Thursday, April 8, 2010


Many of my followers have watched me make this and commented on the wonderful smells. I am thinking of you Bernie up in Maine on New Year's Eve. Dave and I were having about 8-10 people for dinner and everyone wanted this lasagna. We had a lot planned for the day, so I woke at about 7am and by about 9am I had two big pans of this in the refrigerator and I felt great knowing all I had to do was bake it and New Year's Eve dinner would be served. Bernie thought I was crazy as I recall......

It may look like a lot of components, but you can make one component while another one cooks on the stove. It is a little unconventional - there is no spinach and no ricotta cheese....that my friends is a personal preference because I don't like either one of those foods. I experimented with other things I could use as a "layer" and this became as Tyler Florence would say "The Ultimate".
While you are making the meat sauce, bechamel and cheese filling, cook the lasagna noodles not completely but about 8 minutes, drain and separate on wax paper so the strips stay intact and let cool. This makes putting the dish together MUCH easier.
I roughly chop my vegetables because after they cook, I puree them in a food processor because a lot of my friends and family don't like to bite into chunks of vegetables. If you like chunks, just more finely chop or dice yours.

First - 2-3 boxes of lasagna noodles cooked as directed above. I use 3 boxes in case some break or fall apart in the water.

Meat Sauce
5 tbl oilve oil
3 tbl unsalted butter
6 oz of pancetta chopped
1 cup sweet onion chopped
1 cup celery chopped
1 cup carrot chopped
1/2 lb 95% ground beef
1/2 lb ground veal
1/2 lb ground pork
1 cup dry red wine
2-1/2 cups crushed San Marzano tomatoes
1-1/2 cups beef broth
1 tsp salt
1 tsp cracked pepper
3/4 tsp fresh grated nutmeg

In a large saucepan, heat olive oil and butter over medium heat and pancetta and cook for about 2-3 minutes. Add onion, carrot and celery and cook until soft. With a slotted spoon take all vegetables and pancetta out of the pan and puree in a food processor and return them to the pan with the olive oil and butter. Stir in the beef, veal and pork and cook until meat turns pink, about 8-10 minutes. Stir in the wine and raise the heat to high. Cook until the liquid from the wine and meats reduces by half. Add the tomatoes, broth, salt, pepper and nutmeg. Bring the sauce to a boil and then turn heat to low and simmer uncovered about one hour stirring occasionally. Check the thickness and make sure the sauce is not too thin. If it is, cook longer. This sauce can be made a day ahead.
Bechamel Sauce
1 stick of unsalted butter
3/4 cup flour
4 cups whole milk
3/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp fresh grated nutmeg
While the meat sauce is cooking make this bechamel. In a medium saucepan, melt butter over low heat and add flour. Using a whisk, mix the butter and flour so there are no lumps of flour left and the mixture gets smooth and light golden brown. Raise heat to medium high and add milk, salt and nutmeg. Cook over medium to low heat stirring/whisking constantly so it becomes thicker and doesn't burn. When it becomes more like a gravy consistency remove from the heat and cover.
Cheese Filling
16 oz whole milk mozzarella cheese grated
2 cups fresh grated parmesan cheese
Combine these in a bowl and refrigerate until you are ready to assemble the dish.
1/2 stick unsalted butter
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
Reserve about 3/4 cup of bechamel for the top of the lasagna. Grease a 13 x 9 x 2 pan with unsalted butter. Spread a layer of the bechamel on the bottom of the pan. Place strips of lasagna lengthwise in the bottom of the pan slightly overlapping them. Spread another layer of bechamel on top of the noodles. Ladle a layer of meat sauce on top of the bechamel. Sprinkle a layer of the cheese filling over the meat sauce. Make three to four more layers of this - pasta, bechamel, meat sauce, cheese. Cover the top with a layer of pasta. Try to tuck the corners into the pan so it doesn't leak over or burn. Ladle and spread the remaining bechamel over the top. Add a thin layer of meat sauce and take about 3-4 tbl of unsalted butter and cut small pieces and spread around the top of the pan. Sprinkle with a little parmesan cheese.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Bake until top layer gets crispy, about 50 minutes. Remove from the oven and let it rest about 15 to 20 minutes. Cut and serve.
Sometimes I make a double batch of the meat sauce and serve some so guests can add more sauce if they like. I also freeze some so I can just take it out, cook some pasta and top with's delicious.
This may seem hard, but it is really quite simple. I just LOVE this!

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