Lasagne alla Bolognese


over 120mins
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Ingredients for servings

    for the ragù bolognese

  • 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

  • 4 tbsp butter

  • 0.6666 pound ground lamb or 85% / 15% ground beef

  • 0.6666 pound ground pork

  • 0.6666 pound ground veal

  • 4 oz chicken livers, finely chopped optional, see note

  • 1 large onion, finely chopped

  • 2 large carrots, peeled, and cut into 1/4-inch dice

  • 3 large ribs celery, peeled, and cut into 1/4-inch dice

  • 4 cloves garlic, finely minced, or grated on a microplane grater

  • 0.5 cup(s) fresh sage leaves, finely chopped

  • large pinch red pepper flakes optional

  • 1 can crushed Italian plum tomatoes, preferably D.O.P. San Marzano

  • 1.5 cup(s) dry red wine white works fine as well

  • 1.5 cup(s) whole milk

  • 2 cup(s) homemade chicken or veal stock if you only have canned, go for the low-sodium ones

  • 2 bay leaves

  • 1 tbsp Vietnamese or Thai fish sauce

  • 0.5 cup(s) heavy cream

  • salt and freshly ground black pepper

  • 0.5 cup(s) minced basil or parsley or a mix of both

  • for the ricotta mixture

  • 3 cup(s) home-made fresh ricotta see note

  • salt and freshly ground black pepper

  • 2 large eggs

  • 0.25 cup(s) minced basil or parsley or a mix of both

  • for the besciamella

  • 2 tbsp butter

  • 2 tbsp flour

  • 2 cloves garlic, finely minced, or grated on a microplane grater

  • 2 cup(s) whole milk

  • 0.5 pound dry whole milk mozzarella cheese, grated see note

  • 0.25 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

  • salt and freshly ground black pepper

  • to assemble

  • Fifteen sheets fresh rolled pasta, or 15 pieces no-boil lasagna noodles from 1 package see note

  • 4 oz parmesan, grated on a microplane grater

  • 2 tbsp minced basil or parsley or a mix of both

Directions

    Ragù Bolognese

  • Heat butter and olive oil in large dutch oven over high heat, stirring occasionally, until butter has stopped foaming.

  • Add lamb, pork, veal, and chicken livers, and cook, breaking up meat with wooden spoon, until no longer pink, 7-10 minutes.

  • Remove from heat, transfer meat to strainer set in large bowl, allow to drain, then transfer drained liquid back to dutch oven.

  • Add onions, carrots, celery, garlic, sage, and red pepper flakes, and set over medium heat.

  • Cook, stirring frequently, until vegetables are softened, but not browned, about 10 minutes.

  • Return meat to skillet, add tomatoes, wine, milk, stock, and bay leaves, and bring to a simmer over high heat. Reduce heat to low, partially cover, and simmer 2 1/2 to 3 hours, stirring occasionally, until liquid is slightly below level of meat, about 2 quarts of sauce total you may need to add excess stock while cooking if your burner is cooking it too hot. A layer of fat may form on top during cooking, but do not skim it off. After cooking, remove bay leaves, add fish sauce and heavy cream and simmer until fat is emulsified, about five minutes.

  • Season to taste with salt and black pepper. Remove from heat and allow to cool at room temperature for 30 minutes. Stir in parsley and basil. Bolognese will keep for up to 1 week in fridge, and will improve with time. Reheat until warm before using in lasagna.

  • While the ragù is simmering, make the ricotta mixture. Place ricotta in bowl of food processor or stand mixer fitted with whisk attachment and process/mix until smooth. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Add two eggs and minced herbs, and process/mix until incoroporated. Set aside at room temperature until ready to use.

  • Besciamella

  • Heat butter in medium saucepan over medium-high heat until foaming subsides, stirring occasionally, about 1 minute.

  • Add flour and stir with whisk until light blond in color and slightly nutty aroma develops, about 1 minute.

  • Add garlic, and stir to combine. Whisking constantly, add milk in steady stream until fully incorporated.

  • Bring to a simmer mixture should thicken. Remove heat, add cheese and nutmeg, and whisk until fully melted. Whisking constantly, return to a simmer, remove from heat, and season to taste with salt and pepper. Set aside until ready to use.

  • Adjust oven racks to lower middle and lowest positions and preheat oven to 180°C degrees. Place lasagna noodles in baking dish and cover with hot tap water (or boiled water) and allow to soak for 10 minutes, changing water once during soaking time. Drain in single layer on clean kitchen towels, or paper towels. Cover with second kitchen towel or paper towels and pat dry.

  • Assembling

  • Add 1/6th of meat ragù to bottom of baking dish and drizzle with besciamella.

  • Place three noodles in single layer on top of sauce (noodles will not quite touch each other; this is okay).

  • Top with 1/6 of meat sauce, besciamella, Parmigiano, and three more noodles.

  • Spread 1/2 of ricotta mixture on top of noodles with rubber spatula, top with 1/6 of meat sauce, parmigiano, and three more noodles.

  • Top with 1/6 of meat sauce, besciamella, Parmigiano, and three more noodles.

  • Spread remaining 1/2 of ricotta mixture on top of noodles with rubber spatula, top with 1/6 of meat sauce, Parmigiano, and three more noodles.

  • Cover with remaining 1/6 of meat sauce, remaining besciamella, and remaining Parmigiano. Baking dish should be very full at this point.

  • Place foil-lined rimmed baking sheet on lower rack to catch drips, then place lasagna on upper rack and bake until edges are starting to crisp, and top is a bubbly, golden brown, about 45 minutes, rotating half way through baking.

  • Remove from oven and allow to cool at room temperature for 10 minutes. Sprinkle with herbs, and serve.

Notes

If you don’t want to go the whole nine yards and make your own ricotta, and if you can’t find good store-bought ricotta (look for stuff with an ingredient list that contains nothing but milk, some kind of acid or starter, and salt. Avoid any gums or stabilizers), I’d highly suggest using store-bought whole milk cottage cheese in its place.

There’s nothing else too unusual about this recipe, other than the fact that I finish it with a bit of fish sauce in order to up the umami. Don’t worry, it won’t taste fishy. You could get similar results by adding a couple smashed anchovies and a half teaspoon of marmite in with the vegetables in the second step.

Hand-rolled pasta works great, but the no-boil flat noodles are surprisingly good—almost as good as the real deal, particularly because with a 40 minute cooking time, even with fresh pasta, al dente is not the final goal. The pasta in a good lasagna should be soft, tender, and intensely flavored with the soaked-up liquid from the ragù.

I also like to add a few chicken livers, which are traditionally called for in Ragù Bolognese intended for special occasions. Frankly, if I’m putting in the time to make a lasagna, whatever occasion it is had best done make itself special.

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