Saturday, October 09, 2004

Radagast & SO's Bolognese Lasagne

Growing up I adored my mom's lasagne, and thought it was the best in the world. Two years ago my SO and I discovered a recipe for Bolognese sauce in Fine Cooking magazine, and based on a suggestion in the recipe decided to make a lasagne out of it. On that day my mom's lasagne lost its magic, and her lasagne is no longer the best in the world (sorry, Mom). It is thus with great pleasure that I share with you the absolute best lasagne in the world as this week's end-of-the-week recipe blogging post.

Bolognese sauce:
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 medium carrots, peeled and chopped reasonably finely in a food processor
  • 2 medium onions, chopped reasonably finely in a food processor
  • 1 1/2 pounds ground beef, or other meat (we've used chicken and pork)
  • 2/3 pound bacon, diced
  • ground black pepper to taste
  • 1 cup red wine
  • 3 14 oz cans tomatoes, chopped
  • 1 14 oz can tomato sauce
  • 2 cups chicken/beef stock
  • 1 cup hot milk
White sauce:
  • 6 tablespoons butter
  • 6 tablespoons flour
  • 3 cups milk
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • ground black pepper to taste
  • 1 cup grated pecorino romano cheese (or more)
  • 1 pound dry lasagne noodles
  • 1 pound ricotta cheese
  • more grated pecorino romano cheese
There are three steps to making this lasagne: first make the Bolognese sauce (which can be made ahead and then refrigerated), then make the white sauce, and finally assemble everything and bake it.

Bolognese sauce:
1) Heat 3 tablespoons butter and 3 tablespoons olive oil in a large pot over medium heat.
2) When the butter begins to foam, add the onions and carrots. Cook, stirring frequently, until lightly golden and soft, 5-7 minutes.
3) Raise the heat to high and add the meats and pepper. Cook, stirring and breaking up the meat until it loses its raw color, 3-5 minutes (the meat won't brown).
4) Add the wine and cook, stirring, until it's almost completely reduced, 3-5 minutes.
5) Add the tomatoes and stock; as soon as the liquid boils reduce the heat to low and cook the sauce at a bare simmer for 2 hours.
6) After 2 hours, add the milk and return to a simmer for 30 minutes. If the sauce is getting too thick before the time is up, cover the pot. If it's too thin, cook longer.

Do the following three things while the Bolognese sauce is simmering, timing them to finish with the sauce (assuming you want to make this in one day):
1) Cook the lasagne noodles in 8 quarts of water with 2 tablespoons salt. Rinse lightly when done.
2) Make the white sauce.
3) Grate the pecorino romano cheese.

White sauce:
1) Melt the 6 tablespoons of butter in a small saucepan over medium-high heat.
2) Add the 6 tablespoons of flour and cook for a bit, ~3 minutes.
3) Turn down the heat and slowly add the milk, bit by bit, stirring after each addition.
4) Once you've added all the milk, add the salt and pepper and romano cheese. Stir and cook until the cheese is all melted and mixed in.

Assembling the lasagne:
0) Preheat your oven to 375F.
1) Put a thin layer of Bolognese sauce on the bottom of a lasagne dish (we use a 9x13" glass baking dish).
2) Fill the dish with successive layers of:
a) noodles
b) Bolognese sauce
c) white sauce
d) ricotta cheese [do not put ricotta on top]
3) When you've reached the top, grate a decent amount of pecorino romano cheese on top (feel free to put extra Bolognese sauce on top too). You will have a lot of Bolognese sauce left over (which is great over pasta), but should have almost no white sauce left over.

Bake in a preheated 375F oven for 40 minutes. Let cool for 1 Cardcaptor Sakura episode before serving (for those uninitiated, the episodes are ~25 minutes long).

A variation we've thought of for making the Bolognese sauce (but haven't tried) would be to fry the bacon first and then add the onions and carrots, cooking them using the fat released by the bacon. This would cut down the total amount of fat in the recipe.

And yes, this is the second recipe in a row prominently featuring bacon, cheese, and tomatoes. I promise I'll do something different next week.

Caggiano, B. 2002. "Ragu alla Bolognese." Fine Cooking #53, pp. 64-67.

[Updated May 2007 to clarify some wording and fix some minor capitilization errors. Pondered changing "lasagne" to "lasagna", but Google has 3+ million hits for each spelling.]

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