This recipe was featured by FeedFeed for their selected recipes of Christmas Eve 2015
This is an authentic Lasagna Bolognese recipe from a lively historic city in Italy called Bologna. Bologna is famous for its great wine and delicious food. The Italian food in these parts is rich with different meats and cheeses as well as butter and cream due to some French influence. My friend Gissou got this recipe from her friend’s grandmother while attending med school in Bologna University, which by the way is the oldest university in Europe.
Years ago Gissou made this lasagna for me and my family and we were in love! That was absolutely the best Lasagna we ever had, so I was very happy when she graciously shared her wonderful recipe with me and I have been making it for my family and friends ever since.
This recipe for Lasagna Bolognese is for the cooks who want to make special meals and pride themselves in the fact that they love authentic recipes and have the patience that it takes to make them. They do so with a smile and get a feeling of satisfaction and triumph when everyone at the dinner table takes that first bite of the food and all they hear is mmmm! Yes, this is the kind of a lasagna that requires patience and after one bite you will know it was worth all the work!
So you might ask why the patience? Because this recipe starts with the original Bolognese Ragu meat sauce, no relations to the jar variety! The original Ragu is a thick red sauce made by cooking together ground beef, pork and turkey along with finely chopped onions, carrots and celery cooked with garlic, tomatoes, wine, bacon and butter. The Ragu Sauce has many ingredients and takes several hours to simmer, so please read the recipe and get all the ingredients ready before starting to make this amazing sauce. The Ragu Sauce is layered between flat oven-ready lasagna noodles that require no prior boiling, along with Béchamel sauce (white sauce) and two kinds of cheeses. Then it is baked! See those layers? Yummm!
Being a true Persian, Gissou adds her own touch to this recipe with some Persian Advieh (Rice Spice) and some saffron, which I love and use also; however if you wish you may leave these two spices out.
You may get the instructions for oven-baked bacon here. I used whole peeled tomatoes and processed them in my food processor, but sometimes I use tomato puree and that works fine too. The Oven-Ready Lasagna noodles by Barilla work perfectly in this recipe. You will need 18 pieces of this flat pasta. I also recommend using a good quality red wine that you enjoy drinking. The original recipe calls for grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, but I have used grated Parmesan cheese instead with a fraction of the cost and works perfectly.
The veggies are chopped fine in the food processor, sauteed until aromatic and then mixed with the 3 meats
The meat is browned with the vegetables. Wine, tomato paste, milk, spices and tomato puree are added. The Ragu Sauce is simmered on low heat with partially covered lid for 1 1/2 hours. Then the oven-baked bacon is chopped and added to the sauce and simmered for another 1 1/2 hours
When the Ragu Sauce reaches a thick spaghetti sauce consistency, make the roux in a medium nonstick saucepan. Roux is a combination of butter and flour sauteed until mildly tan and aromatic
Whisk in the warm milk, seasoning and salt and keep whisking until thickened. Now you have the basic white sauce, or Bechamel Sauce.
So the order of the layers are: Red sauce – noodles (they are used right out of the box) – red sauce – white sauce – grated Parmesan cheese – slices of Mozzarella cheese – noodles – red sauce – white sauce…… You know the rest.. This picture is the noodles, topped with red sauce, then topped with clumps of white sauce; the white sauce is going to be thick.
Use the back of a rubber spatula to spread the white Bechamel sauce as evenly as you can over the red sauce. Top this layer with grated Parmesan cheese.
Top the grated Parmesan cheese layer with slices of Mozzarella cheese. Repeat this layering 2 more times so the very top layer is the Mozzarella slices. Make sure there are no exposed noodles when you are done with all the layers, including the edges. The exposed noodles will not cook and will get very hard, since they need the moisture from the sauces to cook during the baking process. Cover the pan with aluminum foil, poke some holes with a fork on top. Place the covered pan on a baking sheet and bake on the center rack of a preheated 350 F oven until the cheese is light golden and the sauce is bubbling.
Slice Lasagna Bolognese into 12 to 15 squares and serve with extra grated Parmesan cheese, a slice of garlic bread and a salad and Enjoy!
Bake time: 1 hr 15 minutes in preheated 350 F center rack
Yield: 12-15 servings
You will need: 14 ½ x11x2 lasagna pan
- FOR THE RED RAGU SAUCE
- 4 TBSP olive oil
- 4 medium carrots, peeled (8 ounces)
- 4 ribs celery (8 ounces)
- 2 medium yellow onions (1 ¼ pounds)
- 6 large garlic cloves, minced
- ½ pound 93% lean ground beef
- ½ pound ground pork
- ½ pound ground turkey
- 2 beef bullion
- 2 dry chili pepper, crushed with seeds
- ¼- ½ tsp saffron (optional for a Persian touch)
- 1 ½ tsp Persian rice spice (optional for a Persian touch)
- 1 cup dry red wine (Cabernet or Shiraz)
- 3 TBSP tomato paste
- 2 (29-ounce each) cans of whole peeled tomatoes or tomato puree
- ⅔ cup milk
- 1 tsp crushed dried basil leaves
- One 16-ounce package of bacon, baked in the oven and added to the red sauce after 1½ hours
- 3 TBSP butter (to be stirred in after the sauce is cooked)
- FOR THE WHITE BECHAMEL SAUCE
- 3 ounces butter
- 7 TBSP flour
- 2 ½ cups warm milk (microwave cold milk for about 2 minutes)
- Salt ¼ tsp
- ⅛ tsp freshly-cracked black pepper
- Dash of nutmeg
- FOR LASAGNA
- 18 pieces of Barilla Oven-Ready Lasagne (Usually each box has 12 pieces)
- 2 pounds mozzarella cheese, thin slices (will need about 36 slices)
- 12 oz fresh grated Parmesan cheese (or Permigiano-Reggiano)
- Extra fresh grated Parmesan cheese for sprinkling on top
- To make the red Ragu sauce: Peel and cut the carrots, celery and the onions into 1-inch pieces and fine chop in the food processor, separately.
- Heat the olive oil in a large nonstick shallow stockpot. Add the chopped vegetables and sauté over medium-high heat until golden brown, 8-10 minutes, stir frequently and watch closely.
- Add the minced garlic to stockpot and sauté for an extra 1 minute. (Do not brown the garlic).
- Add to stockpot half pound each of, lean ground beef, ground pork and the ground turkey and brown over medium high for another 10 minutes. The purpose of high heat is to prevent the release of meat juices which would poach the meat instead of browning.
- Add 2 beef bullion, crushed chili pepper, and the optional saffron and Persian rice spice. Mix to blend with the ingredients in the stockpot.
- Add a cup of red wine and stir to blend. Cook over medium heat until all the wine is reduced (cooked off into the meat) about 5 minutes.
- Add 3 TBSP tomato paste and stir to combine, sauté for 3-4 minutes over medium heat.
- Add the 2 large cans of tomato puree and bring the mixture to a boil over medium heat and let it boil for 10 minutes (partially cover the pot to prevent splatter). Stir frequently.
- Add ⅔ cup milk and 1 tsp of crushed dried basil leaves. As soon as it comes to a low boil reduce the heat to low and simmer the sauce with the lid partially open for 1 ½ hours. Stir occasionally.
- Add the cooked and chopped crisp bacon pieces into the sauce, stir and allow to simmer for about another 1 ½ hours, or until the sauce has the consistency of a thick spaghetti sauce. Partially cover the pot with the lid. Stir frequently to prevent sticking.
- Remove the sauce from heat and add 3 TBSP butter and stir to melt the butter.
- To make the white Bechamel sauce: In a large microwave-safe bowl heat 2 ½ cups of milk until very warm to touch (not boiling)
- In a medium (2-qt size) nonstick saucepan melt 3 ounces butter, add 7 TBSP flour and stir constantly over medium heat until light tan color with a mild nutty aroma.
- Carefully and gradually add the warm milk and use a silicon-covered whisk to blend the sauce until smooth. Reduce heat to medium low and continue cooking and whisking for 5 minutes until the sauce thickens and small air pockets start popping on the surface of the sauce.
- Add salt, fresh-ground black pepper and nutmeg and stir to blend. Set aside.
- To assemble Lasagna Bolognese: Preheat oven to 350 F Center rack
- Spread ¼ of the red sauce in the bottom of the lasagna pan.
- Place 6 Barilla no-boil noodles on top of the sauce.
- Spread ⅓ of the remaining sauce on the noodles.
- Drizzle ⅓ of the white sauce over the red sauce.
- Sprinkle 4 oz of the grated Parmesan cheese over the sauce
- Arrange 12 pieces of the sliced mozzarella cheese over the Parmesan cheese.
- Continue layering in the same order; Barilla noodles, red sauce, white sauce, grated Parmesan cheese and mozzarella cheese slices, until all the ingredients have been used up. The top layer will be mozzarella cheese slices. Make sure are the noodles are covered since they will need the moisture from the sauces to cook.
- Cover the pan with heavy duty aluminum foil, and poke several holes with a fork.
- Place the covered pan on a baking sheet to catch any drippings and place both on the center rack of the preheated 350⁰F oven. The pan will be heavy.
- Bake for 1 hour and 15 minutes, or until the cheese melts and is light golden brown. The sauce will be bubbling around the edges of the pan.
- Allow the lasagna to rest on a rack for 10 minutes. Slice into 12 or 15 pieces.
- Serve Lasagna Bolognese with extra grated Parmesan cheese, slices of garlic breadand a salad. Enjoy!!
1 - store it covered in the refrigerator for up to two days and warm it up in a 250 F oven until heated through (takes around 40 minutes or so, check to make sure it is completely hot inside before serving), OR
2 - Freeze the slices by putting them in a freezer safe airtight container after covering them up well with an aluminum foil. When ready to serve, defrost in the fridge for 24 hours, then follow the #1 instructions.