December 16, 2010

lasagna bolognese

Traveling with David's sister, Elise, is like going on a Barefoot Contessa food tour. She researches the best places to eat, the best markets, the best food and holiday fairs, the best "hole-in-the-wall" joints. It was so fun to go to New York City with such a fellow foodie and one of the most amazing places she took us to was called Eataly.

While David and I waited the 30+ minutes to get a table at the few tables on a Friday night we walked around the market. I died over 400 cheeses and meats, rows and rows of fresh pastas, the most amazing fresh, crusty, artisan breads, a tempting gelato bar, fresh, local produce and aisle upon aisle of gourmet chocolate. I told David I wanted to live there. The place takes up an entire city block and is so beautiful. If you go to New York, you must go to Eataly.

Once we were finally seated for dinner David looked at the menu and proclaimed that he was getting lasagna. They had two kinds - a bolognese variety and a butternut squash variety. He opted for the bolognese and even though my dish of fusilli with veal ragu was very good, I could not get enough of David's lasagna. We both like lasagna but we're very picky about what's good and what's not. Here's what we've decided: we do not like lasagna made with ricotta cheese (which seems to be the most popular American variation). Who started such a disgusting version anyway? The only way to get lasagna is made with a bechamel sauce. Trust me on this one.

Here's how I came up with this recipe. My brother-in-law's mother is Greek and his father is Italian. I was 3 years old when he married my sister and they had a baby just a year or two later. My younger brother and I would call our nephew's grandmother "YiaYia" (Greek for grandmother). YiaYia has a delicious bolognese sauce that I love. I manipulated it a bit for this recipe and then used a simple bechamel sauce and threw in a few other things. Like all "real" lasagna recipes, this one is not quick but it is definitely easy and will teach you a few traditional culinary basics (and you will have leftover bolognese sauce for another pasta dish - it also freezes well). I'm very proud of myself.
Bolognese Sauce
1/2 lb. ground beef
1/2 lb. pork sausage
1 carrot, chopped small
1 celery stalk, chopped small
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 large onion, minced
4 Tablespoons olive oil
1 (15 ounce) can tomato sauce
3 (15 ounce) cans diced tomatoes (preferably San Marzano)
1 (8 ounce) cans tomato paste
1/2 teaspoon thyme
1/2 teaspoon rosemary
1 teaspoon basil
1/3 cup dried parsley
3 teaspoon Italian seasoning
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1/4 cup water
1 teaspoon sugar

Brown meat, carrots, celery, onions and garlic together with the olive oil. Add the rest of the ingredients and let simmer at least 1 hour (and up to 3 hours) over medium-low heat.

Bechamel Sauce
5 Tablespoons butter
1/4 cup flour
3 cups milk
2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 cup grated Parmesan-Reggiano cheese

Melt the butter in a medium saucepan until bubbling slightly. Add flour and whisk continuously until smooth. Continue whisking over medium heat until the mixture turns golden brown, about 5 minutes. Meanwhile, pour the milk into a glass measuring cup. Microwave on high for 1 1/2 minutes until the milk is just about to boil (checking after 1 minute). Add the milk to the butter mixture, 1 cup at a time, whisking continuously until the sauce is very smooth. Continue to stir over medium heat until thick (about 5 minutes). Remove from heat and add salt, nutmeg and cheese. Set aside.

1 pound dried lasagna noodles, blanched for 6 - 8 minutes (do not overcook)
1 cup freshly grated Parmesan-Reggiano cheese
1/2 cup fresh grated or sliced Mozzarella cheese

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Brush a 9x13 inch glass baking dish with butter to coat. Layer the bottom of the dish with a single layer of blanched lasagna noodles, then a layer of bechamel sauce, then a layer of bolognese sauce. Continue this order until you have about 4 layers, ending with the bechamel and bolognese on top. End with the cheeses on top. Cover loosely (tented) with aluminum foil and set on a cookie sheet in case it bubbles over. Bake in the oven for 30 minutes until golden brown and bubbling, then remove foil and bake another 15 minutes (I like to turn mine to broil for the last 3-5 minutes - watch carefully!) Remove from the oven and let sit for 20 minutes before serving.


  1. Mmm.

    I'm from Australia and agree, bolognese is the only way to go for lasagne! Now that I live in the US, I always scout out restaurants that make it the way I like.

    Thanks for the recipe. I'm going to be trying this at home.

  2. I'm totally going to make this. Parker is always asking me to make lasagna, but I rarely do because I don't have a good recipe. I can always count on you for yummy recipes!

  3. my husband feels the same way about ricotta. i'm definitely going to make this! thanks!

  4. YUM! You are ever so talented... can I please come over for dinner. No but really I bet your family and friends all feel so lucky when they get to indulge in your yummy cusine!!

  5. That looks yummy Liz. I always use cottage cheese instead of ricotta, but this looks good too. Once small correction... it is Yia Yia, not Ya Ya. But I knew what you meant!

  6. In a world where too many people eat only to live, it's so nice to relate to other's love of food. So thanks for truly enjoying (and sharing) the finer things in life.

  7. Hi! I've been reading your blog off and on for a while. I just think you are darling! I just have to say I made your lasagna tonight and it was AMAZING! Melt in your mouth good! Both me and my husband could not stop eating it. Thanks so much!!

  8. We have made this 2 times and my very picky family LOVES it. I have never made lasagna before ever! Still it was an awesome recipe and thank you for sharing.

  9. Hello!! I've had this recipe saved as a "YOU MUST TRY THIS RECIPE" for months now....and I finally made it. UM.......SOOOOOO delicious. My whole family loved it. It couldn't have been more delicious. This will now be my go-to lasagna recipe because I too think ricotta in lasagna is Y-U-C-K! Thank you!

  10. Thank you! I've been playing with this kind of lasagna for a while. My hubs lived in Italy for a bit and, reasonably, can't stand American lasagna. I'm excited to try this!
    I did find that using the lasagna noodles that don't need pre-boiling are great. He says they are thinner and are more like the Italian type. Thanks for posting!

  11. I LOVE this recipe. The first time I made it everyone who tried it loved it and wanted the recipe. I love that it doesn't use ricotta- I personally don't like the stuff. Making today for the second time, and can't wait until dinner! Mmmm.

  12. This is in the oven now and I am so excited to try it, thanks for sharing! I've been on a hunt for twenty years for the BEST lasagna recipe and I think this could be it!

  13. This is the best lasagna recipe! I had never heard of making it with a b├ęchamel sauce. You have changed my entire view of lasagna ~ it is the BEST!!! Thank you for sharing your recipe. I can't wait to try the others.


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