How-To: Lasagna Bolognese

Ever since I started making this recipe for Lasagna Bolognese, I can’t go back to Prego and cottage cheese. (Sorry, Grandma!)

It’s so good. Make it and you won’t look back either.

Lasagna Bolognese, Simplified
From Cooks’ Illustrated, Sept. and Oct. 2004 issue

Ingredients:
For Meat Sauce (Ragù)

1 medium carrot, peeled and roughly chopped
1 medium celery rib, roughly chopped
1/2 small onion, roughly chopped
1 can (28 ounces) whole tomatoes with juice (I use plum tomatoes)
8 ounces ground beef
8 ounces ground pork
8 ounces ground veal
1 1/2 cups whole milk
1 1/2 cups white wine (I have use de-alcoholized and it works great.)
2 Tbsp. tomato paste
1 teaspoon table salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper

For Béchamel:

4 Tbsp. butter
1/4 cup flour
4 cups whole milk (no substitutions, please)
3/4 teaspoon table salt

For Noodles and Cheese:
15 sheets (9 ounces) no-boil lasagna noodles (I like Barilla the best.)
8 ounces Parmesan cheese, grated (2 cups)
1 package Barilla no-boil noodles

Instructions:

1. FOR THE MEAT SAUCE: Process carrot, celery, and onion in food processor until finely chopped, about two 1-second pulses, scraping down bowl as necessary; transfer mixture to small bowl. Wipe out food processor work bowl; process tomatoes and juice until finely chopped, six to eight 1-second pulses. Heat butter in heavy-bottomed Dutch oven over medium heat until foaming; add carrot, celery, and onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened but not browned, about 4 minutes. Add ground meats and cook, breaking meat into 1-inch pieces with wooden spoon, about 1 minute. Add milk and stir, breaking meat into 1/2-inch bits, bring to simmer and cook, stirring to break meat into small pieces, until almost all liquid has evaporated, 20 to 30 minutes. Using potato masher or wooden spoon, break up any remaining clumps of meat (no large pieces should remain). Add wine and bring to simmer; cook, stirring occasionally, until liquid has evaporated, 20 to 30 minutes. Stir in tomato paste until combined, about 1 minutes; add chopped tomatoes, salt and pepper. Bring to simmer, then reduce heat to medium-low and cook until sauce is slightly thickened, about 15 minutes. (You should have about 6 cups meat sauce.) Transfer meat sauce to bowl and cool until just warm to the touch, about 30 minutes.

2. For the Béchamel: While the meat sauces simmers, melt butter in medium saucepan over medium heat until foaming, add flour and cook, whisking constantly, until thoroughly combined, about 1 1/2 minutes; mixture should not brown. Gradually whisk in milk, increase heat to medium-high and bring to full boil, whisking frequently. Add salt, reduce heat to medium-low, and simmer 10 minutes, stirring ocassionally with heatproof rubber spatula or wooden spoon, making sure to scrape bottom and corners of saucepan. (You should have about 3 1/3 cups. Transfer béchamel to bowl and cool until just warm to touch, about 30 minutes.

3. To Assemble and Bake: Adjust oven rack to middle position; heat oven to 425 degrees F. Place noodles in a 13 by 9-inch baking dish and cover with very hot tap water; soak 5 mintues, agitating noodles occasionally to prevent sticking. Remove noodles from water, place in single layer on kitchen towel, and pat dry. Wip out baking dish and spray lightly with nonstick cooking spray. Stir béchamel to recombine; mix 3/4 cup warm béchamel into warm meat sauce until thoroughly combined.

4. Distribute 1 cup béchamel-enriched meat sauce in baking dish. Place three noodles in single layer on top of sauce, arranging them close together, but not touching, at center of pan. Spread 1 1/4 cups meat sauce evenly over noodles, spreading sauce to edge of noodles but not to edge of dish. Drizzle 1/3 cup béchamel evenly over meat sauce. Sprinkle 1/3 cup Parmesan even over bechamel. Repeat layering of noodles, meat sauce, bechamel, and Parmesan cheese 3 more times. Place final 3 noodles on top and cover completely with remaining bechamel, spreading bechamel with rubber spatula and allowing to spill over noodles. Sprinkle evenly with remaining Parmesan.

5. Spray a large sheet of foil with nonstick cooking spray and cover lasagna; bake until bubbling, about 30 minutes. Remove foil, increase heat to 450 degrees F, and continue to bake until surface is spotty brown, about 15 minutes. Cool 15 minutes; cut into pieces and serve.
______________________________________________________

How-To Pictures and Instructions:

The Mirepoix– onions, celery, and carrots.

I use my mini-prep to process the veggies. (It’s easier to clean than my 11-cup Cuisinart.)

Process carrot, celery, and onion in food processor until finely chopped, about two 1-second pulses, scraping down bowl as necessary; transfer mixture to small bowl.

The Tomatoes–paste and whole in juice.

Wipe out food processor work bowl; process tomatoes and juice until finely chopped, six to eight 1-second pulses. Set aside.

Heat butter in heavy-bottomed Dutch oven over medium heat until foaming.

Add carrot, celery, and onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened but not browned, about 4 minutes.

Add ground meats and cook, breaking meat into 1-inch pieced with wooden spoon, about 1 minutes.

Add milk.

Stir and break meat into 1/2-inch bits. Bring to simmer and cook, stirring to break meat into small pieces.

Cook until almost all liquid has evaporated, 20 to 30 minutes.

Using potato masher or wooden spoon, break up any remaining clumps of meat (no large pieces should remain).

Add wine and bring to simmer; cook, stirring occasionally, until liquid has evaporated, 20 to 30 minutes.

I skipped this step because I had my two kids with me while I was grocery shopping and I forgot the wine! But you won’t, right? The wine is really an integral part of the flavor of this recipe.

Add tomato paste.

Stir in tomato paste until combined, about 1 minute.

Add chopped tomatoes, salt and pepper.

Bring to simmer, then reduce heat to medium-low and cook until sauce is slightly thickened, about 15 minutes.


(You should have about 6 cups meat sauce.) Transfer meat sauce to bowl and cool until just warm to the touch, about 30 minutes.

2. For the Béchamel: While the meat sauces simmers, melt butter in medium saucepan over medium heat until foaming.

Add the flour.

Cook, whisking constantly, until thoroughly combined, about 1 1/2 minutes; mixture should not brown.

(An aside: I LOVE this whisk. It is so great for making a smooth gravy or sauce. And it only cost $0.99 for a 2-pk. at IKEA.)

Gradually whisk in milk, increase heat to medium-high and bring to full boil, whisking frequently. Add salt, reduce heat to medium-low, and simmer 10 minutes, stirring occasionally with heatproof rubber spatula or wooden spoon, making sure to scrape bottom and corners of saucepan.

Transfer béchamel to bowl and cool until just warm to touch, about 30 minutes. (You should have about 3 1/3 cups. I had a little more than that.)

3. To Assemble and Bake: Adjust oven rack to middle position; heat oven to 425 degrees F. Place noodles in a 13 by 9-inch baking dish and cover with very hot tap water; soak 5 mintues, agitating noodles occasionally to prevent sticking. Remove noodles from water, place in single layer on kitchen towel, and pat dry. Wipe out baking dish and spray lightly with nonstick cooking spray.

Stir Béchamel to recombine; mix 3/4 cup warm béchamel into warm meat sauce until thoroughly combined.

4. Distribute 1 cup béchamel-enriched meat sauce in baking dish.

Place three noodles in single layer on top of sauce, arranging them close together, but not touching, at center of pan.

Spread 1 1/4 cups meat sauce evenly over noodles, spreading sauce to edge of noodles but not to edge of dish.

Drizzle 1/3 cup béchamel evenly over meat sauce.

Sprinkle 1/3 cup Parmesan even over bechamel.

Repeat layering of noodles, meat sauce, bechamel, and Parmesan cheese 3 more times.

Place final 3 noodles on top and cover completely with remaining bechamel, spreading bechamel with rubber spatula and allowing to spill over noodles.

Sprinkle evenly with remaining Parmesan.

5. Spray a large sheet of foil with nonstick cooking spray and cover lasagna; bake until bubbling, about 30 minutes.

Remove foil, increase heat to 450 degrees F, and continue to bake until surface is spotty brown, about 15 minutes. Cool 15 minutes; cut into pieces and serve.

Complete Recipe:

31 Responses to “How-To: Lasagna Bolognese”

  1. Lauren April 21, 2008 at 12:30 am #

    OK, I’m a vegetarian, but that looks pretty fantastic.

    I have some old recipes of Mario Batali’s (from his show maybe almost a decade ago) that use a bechamel (balsamello, or something, in Italian). There was this incredibly delicious baked ziti al telefono…I’ll try to hunt down the recipe and send it to you. : )

  2. love.boxes April 21, 2008 at 2:46 am #

    LINDS! That would seriously take me alllllll day to make! Your husband is possibly the luckiest man on the planet!

  3. Marie April 21, 2008 at 7:24 am #

    Now THAT’S the proper way to make a lasagna! I always make mine this way. It’ so much better than cottage cheese. The Bechamel really makes all the difference in the world!

  4. Aran April 21, 2008 at 7:52 am #

    That looks so good… That’s actually the kind og lasagna I grew up eating not the ricotta one. It is so good… I love seeing all the step by step photos. Great job!

  5. Mom April 21, 2008 at 2:20 pm #

    Beeeeeeautiful presentation Linds. Once again, I’m so proud of your culinary talents. I will have to set aside an entire Sat. and make one.

  6. Catherine April 21, 2008 at 8:29 pm #

    Wow, just gorgeous, and you are such a good, clear writer, too! I will definitely be trying your recipe. Thank you :)

  7. mimi April 22, 2008 at 1:12 am #

    wow, that was a beautiful step by step! i can’t believe you have the patience (and clean hands!) for all of that, it’s great and makes the recipe so much more interesting!

  8. Mevrouw Cupcake April 22, 2008 at 2:13 pm #

    OMG, this looks sooooo goooood! I made lasagne bolgonese recently, after not having made it for a long time, but it wasn’t what I wanted. THIS is most definitely what I wanted, so I’m going to have to try again!

  9. Patricia Scarpin April 22, 2008 at 6:50 pm #

    If my husband sees this, he’ll drool over the keyboard, Lindsey.

  10. Ann April 22, 2008 at 7:57 pm #

    Just discovered your site – LOVING it! Thankfully, I just ate lunch or I’d be drooling on my computer. :) So glad I blogged into you!

  11. Claud April 23, 2008 at 3:41 pm #

    BRAVISSIMA!

  12. emilio April 24, 2008 at 11:34 pm #

    wow. that looks amazing!!

  13. Azúcar April 25, 2008 at 3:50 pm #

    In case anyone is scared of the no-cook lasagna noodles, they are phenomenal!! The texture is outstanding, really close to homemade.

    I’ll never go back to pre-cook noodles again.

  14. nicole April 26, 2008 at 9:10 pm #

    Mmm….. I love lasagna. This looks tasty.

  15. Melissa April 27, 2008 at 5:21 am #

    that truly does look amazing! can i ask one question that arose as i looked at your recipe…why add milk to the meat mixture? that instinctively sounds gross to me but i’m sure you know what you’re doing and it will/would taste great so i’m just wondering, as i’ve never seen that before.

  16. Cafe Johnsonia April 28, 2008 at 12:11 am #

    Hi, Melissa! Thanks for your question. I know it does seem a little strange.

    Apparently because the recipe calls for no-boil noodles (which I recommend 100%), the expanding noodles caused the sauce to separate and pool around the edges leaving chunks of meat between the layers.

    This is from Cooks’ Illustrated magazine regarding the issue–

    “As the ragu cooled, some of the excess liquid separated out from the sauce, leaving it looking watery and greasy. What if [I] were to use a small portion of the bechamel to thicken the ragu, then assemble the lasagna as before? Even before the lasanga went into the oven, I knew I was onto something. Adding just 3/4 cup of the cooled bechamel to the ragu kept the water and fat in emulsion. Thickened, but easy to spread, the sauce now stayed in place between the noodles as they expanded, yet it still contained enough moisture to cook the noodles.”

  17. citymama1 April 30, 2008 at 2:13 am #

    I saw that recipe in Cooks Illustrated and have been wanting to try it ever since! Thanks for the photo tutorial.

    P.S. I don’t buy much meat, are you able to find ground veal and ground pork at a traditional super market or should I go someplace a little more gourmet?

  18. Cafe Johnsonia April 30, 2008 at 11:37 am #

    Citymama–

    I live in a predominantly Italian neighborhood, so I am lucky in that my local market sells a three-pack of “meatloaf mix” with veal and pork. You don’t have to use the veal and pork. Veal is a little harder to find. Pork should be in the meat section. Or you can also ask the butcher to grind some for you.

  19. Steph October 27, 2008 at 3:51 am #

    I just made this meal…it is amazing. My husband and I were shoving our faces. I will never go back and for that matter look back on my old lasagna recipe! Mmmmmmm, thanks for all the amazing recipes!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  20. anchovy boudrain December 11, 2008 at 4:24 pm #

    I have been wanting to try this recipe for awhile. My only concern is can I make it the night before, refrigerate overnight, and then bake it before I go to work the next day? Or will this have a negative effect on it? I would assume an extra 15 minutes cooking time.

  21. Cafe Johnsonia December 11, 2008 at 5:20 pm #

    Anchovy–

    I would think you would be okay with doing that and adding the extra time. The only adverse effect I can foresee is the texture of the noodles being a little mushier–but I’m not 100% sure about that.

    Give it a try and tell me how it goes. The other thing you could do is make it the night before and bake it partially and finish baking the next day. But they you might be up until midnight…

  22. anchovy boudrain December 11, 2008 at 7:07 pm #

    Thank you for the advice. You know, I may use boiled noodles instead of the no-boil and see how that goes. By the way, are the Barilla no boil noodles so large? I have never seen them like that before.

  23. kiaaura January 28, 2009 at 5:57 pm #

    Thanks so much for this recipe. I made it last night and it was *amazing*… probably the best lasagna my boyfriend and I had ever had.

  24. Maria February 23, 2009 at 8:26 pm #

    I made this lasagna yesterday and it came out SOOOO good. However, i used turkey ground beef only because thats what i had..and it still came out perfect!so now i can’t wait till i try the actual recipe with the right meats. It took a few hours to do it but it was worth it. this will be my lasagna recipe from now on without a doubt!

  25. Lisa March 20, 2009 at 11:08 am #

    I also did a step by step lasagne bolognese on my blog, but at the time I was using an awful pocket digital camera and a flash..lol Your lasagna and photos are spectacular! Wonderful, mouth watering job!

  26. Lisa and Maria April 30, 2009 at 2:37 pm #

    Wow! That looks good! Our parents are from Italy, so we know what real Italian Lasagna should look like! No cottage chesse for us please! We definitely will try this soon and post it on our blog! Your blog is amazing!

  27. Cafe Johnsonia April 30, 2009 at 6:19 pm #

    I take that as a compliment that you’d want to try this recipe! Well, it’s not really MY recipe. LOL

    Let me know when you post it, I’d love to see it.

  28. Lisa and Maria May 7, 2009 at 2:35 pm #

    So we made this last night and…. just what we thought! It was really good! Sad thing though is that our camera wasn’t working last night so we couldn’t get any pictures. :( We’ll have to make this again so we can take pictures and post it on our blog!
    Thanks for the recipe!
    =)

  29. Cafe Johnsonia May 7, 2009 at 3:18 pm #

    I’m so glad you both liked it! You can’t go wrong with Cooks’ Illustrated. :)

  30. Anonymous December 27, 2011 at 6:31 pm #

    I was born in Italy and have made lasagne with my own scratch noodles. A lot of work, however, these Barilla no cook noodles taste exactly like my homemade ones, EXACT texture and taste. This is the only lasagne recipe that I now use. Just made them for Christmas…VERY GOOD. And this is very little work.

  31. NJ January 15, 2012 at 4:59 pm #

    Beautiful tutorial, thanks! I signed up to bring lasagne to a company potluck – and I work with Italians, what was I thinking? Pressure! But looks like I can’t go wrong with this. One question – no garlic??

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