Lasagna Pinwheels

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Lasagna Pinwheels — Rolled up lasagna that’s filled with juicy Italian sausage and a rich and creamy bechamel sauce before being baked in tomato sauce and more cheese! Comfort food at its finest that the whole family will LOVE! Shortcuts provided if you want to use store bought sauces rather than making your sauces to save time.

Lasagna Pinwheels - Rolled up lasagna that's filled with juicy Italian sausage and a rich and creamy bechamel sauce before being baked in tomato sauce and more cheese! Comfort food at its finest that the whole family will LOVE! Shortcuts provided if you want to use store bought sauces rather than making your sauces to save time.

Ready for a fun and fabulous twist on regular lasagna? I thought so, which is where this Italian-inspired pinwheel lasagna recipe come into your meal plan!

This pinwheel lasagna is similar in concept to my Chicken Alfredo Lasagna Roll Ups but instead of using chicken, there’s a juicy homemade bolognese sauce made with sweet Italian sausage and a rich and cheesy from scratch bechemel sauce which is what’s in the center of each pinwheel along with mozzarella and Parmesan cheeses.

After the pinwheels have been rolled up and in the casserole dish, tomato sauce as well as fresh mozzarella cheese pearls and more shredded mozzarella is added before baking these off to melty, golden cheese perfection.  

Lasagna Pinwheels - Rolled up lasagna that's filled with juicy Italian sausage and a rich and creamy bechamel sauce before being baked in tomato sauce and more cheese! Comfort food at its finest that the whole family will LOVE! Shortcuts provided if you want to use store bought sauces rather than making your sauces to save time.

This recipe is a bit more time consuming that most of my quick and easy 30-minute meals because you’re making three scratch sauces — bechamel, bolognese, and tomato — however I give my thoughts below on how to work store bought, ready-made sauces into this lasagna recipe to save you time and energy.

However you choose to make lasagna pinwheels, one thing is for sure. Your family and friends are going to love this comfort food recipe. It’s impossible to resist warm pasta with sausage, tomato sauce, and gooey cheese!

Put this lasagna pinwheels recipe on your weekend cooking list and make it for a special family dinner or  get-together.

Tip: This is a long post with lots of careful explanation, details, tips, and tricks. If you simply want the recipe, scroll down until you see the recipe card section of the post.

Lasagna Pinwheels – Rolled up lasagna that’s filled with juicy Italian sausage and a rich and creamy bechamel sauce before being baked in tomato sauce and more cheese! Comfort food at its finest that the whole family will LOVE! Shortcuts provided if you want to use store bought sauces rather than making your sauces to save time.

Ingredients in Lasagna Pinwheels

Pinwheel lasagna has lots of ingredients, there is no denying it. However,  that’s because there are three sauces, noodles, and oodles of cheese. 

All of the ingredients are easy to find and common fridge and pantry staples.

What you’ll need for the various sauces and components of pinwheel lasagna is as follows:

For the Bechamel Sauce:

  • Unsalted butter
  • All-purpose flour
  • Yellow onion
  • Whole milk
  • Thyme
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • Nutmeg, optional
  • Ricotta cheese
  • Parmesan cheese
  • Mozzarella cheese

Lasagna Pinwheels - Rolled up lasagna that's filled with juicy Italian sausage and a rich and creamy bechamel sauce before being baked in tomato sauce and more cheese! Comfort food at its finest that the whole family will LOVE! Shortcuts provided if you want to use store bought sauces rather than making your sauces to save time.

For the Bolognese Sauce:

  • Italian sausage
  • Olive oil
  • Yellow onion
  • Celery
  • Carrot
  • Garlic
  • Tomato paste
  • Dry white wine or chicken broth
  • Italian seasoning
  • Granulated sugar
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • Fennel seed
  • Crushed tomatoes
  • Whole milk

Lasagna Pinwheels - Rolled up lasagna that's filled with juicy Italian sausage and a rich and creamy bechamel sauce before being baked in tomato sauce and more cheese! Comfort food at its finest that the whole family will LOVE! Shortcuts provided if you want to use store bought sauces rather than making your sauces to save time.

For the Tomato Sauce:

  • Canned tomato sauce
  • Fresh basil
  • Olive oil
  • Garlic
  • Salt
  • Pepper

For the Lasagna Noodles:

  • Lasagna nooldes
  • Olive oil
  • Salt

For the Cheese Layer:

Tip: Scroll down to the recipe card section of the post for a more complete ingredients list, including ingredients amounts and directions.

How to Make Bechamel Sauce for Lasagna 

In order to make homemade lasagna, you’ll want to make the sauces first so they’re ready to go when you need them.

Begin by making this béchamel, or white cheese sauce, by following these simple steps:

  1. Melt the butter, add the onion, and cook for 2 minutes.
  2. Add the flour and cook for 30 seconds until lightly browned. This is a roux.
  3. Slowly add the milk, whisking constantly, and add the thyme, salt, pepper, optional nutmeg.
  4. Continue whisking until your sauce has thickened, about 5 minutes.
  5. Remove from the heat, add the 3 cheeses, and stir until the cheese has melted and incorporated.
  6. Remove the onion slices and thyme sprig. Set the sauce aside.

Tip: Do not shortcut the step of making your roux because later on your sauce will never thicken properly if you don’t do this now.

How to Make Meat Sauce for Lasagna 

Make homemade bolognese sauce by doing the following:

  1. Brown the sausage, crumbling it as it cooks.
  2. Add the onion, celery, carrots, garlic, and saute for 5 minutes.
  3. Add the tomato paste, wine, Italian seasoning, sugar, salt, pepper, fennel seed, and stir.
  4. Slowly pour in the crushed tomatoes, milk, and simmer for 45 minutes or until vegetables are tender and wine has cooked down. Set aside.

Can I Use Ground Beef in the Meat Sauce?

For my bolognese sauce in the pinwheel lasagna, I used ground sweet Italian sausage. 

However, you can use hot or spicy Italian sausage. And you can also use lean ground beef. Your choice!

Lasagna Pinwheels – Rolled up lasagna that’s filled with juicy Italian sausage and a rich and creamy bechamel sauce before being baked in tomato sauce and more cheese! Comfort food at its finest that the whole family will LOVE! Shortcuts provided if you want to use store bought sauces rather than making your sauces to save time.

How to Make Tomato Sauce for Lasagna 

To make the tomato sauce which bathes the pinwheel lasagna while it bakes, simply combine all ingredients together in a saucepan and simmer for 20 minutes. Easy peasy!

Lasagna Pinwheels - Rolled up lasagna that's filled with juicy Italian sausage and a rich and creamy bechamel sauce before being baked in tomato sauce and more cheese! Comfort food at its finest that the whole family will LOVE! Shortcuts provided if you want to use store bought sauces rather than making your sauces to save time.

Store-Bought Shortcuts to Use in This Recipe

You may be wondering is it really worth it to make your own sauces for pinwheel lasagna, or is there a way to shortcut things and use store-bought?

In general, I am a convenience-product loving cook. If I can doctor up a store-bought product and get it to taste nearly as good (and sometimes better than) homemade, I will go for it.

My thoughts on store bought vs. homemade are as follows on the various sauces:

  1. For the bechamel, there are lots of jarred bechamel sauces out there and if you want to give one a try or you have a favorite, go for it. Also, you can check for a jarred alfredo sauce as the two are very similar. 
  2. For the bolognese sauce, this is the one sauce I would make from scratch despite there being plenty of ready-made bolognese sauce. It’s going to be hard to duplicate the mouthfeel, taste, texture, and comfort-food factor of a pound of ground Italian sausage or ground beef and for this reason, I suggest making your own.
  3. For the tomato sauce, it’s just doctored up with some basil, olive oil, garlic, salt, and pepper. You’re going to need to simmer a store bought tomato sauce anyway to warm it and thicken it a bit, so I’d go ahead and just add those couple of extra ingredients. 

Tip: You do you! If buying store bought sauces for all 3 is going to help you actually make this meal, and do so much more stress-free and in far less time, then buy all 3 sauces!

How to Assemble and Bake Lasagna Pinwheels

Now that you’ve got your sauces made (or bought) it’s time to move on to assembling the meat lasagna roll ups and then baking it off.

Follow my straightforward steps:

  1. Cook the lasagna noodles according to package directions, while adding the olive oil and salt to the cooking water. Shock them after cooking in an ice bath for 3 minutes.
  2. Preheat the oven to 375F, spray a 2-quart casserole dish with cooking spray, and set it aside. 
  3. To each lasagna noodle, spread a thin layer of bechamel sauce.
  4. Spoon bolognese sauce down the middle of each noodle.
  5. Evenly sprinkle with the shredded mozzarella and Parmesan cheeses.
  6. Roll up each noodle and then stand them up in the casserole dish.
  7. Pour the tomato sauce around the noodles making sure to separate the noodles a bit to get some sauce between each.
  8.  Evenly add a few mozzarella pearls to the top of each rollup and sprinkle with shredded mozzarella and Parmesan. (Those aren’t marshmallows, those are the mini cheese balls or pearls!)
  9. Bake for 30 minutes and allow it to rest for 10 minutes before serving.

What Kind Of Lasagna Noodles are Best?

Please use traditional lasagna noodles that you need to boil in water.

I do not recommend making this recipe for roll up lasagna using “oven ready” or “no boil” noodles. They tend to have an odd texture and don’t hold up as well during the baking process which is why I don’t suggest them.

Stick with good ‘ole fashioned lasagna noodles.

I’ve never worked with gluten-free lasagna noodles so can’t say one way or the other how they would fare for this homemade lasagna pinwheels recipe.

Lasagna Pinwheels – Rolled up lasagna that’s filled with juicy Italian sausage and a rich and creamy bechamel sauce before being baked in tomato sauce and more cheese! Comfort food at its finest that the whole family will LOVE! Shortcuts provided if you want to use store bought sauces rather than making your sauces to save time.

What to Serve with Lasagna Pinwheels 

Garlic bread or French bread, steamed or roasted vegetables, or a side salad are all good sides for lasagna.

Here are a few side dishes that you could pair with the homemade pinwheel lasagna:

Lasagna Pinwheels - Rolled up lasagna that's filled with juicy Italian sausage and a rich and creamy bechamel sauce before being baked in tomato sauce and more cheese! Comfort food at its finest that the whole family will LOVE! Shortcuts provided if you want to use store bought sauces rather than making your sauces to save time.

Make-Ahead Instructions 

You can make and assemble pinwheel lasagna ahead of time.

My suggestions are to make the sauces as written, get the lasagna noodles rolled up and in the casserole dish, and add the tomato sauce.

At this point stop, cover very tightly with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for up to 24 hours before baking it off.

When you do pull it from the refrigerator to bake, allow your casserole dish to sit on the counter at room temp for at least 30 minutes so you don’t have to keep it in the oven longer due to starting with very cold food.

Add the fresh and shredded mozzarella before baking and bake as directed.

Lasagna Pinwheels – Rolled up lasagna that’s filled with juicy Italian sausage and a rich and creamy bechamel sauce before being baked in tomato sauce and more cheese! Comfort food at its finest that the whole family will LOVE! Shortcuts provided if you want to use store bought sauces rather than making your sauces to save time.

Storage Suggestions for Lasagna Pinwheels

In general pasta recipes keep quite well and lasagna pinwheels are no exception.

Leftover pinwheel lasagna will keep airtight in the fridge for up to 5 days or in the freezer for up to 3 months.

Lasagna Pinwheels - Rolled up lasagna that's filled with juicy Italian sausage and a rich and creamy bechamel sauce before being baked in tomato sauce and more cheese! Comfort food at its finest that the whole family will LOVE! Shortcuts provided if you want to use store bought sauces rather than making your sauces to save time.

Tips for the Best Meat Lasagna Pinwheels

When you’re making the various sauces including the bechamel and bolognese, I recommend using whole milk. Cream isn’t necessary and actually could create sauces that are too thick.

You could possibly use 2% but I don’t recommend anything with less fat such as skim milk.

There is little point in using a plant-based milk since there is so much cheese in this recipe anyway, for which you really can’t use vegan cheeses.

Lasagna Pinwheels - Rolled up lasagna that's filled with juicy Italian sausage and a rich and creamy bechamel sauce before being baked in tomato sauce and more cheese! Comfort food at its finest that the whole family will LOVE! Shortcuts provided if you want to use store bought sauces rather than making your sauces to save time.

I like to use a dry white wine like chardonnay, pinot grigio, or sauvignon blanc in my bechamel or alfredo sauces. However, if you don’t want to use wine you can use low-sodium chicken broth instead.

Lasagna in general is known to be a cheesy paradise and I suggest using the highest quality cheeses you can find in both the bechamel and in the final layer of cheeses. That means no green cans of Parmesan!

If you can’t find fresh mini mozzarella pearls or balls, sometimes called ciliegine, you can use a larger ball of fresh mozzarella that you simply cube or dice.

You technically could probably just use extra shredded mozzarella. However, fresh mozzarella has a different flavor and texture which I really love in Italian recipes which is why I incorporated it. 

Lasagna Pinwheels - Rolled up lasagna that's filled with juicy Italian sausage and a rich and creamy bechamel sauce before being baked in tomato sauce and more cheese! Comfort food at its finest that the whole family will LOVE! Shortcuts provided if you want to use store bought sauces rather than making your sauces to save time.

In the bechamel I used a fresh thyme sprig and in the tomato sauce I used fresh basil. However, in a pinch, you can use about 1/2 teaspoon of dried thyme and dried basil if that’s all you have.

After you’ve rolled up the lasagna noodles and they’re in the casserole dish and you add the tomato sauce, add it so hits the noodles at the base where they meet the casserole dish rather than dumping it on top of them like a rain shower. 

And then spread them out so they aren’t touching and there is tomato sauce between all your pinwheel lasagna rollups.

If you have extra bolognese, feel free to also add that to the tomato sauce that’s already in the casserole dish.

Keep an eye on the lasagna pinwheels as they bake to make sure the cheese has melted but that nothing is looking too crisp or dried out. Now is not the time you want to overcook your little pinwheel masterpieces!

If for some reason that were to happen, cover with a sheet of foil and bake just until the cheese has melted before resting and then serving your rolled up lasagna.

Place your casserole dish on a baking sheet so that if it overflows a little like mine did, it goes onto the baking sheet and not your oven floor.

Pin This Recipe

Yield: 12

Lasagna Pinwheels

Lasagna Pinwheels - Rolled up lasagna that's filled with juicy Italian sausage and a rich and creamy bechamel sauce before being baked in tomato sauce and more cheese! Comfort food at its finest that the whole family will LOVE! Shortcuts provided if you want to use store bought sauces rather than making your sauces to save time.

Rolled up lasagna that’s filled with juicy Italian sausage and a rich and creamy bechamel sauce before being baked in tomato sauce and more cheese! Comfort food at its finest that the whole family will LOVE! Shortcuts provided if you want to use store bought sauces rather than making your sauces to save time in the Notes section.

Prep Time 1 hour 15 minutes
Cook Time 30 minutes
Additional Time 10 minutes
Total Time 1 hour 55 minutes

Ingredients

Bechamel Sauce

  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • one 1-inch wide section of yellow onion (use the rest in the bolognese)
  • 1 cup whole milk, at room temperature
  • 1 sprig fresh thyme or 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg, optional
  • 1/2 cup ricotta cheese
  • 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
  • 1/2 cup mozzarella cheese, shredded

Bolognese Sauce

  • 1 pound ground sweet Italian sausage (or spicy/hot sausage or lean ground beef)
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil1
  • 1 cup yellow onion, diced small
  • 1 celery rib, diced small
  • 1 cup carrots, shredded
  • 3 to 5 cloves garlic, finely minced
  • 6 ounce can tomato paste
  • 1 cup dry white wine (chardonnay, pinot grigio, sauvignon blanc or low-sodium chicken broth(
  • 1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
  • 1 teaspoon granulated sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt, or to taste
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, or to taste
  • 1/2 teaspoon fennel seed
  • 28 ounces canned crushed tomatoes
  • 1 cup whole milk, at room temperature

Tomato Sauce

  • 6.5-ounces canned tomato sauce
  • 5 fresh basil leaves or 1/2 teaspoon dried basil
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt, or to taste
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, or to taste

Lasagna Noodles

  • 12 classic dry lasagna noodles (no-boil or 'oven-ready' not recommended)
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons salt (not teaspoons, to ensure your. noodles have flavor); or as desired

Cheese Layer

  • 1 1/2 cups mozzarella cheese, shredded; divided
  • 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, grated or shredded; divided
  • 8 ounce package fresh mozzarella pearls, balls, or ciliegine

Instructions

Bechamel Sauce

  1. To a large, high-sided skillet, add the butter, onion, and heat over medium-high heat to melt the butter and cook the onion for 2 minutes; stir constantly.
  2. Add the flour and cook for 30 seconds, stirring constantly until lightly golden browned. Tip - This is a roux. Do not shortcut this step of making the roux or your sauce will never thicken later and you'll have to start over.
  3. Slowly add the milk, thyme, salt, pepper, optional nutmeg, and continue whisking for about 5 minutes nearly constantly, until the sauce has thickened a bit.
  4. Take the skillet off the heat, add the 3 cheeses, and stir to combine until they've melted.
  5. Using a slotted spoon, remove the onion bits and pieces and the thyme sprig if you used fresh thyme; set sauce aside.


Bolognese Sauce

  1. To a large skillet, add the sausage or beef and cook over medium-high heat until cooked through, making sure to stir and crumble as it cooks to ensure even cooking. Do not drain off any fat or grease because you need it for the next steps.
  2. Add the onions, celery, carrots, garlic, and cook for 5 minutes, or until the vegetables are just beginning to soften; stir nearly continuously.
  3. Add tomato paste, wine (careful it will bubble up), Italian seasoning, sugar, salt, pepper, fennel seed, and stir to combine.
  4. Add the canned crushed tomatoes, milk, stir to combine, and allow the sauce to simmer over low heat for about 45 minutes or until the vegetables are soft and tender, and the sauce has reduced in volume, and has thickened.
  5. Taste the sauce and make any necessary seasoning adjustments such as more salt and pepper, more sugar to take off the acidity, etc. Set sauce aside.


Tomato Sauce

  1. Combine all the ingredients in a medium sauce pan, bring them to a boil, and then turn the heat down to low and allow the sauce to simmer for about 20 minutes.
  2. While the sauce simmers, you can move on to boiling the pasta.


Lasagna Noodles and Assembly

  1. Cook the lasagna noodles according to the package directions, and also add the olive oil and salt (as desired although I recommend 2 tablespoons) to the cooking water.
  2. When the noodles are done cooking, drain them, and then shock them in an ice bath to stop the cooking and prevent them from sticking. Allow them to remain in the ice bath for 3 to 4 minutes. Remove them from the cold water and place them on a large baking sheet.
  3. Preheat the oven to 375F and spray a 2.5-quart casserole dish or baking dish with cooking spray; set aside.
  4. To each lasagna noodle, spread a thin layer of bechemel sauce down the center.
  5. Add a couple small spoonfuls of bolognese sauce down the middle of center of each noodle and then lightly spread it around.
  6. Evenly sprinkle all 12 noodles with 1 cup of shredded mozzarella and 1/4 cup of the grated or shredded Parmesan.
  7. Roll each noodle up and stand it on it's end in the casserole dish. Notes - If you can't fit them all in one casserole dish, it's fine to use a second casserole dish. Additionally, if you find that you only have enough bechemel and/or bolognese for less than 12 pinwheels, then make what you have enough for, which is based on how full you fill them.
  8. Carefully pour the tomato sauce over the base of the casserole dish, taking care to aim for the base of the dish rather than a rain shower over the top of the noodles. Spread the noodles out so they're not touching.
  9. If you have extra bolognese sauce, you can add it to the tomato sauce already in the base of the casserole dish, and gently stir it around.
  10. Place a few fresh mozzarella pearls, ciliegine, or a large fresh mozzarella ball that you dice or cube small, on top of each pinwheel and then scatter the rest around the casserole dish.
  11. Evenly sprinkle the remaining 1/2 cup shredded mozzarella and 1/4 cup shredded Parmesan over the top. (See Notes for Make Ahead Directions, stopping here)
  12. Bake uncovered for about 30 minutes, or until the cheese has melted and is as lightly golden browned as desired. Tips: Place your casserole dish on a baking sheet so that if it overflows a little like mine did, it goes onto the baking sheet and not your oven floor. It shouldn't happen, but if the lasagna noodles look at all like they're burning or drying out, cover the casserole dish with foil and continue baking until the cheese melts.
  13. Allow the lasagna pinwheels to rest for about 10 minutes before serving. Extra pinwheels will keep airtight in the fridge for up to 5 days or in the freezer for up to 3 months.

Notes

*For making or prepping in advance, make the 3 sauces as written, get the lasagna noodles rolled up and in the casserole dish, and add the tomato sauce. At this point stop, cover very tightly with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for up to 24 hours before baking it off.

When you do pull it from the refrigerator to bake, allow your casserole dish to sit on the counter at room temp for at least 30 minutes so you don’t have to keep it in the oven longer due to starting with very cold food.

Add the fresh and shredded mozzarella before baking and bake as directed.

**Using Store Bought or Premade Sauces:

  1. For the bechamel, there are lots of jarred bechamel sauces out there and if you want to give one a try or you have a favorite, go for it. Also, you can check for a jarred alfredo sauce as the two are very similar. 
  2. As it pertains to the bolognese sauce, this is the one sauce I would make from scratch despite there being plenty of ready-made bolognese sauce. It’s going to be hard to duplicate the mouthfeel, taste, texture, and comfort-food factor of a pound of ground Italian sausage or ground beef and for this reason, I suggest making your own.
  3. The tomato sauce is just doctored up with some basil, olive oil, garlic, salt, and pepper. You’re going to need to simmer a store bought tomato sauce anyway to warm it and thicken it a bit, so I’d go ahead and just add those couple of extra ingredients. Tip: You do you! If buying store bought sauces for all 3 is going to help you actually make this meal, and do so much more stress-free and in far less time, then buy all 3 sauces!

Nutrition Information:

Yield:

12

Serving Size:

2

Amount Per Serving: Calories: 486Total Fat: 23gSaturated Fat: 10gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 10gCholesterol: 60mgSodium: 2200mgCarbohydrates: 39gFiber: 4gSugar: 11gProtein: 26g

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Welcome to AverieCooks! Here you’ll find fast and easy recipes that taste amazing and are geared for real life. Nothing fussy or complicated, just awesome tasting dishes everyone loves!

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Comments

  1. These are so fun and so delicious! The perfect way to slightly change up this family favorite. My picky son loved them, so you can be sure we’ll be enjoying them again and again. :)

    Rating: 5
  2. Hi Averie. May I ask you what brand of lasagna noodles you used in this dish? I haven’t been able to find those “wavy” noodles in years and have search and searched for them.