Lasagna alla Bolognese, layers of egg or spinach pasta sheets hand-made pasta or ready-made sheets, stuffed with Ragù namely meat sauce and béchamel, assembled in layers in a baking pan then put in the oven for a a jubilation of pure enjoyment.
The Ragù should be thick and not too juicy and the bechamelle creamy. The preparation is a bit long, but it can also be broken up into several stages over several days.
Lasagna is an institution of Italian cooking, the dish par excellence of Sunday especially in the city of Bologna, hence the name ‘alla Bolognese’.
Obviously, being an essentially homemade dish, there are many versions that can be found, as many as there are families from Emilia-Romagna and Italy, but the main ingredients that characterise the classic Lasagna alla Bolognese remain unchanged.
Rectangular baking tray for 6, Preparation 3 hours, Cooking time 90 mins
For the Bolognese Ragù – meat sauce:
- 400 g of beef or mixed minced meat
- 250 g ready-made egg lasagne
- 300 g of tomato puree (or 400 g of peeled tomatoes)
- Pancetta, cubed, 80 g
- a glass of full-bodied red wine at room temperature
- a glass of milk
- 1 onion, minced
- 1 medium carrot, minced
- 1 celery stalk, minced
- vegetable or meat broth, 500 ml
- Fresh Mozzarella, 1, optional
- Grated Parmigiano, a handful, optional
- Salt, a pinch
- EVOO – Extra Virgin Olive Oil – 2 tbsp
- 2 bay leaves
- ground black pepper, a pinch
For the béchamel sauce:
- 1 lt whole milk
- 80 g of unsalted butter
- 80 g of all-purpose flour, sifted
- A pinch of fine salt
- ground nutmeg, a pinch
Making the Bolognese Ragù:
Heat the oil in a large non-stick pan and sauté the soffritto of celery, carrot and onion until soft, then add pancetta and allow it to brown. Add the minced meat, the bay leaves, and let it brown for a long time. Add the red wine and let it evaporate by raising the flame. Lower the flame and add the milk, stir, and simmer until reduced.
Keep the stock hot and dissolve the tomato paste in it while stirring, adding it to the meat, stir, add the tomato sauce or peeled tomatoes having crushed them previously with a fork, and cook over low heat for a minimum of 3 hours, a maximum of 4 or even 5, adding more broth if necessary and stirring to prevent it from sticking to the bottom. Adjust the salt and pepper. Remove the bay leaves.
Making Bechamel Sauce:
Heat a thick-bottomed saucepan and melt the butter. As soon as it has melted, add the sifted flour, all at once, and stir with a whisk, letting it ‘toast’ for a few minutes without allowing it to darken.
Now pour in the milk, stir and bring to the boil over low heat, allowing it to thicken.
Add a pinch of nutmeg, salt and pepper.
The bechamel should be creamy and without lumps.
Bring to boil a pot of water on the stove, as soon as it boils add coarse salt to taste and soak 3 or 4 sheets of lasagna at a time for a few minutes, then drain them and transfer them to a bowl of cold water – this will stop the cooking of the pasta. Now place the well drained sheets of lasagna on a clean dish towel, spaced out one from the other.
Start placing a first generous layer of béchamel sauce on the bottom of the baking tray and all sides up to the edge. Place the egg pasta sheets reaching all the way to the top edges, add a generous ladle of meat sauce and a ladle of béchamel sauce, mixing them together a bit. Spread both the sauce and bechamel evenly in the centre and in the corners.
You can also add some mozzarella pieces and a bit of grated Parmigiano just like we did.
Proceed in this fashion for a total of 4 layers of pasta (or 5 if you prefer), the last layer with a generous sprinkling of grated Parmigiano cheese, mozzarella cut into small cubes and some more sauce.
Tip: Wait before putting it in the oven, let it rest for at least 40 minutes. In this way the dough will absorb the flavours of the filling and the cooking will be more homogeneous and the taste richer.
Bake lasagna in a static oven at 180°C about 35 – 40 minutes.
Tip: Cover it with aluminium foil for the first 30 minutes, so that the heat of the oven cooks it evenly. After this time, remove the aluminium foil and leave to cook for a further 10 minutes, or at least until the top of the lasagne starts to brown and create a crust.
Let it cool to room temperature for a few minutes before cutting.