Weston and I had a lovely trip throughout Italy last year for our 2nd anniversary, from Rome to Positano, from Monte San Savino to Florence, from Pisa to Maranello. The focus was heavily on food, and nowhere did we find better food than in tiny walled towns in Tuscany.
Our trip was a huge eye opener for me, especially when it came to Lasagna. My Mother’s recipe for lasagna included cottage cheese and loads of Mozzarella, so I had always made it with cottage cheese and loads of Mozzarella. But, then I discovered what Lasagna in Tuscany really is like. It’s not as heavy and cheese laden, the pasta is always best when it’s fresh, and there wasn’t a trace of cottage cheese anywhere, just a lovely nutmeg flavoured Béchamel (Besciamella) sauce.
Since we had a new pasta machine, I decided to try and recreate what we ate in Italy, and Mario Batali’s recipe for Lasagna Bolognese was my guide through the whole process. I plan to add this to our repertoire more often. There’s nothing like a delicious lasagna to make you feel comforted!
- 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 2 medium onions, finely chopped
- 1 carrot, finely chopped
- 4 stalks celery, finely chopped
- 5 cloves garlic, sliced
- 1 pound veal, ground
- 1 pound pork, ground
- 4 ounces pancetta, ground
- 1 8-ounce can tomato paste
- 1 cup milk
- 1/2 cup white wine
- 1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves Salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 5 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 1/4 cup flour
- 3 cups milk
- 2 teaspoons salt
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
- 3/4 to 1 pound fresh pasta sheets, about 7 by 4 inches, or dried lasagne noodles blanched for 6 minutes and refreshed
- 1 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
- Oil for brushing
In a large heavy-bottom saucepan, heat the olive oil.
Add the diced onion, carrot, celery, and garlic, and sweat over medium heat for about 5 minutes, until vegetables are translucent.
Add veal, pork, and pancetta to the vegetables, and brown over high heat, stirring to keep the meat from sticking together.
Add the tomato paste, milk, wine, thyme, and 1 cup water, and simmer over medium-low heat for 1 to 11/2 hours (if the ragù becomes too thick, add a little more water or wine).
Season to taste with salt and pepper, and remove from heat.
Melt the butter in a medium saucepan, add the flour, and whisk until smooth.
Cook over medium heat, stirring regularly, until the mixture turns golden brown, about 6 to 7 minutes.
Meanwhile, heat the milk in a separate pan until it is just about to boil. Add the milk to the butter mixture, 1 cup at a time, whisking continuously until the sauce is very smooth.
Bring to a boil and cook for 30 seconds longer. Remove from the heat and season with salt and nutmeg.
Assembly: Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Brush a 9-by-13-inch glass baking dish with melted butter or oil, and layer in the following order from the bottom: ragù, pasta, béchamel, and grated cheese (saving about 1 cup béchamel for last topping), making 3 to 4 layers of pasta, finishing with ragù, béchamel, and 1/4 cup of the Parmigiano-Reggiano sprinkled over the top. Bake in the oven for 45 minutes, until the top is golden brown and the casserole is bubbling. Remove from the oven, allow to cool for 20 minutes, slice, and serve.