Thursday, July 15, 2010

Best Lasagna Bolognese with Bechamel

This lasagna is truly over the top!  I will admit that it takes a while to make, but I always double the recipe and make two.  I freeze one and then I have an extra weeknight dinner on hand any time.  Also, it is a great way to sneak in tons of veggies for your kids.  My advice is to get the meat sauce (bolognese) going in the early morning after breakfast.  That way it can simmer all afternoon and you can assemble the lasagna at the kids naptime.  Trust me it is well worth the time!

Bolognese Ingredients:
  • 2 tbsp vegetable oil 
  • 2 tbsp butter
  • 3/4 cup chopped onion
  • 1 cup diced celery
  • 1 cup diced carrot
  • 1/2 lb pancetta (I couldn't find it so I substituted smoked bacon) diced
  • 1 1/4 lb ground beef
  • salt 
  • pepper
  • 1 cup good white wine 
  • 2- 28oz cans good imported whole tomatoes with their juices (I like San Marzano)
  • 1 tsp red pepper flake

Bechamel Ingredients:
  • 3 cups 2% milk
  • 6 tbsp flour
  • 6 tbsp butter
  • salt
  • pepper 
  • a good pinch of fresh grated nutmeg

3- 9oz boxes no boil lasagna noodles (I use Barilla)
grated parmesan cheese for topping

Bolognese Preparation:
1. Turn heat to medium and put oil, butter, and chopped onion in a big pot.  Cook for 2 min.
2. Add pancetta.  Stir and cook until pancetta has rendered and onion is soft and translucent.
3. Add celery and carrot.  Cook 3 more minutes or until veggies are coated. Season with salt and pepper.
4. Add ground beef and season again with salt and pepper.  Break up meat well and cook until it has lost any raw red color.
5. Add wine, red pepper flake, and tomatoes with their juices (put your hand into the can and squeeze tomatoes over pot until they are well broken up).  Stir well.
6. Turn heat to lowest setting and barely simmer for 3-5 hours uncovered.
7. When sauce is finished, taste and adjust seasoning for salt and pepper.  Fat will separate from sauce and you may drain some off the top.  I can usually skim at least 1/2 to 1 cup of fat off.  Discard.
8. Use an immersion blender and pulse 6-12 times.  You want to leave sauce chunky so go easy.  If you don't have immersion blender, you can do this in a regular blender by spooning sauce into blender in small batches.

Bechamel Preparation:
1. Over medium heat melt the butter.  Whisk in flour and cook for 2-3 minutes.  Stir to avoid burning flour.
2. Pour in milk and continue to whisk until it begins to boil.
3. Season with salt, pepper, and nutmeg.
4. Lower heat, cover, and simmer for 20 minutes.  Then remove from heat.  Do not prepare bechamel until you are ready to layer lasagna.

The secret is lots of layers so go thin on the meat and just drizzle the bechamel.  Spray baking dish well and put a tiny bit of meat sauce in bottom to keep noodles from drying out while cooking.  Put an even layer of noodles then bolognese, and then drizzle with bechamel.  Repeat until you have used it all up.  Sprinkle a layer of parmesan cheese over the top and final layer of bolognese/bechamel.  Bake at 400 degrees for 40 minutes covered with foil.  uncover and bake an additional 10 minutes. 

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