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Is Lasagna Supposed To Be Made With Ricotta Or Béchamel?

classic lasagna in a white pan topped with fresh herbs
Is Lasagna Better With Ricotta Or Béchamel?PHOTO: ERIK BERNSTEIN; FOOD STYLING: BROOKE CAISON

It's a fixture on any holiday table and Italian-American restaurant menu. It's cozy and comforting and super cheesy. It's lasagna. We here at Delish have made nearly every type of lasagna under the sun: eggplant lasagna, banana pudding lasagna, and even lasagna soup!

But when it came to developing a recipe for the classic version, we were presented with a very difficult question. Should our lasagna be filled with ricotta or béchamel sauce? As it turns out, the answer can be pretty divisive.

While ricotta is included in certain varieties of lasagna in Italy, the style that serves as the primary inspiration for American recipes is the one from the region of Emilia Romagna. There, it’s traditionally layered with pasta, bolognese, and béchamel—with no ricotta to be found.

While reaching for a container of creamy ricotta is much simpler than making a cream sauce from scratch, many argue that the extra steps are worth it. A béchamel is rich, creamy, and better adheres the layers of pasta together.

classic lasagna in a white pan topped with fresh herbs
PHOTO: ERIK BERNSTEIN; FOOD STYLING: BROOKE CAISON

But some still firmly believe ricotta is the way to go. It’s lighter in texture than a béchamel and can offset the richness of the meat sauce and mozzarella.

The question even divided our team of food editors. For many of us, ricotta-based lasagna offers cozy nostalgia. On one end, our editorial business manager Megan Belair is proudly Team Ricotta.

“That’s how my parents always made it (for Christmas dinner no less),” she says. “I’ve definitely made the argument for more ricotta in the past.”

For our editors Brooke Caison and Taylor Ann Spencer, béchamel is king. But they still wouldn’t turn down a ricotta-based recipe.

“I grew up on ricotta and I love it, but the first time I tried béchamel lasagna I felt my soul leave my body,” Caison says. “That said...I'm wondering what a ricotta béchamel franken-sangna would taste like.”

“I think it’s totally possible to make a delicious lasagna with ricotta—it’s just a completely different thing,” says Spencer.

So when it came down to deciding which way to make lasagna, we couldn’t choose just one. If you’re planning to cook for a special occasion, our classic lasagna with béchamel is a luxurious showstopper.

"The béchamel is so creamy and rich and makes everything else come together," says Alejandro Valdes Lora, Delish's test kitchen assistant and the brains behind the recipe.

But if you’re strapped for time or want to evoke childhood memories, our ricotta version is where it’s at.

Where do you fall on the ricotta-béchamel debate? Let us know in the comments.

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