Saturday for Sunday Italian – Lasagna Alla Bolognese with Béchamel

Lasagna Bolognese 2

“Bologna is celebrated for producing popes, painters, and sausage.”
Lord Byron, British poet (1788-1824)

Can you say Bolognese instead of “meat sauce”? I know that is a challenge with someone around here…

Lasagna alla Bolognese

While I have always maintained the routine of making lasagna the way I was taught, I have since learned to appreciate another method, Bolognese with béchamel sauces. Beef, pork and veal the meat base for my Bolognese is enhanced with some pancetta cubes, white or red wine, and of course the best canned tomatoes available in the winter or fresh tomatoes in summer. I think that I have managed to use the rest of last year’s Italian plum tomatoes blended with some excellent San Marzano tomatoes and the sauce had to be the best that I made so far this year. I made enough for at least two lasagna so this was the last one using fresh tomatoes. In the end, I had the equivalent of about 84 ounces canned and fresh tomatoes. Yes you can buy the very large cans at some markets or just get as close as you can to that amount.  Canned puree not welcome…

I don’t have a tried and true recipe as you all may know I always manage to come up with a pound beef, pork or veal when I go freezer diving and beginning with that I move on to what I think are standard additions. Celery (3 ribs), onion (1), carrots (3), pancetta cubes (6 ounces), a big handful of fresh parsley leaves, the best EVOO that you can find and really good cheese for the rest of the sauce ingredients and you have Bolognese sauce.

  • A good béchamel large enough for 1 – 9 x 9 deep baking dish:
  • 4-4 1/2 cups milk,
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
    A couple grates of

    nutmeg
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • Melt the butter with the flour whisking until smooth and allow it to cook for at least 3 minutes then add all of the milk whisking constantly until it thickens. Turn the heat to low and allow the béchamel to cook for 7 minutes, stirring often…this is where I never leave it alone and I just keep the whisk going as I know I will ruin the sauce if I walk away… season with salt, pepper and a few grates of nutmeg.

Lightly butter a lasagna dish and layer in sauce, lasagna sheets, sauce, béchamel, grated parm, lasagna sheets, etc. for three layers for a 9 x 9 dish topping with béchamel, parm and a few dabs of butter…bake at 375° for 35- 40 minutes or until hot and bubbly.  Lasagna sheets of choice DeCecco or use short no boil Barilla lasagna sheets…best with homemade.

A good place to start from is Marcella Hazan’s sauce as posted in the NY Times and from her Essential of Classic Italian Cooking the next time you want to make a “meat sauce”…enjoy!

Bolognese Meat Sauce

Adapted from “Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking” by Marcella Hazan (Knopf)

By THE NEW YORK TIMES—about 4 hours of rainy day time invested and be sure to make extra to pack away in the freezer…

INGREDIENTS

1 tablespoon vegetable oil
3 tablespoons butter plus 1 tablespoon for tossing the pasta
1/2 cup chopped onion
2/3 cup chopped celery
2/3 cup chopped carrot
3/4 pound ground beef chuck (or you can use 1 part pork to 2 parts beef) ( also add veal and I start with no less than 3 lbs of meat)
Salt
Black pepper, ground fresh from the mill
1 cup whole milk
Whole nutmeg
1 cup dry white wine
1 1/2 cups canned imported Italian plum tomatoes, cut up, with their juice
1 1/4 to 1 1/2 pounds pasta
Freshly grated parmigiano-Reggiano cheese at the table

PREPARATION

Put the oil, butter and chopped onion in the pot and turn the heat on to medium. Cook and stir the onion until it has become translucent, then add the chopped celery and carrot. Cook for about 2 minutes, stirring vegetables to coat them well.

Add ground beef, a large pinch of salt and a few grindings of pepper. Crumble the meat with a fork, stir well and cook until the beef has lost its raw, red color.

Add milk and let it simmer gently, stirring frequently, until it has bubbled away completely. Add a tiny grating — about 1/8 teaspoon — of nutmeg, and stir.

Add the wine, let it simmer until it has evaporated, then add the tomatoes and stir thoroughly to coat all ingredients well. When the tomatoes begin to bubble, turn the heat down so that the sauce cooks at the laziest of simmers, with just an intermittent bubble breaking through to the surface.

Cook, uncovered, for 3 hours or more, stirring from time to time. While the sauce is cooking, you are likely to find that it begins to dry out and the fat separates from the meat. To keep it from sticking, add 1/2 cup of water whenever necessary. At the end, however, no water at all must be left and the fat must separate from the sauce. Taste and correct for salt.
Toss with cooked drained pasta, adding the tablespoon of butter, and serve with freshly grated Parmesan on the side.

YIELD

2 heaping cups, for about 6 servings and 1 1/2 pounds past