The answer to “how far ahead can I make lasagna before cooking it” varies, but everyone agrees on one thing. If you do not plan to cook the lasagna within a few days, freeze it so it maintains its integrity for at least 3 months to a year or more.
There are many reasons why someone wants to prepare lasagna ahead of time. If you have a small family that loves lasagna, there is an advantage to making up a large recipe so you have enough for several meals.
One easy way to make the meals ahead is by lining 3 or 4 small baking dishes with freezer-strength aluminum foil, leaving a large length of foil over the sides to use for sealing. Build each lasagna recipe according to the instructions inside the foil dish.
If you have extra ingredients to add so that the dinners are a bit different, such as olives, sliced zucchini or bell peppers, add them to the layers. If you plan to put shredded cheese on the top when baking, you can do that now or wait until you are ready to bake the lasagna.
Put the pans of unbaked lasagna into the freezer until the ingredients are firm and then lift the lasagna from the dish by holding the edges of the foil. Fold the edges over the lasagna and wrap in another layer of foil or place in a freezer bag for added protection.
Use a permanent marker to write on a label or the bag what is inside and its freezing date. A day before you plan to bake it, remove a pack from the freezer. Take it out of the foil and put it in the proper size greased baking dish. Cover it and place in the refrigerator overnight. Bake it the next day for serving.
Alternatives to Bechamel Sauce
If you are going to the trouble of discovering “how far ahead can I make lasagna before cooking it” then you might also be interested in some ideas for new lasagna recipes. Classic lasagna features a bechamel sauce (the white sauce between the layers) but what about if you do not want to use this particular sauce?
There are various options you have. Some people like to use mashed sweet potato rather than bechamel sauce and you can mash plenty of milk and cream into it to make it soft. This is especially nice with a vegetable lasagna.
Luscious Leek and Cashew Sauce
Something else you could try is sautéing the white parts of a few leeks with some cashews, then adding a pint of milk when they are soft and using a stick blender to whiz the mixture into a creamy, nutty leek sauce. This is amazing with all kinds of lasagna recipes and would go nicely with a salmon lasagna or a chicken one. You can top it off with a sprinkling of feta cheese.
Ricotta with some herbs stirred into it also makes a nice alternative to white sauce. You can make any of these sauces and prepare the lasagna in advance, then cook it and keep it in the refrigerator for a couple of days before cooking it to perfection.