Lasagna Bolognese
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Yield: 10 to 12 servings
 
ingredients:
Bolognese sauce*
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3-4 oz pancetta or prosciutto di parma, chopped
  • 2 lbs ground beef, OR a combo or ground veal, pork and beef, or two of the three, equaling 2 lbs.
  • 28 ounces canned San Marzano tomatoes,- drained and the juice and seeds squeezed from each tomato and discarded
  • 2 medium onions, chopped
  • 2 large carrots, finely diced
  • 2 large celery stalks, finely diced
  • 3 cloves of garlic, minced
  • ½ cup dry red or white wine (your preference)
  • ½ cup whole milk, heated with cream prior to adding
  • ¼ cup heavy cream, heated with milk prior to adding
  • 1 cup chicken stock, or beef stock, or veal stock, or a combo of beef stock and chicken stock to make one cup, heated prior to adding.
  • salt and fresh ground pepper to taste
  • 2 to 4 tablespoons of butter to finish (optional)
Pasta Dough**
  • 3¼ to 3½ cups 00 or All-Purpose flour.
  • 4 whole eggs
  • 1 egg yolk
Bechamel Sauce***
  • 1 stick of unsalted butter (1/2 cup)
  • ½ cup of All-Purpose flour
  • 4 cups of whole milk
  • salt
  • fresh ground pepper,
  • freshly grated nutmeg2 cups grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese (Not part of Bechamel sauce ingredients. Part of lasagna assembly)
directions:
For the Bolognese Sauce
  1. Heat the oil and butter in a large saute pan, then add the onion, celery, and carrot and cook over medium heat until the onion turns pale gold. Add the pancetta or prosciutto, and let it cook down until most of the fat has rendered out, then add the minced garlic, and cook for another minute or two, being careful not to burn the garlic.
  2. Pushing the carrots, onions, celery, garlic and pancetta off to the side of the pan (or removing it to a plate for time being), add the beef or combo of ground meats and let sear until brown (this is a very important step for flavor)..then start breaking it up and letting it cook until most of the juices have evaporated. Add or push the veggies and pancetta back in with the meat, and let it cook together for another few minutes, until almost dry.
  3. Turn the heat up to high and add the white or red wine, scraping up the 'fond' (aka flavor) from the bottom of the pan (deglazing), then let the wine cook down until almost evaporated.
  4. Transfer the beef, veggie, pancetta mix to a dutch oven or large oven proof pot. Turn your burner down to medium heat and add the tomatoes, breaking them up as you stir them in (or just squeeze them with your hands in a bowl prior to adding them), and let it cook for about 15-20 minutes.
  5. Add the stock, cook for 1 minute, and then the milk and cream, and bring to a boil.
  6. Now, you can either let the bolognese simmer on the stovetop, uncovered, for about 3-5 hours, stirring and keeping watch, OR, do as I learned from Francois at FXCuisine (so much easier and no burning on the bottom without constant stirring). Preheat your oven to 250 F, while preparing the sauce on the stovetop.NOTE - if you want a faster sauce, preheat the oven to 350 F and only cook it for about 1 to 2 hours at the most.
  7. After you transfer it to the dutch oven and bring it to a boil..COVER and put it in the 250 F oven. Let it cook anywhere from 2-4 hours (check every hour after two to see if it's cooked down enough for your taste. Also, give it a stir every hour from the start). It should be thick and meaty (thick like oatmeal), with barely any juice or 'sauciness'. Taste for seasonings, such as salt and pepper, but this is so concentrated and flavorful, I only needed to add some ground black pepper.
  8. If you like, remove half or a quarter of the sauce to a separate pot or bowl and use an immersion blender to break it down a little, then add it back into the original sauce, and let it cook on the stove top so it reduces down a little more. If you'd like, for an even richer sauce, stir in the 2 to 4 tablespoons of 'optional' butter once it's finished cooking. I mostly do this when I'm making this sauce just to serve over pasta.
  9. Let sauce cool to room temperature, then refrigerate until ready to assemble the lasagna.
For the Homemade Pasta Dough and Lasagna Sheets
  1. Mound the flour on a sturdy board, and make a decent sized well in the middle (think volcano). Crack the eggs into a bowl, and add the egg yolk, to insure no shell gets into the 'well'. Pour the eggs into the well, and beat very carefully until uniform, making sure you keep those walls of flour intact to hold the pool of beaten eggs in. You don't want your volcano erupting! OK, I admit it, my 'volcano' did start to erupt, but fortunately, I was able to save it in time with some masterful bench scraping. Which brings me to that tip - have a bench scraper on hand just in case!
  2. Slowly start to incorporate the flour into the beaten eggs, until you have a soft dough. Start to knead the dough, adding more flour from your original 'volcano' (You most probably won't be incorporating all the flour from the volcano into the dough, (DO NOT try to force it all in, as you'll end up with a dry, crumbly bunch of pieces that won't hold together and tough pasta to boot), to get a nice, firm but smooth and elastic dough..about 10 minutes. You can also add the formed dough to your food processor/robocoupe, and finish it off there with a 30 second to1 minute pulse/run. You can even make the whole dough in the food processor, but you'd have to start out with a lot less flour, and slowly add it to the beaten eggs as the machine is running, until it's reached the right consistency. However, like I said above..I prefer the old fashioned way for this lasagna, since you've already put so much TLC into everything else.
  3. Once the dough is nice, smooth, and yellow to light yellow, wrap it in plastic wrap, and let it sit for 20 minutes or more. I refrigerate mine overnight, then let it come to room temp before I start cutting off pieces and rolling..but then again, as mentioned above, I do everything but the bechamel and the rolling of the pasta sheets the day before I make the Lasagna Bolognese.
  4. When the dough is almost ready, bring a large pot of water to boiling, (adding salt once it comes to a full boil). Break off or cut off about a golf ball or larger size piece and flatten in your hand, folding it into a small rectangle. (Cover the remaining dough with plastic wrap until you need to cut off another piece).
  5. Set your pasta machine at the widest setting, and run it through several times (you may have to flour the piece of dough lightly and sporadically to prevent sticking). Your sort of kneading it again, and making it nice and smooth for the final run throughs. Once it feels silky enough, flour it lightly and turn the knob up to number 2, and run it through a few times, then 3 (this is where I usually stop, as you don't want the sheets too thin, since it'll be cooking in the oven for about an hour). Leave your sheets rustic, no trimming (this is down home italian comfort food, not haute cuisine) and set them somewhere to dry, like a VERY lightly floured pan, drooping them over the rim, or some kind of rack. You don't want them to dry long, as you want them as fresh as possible.
  6. Once you've finished, add the pasta sheets, about two to three at a time, to the salted, boiling water. Let cook for only 40-50 seconds at most. Immediately transfer them to a large bowl of ice water, using a strainer of some sort (I use a Chinese strainer/skimmer), keeping that water in the pot and at a rolling boil. Keep repeating with the rest of the pasta sheets, adding more cold water to the bowl (you may have to use two bowls if the one you have isn't big enough for all that pasta) each time you add more of the semi-cooked sheets.
  7. Once you're finished, strain the pasta sheets and place them on a VERY lightly oiled pan (or one with a silpat) to dry. Then cover with plastic wrap until you're ready to assemble the lasagna.
For the Bechamel Sauce
  1. Heat the milk until almost boiling in a heavy bottomed sauce pan. In a separate pot melt the unsalted butter over low heat, then add the flour all at once. Stir rapidly with a whisk. Cook until you have a uniform blonde roux, do NOT let it brown, not even a little. We're not making gumbo here
  2. Slowly add the hot milk to the roux in increments, whisking until the roux absorbs each ½ to 1 cup of hot milk, in which you'll keep getting a thicker and thicker paste which will soon start to turn into a sauce. Once you've added all the milk, you'll have a nice, white, creamy sauce with no lumps, that should coat the back of a spoon.
  3. Season with salt, pepper and a few grates of fresh, whole nutmeg (not too much..taste with each grate). Set aside to cool until you're ready to assemble the lasagna.
Assemble Lasagna
  1. Get your 'mise en place' together - the two sauces, the partially cooked and dry lasagna sheets, and about two cups of freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese. By the way, don't throw out the rind of the cheese. It makes a great flavor enhancer for soups, sauces, stews, rices etc. Of course you don't eat the rind once it's served its purpose. Preheat your oven to 350 F.
  2. First start with a light layer of sauce on the bottom of a deep 13 x 9 or 10 x15 baking dish. (I make this lasagna about 5-6 layers deep, but 3 or 4 layers is fine. Each layer will just be 'saucier'. You can leave the pasta dough as is, as those amounts are just about right for 3 or 4 layers, and as mentioned above, I usually double that or make another half of the recipe to make 5 or 6 layers. Top the sauce with a few lasagna sheets or whatever amount covers since you've kept your lasagna sheets 'rustic'. Cut sheets in half, if need be,
  3. Add a heavier layer of Bolognese sauce on top of those sheets, then next a layer of Bechamel sauce, then a handful of the Parm-Reg cheese.
  4. Top with another layer of lasagna sheets, then the same as above; Bolognese sauce, Bechamel Sauce and Parm-Reg cheese until you've used up all the lasagna sheets, sauces and cheese. Your top layer should the remainder of the sauces and cheese, not plain lasagna sheets.
  5. Now it's ready for the oven. Bake at 350 F for about 45 minutes to an hour. After 30-40 minutes, start checking if it's ready by sticking a long, thin knife or metal skewer into the center. If the knife or skewer comes out hot, it's ready. Lukewarm, keep cooking. If the top starts to get too brown, cover with aluminum foil for the remainder of the baking time.
notes:
*Bolognese sauce can be made 2 days ahead. Cover and chill.
**Pasta dough can be made one day ahead, Bring to room temperature before rolling out. OR, make and boil pasta sheets, then stack each sheet between layers of parchment paper on a baking sheet. Wrap baking sheet with plastic wrap and chill until ready to assemble lasagna..
*** Bechamel sauce can be made one day ahead. Just reheat until loose, but not hot, when ready to assemble lasagna.
-For a 6 layer lasagna, double the Bechamel and Bolognese,,and add 1½ more cups of Parmiagiano-Reggiano cheese. You will also need enough pasta dough for about 18 lasagna sheets,
- If your Bolognese sauce is a little dry for some reason, like your oven running hot, just stir in a little tomato sauce and/or stock to bring it back. On the flip side. if it still seems too saucy after cooking, it's okay, it will thicken up as it cools. If it doesn't thicken up, in a pot on the stove top, cook it down over medium - high heat, constantly stirring, until the extra sauce reduces.
Recipe by parsley sage sweet at http://www.parsleysagesweet.com/2008/05/29/lasagna-bolognese-the-other-lasagna/