photos are beautiful and this lasagne sounds amazing. I have a ton of fresh pesto I just made, this would be great with perhaps most garden veggies added in as well! Thanks!

Yes, yes, yes! Pesto lasagne with bechamel sauce; a great idea! I will add some cooked zucchini. Thank you!

July 26, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterJoe Ambrosino

I had no idea about the non-stick wrap - thanks for the tip! Putting this on my list of things to make :D

Hope you have a great weekend!

July 30, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterBiz

What a great idea - pesto and bechamel! Yum I think this would go down nicely with my family!

July 31, 2010 | Unregistered Commentermarcellina

Thanks for the inspiration- I made this last week! Yum!

August 2, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterLizzy

What a GREAT idea ! I never thought about making lasagna with pesto. I was just telling a friend about how happy I am that my basil plants have been producing an abundance of basil this year.

Sharona May

August 3, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterSharona May

Thanks for another great recipe! I made this last week for company and everyone loved it.

August 9, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterCindy

o.m.g. I made this last night. It was amazing. perfect. and I wish I had made 2 baking pans worth so I could eat it for lunch all week long. Its definitely going in my recipe file as a keeper :)

August 9, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterGaby

Amazing recipe. I loved it!!

August 11, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterLia

oh wow..... this recipe looks absolutely delicious!! I love pest and lasagna so to put the two together is a great idea! I can't wait to try it!

I love your blog. Today is the first day I visited your site. I will be following you because I love to cook Italian. I also have a lot of homegrown basil on hand and love ideas about different ways to use it. Your photos are so perfect!

August 30, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterBarbie with a T

1 tsp of nutmeg is a huge amount for 2 cups of bechamel sauce. Is 1 tsp really correct?

October 15, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterConfused

From The Italian Dish:

Confused: No, one teaspoon of nutmeg is a huge mistake! Thank you for catching that. It should be 1/8 teaspoon of nutmeg. I will correct it right away.

October 15, 2010 | Registered Commenter[Elaine]

This is probably a naive question but I am new to cooking..can you make this a day ahead and refrigerate it?

October 21, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterNew Cook

From The Italian Dish:

New Cook: Yes, you can make it ahead and refrigerate it! Just make sure your bechamel sauce is cooled down and then layer everything, wrap tightly in foil and stick it in the fridge. The next day, make sure to let it sit out about an hour at room temperature before you cook it.

October 22, 2010 | Registered Commenter[Elaine]

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October 29, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterugg womens shoes

This sounds delicious! I was wondering if I adding ricotta would be okay? I love ricotta.

March 12, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterMichelle

From The Italian Dish:

Michelle: You can certainly add ricotta. It's fine to experiment and make it your own!

March 13, 2011 | Registered Commenter[Elaine]

The information you convey in this article is very useful, I am now just facing this problem, thanks for sharing

March 26, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterAngel wings

Thank you for this article. That’s all I can say. You most definitely have made this blog into something special. You clearly know what you are doing, you’ve covered so many bases.Thanks!

May 11, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterchristian louboutin

this looks like a lovely recipe. I would like to bake and freeze this for a friend that is soon to have a baby. do you have any recommendations for to reheat this after its frozen? thanks a bunch!

May 20, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterkatie

From The Italian Dish: Katie: I have never frozen this particular lasagna with bechamel sauce, so I'm not sure how well it freezes. I would freeze it unbaked, thaw it overnight in the refrigerator when I need it. Then let it come to room temperature before baking.

There are lots of freezing lasagna type of tips on the internet if you wanted to do some more research on freezing tips. Hope it works out.

May 20, 2011 | Registered Commenter[Elaine]

New Cook: Yes, you can make it ahead and refrigerate it! Just make sure your bechamel sauce is cooled down and then layer everything, wrap tightly in foil and stick it in the fridge. The next day, make sure to let it sit out about an hour at room temperature before you cook it.

May 31, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterred bottom shoes

My husband and I just returned from the Cinque Terre, where we had the most delicious pesto lasagna, and I am thrilled to try this recipe! Thank you for posting this blog!!!!

June 4, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterJenette

Great recipe!
I'd like to add only an advice: in Italy, pesto is also made with grated pecorino cheese combined together with the parmigiano.

In Liguria there's a traditional lasagna dish with pesto sauce: Genoa-style pesto lasagna
If you want the recipe, here it is:

June 15, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterMario Grazia

Just saw your photo of this on Pinterest! It looks fantastic, I am going to have to try it.

July 6, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterJacqueline

I made this today for dinner and it was super good! Never had anything like it. It was a beauitful, delicious, flavorful recipe. Easy and stress free!

August 22, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterSherlly

Was looking for a good pesto lasagna to make ahead. This looks amazing and I'm going to use my garden pesto to make it tommorow! I'm going to check out the rest of your lasagna recipes as well. Thanks so much :)

P.S. Thanks for the freezing tip red bottom shoes!!

August 30, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterJules

What a great idea - pesto and bechamel! Yum I think this would go down nicely with my family!

October 13, 2011 | Unregistered Commenteranniversary uggs

hi, looks fantastic and I'll make it tomorrow for a dinner party! 2 questions - do you use salted or unsalted butter in the bechamel sauce, and how long to cook if using fresh lasagna noodles? thank you!

November 10, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterkarin

From The Italian Dish:

Karin: You can use either. I use regular salted butter, so I don't add any additional salt. If you use unsalted butter, taste the bechamel and add salt until it tastes right.

If you use fresh lasagna noodles that are cooked, just cook for 45 minutes and it should be fine.

November 12, 2011 | Registered Commenter[Elaine]

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November 30, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterwangqi45

I just have to say that I absolutely love this recipe! My partner and I cook it on high rotation in our house. Thank you!

May 13, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMae

Looks like a great recipe. I will have to try it. Wondering if it would be good with chicken added to it?

June 16, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterAndrew

I like the no boil noodles because they are thin like fresh pasta...couldn't you soak them in hot water first so they wouldn't need so much sauce...I am going to give it a try.....Thanks for your's great!!!

July 29, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterKim

From The Italian Dish:

Kim: Hey, that's a good idea - maybe I will try that myself! Thanks!

July 29, 2012 | Registered Commenter[Elaine]

Well that was a disaster. I'm determined to get this right. Questions...

I used cooked.pasta noodles. I coated them lightly with the sauce. After an hour the bottom 2 layers were burned. Maybe my oven temp is off? How much do you cook them? Aldente? Would it matter? Not sure why it got so overcooked. Too little sauce maybe?

When I made the bechemal it was like milk. I had to add more flour for some reason. Do you think it matters how fast the milk goes in? In your pictures it looks almost the constency of crisco. How thick should it be?

The mozz on top looked.nothing like your beautiful example. I grated a ball of fresh mozzeralla on top. The top was.covered in pools of oil after an hour.

Thanks for any advice. Am trying again today. Site is beautiful. Everyone was fine with the burnt lasagna after we had lots of those aperol cocktails!

August 21, 2012 | Unregistered Commentersean mcauliffe

From The Italian Dish:

Sean: Wow! I'm so sorry you had so much trouble! First, the burned bottom should not happen at 350 for an hour. Get an oven thermometer and check your oven temp. I do it all the time. Next time you cook it, if you're using already cooked noodles, decrease the time maybe down to 45 minutes.

As for the bechamel, it should be slightly thick but not too runny. You want to be able to spread it. Probably you need to let it cook a little longer. Also, be sure to slowly add the milk, and not all at once.

I don't know why your mozzarella was oily on top! I just have never had those problems. I'm so sorry - hopefully next attempt will be better. Let me know!

August 21, 2012 | Registered Commenter[Elaine]

You list the cheese as part of the bechamel ingredients, but don't mention it in instructions. Does it go in sauce?

August 21, 2012 | Unregistered Commentersean mcauliffe

From The Italian Dish:

Sean: Sorry about that! The recipe really wasn't written correctly and I fixed it. The cheese is for the assembly and topping. Hope this helps and thanks.

August 21, 2012 | Registered Commenter[Elaine]

Success! Thanks for the help -- basic problem was oven temp. THis time it looked and tasted delicious.

August 22, 2012 | Unregistered Commentersean mcauliffe

This looks amazing and I want to bring it to a dinner party I am attending on Friday. Is it possible to make the lasagna a day before?

July 17, 2013 | Unregistered Commenterkatie

From The Italian Dish:

Katie: You sure can. You can assemble it the day before and refrigerate it and then bake it before you go. If you go ahead and bake it the day before and reheat it, it will be okay but not as good. Hope this helps.

July 18, 2013 | Registered Commenter[Elaine]

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