Lasagna = cheese, meat sauce, noodles, and more cheese. Right?
It’s acceptable to change out the meat sauce for something else, like artichokes and mushrooms, but the cheese part is usually constant. At least that’s what I’d always thought.
Turns out I’m wrong. Classic lasanga bolognese has bechamel sauce instead of the usual ricotta and mozarella, and only a smattering of parmesan. Basically, the cheese isn’t the star ingredient. When I discovered this about a year ago, my life (as it pertains to lasagna) was flipped over and turned around. The thing is, a true lasanga bolognese is so good, you don’t even notice that there’s hardly any cheese.
You still have your red meat sauce (bolognese sauce) and your pasta (which should be homemade, if you’re going for true authenticity and maximum yumminess), but you layer the bechamel with the red sauce. Turns out doing bechamel instead of the usual ricotta makes for a lighter lasagna and the ability to add more layers. And more layers equals a better lasagna (as far as I’m concerned, anyway).
I love my pasta machine. If you like playing around in the kitchen and experimenting with pasta, a pasta machine is probably one of the most useful things you could possibly get. Without my pasta maker I couldn’t make homemade lasagna noodles. Having to roll pasta dough that thin would drive me bonkers.
(Adapted from How to Cook Everything)
A couple of things: I rolled my pasta as thin as the machine would let me, and I wished I hadn’t. The noodles where so thin, the texture got lost in the bolognese sauce and it was kind of mushy. Next time I will use the second-to-last setting for thickness on the pasta roller. Also, and maybe this has to do with how insanely thin my noodles were, I tried to boil one and it literally disintegrated. Fresh pasta takes a lot less time to cook than dried, so if you are using fresh than don’t bother pre-boiling them. Traditional lasagna bolognese is made with spinach noodles, so I’ve provided the link for that. I used regular noodles because I had no spinach. Gotta work with what you got.
3 cups bolognese sauce (you’ll need more if you want to do even more layers)
1 1/2 cups bechamel
2 cups grated parmigiano reggiano
butter or oil
(That’s it. Really.)
Set at least 5 quarts water in a large pot over high heat. When it comes to a boil, salt it.
Meanwhile, if you are using fresh pasta, roll it out. Cut to fit the dish.
Cook the noodles a few at a time; keep them underdone (if they are fresh, this means little more than a minute in cooking time). Drain carefully in a colander, then allow to rest on towels while you prepare the béchamel sauce (see recipe that follows). Preheat oven to 400F
Smear the bottom of your baking pan with the butter or oil, then place a layer of noodles, touching but not overlapping. Trim any overhanging edges. Cover the noodles with about one-quarter each of the béchamel, meat sauce, and Parmesan, then with a light sprinkling of black pepper (between the meat sauce and the Parmesan there should be enough salt, but if you feel it is underseasoned, add a little salt to each layer also). Make four layers, ending with a sprinkling of Parmesan. (The dish can be prepared in advance up to this point, then well wrapped and refrigerated for a day or frozen for a month; defrost in the refrigerator for a day before cooking if possible.)
Bake for about 20-30 minutes, until the lasagne is bubbly. Remove from the oven and let rest for 5 minutes before cutting and serving. Or let cool completely, cover well, and refrigerate for up to 2 days, or freeze for up to a month.
1 1/2 tablespoons butter
1 1/2 tablespoons flour
1 1/2 cups milk
In a small saucepan, heat the butter over medium-low heat. When the foam begins to subside, stir in the flour. Turn the heat to low and cook, stirring with a wire whisk almost constantly, until the flour-butter mixture darkens, at least 3 minutes. You can cook it longer if ou would like a darker color and slightly more complex flavor.
Stir in the liquid, a little bit at a time, still using the whisk. When about a cup of the liquid has been stirred in, the mixture will be fairly thick. Add more liquid, a little at a time, until the consistence is just about a little thinner than you like, then cook, still over low heat until the mixture is the thickness you want.
Season to task and serve immediately or keep warm over gently simmering water for up to an hour, stirring occasionally.