Small Batch Meatball Lasagna with Ground Beef and Pork

Two Italian classics: homemade meatballs and lasagna come together to make the ultimate meatball casserole dish…in a small batch size! There’s a sweet balance of big but delicate flavors between the ground beef and pork mini meatballs and the creamy béchamel sauce standing in for ricotta. Meatball lasagna is the perfect lasagna for 2 recipe (with just enough for leftovers) or one to bring to a friend who could use a good Italian comfort dish.

Piece of meatball lasagna being served out of pan.

Our family is big on lasagna. For every holiday, one of the kids requests (and expects) to see an enormous pan of ricotta cheese lasagna getting all golden in the oven. And most times, they are rewarded.

And yet— there are times when a big pan of lasagna can be too much. Too much cheese and too many leftovers, not to mention, lasagna can feel intimidating to make,especially if you’ve never made one.

No worries, my friend! I’ve got you… let’s learn how to make one darn good meatball lasagna.

Love meatballs? ♥️ You’ll love these meatball recipes too: meatball stuffed shells, Grandma’s meatballs poached in sauce, and my cheesy pizza dough stuffed meatballs…all so good!

Small batch meatball lasagna?

Finished baked pan of meatball lasagna uncut
Baked in a square pan, this is a perfect lasagna recipe for 2.

The benefits of making a small batch or mini lasagna are many. Not to mention, they start with easy and ends with easier!

Here are more reasons you’ll love making meatball lasagna for two:

Reduced Prep Time: Smaller batches easier. There are fewer meatballs to roll which you can make while the sauce cooks. It’s the perfect recipe for those evenings when you want a cozy pasta dinner but don’t want to spend all night cooking.

Fewer leftovers. When there’s only two or a few of you for dinner, you don’t want to eat the same thing for dinner the next five days, something that could easily happen if you make a traditional 9 x 13″ pan of lasagna. Making lasagna in a square pan or even a loaf pan is a great solution!

Great for beginners. Lasagna can be intimidating and feels like a lot of work. The tomato butter sauce recipe we are using is super simple and with my easy béchamel tutorial, you’ll learn how to make a basic white sauce in no time!

Plus, I’m sharing below how to time this recipe to you can sit down and eat when your friends and family do!

Meatball lasagna layers

With only 3 layers and a smaller pan, each layer stands out and matters a little more. The sauce, meatball mix and béchamel layer were chosen because of how they play and complement one another.

Layers for meatball lasagna
Layer up lasagna noodles with beef and pork mini meatballs, red sauce and béchamel.

The layers include:

  1. A super easy, sweet tomato onion pasta sauce (it only has 3 ingredients!).
  2. Tender, baked mini meatballs made with ground beef and pork (which adds so much flavor)
  3. A thick shmear of nutmeg kissed, creamy béchamel to cover the meatballs.
  4. No bake, oven ready lasagna noodles. Because who needs another pan to wash?

No ricotta lasagna

Piece of meatball lasagna on black plate with fork

Thick layers of ricotta cheese in lasagna is actually more of an Italian-American version of this casserole. For meatball lasagna, I was inspired by classic Italian lasagna al forno (oven-baked lasagna) tucking a layer of creamy bechamel between the noodles, meat and tomato sauce.

Pans perfect for lasagna for two

  • Square baking pan. My favorite baking pans are the Goldtouch pans from Williams-Sonoma and the square baking pan is the best for small batch lasagna.
  • Loaf pan. A loaf pan is another great option and makes lasagna easy to slice especially for lunch leftovers.
  • Cast iron skillet. Make it a round lasagna in a 8 or 9″ cast iron skillet.

How to make meatball lasagna

Ready to do some lasagna layering?

Make the sauce and meatballs

Sauce pan of tomato sauce with onion and butter
Simmer tomato butter sauce for 45 minutes.
Black pan of unbaked meatballs for meatball lasagna
Mix, roll and bake mini meatballs.

Make béchamel

Skillet with flour and butter to make a roux for bechamel sauce for lasagna
Make a roux with butter and flour.
Milk added to roux for bechamel
Once roux has browned, add milk.
Finished bechamel sauce for meatball lasagna
Simmer until the béchamel coats the back of a spoon as shown.
  • Make the sauce. To a saucepan, add the tomatoes, onion and butter and simmer for 45 minutes.
  • Mix, roll and bake the meatballs. In a large bowl, combine the meatball mix, roll into small meatballs using a small 1 Tablespoon scoop. Bake for 10 minutes until browned.
  • Whip up the béchamel. 15 minutes to make homemade bechamel is all that’s needed.

Assemble

And now for the layering…

Tomato sauce spread in pan for first layer of meatball lasagna
Spread 1/4 of sauce in pan.
Pasta and bechamel layer for meatball lasaagna
Top with noodles and 1/2 of béchamel.
Meatballs layered in bechamel drizzled with tomato sauce
Evenly space meatballs on béchamel and then a little red sauce.
Second layer of meatball lasagna
Repeat the layers before topping with another layer of noodles.
Pan of unbaked meatball lasagna on white background
Add the last of the red sauce and then pieces of fresh mozzarella and a sprinkling of parmesan cheese before baking.

Here’s how to layer meatball lasagna:

  • Spread about 1/4 of the tomato sauce across the bottom of the pan.
  • Nestle in 3 (or 4) noodles, breaking and piecing as needed to fit the bottom of the pan.
  • Spoon on half of the béchamel over the pasta and then nestle half of the meatballs on top. Feel free to sprinkle in some torn fresh mozzarella between the meatballs. Drizzle on some red sauce.
  • Repeat the layers and top with the final layer of sauce. Sprinkle with parmesan and dot with butter before baking for 45 minutes until golden brown and bubbly in the center.

Do’s and don’ts for successful lasagna making

♥️DO:

  • Sprinkle plenty of cheese on the top of the lasagna before baking.
  • Allow the lasagna to bake until the center puffs.
  • Place the lasagna under the broiler briefly to achieve a crispy, golden cheese top just before serving.

🚫 DON’T:

  • Skip the sauce layer on the bottom of the pan or you won’t get your lasagna out of the pan.
  • Worry if the lasagna noodles don’t touch the edges of the pan. They’ll expand while baking.
  • Eliminate the butter on top…it adds a kiss of flavor and golden color.


How to get the timing right

Click a tab below for help with timing this recipe to your needs!

  • Make the red sauce first.
  • While the red sauce cooks (45 minutes), mix the meatballs, roll and bake them.
  • While the meatballs are baking, make the bechamel sauce.
  • Layer the ingredients and bake the lasagna!
  • Double the recipe for a full 9 x 13″ pan of lasagna.

Storage, reheat and freezing tips

Storage. Refrigerate leftovers in an airtight container for up to 4 days.

Reheat. Reheat meatball lasagna in a 350˚ oven until warmed through about 10 minutes.

Freeze. Freeze unbaked or baked, cooled meatball lasagna wrapped in foil first then plastic wrap for up to 3 months. Defrost completely before baking.

Made this recipe?

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Finished baked pan of meatball lasagna uncut
5 from 1 vote

Easy Ground Beef and Pork Meatball Lasagna (Small Batch)

Three popular recipes including mini versions of homemade Italian meatballs, creamy bechamel, and tomato sauce with butter are onion are layered together to make a small batch meatball lasagna recipe perfect for 2.
Prep Time:45 minutes
Cook Time:45 minutes
Total Time:1 hour 30 minutes
Servings 2

Ingredients
 

For the mini meatballs (full size recipe here)

To make homemade bechamel (more info in post)

For topping

Instructions

For the meatballs

  • Preheat the oven to 400˚.
  • In a large bowl and using your hands, blend the meats together until mixed well. You don’t want to see big clumps of either meat but a nice uniform mixture.
    ½ lb. ground chuck; 80% but no more than 85%, ½ lb. ground pork
  • One at a time, crack the eggs into the side of the bowl and beat them lightly with a fork. Of course, you can beat them in a separate small bowl and then add them but I’m all about saving some dishes. 😀
    1 large egg
  • Add the salt, pepper, oregano, both breadcrumbs, Parmesan, parsley and spices. Mix well into the meat along with the eggs.
    1 teaspoon kosher salt, 2 Tablespoons panko, 2 slices fresh bread, ¼ cup fresh grated Parmesan cheese, 2 teaspoons chopped fresh parsley, ½ teaspoon dried oregano, pinch nutmeg, 2 cloves garlic
  • Add the warm water and mix gently with both hands making sure to incorporate all the water. It will feel like it won’t mix together but it will eventually!
    ½ cup warm tap water
  • Shape into 1” balls using either your hands or a small-sized 1 Tablespoon scoop. The mix will be very wet. As you go along and your hands start to get a little sticky, rinse your hands with warm water but don't dry them and go back to making your meatballs.
  • Bake for 10 minutes until browned on the outside.

For the sauce

  • Add the tomatoes, onion and butter to a medium saucepan over medium low heat. Once the butter melts, lower the heat and simmer for 45 minutes until the sauce has separated a bit. Set aside.
    (Keep the onions for another use or add to the lasagna if you so choose)
    28 oz can San Marzano tomatoes, 1 onion, 5 Tablespoons unsalted butter

For the bechamel

  • Over medium heat, start melting butter in medium saucepan. Add flour stirring with a whisk continuously until a thick paste forms. Continue cooking for about 2-3 minutes until lightly browned and flour taste is cooked off.
    2 tablespoon butter, 2 TBSP flour
  • Carefully add milk while stirring with a whisk. Season with salt and pepper. Bring to a low boil and then lower heat to medium low.
    1 ½ cups milk, ½ teaspoon salt, ½ teaspoon black or white pepper
  • Cook stirring often until sauce has thickened and coats the back of a metal spoon evenly.
  • Remove from heat to stir in cheeses. Season with more salt and pepper as needed.

Assemble the lasagna

  • Preheat the oven to 400˚ and set a rack in the center.
  • To your baking pan, layer a ladle (4 oz.) of tomato sauce and spread all over. Layer on 3 lasagna noodles, breaking and piecing them together to fill the pan.
  • Spread on some more sauce (1 ladle). Add ½ of the meatballs evenly over the sauce. Layer in some fresh mozzarella. Spread over half of the bechamel.
  • Repeat the above and top with a layer of tomato sauce and fresh sprinkling of parmesan cheese and some pats of butter.
    If you have room and meatballs leftover, repeat again!
  • Bake for 40-45 minutes until golden on top and the center bubbles and is puffed.

Notes

Storage. Refrigerate leftovers in an airtight container for up to 4 days.
Reheat. Reheat meatball lasagna in a 350˚ oven until warmed through about 10 minutes.
Freeze. Freeze unbaked or baked, cooled meatball lasagna wrapped in foil first then plastic wrap for up to 3 months. Defrost completely before baking.
Course: Main Course, Pasta
Cuisine: Italian
Author: Lori Murphy
Did you make this recipe? Tag @josieandnina or tag #josieandnina!

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