When I was little, I hated melted cheese. So much, in fact, that when my mom made lasanga she would leave a corner just for me that was sans Ricotta cheese, which still today I do not like. Lasagna was just never my thing, I was never a happy camper when we had it for dinner.
Now that my taste buds have matured and I have become proficient in the kitchen I've done lots of experimenting with the enigma otherwise known as Lasanga. This summer I made a fresh tomato Lasanga, using a bechamel instead of Ricotta cheese; the combination of the fresh tomato sauce, the lightness of the bechamel, and a fresh grating of Parmesan cheese made it fabulous.
For winter thought, it's best to go a bit heartier; hence, Bolognese Lasagna. And, I kid you not or exaggerate one bit when I tell you, this really is the best Bolognese I've made, ever. Something about cooking the meat in the milk, a pinch of nutmeg, and the red wine make such a heart, warming, and flavorful sauce that you just can't seem to get enough of. That, plus a creamy bechamel, sweet Parmesan and Romano cheese, and gooey lasagna noodles make this the ultimate lasagna. To be honest, five of us ate the whole pan, and were disappointed there weren't any leftovers... but I guess that means I'll just have to make some more.
For bolognese sauce
1 tablespoon butter
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
2 carrots, finely chopped
1 celery stalk, finely chopped
1 pound ground beef
1 pound ground pork
pinch of nutmeg
1 tablespoon salt*
freshly ground black pepper
1 1/2 cups whole milk, at room temperature
1 1/2 cups dry red wine
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 (28 ounce) can whole peeled tomatoes
1 (15 ounce) can diced tomatoes
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons flour
2 cups whole milk, slightly warmed
pinch of nutmeg
butter, for greasing dish
1 package 'ready-to-bake' lasagna noodles
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/3 cup grated Romano cheese
In a Dutch oven (or any large pot that retains heat well) melt the butter and olive oil over medium heat. Cook the onions, carrot, and celery until very soft and almost translucent, about 7 minutes. Add the ground beef and pork, seasoning heavily with the salt and pepper followed by a pinch of nutmeg. Break up the meat into smaller chunks while it begins to cook, and then stir in the milk. Allow to cook for 20-30 minutes or until almost all of the liquid evaporates and the meat is thoroughly cooked.
Work in the tomato paste until it is well distributed into the mixture, followed by the red wine, whole and diced tomatoes. Simmer for another 20-30 minutes or until the sauce is perfectly thick, meaty and delicious.
In a medium sized sauce pan, melt the butter over medium heat. Whisk in the flour and allow to cook with the butter for 1-2 minutes or until there is no smell of raw flour and the mixture is a light golden color. Slowly add in the milk, whisking constantly, followed by a small grating of fresh nutmeg. Continue to whisk over lower heat until the mixture has become thickened and bubbles slightly.
Preheat the oven to 400F and grease a 9x13 glass or ceramic baking dish. Place a layer of noodles on the bottom of the pan. Cover with 1/4 of the Bechamel, 1/4 of the Bolognese sauce, and then a sprinkling of the cheese. Repeat layering process, ending with cheese on top of the two sauces. Cover loosely with foil, and bake for 20 minutes. Remove the foil, and increase the heat to 425F to finish baking for 10 additional minutes or until golden brown and bubbly on top. Serve with a fresh grating of Parmesan or Romano cheese.
*This may seem like a salt, but it's imperative to season the meat/sauce at this, and only this time, as the meat will absorb the salt as it cooks in the milk and give the entire dish an amazing flavor.