lasagne bolognese al forno {translation: the best lasagne you’ll ever make}

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Who just up and abandons a stack of Gourmet magazines in mint condition? Who retires a magazine, rich with 65+ years of gastronomic history and the stories traded in the company of our beloveds, to the recycling bin? On my way to the city yesterday, I paused in front of a few large brown boxes filled to the brim with back issues of Gourmet from the years 2004-2007. Perhaps I’m insane but I took as many issues as I could carry and took some on my return trip home. While I have a relatively clutter-free home and I live pretty minimally, Gourmet is the only, worthy exception in breaking my sparsity rule.

Gourmet is the reason you break every rule.

On the subway I rifled through the issues and found myself captivated by the April 2006 cover — an austere white plate showcasing a decadent slice of lasagna bolognese. Clearly I felt compelled to spend three hours on a Sunday afternoon making the grand dame of baked pastas, and as Edith Piaf once so sagely crooned, I have no regrets.

This is the sort of lasagne you want to pull apart with your hands. It’s primal, intensely flavorful and delicious. I’ve no shame admitting that I stood over my kitchen counter and dove right in with a fork and an appetite. Friends, Romans, Countrymen, PLEASE DO THE SAME.

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INGREDIENTS: Recipe courtesy of Mario Batali for Gourmet, April 2006
For the Ragu Bolognese:
5 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
3 tbsp butter
1 carrot, finely, diced
1 medium onion, diced
1 rib celery, finely diced
1 clove garlic, sliced
1 pound veal, ground {I used beef}
1 pound pork, ground
1/4 pound pancetta or slab bacon, ground
1/2 tube tomato paste
1 cup milk
1 cup dry white wine {I used red wine, a Montepulciano}
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
Parmigiano-Reggiano, for grating

For the Lasagna al Forno {you can also use homemade lasagne sheets purchased from gourmet food shops, as I did}:
4 extra-large eggs
6 ounces frozen chopped spinach, defrosted and squeezed very dry and chopped very fine
3 1/2 to 4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour, plus 1/2 cup for dusting the work surface
1/2 tsp extra-virgin olive oil

For the Besciamella:
5 tbsp butter
4 tbsp flour
3 cups milk
2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
8 ounces Parmigiano-Reggiano, for grating

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DIRECTIONS
For the ragu bolognese: In a 6 to 8-quart, heavy-bottomed saucepan, heat the olive oil and butter over medium heat. Add the onions, celery, and garlic and sweat over medium heat until the vegetables are translucent and soft but not browned, about 10 to 15 minutes. Add the veal, pork, and pancetta and stir into the vegetables. Add the meat over high heat, stirring to keep the meat from sticking together until browned. Add the tomato paste, milk, and wine and simmer over medium-low heat for 1 to 1 1/2 hours. Season with salt and pepper, to taste, and remove from the heat.

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For the lasagna al forno: Combine eggs and spinach. Mound 3 1/2 cups of the flour in the center of a large wooden cutting board. Make a well in the middle of the flour and add the egg and spinach mixture and the olive oil. Using a fork, beat together the spinach, eggs and oil and begin to incorporate the flour, starting with the inner rim of the well.

As you expand the well, keep pushing the flour up from the base of the mound to retain the well shape. The dough will come together when half of the flour is incorporated.

Start kneading the dough with both hands, using the palms of your hands. Once you have a cohesive mass, remove the dough from the board and scrape up and discard any leftover bits. Lightly reflour the board and continue kneading for 6 more minutes. The dough should be elastic and a little sticky. Wrap the dough in plastic and allow to rest for 30 minutes at room temperature. Divide the dough into 3 equal portions and roll each out to the thinnest setting on a pasta rolling machine.

Bring about 6 quarts of water to a boil and add 2 tablespoons salt. Set up an ice bath next to the stove top. Cut the pasta into 20 (5-inch) squares and drop into the boiling water. Cook 1 minute, until tender. Drain well and refresh in the ice bath. Drain on towels and set aside.

For the besciamella: In a medium saucepan, heat butter until melted. Add flour and stir until smooth. Over medium heat, cook until light golden brown, about 6 to 7 minutes.

Meanwhile, heat milk in separate pan until just about to boil. Add milk to butter mixture 1 cup at a time, whisking continuously until very smooth and bring to a boil. Cook 30 seconds and remove from heat. Season with salt and nutmeg and set aside. Your bechamel should be thick and lump-free.

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For assembly: Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. In a brownie pan, assemble the lasagne, beginning with a layer of ragu, a sprinkling of grated Parmigiano, a layer of pasta, a layer of bechamel, a layer of ragu, a sprinkling of grated Parmigiano etc. until all sauce and pasta are used up. The top layer should be pasta with bechamel over it. Top the lasagne with grated Parmigiano-Reggiano and bake in the oven for 30 to 45 minutes, until the edges are browned and the sauces are bubbling. Remove and allow to cool for 10 minutes before slicing.

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2 thoughts on “lasagne bolognese al forno {translation: the best lasagne you’ll ever make}

  1. Looks amazing- you and I had the same thinking- I made lasagna yesterday, too! It was not this fancy, but I did manage to sneak in some spinach so there was a vegetable involved. Never mind the pounds of cheese- a vegetable made it!

    Like

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