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Lasagna Bolognese

May 22, 2010

The audio book I just finished featured an Italian cook as one of the main characters. The author must enjoy cooking, because she would describe the dishes he made in detail, and I’d constantly exit my car with major cravings for garlic chicken, crepes, almond focaccia and artichoke omelets. One scene in the book described some of the process of making Lasagna Bolognese, and suddenly I had the desire to make a really GOOD lasagna. I’ve made plenty of lasagna, but I usually take every shortcut possible, so I was ready to put a little more effort into it.

I chose this recipe, mostly because the picture looked tasty. Of course, I made a few changes (usually out of laziness), so I will post what I did based on preference and some things I read online. Most of the text is being copied over from that recipe, though.

The end result was very delicious (I only wish I could’ve taken a decent photo to display it). I had started having doubts toward the end of the cooking, and was worried it wouldn’t be worth the effort, but I was really surprised at how good it was! I loved the bechamel sauce with it, and didn’t miss ricotta at all. I wasn’t sure the nutmeg would stand out, but it really did add richness to the flavor. I will definitely make this again sometime–I read that the bolognese sauce can be made ahead and stored for about a week in the fridge, so that helps with the timing.

LASAGNA BOLOGNESE

Ingredients

Bolognese Sauce:
2 oz. Diced pancetta, finely chopped
1 Medium yellow onion, finely chopped
1 Carrot, finely chopped
4 Tbsp salted butter
11 oz Ground beef
8 oz Ground Italian sausage
1 Tbsp chopped garlic
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
2 lb peeled and chopped tomatoes (or 1 28-oz can whole peeled tomatoes along with the juice in the can)
1/2 cup (give or take) white cooking wine
1 cup whole milk
Sea salt to taste

Béchamel Sauce:
2 cups whole milk
1/4 cup salted butter
1/4 cup all-purpose unbleached flour
1/4 tsp nutmeg

Lasagna:
Enough lasagna noodles to make four layers in a 13×9-inch baking pan with the lasagna pieces overlapping each other a little bit. I used about a box and a half of Barilla oven-ready lasagna noodles after reading that recommendation online.
2 cups grated Parmasan and Mozzarella (a bagged mix they sell at the store)
1/8 – 1/4 cup chopped Italian/flat parsley

Method

Prepare the Bolognese Meat Sauce:

1. Combine pancetta, onion and carrot in sauté pan with butter and cook over medium heat until onion turns pale gold.
2. Add the beef and sausage and increase the heat to high; cook until browned. Sprinkle with nutmeg and pepper.
3. Add cooking wine. (I actually added mine later, but I read that you’re supposed to add it before the tomato sauce and let it cook down…I don’t know enough about cooking to understand why, but there’s some good reason. :))
4. Stir in tomatoes (including the juice if using canned), bring to a simmer and reduce the heat to medium. Cook over medium heat for 15 minutes. If you are using whole canned tomatoes, break them up as you add them to the sauce.
5. Add milk and season with sea salt. Then turn down the heat and let simmer for 2 and 1/2 hours. Stir at least every 20 minutes. Whenever the sauce simmers down to the point that it is sticking to the bottom of the pan, just add 1/4 cup of water and scrape up the browned bits from the bottom and continue to cook.

Make the Béchamel sauce:
(Growing up, my parents just called this “white sauce” and we served it on veggies and stuff.)

6. Melt butter in sauce pan, then add the flower and stir well.
7. Add milk and stir constantly. Bring temp up to make it boil, but be careful not to burn it or make it boil over. Milk needs constant monitoring, I’ve noticed!
8. Add nutmeg and keep stirring on medium heat until it’s as thick and creamy as you want it. If any lumps form, beat them out rapidly with a whisk until they dissolve. Remove from heat.

Prepare the Lasagna:

9. Preheat oven to 375°F. Cook the lasagna according to instructions (with the oven-ready they don’t require cooking, however I did soak them in water briefly per a recommendation online–not sure if it made a difference). Lay the individual lasagna noodles out on kitchen towels, not touching, so they do not stick together while you layer the casserole.
10. Spread a little olive oil around the inside of a 13×9-inch baking pan. Make sure your baking pan is non-reactive – pyrex or stainless steel. Do not use an aluminum pan as it will react with the acidity of the sauce and ruin the flavor. Put a layer of lasagna noodles down first. Layer on a third of the bolognese sauce, then a third of the bechamel sauce. Sprinkle with cheese. Repeat two more times. Top with a final layer of noodles and sprinkle with grated cheese. (I kept a bit of the bechamel sauce to spread on top to make sure the noodles had enough moisture to fully cook.)
11. Tent the casserole with aluminum foil. Put lasagna into the middle rack of a pre-heated 375°F oven. Bake for 20-30 minutes, until the top begins to get lightly browned. Remove from oven and let cool 5-10 minutes before serving. (My oven might not work properly, but I ended up turning up the heat to 400 or so and baking for an additional 10+ minutes. Then I removed the foil and broiled the top for a couple of minutes to give it a golden brown finish.
12. Sprinkle chopped parsley over the top of the cooked lasagna.

Serves 8.

Here are a few more photos (in random collage form) that might be helpful. I personally get annoyed when a recipe blog has millions of photos inserted amongst the text, requiring you to skip and scroll to find your next instruction, so I kept my instructions all together. 🙂

I didn’t know what pancetta was before making this, so I thought you’d like a photo.
I found it at Winco, so I’d assume it’s at many grocery stores.

Sorry this entry is so long!
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9 Comments
  1. Fayelle permalink

    this looks AMAZING. I'm SO gonna try it soon.

    a lot of times you add cooking wine early to reduce the amount of liquid and it intensifies the the flavor of the wine (due to reduced liquid).

  2. Anonymous permalink

    This looks delicious. I would love to try it when we visit, if you're up for that. Or any of your other fab dishes. 🙂 You can make it in advance and we can eat it as leftovers … lasagna makes the best leftovers! -R

  3. Anonymous permalink

    Oh, and your photos are better than those found on your reference recipe – by far! -R

  4. Thanks for the wine tip, Fayelle! I use cooking wine in various recipes but have never really paid attention to when it's added.

    R – Good plan. We'll see if I have the energy. 😛 I'll have to use Memorial weekend wisely, I guess.

    Really? Thanks…I was thinking how mine totally fell short. I couldn't get the lighting right and I was sort of in a hurry because I had hungry guests waiting.

  5. Geraldo Fonseca permalink

    Hum. Look delicious. I'm gonna try to make this to my girlfriend. We love lasagna. Next time you can invite me to help you eat the lasagna.

  6. Well, I don't think my lasagna is worth the travel expenses, but you're welcome to come try it. 🙂

  7. Anonymous permalink

    Having sampled the product, I cannot emphasize enough how utterly fantastic this was. I think I would request it for my last meal. That's all. _T

  8. Thanks! 😀 I'm very glad it turned out well.

  9. Dania permalink

    I think I'll make this sometime this week. It looks so yummy.

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