Lasagna Bolognese

This one, my darlings, is a labor of love.  With a toothsome, slow-simmering bolognese in the style of Marcella Hazan (which some might even call blasphemy for even mentioning her name in conjunction with a sauce that is not her exact recipe – to which I proffer that there are as many bolognese recipes as there are mammas in Bologna making their personal “secret” recipes) and a creamy bechamel in lieu of layer of ricotta and mozzarella, this true take on lasagne bolognese is something special.

Don’t be deferred by the time it takes to make this (at least 5 hours) and the list of ingredients – you’ll have lasagna for 6-8 comfortably, plus extra bolognese to dress around two pounds of pasta, so expect to not have to cook for some time afterwards while relishing in the glorious Italian leftovers.  The only time saver in the bunch comes in the form of the no-boil lasagna sheets – these babies, though instant, are lovely in their thin, delicate texture.  Much better than dealing with blubbery, curly edged classic lasagna noodles and far more refined in taste.  Though this is work, it’s very rewarding, and those that get to sample a bit will make you realize that maybe all that time was well worth it.

Though this is decidedly not my grandmother’s recipe (that recipe takes some bargaining to get and it takes days as opposed to hours), the time spent on this one reminds me of her cooking at Christmas, replete with the bowls of meatballs and sausage on the side.  There’s something to be said for reserving your cooking for those you love and bringing out cherished dishes at the holidays.  My grandmother’s lasagna is like this for me, and when you make this version for those you love, it may have the same effect on them.  Mangia!

Lasagna Bolognese

3 oz. of pancetta
1 lb. of ground pork
2 lbs. of ground beef
1 onion
2 cloves of garlic
1 carrot
2 stalks of celery
2 c. of milk
2 tbs. of butter
2 tbs. of olive oil
1 c. of dry white wine
2 cans of whole San Marzano crushed tomatoes
pinch of nutmeg
2 fresh bay leaves
2 tbs. of kosher salt
1/2 tsp. of black pepper
parmasean rind

4 tbs. of butter
4 c. of whole milk
4 tbs. of flour
2 tsp. of salt
1 tsp. of white pepper
3/4 c. of grated locatelli
1/8 tsp. of nutmeg

16 oz. block of whole milk mozzarella, thinly sliced
1 package of no boil lasagna sheets
1 c. of locatelli

Make the Bolognese
In a dutch oven, heat the butter and oil over medium heat.  Add the onions and pancetta and let them sweat things out until the onion is translucent.  Plop in the garlic and stir until fragrant, about 30 seconds.  Add the celery, carrots, onion and let sweat over medium heat until they are soft and have released their liquid.  Add the meat and cook until it changes color and has released most of its juice.  Continue to cook until most of the liquid has reduced.  Add the salt and pepper, nutmeg and bay leaves and stir.  Pour in the milk and turn the heat to medium low.  Allow the mixture to bubble away until all the liquid has evaporated, about 45 minutes to an hour.  Pour in the wine and continue to let the mixture stew until all of the wine has evaporated.  Lastly, add the tomatoes and gently stir the sauce.  Plunk in the parmasean rind (or an inch of good parmasean if you don’t have a rind) and let the mixture simmer away until thickened and lovely, about an hour.  Your sauce will take around 3 hours of cooking if you’ve let everything simmer away long enough.

Make the Bechamel
Begin by making a roux – melt the butter in a saucepan and then stir in the flour.  Let cook until pale golden and then whisk in the milk in dribs and drabs until smooth and all is incorporated.  Let the sauce simmer, whisking intermittently, until thickened and smooth.  Remove from the heat and whisk in the salt, pepper, nutmeg and locatelli.

Assemble Lasagna
Grease a 13x9x3 baking pan with olive oil.  Line the bottom of the pan with several scoops of bolognese.  Lay an even layer of lasagna sheets over the bolognese, overlapping each a bit.  Spoon 1/3 of the bechamel over the noodles and top with 1/3 of the mozzarella.  Top with bolognese and lay another sheet of noodles.  Repeat until you have three layers, ending with bechamel on top.  Sprinkle locatelli over the entire top of the bechamel and cover with foil.  Bake in the oven on 350° for 50 minutes and then remove the foil.  Bake another 10 minutes to color the top of the lasagna.  Remove from the oven and let rest for at least 5 minutes before serving.

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