Taste test: Ready-meal lasagnes rated, from overcooked stodge to superior satiny pasta

Although home-made lasagne might be better, ready-made is a good option for a midweek treat, writes Clay
Although home-made lasagne might be better, ready-made is a good option for a midweek treat, writes Clay

Lasagne: the dish we all love to eat, but not to make. Seductive slippery sheets of pasta, basted with rich ragu, sliding under creamy white sauce and a golden, bubbly top – sounds good. But spending four hours making a slow-cooked ragu, tenderly cooking out a béchamel and playing lasagne-sheet Tetris? This is the sort of thing that weekend cooking enthusiasts love, weeknight supper providers not so much.

Happily, it’s a dish that takes well to being prepared in advance. Great for those get-ahead cooks – but also for picking up from the chiller cabinet in the supermarket, as it’s the kind of ready meal that’s got a sporting chance of tasting good. Time to put the high street’s range to the test.

Close examination of the labels on such products can be a bit less appetising. Many ready-made lasagnes fall back on modified starch, that favourite of the ultra-processed food (UPF) manufacturer, as it’s a cheap way to bulk out food. Other UPF markers to look out for in the ingredients list are maltodextrin (a thickener and preservative), dextrose (also used as a preservative), and palm oil.

Most ready-meal lasagnes are high in fat, saturates or salt, many showing the red traffic-light symbol on all three – but it’s important to look at that in context.

The colour-coded nutritional information on food labels has its uses, highlighting egregiously high levels of the kind of stuff (the negatives) we ought to eat in moderation. But it doesn’t value the positives in a product: nuts, for example, score red for fat but this ignores the fact they are not a processed food and are actually packed with good stuff, a fantastic source of things we need more of such as protein, vitamins B and E and a host of minerals including potassium and iron. Fat in itself, meanwhile, can be a good carrier of nutrition.

In the same vein, the only lasagne of the 21 I tried which had no red traffic lights on its nutritional label was Morrisons Savers, whose fat, saturated fat and salt levels are marked yellow/amber. Kudos for that (and the price, which at £2.20 for 400g makes it one of the cheapest fresh lasagnes available). The ingredients list isn’t too bad either, with proper durum wheat in the pasta (which should make for a decent springy texture). Maltodextrin and “onion concentrate” are the only obvious UPF ingredients.

But how much good nutrition does Morrisons Savers lasagne contain? There’s barely 20g protein in a portion, for example; the lowest in the test and less than half than some of those I tried. Not a disaster, granted, and still a good chunk of your daily requirement, but it is an example of how seeking out low-fat or low-salt foods only tells half the story (I’d love to see products labelled with additional traffic lights for high protein, high fibre and high levels of antioxidants, for example).

Wondering how the shop-bought lasagnes fare in comparison with homemade, I found a recipe by Marcella Hazan, the godmother of Italian home cooking, and calculated its fat and protein content.  The fat in Hazan’s dish comes to over 47g per portion, of which 23g is saturated. That’s substantially more than even the richest of the ready-mades, an M&S Best Ever Beef Lasagne at a total of 38g fat (18g saturated). Most are around half that. As for protein, Hazen’s contains a healthy 31g per portion – perfectly respectable, but not as much as Sainsbury’s Taste the Difference lasagne (which delivers over 40g).

I know – how dare I suggest that a homemade lasagne isn’t an impeccable choice? And the truth is, there are lots of reasons why homemade will be better: it’s fresher, there are no weird ingredients and you’ll know what went into it, just for starters. But ready-made lasagne might still be a good option for a low-stress, midweek supper treat, provided you choose carefully. Let my exhaustive taste test guide you to the goodies.

The taste test

If you don't have time to make lasagne from scratch, don't fear. Find a tasty ready-made one
If you don't have time to make lasagne from scratch, don't fear. Find a tasty ready-made one

Stodgy pasta with all the depressing flavours of school dinners which bring a whiff of gym lockers and unfinished homework.

The sauce is like school gravy and the product overall is béchamel-heavy. Very stodgy; some of the pasta sheets have stuck together lumpily like a sports-centre yoga mat. Tastes overcooked.

An oddly translucent white sauce, as if it is thickened with starch not flour. Nasty, overcooked pasta and dull meat.

Looks a mess – like it’s been hit by an earthquake. There’s virtually no white sauce and the soggy pasta tastes oddly sweet, as if someone has put sugar in it.

The meat sauce tastes porky rather than beefy, while the flavour of the white sauce is all wrong, as if it’s made with UHT milk, and there’s an aftertaste of raw flour. There’s no excuse at this price.

The flavour of this one is actually OK and it’s very nicely layered with stringy cheese, but unfortunately it’s ruined by very soft, overcooked pasta.


Massively let down by the white sauce which has been thickened with cornstarch, not flour. The result – it’s translucent which isn’t a good look. However, the pasta is fine and it has quite a smoky and herby taste, albeit with less meat than others and more tomato.

Two layers of the pasta are stuck together in a thick clump, which is poor. There’s not much white sauce and the meat and tomato sauce is overcooked. OK – but lacking in “oomph” and a bit stodgy.

Looks a bit pallid but blimey, you’re whacked with garlic – it overwhelms the flavour. The pasta is quite good but it’s probably a bit intense for some people, I think. Mind you, garlic addicts might give this a 5.

The meat sauce has a smell of offal (which would be very authentic) although none is listed in the ingredients. The pasta is so soft it’s like a thin sheet of jelly.


Soft, gelatinised pasta and a tomatoey meat sauce that tastes of yeast extract and leaves a slick of red oil on the base. Not terrible but not delicious.

Another pallid-looking lasagne. The pasta layers are slipping over each other which feels authentic and the meat has a good nubbly texture. There’s definitely flavour there, but the heavy dried herb flavour and lack of tomato-ness reminds me of Dolmio – there’s also too much white sauce that has an industrially-produced flavour.

Stodgy pasta that’s pale and sunken in the middle. The sauce tastes overcooked – the sort of lasagne you’d be happy to eat in a motorway service station.


A bit bland, but it’s got nice, bouncy pasta and it’s generously meaty – a decent option.

Another one that has two sheets of pasta stuck together – makes it feel unloved. Very meaty with a brown coloured sauce that still carries a tomato flavour and the béchamel is very cheesy. Feels like a British family supper rather than an Italian one.

Similar to the Tesco one. Lots of tomato sauce that tastes of dried herbs and good, nubbly meat. However it’s a bit more watery and there’s a generally weird colour on top.


Intensely flavoured meat, well-balanced herbs and quite cheesy on top. Vital, as it covers the dodgy, translucent white sauce.

Excellent, satiny pasta and a great rich texture. The balance of meat to sauce is good. No weird ingredients but the dried oregano flavour is on the strong side, reminiscent of a jar of Dolmio.

The pasta is a cut above, silky with a fraction of bite. There’s lots of meat at the bottom, and it slices very well, though it is a bit heavy on the herbs. Great value.

Nicely defined layers, with a chunky, meaty sauce that’s not drowned in tomato. Tastes like a proper homemade British family supper, rather than Italian, but none the worse for that.