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Today was much warmer, but rainy, and so cloudy I could have sworn I’d been transported back to the CLE.  Needless to say, outdoor activities held no allure for me and thus, it was the perfect day for a more involved recipe:

I’ve been making the traditional lasagne recipe on the back of the box (with a somewhat snazzier version of the meat sauce) ever since I’ve been making lasagne.  Today I decided to branch out by making this version.  Don’t get it twisted, I am not masochistic talented enough to make my own noodles.  But who knows, I didn’t used to think I had it in me to make my own bread, then I found this method and decided to give it a try.  My first attempt did not go great, as I deflated the loaf by poking it with a fork excessively to see if it was done.  On my second attempt, I let it bake longer (almost 1 1/2 hours, checking it every 10 minutes or so after the first hour) then stuck it under the broiler for 2-3 minutes and… let’s just say Dr. Matthews and I ate the whole thing.  You also must remember to let it sit for 5 minutes before cutting into it, as they suggest, or it will become gummy, as they warn.

My loaf from today

My loaf from today

Mmmm carbs

Mmmm carbs

Anyway, back to the lasagne.  Here is the recipe, with the homemade noodle part taken out (which took up lots of room in the instructions and sort of got in the way, but if you want to make them you can follow the link and knock yourself out).  My comments are italicized:

INGREDIENTS

For the Bolognese meat sauce
  • 1/2 medium yellow onion
  • 1 medium carrot
  • 1 stalk celery
  • 3 tablespoons butter (I forgot to add this…oops!)
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 12 ounces ground beef, preferably chuck
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 1/2 cup whole milk (I used 2%)
  • 1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 2 cups canned whole peeled tomatoes with their juices

I use Tuttorosso

My crushed/whole tomato brand of choice

My crushed/whole tomato brand of choice

  • 1 1/4 teaspoons salt

For the béchamel sauce

  • 2 cups whole milk (or 2%)
  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • 4 tablespoons flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

For the lasagne assembly

  • 3/4 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano 

DSCN2097
I’m a big fan of the freshly shredded stuff vs “powdered” cheese, although I keep and will eat either

  • 1 tablespoon butter, cut into pieces

DIRECTIONS

Make the Bolognese meat sauce
1. Peel and finely chop the onion. Peel the carrot and celery and cut into 1/4-inch dice. Place the onion, carrot, celery, butter, and olive oil in a heavy-bottomed sauce pot over medium-high heat. Sauté, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are lightly browned, about 10 minutes.
2. Add the ground beef and break it up with a wooden spoon. Add the wine and cook, stirring occasionally, until almost half the liquid has evaporated. (I wasn’t sure whether to cook the meat fully before adding the wine, but I figured it’d cook through either way so I didn’t wait.)  Add the milk and nutmeg and cook, stirring occasionally, until half the milk has evaporated.
3. Coarsely chop the tomatoes and add them along with their juice and the salt to the pot. Once the tomatoes have started bubbling, turn down the heat to very low so that the sauce is barely simmering. Cook, uncovered, for 3 hours, stirring every 15 to 20 minutes. If all the liquid evaporates before the cooking time is up, add water in 1-cup increments as needed. Make sure all the liquid has evaporated before removing the sauce from the heat. (You can prepare the sauce ahead of time and refrigerate it for up to 3 days or freeze it for up to 2 months.)  (I kept the simmer pretty low and didn’t have to add any water, but did have to turn the heat up a bit toward the end because there was still liquid.) 

Make the béchamel sauce
10. Pour the milk into a small saucepan and place over medium heat until steam is released when the milk is stirred. This happens just before it comes to a boil.
11. While the milk is heating, melt the butter in a 2-quart saucepan over medium-low heat. Add the flour, mixing it in with a whisk until the mixture is smooth. Cook, whisking constantly, for about 1 minute. Do not let the flour brown. Remove the pan from the heat.
12. When the milk is hot, transfer it to a measuring cup or pitcher with a spout. Return the pan with the flour mixture to medium heat and begin adding the hot milk, very slowly at first, mixing with the whisk. Do not be concerned if the mixture becomes quite thick at first. Continue adding the milk slowly while mixing with the whisk. As the consistency becomes thinner, start adding the milk more rapidly until all of it has been mixed in. Add the salt and cook over medium heat, still whisking constantly, until the sauce begins to thicken, 10 to 15 minutes. The sauce is done when it coats the whisk thickly. (You should have about 2 cups.) Béchamel is best when used the same day but will keep overnight in the refrigerator if necessary. It’s not necessary to reheat it before using.

Assemble the lasagne
*Instructions 13-15 have to do with preparing the homemade noodles.  All I had were no bake noodles but, given the fact that this lasagne does not bake for long, I was concerned the noodles wouldn’t be done enough.  I soaked them in really hot water in a 9×13 for about 5 minutes in batches to get them to soften up first.
16. Preheat the oven to 425°F (218°C).
17. Spread a thin coating of béchamel on the bottom of an 8-by-11 1/2-inch baking dish. Mix the remaining béchamel with the Bolognese sauce and 1/2 cup Parmigiano-Reggiano.
18. Lay pasta in a row over the bottom of the pan. Spread a thin coating of the filling over the pasta, then cover with pasta. Continue until you have 6 or more layers of pasta and filling, reserving a little of the filling to cover the top layer of pasta. (I got about half as many layers, as I was using a 9×13 rather than an 8×11 1/2, and my noodles might have been a bit thicker.)  Sprinkle the remaining 1/4 cup Parmigiano-Reggiano over the top and dot with the butter. (The lasagne can be assembled completely up to 1 day in advance and kept, well wrapped, in the refrigerator. Remove it from the refrigerator 1 hour before baking.)
19. Bake until the top of the lasagne is lightly browned, 20 to 25 minutes. Take the lasagne out of the oven and let it rest for 5 minutes before serving. (The lasagne will keep in the refrigerator after it is baked for up to 2 days.) (I also put some shredded Italian six cheese on top toward the end because… well, I like it cheesy 🙂  Plus some parsley for decoration.)
The finished product

The finished product

Served with aforementioned homemade bread, seasoned olive oil and balsamic, and green beans with olive oil and fresh minced garlic

Served with aforementioned homemade bread, seasoned olive oil and balsamic, and green beans with olive oil and fresh minced garlic

I got my hands on some VERY fresh green beans this week at the grocery, the likes of which I have not seen in some time!

It's Shahnaz clean-plate approved!

It’s Shahnaz clean-plate approved!

Overall I really enjoyed this dish, although it was a much different flavor than what I’m used to in a lasagne.  It was very rich and flavorful and held up better than traditional lasagne, which can get quite sloppy.  The bolognese took a while but overall this recipe took less assembly than traditional (without, of course, the inclusion of homemade noodles).  Dr. Matthews and, obviously, my friend, Shahnaz, loved it!

*Note: after doing a bit of research, I learned that lasagne made with tomato sauce, ricotta and mozzarella is more of an American version. The recipe above is actually considered the traditional, Italian version of the dish. Who knew?!

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