How to Make Lasagne alla Bolognese, Illustrated

Lasagne alla Bolognese

Lasagne alla Bolognese

Lasagna, like everything else in Italy, varies considerably from region to region; in much of the South you’ll find it made with tomato sauce and ricotta, or tomato sauce and meatballs, but you can also find it made with fish, or made with greens and vegetables, and in this respect Liguria’s refreshing summer lasagna with pesto sauce comes to mind.

In Emilia Romagna and Tuscany, however, Lasagna is winter comfort food, made with Sugo alla Bolognese, béchamel sauce, and an abundant dusting of grated cheese before it goes into the oven.

Before we get to the recipe, a couple things:

  • About the Pasta: Time was you could choose between fresh and dried sheets of pasta, which both required a brief boiling before being used to assemble the lasagna. You can now find pasta that doesn’t require pre-boiling — you simply build your lasagna with it, and it softens by absorbing moisture from the sauce as it bakes — but I find the texture of lasagna made with this kind of pasta inferior. So here we used commercially prepared dry egg noodle pasta sheets, boiling them before putting them in the pan.
  • About Timing: Lasagna alla Bolognese improves with age, so, if you can, make it a day ahead and refrigerate it. The flavors will meld beautifully, and then you need only reheat it gently in the oven before serving it.

To make lasagna sufficient for six to eight (the lasagna in the photos was for a large family gathering), you’ll need:

  • Sugo alla Bolognese made with 2 pounds (1 k) of ground beef
  • 3 cups (750 ml) béchamel sauce
  • 2 tablespoons oil
  • 2 cups (100 g) freshly grated Parmigiano
  • 1/2 cup (50 g) unsalted butter
  • 1 1/8 pounds (500 g) dry sheets of pasta
  • 2 tablespoons salt
  • A 10 by 13 by 3-inch (26 by 32 by 7 cm) pan

Lasagna alla Bolognese is a fairly elastic recipe: if you feel like your lasagna creamier increase the amount of béchamel sauce, or, if you’re in a mood for substance, use more meat sauce.

Making Lasagna: Boil the Pasta

Making Lasagna: Boil the Pasta

In any case, begin by heating a large pot of water, salting it, and adding the oil to keep the sheets of pasta from sticking to each other. If you’re using dry sheets, boil several per the instructions on the package (ours said 4 minutes) and drain them in a colander.

Making Lasagna: Butter the Pan

Making Lasagna: Butter the Pan

While the first sheets of pasta are cooking, butter your pan, using some but not all of the butter.

Making Lasagna: The First Layer Of Pasta...

Making Lasagna: The First Layer Of Pasta…

Set your oven to 400 F (200 C), and put a first layer of pasta in the pan.

Making Lasagna: A Layer of Meat Sauce

Making Lasagna: A Layer of Meat Sauce

Spread a layer of meat sauce over the pasta.

Making Lasagna: Top the Meat Sauce with Bechamel Sauce

Making Lasagna: Top the Meat Sauce with Béchamel Sauce

Follow the meat sauce with a layer of béchamel sauce; repeat the cycle with more pasta (cook more sheets as need be), followed by more meat sauce and more béchamel, until all is used up. Finish with a layer of béchamel sauce.

Making Lasagna: Sprinkle the Top With Grated Cheese

Making Lasagna: Sprinkle the Top With Grated Cheese

Sprinkle the lasagna liberally with cheese.

Making Lasagna: Dot it With Butter

Making Lasagna: Dot it With Butter

Break the remaining butter into chunks, dot the lasagna with it, and put the lasagna in the oven.

Making Lasagna: 35 Minutes Later...

Making Lasagna: 35 Minutes Later…

The lasagna is done!

It will be wonderful fresh from the oven, but will also improve markedly if you let it rest for a day: Let it cool, cover it with aluminum foil, and put it in the refrigerator. Come time to heat it, heat it covered, in a 220 F (100 C) oven until heated through, 20-25 minutes.

Nothing hits the spot quite so nicely as a steaming bowl of lasagna when it’s cold out. Buon Appetito!

This recipe, without the photos.


Tags: , , ,

Categories: Baked Pasta, Illustrated Recipes And More

Author:Cosa Bolle in Pentola

Italy boasts an astonishing number of varietals, denominations, and wines, and tremendous changes are sweeping the land. New wines are being created, new DOCs are being introduced, and the existing denominations are overhauling their regulations both to reflect the practices adopted by their member wineries and to favor improvements in quality. Even the most staid and stolid region can flower seemingly overnight, emerging with exciting new wines and wineries that require rewriting the enological maps and rethinking one's positions. And, of course, recipes too, because cuisine and wine are closely intertwined and it's difficult to imagine one without the other.


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