My latest quest was to find an authentic recipe for lasagna. There are plenty out there, and they have some commonalities. The tomato/meat sauce is a Bolognese-type. Instead of mozzarella, they use a béchamel sauce, most insist on homemade lasagna noodles.
So, my first order of business was to be able to cook an excellent rendition of the authentic recipe. And after only the second iteration, we are close. We used our son, Pete’s recipe as the starter, and we made very few changes. After about eight iterations, this featured recipe is the result.
KICKED UP LASAGNA
The next part of our adventure is to make a ‘loaded lasagna’ where we will Americanize it a bit. Already, I’m considering the following changes:
- If I want my Bolognese sauce to be a bit more tomatoey (is that even a word?), I might add two cans instead of one.
- I’ve ordered my favorite brand, Muire Glen fire-roasted crushed tomatoes, and I will be using it.
- What type of lasagna noodles? Ay, there’s the rub. We’re comparing dried lasagna noodles versus the pre-cooked. It’s recommended we make them from scratch. That ain’t gonna happen.
- The originals usually don’t mention basil or oregano. These are high on my list to add in subtle amounts.
- I might add a middle level of torn pieces of mozzarella and provolone, but probably not, but probably not.
- Mushrooms? Again, probably not.
- The authentic doesn’t have any garlic. What’s not to like about garlic?
- Shaved chocolate? I’m reserving that to be my one of my chili secret ingredients.
- And instant coffee. I’m considering that as a secret ingredient.
“We’ve only just begun to give
White sauce and promises
A Bolognese and we’re on our way
(We’ve only just begun).”
- My apologies to the Carpenters.
Stay tuned for further iterations to the recipe.
*** Bolognese sauce ***
1 large onion (coarsely chopped)
1 medium carrot (coarsely chopped)
1 Celery stalk (coarsely chopped)
4 Cloves garlic (coarsely chopped)
2 Tbsp EVOO
1 lb. Ground beef chuck
1 lb. Ground chuck
4 oz. Pancetta (finely chopped)
Salt and pepper to taste
1 cup dry white wine
1 cup whole Milk
14.5 oz. Can of crushed tomatoes, Fire-roasted
2 cups Chicken broth
*** Bechamel sauce ***
5 Tbsp Butter
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
4 cups While milk (warmed)
Pinch Ground nutmeg
Salt to taste
*** Noodles ***
Package pre-cooked lasagne noodles
Salt to taste
1 cup Chicken broth
4 oz. Butter, room temperature for dish
2 cups Finely-grated parmesan cheese
BOLOGNESE SAUCE (can be made up to three days ahead of time):
- Pulse onion, carrot, celery, and garlic in a food processor until finely chopped.
- Heat EVOO in a large heavy pot over medium heat.
- Add porchetta and cook for about 2 minutes, then add the ground chuck and the ground pork, and finally the vegetables.
- Cook, breaking up the ground meat with a spoon until moisture is almost completely evaporated and the meat is well-browned (around 25-30 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.
- Add wine to the pot and bring to a boil, scraping up browned bits from the bottom of the pan (around 2 minutes).
- Add milk, bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer until moisture is almost completely evaporated (around 8-10 minutes).
- Add tomatoes and two cups broth, bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer until flavors meld and sauce thickens (around 2.5 to 3 hours).
- Add water by 1/2 cup if the sauce looks dry.
- Let sauce cool, cover and chill for at least 12 hours or up to 2 days.
BECHAMEL (can be made up to 1 day ahead):
- Heat butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat until foaming. Add flour and cook, whisking constantly for 1 minute.
- Whisk in warm milk, 1/2 cupful at a time.
- Bring sauce to a boil, reduce heat and simmer, whisking often, until the consistency of cream (around 8-10 minutes)
- Add nutmeg and season with salt.
- Remove from heat, transfer to a medium bowl, and press plastic wrap directly onto the surface of the liquid.
- Let cool slightly; chill if not using right away.
- Reheat the sauces.
- Combine Bolognese sauce with 1 cup of broth in a large saucepan over medium heat, and heat until sauce is warmed through.
- Meanwhile, if you made the bechamel ahead of time, heat in a medium saucepan over low heat until just warmed through (YOU DO NOT WANT IT TO BOIL).
- Cook the noodles if you are not using the pre-cooked variety.
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
- Coat the lasagna metal pan with 4 oz. of soft butter.
- Spread 1/4 cup of bechamel in the bottom of the prepared pan.
- Top with a layer of noodles.
- Spread a third of the Bolognese sauce, the 1/2 cup bechamel, and top with 1/4 cup parmesan.
- Repeat the process (noodles Bolognese, bechamel, parmesan 2 more times ending with a layer of parmesan on top.
- Cover with aluminum foil and place the pan on a rimmed baking sheet and bake lasagna. Uncover the last 20 minutes. Cook until bubbling and beginning to brown on top (around 50 – 60 minutes). Watch closely. If you want to check the internal temperature, it should register 165 degrees.
NOTE: Lasagna can be assembled 24 hours ahead of time. Cover and chill. Let sit at room temperature for 2 hours before baking. And then begin baking.