Lasagna: The 1967 Time-Life Recipe


Still riding! Got a new dog, so my exercise time has been tilted more toward hiking and running. She’s very high energy.

This is the magic lasagna recipe from the 1967 edition of “The Cooking of Italy.” I read over and over on cooking sites that this was the best lasagna ever, but as far as I know, this is the first time it is appearing online, as I’ve been unable to find it anywhere else.

So I went to Abe Books and bought the book from ’67, scanned it, text recognized it, and here it is. The book is long out of print, so I hope the lasagna copyright nazis don’t come after me for this.

It is the most amazing thing you will ever eat. I mean come on, chicken liver, smoked ham, ground round, and ground pork?

You’re welcome in advance. If you have modifications or additional guidance, please feel free to leave your thoughts in the comments.


  1. I suggest going much lighter on the chicken liver; as the recipe is written below, you’ll end up with what basically amounts to liver lasagna. Cut it by half or even to one quarter.
  2. This isn’t enough for a conventional 2017 lasagna pan. Double the recipe if you want to use a regular-sized Pyrex.

12/30/2019–I modified added some headings to make the original recipe, which was poorly written, less confusing. Also, you may want to read the comments first before diving in, there’s some good guidance from much better cooks than me.

Ragu Bolognese
To make about 2 1/2 cups
1/4 pound smoked ham, coarsely chopped (about 1 cup)
1 cup coarsely chopped onions
1/4 cup coarsely chopped carrots
1/2 cup coarsely chopped celery
4 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons olive oil
3/4 pound round steak, ground twice
1/4 pound lean pork, ground twice
1/2 cup dry white wine
2 cups beef stock, fresh or canned
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1/2 pound chicken livers
1 cup heavy cream
Pinch of ground nutmeg
Freshly ground black pepper

Combine the chopped ham, onions, carrots and celery on a cutting board, and chop them together into very small pieces. (This mixture is called a battuto, which when cooked becomes a soffritto.)

Melt 2 tablespoons of the butter over moderate heat in a heavy, 10- to 12-inch skillet. When the foam subsides, add the battuto and cook, stirring frequently, for about 10 minutes, or until it is lightly browned. With a rubber spatula, transfer the soffritto to a heavy 3- to 4-quart saucepan. Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in the same skillet, and in it lightly brown the ground round steak and pork over moderate heat, stirring the meat constantly to break up any lumps. Then pour in the wine, increase the heat, and boil briskly, still stirring constantly, until almost all of the liquid in the skillet has cooked away. Add the meat to the soffritto in the saucepan, and stir in the stock and tomato paste. Bring to a boil over high heat, then reduce the heat and simmer, partially covered, for 45 minutes, stirring occasionally. Meanwhile, over high heat melt 2 more tablespoons of butter in the original skillet, and when the foam subsides, add the chicken livers. Cook them for 3 or 4 minutes, or until they are firm and lightly browned. Chop the chicken livers into small dice, set them aside, and add them to the sauce 10 minutes before it is done. A few minutes before serving, stir in the cream and let it heat through. Taste the ragu and season it with nutmeg, salt, and pepper. Serve the ragu on pasta or, without the cream, use it in lasagna pasticciate.

Lasagne Pasticciate
To serve 6 to 8

6 to 8 quarts water
1 tablespoon salt
1/2 pound lasagne

Preheat the oven to 350°. Generously butter the bottom and sides of a 9-by-12-by-3-inch serving casserole or baking dish. In a large soup pot or kettle, bring the water and salt to a bubbling boil over high heat. Add the lasagne, stirring gently for a few moments with a wooden fork to be sure the strips do not stick to one another. Boil over high heat, stirring occasionally, until the lasagne is tender, but still al dente-the time may vary between 10 and 25 minutes, depending on whether you use homemade or commercial lasagne. Set the pot under cold running water for a few moments to cool the pasta. Then lift out the strips and spread them side by side on paper towels to drain.

3 tablespoons butter
6 tablespoons flour
2 cups milk
1 cup heavy cream
Pinch of ground nutmeg
1 teaspoon salt

In a heavy 2-to-3-quart saucepan, melt the butter over moderate heat and stir in the flour. Remove the pan from the heat and pour in the milk and cream all at once, beating with a wire whisk until the flour is partially dissolved. Return the pan to high heat and cook, stirring constantly with the whisk. When the sauce comes to a boil and
thickens into a smooth cream, reduce the heat and simmer, still stirring, for 2 or 3 minutes. Remove from the heat and season with nutmeg and salt.

The 2 1/2 cups ragu bolognese you made earlier
1/2 cup freshly grated imported Parmesan cheese
Lasagne noodles

Spread a layer of ragu bolognese about 1/4 inch deep evenly over the bottom of the buttered casserole. Spread over it about 1 cup of besciamella. Lay one third of the lasagne on the besciamella, overlapping the strips slightly. Repeat the layers of ragu, besciamella and lasagne. two more times, then top with the rest of the ragu and a masking of besciamella. Sprinkle with grated cheese. Bake 30 minutes, or until the sauce is bubbling hot.

21 thoughts on “Lasagna: The 1967 Time-Life Recipe

  1. Ed Falis

    This is the best. I don’t know how many Italian Grandma’s they held hostage to get it, but you should be the beneficiary!

  2. Rob

    Something is up with the proportions. Recipe makes 2 1/2 cups ragu which would get consumed in the besciamella leaving no ragu for the lasagna. Ok the inventor here is not a math major.

    1. Kathleen M Mulcahy

      Does that mean that you need to double the Ragu recipe so that there are 5 cups, half of which will be used for the besciamella?

      1. John Ferguson Post author

        No ragu is used in the besciamella. The recipe needs another heading–“assemble the lasagna” (which, as of 12/30/2019 I added to reduce confusion).

    1. Caro W. Land

      Italians use pancetta, lightly smoked pork belly. Usually I use smoked speck, taking care that it is not too salty. Alternatively you could take Parisian Ham, mildy smoked and cooked ham. I wouldn’t advise to use any strongly smoked and salted raw ham.

  3. ExTxn

    I have made this particular recipe since 1968 and it always draws swoons from the happy eaters. But be warned; it’s rich! I have always used a regular Pyrex 9X13 casserole for this as the deep lasagna pans yield pieces that are overwhelming for such a luxurious dish.
    I have always used the full complement of chicken livers ( but after you clean them you’ll have closer to 1/3 lb. meat) and no one has ever complained of it being overly liverish.
    Lastly: don’t cheat and use pre-ground nutmeg. It makes a huge difference in the depth of flavor . And if you are going to change everything to make it “healthy “and low fat, don’t! The balance of flavors in this a so fabulous!

    1. ExTxn

      Nope….and you won’t miss it. This is much creamier and richer than “standard”lasagne. Be sure to let it sit on the counter for about 10 minutes to let it “set”. Hope you’ll enjoy it.

      1. John Ferguson Post author

        I’m far from a professional chef or even a skilled amateur, but from what I’ve read “authentic” lasagna does not include mozzarella. Of course I love cheesy lasagna too, regardless of its authenticity.

  4. montagcat

    Hi Jim,

    Thank you so much for making this post. I need this tonight and everyone loved it. I did as you suggested and only used for chicken livers, which were essential to adding a richness to the meat mixture. I found your blog after Google searching for this recipe following reading the comments section of the New York Times Cooking lasagna recipe.

      1. Bob Rustad

        Hi, John. I was reading a lasagne recipe from Sam Sifton in the Times recently in which one of the readers said, “forget this and all of the comments from those who made it. The world’s best recipe is in the 1967 Time Life Italy cookbook.” As a sidebar, I started buying the Time Life cookbooks when I was in college in the sixties in Minnesota. I had the complete collection which was lost in a house fire in 1990. In fact we lost all of our cookbooks in the fire, the biggest loss by far. My confession is that I never used the lasagne recipe. Now that I have it I am going to prepare it for a family get together in a couple of weeks. I will send you a report. Bob Rustad, Naples FL.

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