Sunday, 23 September 2012

Lasagna Bolognese

Good lasagna - it's a bit of work, but worth it and will keep you going for days.

Lasagna Bolognese
Adapted from Cooks' Illustrated.

For Meat Sauce (Ragù)

1 medium carrot, peeled and roughly chopped
2 medium celery rib, roughly chopped
1 small onion, roughly chopped
4 cloves garlic
1 can (28 ounces) crushed tomatoes
8 ounces ground beef
8 ounces ground pork
8 ounces ground veal
1 1/2 cups milk
1 1/2 cups full-bodied red wine
1 6-ounce can tomato paste
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 tablespoon oregano
1 tablespoon basil

For Béchamel:

4 tablespoons butter
1/4 cup flour
4 cups milk
3/4 teaspoon salt

For Noodles and Cheese:

12 sheets (9 ounces) no-boil lasagna noodles (I use Barilla)
8 ounces Parmesan cheese, grated (2 cups)

For the meat sauce: Process carrot, celery, garlic, and onion in food processor until finely chopped, about ten 1-second pulses, scraping down bowl as necessary.  Heat butter in heavy-bottomed Dutch oven over medium heat until foaming; add the chopped vegetables and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened but not browned, about 4 minutes.  Add ground meats and cook, breaking meat into small pieces with wooden spoon, about 1 minute. Add milk and stir, breaking meat into pieces as small as you can.  Bring to simmer and cook, stirring to break meat into ever-smaller pieces, until almost all liquid has evaporated, 20-30 minutes.  Using potato masher or wooden spoon, break up any remaining clumps of meat (no large pieces should remain).  Add wine and bring to simmer; cook, stirring occasionally, until liquid has evaporated, 20-30 minutes.  Stir in tomato paste until combined, about 1 minute; add tomatoes, salt, pepper, oregano, and basil.  Bring to simmer, then reduce heat to medium-low and cook until sauce is slightly thickened, about 15 minutes. (You should have about 6 cups meat sauce.) Cool meat sauce until just warm to the touch, about 30 minutes.

For the Béchamel: While the meat sauces simmers, melt butter in medium saucepan over medium heat until foaming.  Add flour and cook, whisking constantly, until thoroughly combined, about 1 1/2 minutes (mixture should not brown).  Gradually whisk in milk, increase heat to medium-high and bring to full boil, whisking frequently.  Add salt, reduce heat to medium-low, and simmer 10 minutes, stirring occasionally with heatproof rubber spatula or wooden spoon, making sure to scrape bottom and corners of saucepan. (You should have about 3 1/3 cups. Cool béchamel until just warm to touch, about 30 minutes.

To Assemble and Bake: Adjust oven rack to middle position; heat oven to 425F.  Place noodles in a 13x9-inch baking dish and cover with very hot tap water; soak 5 minutes, agitating noodles occasionally to prevent sticking.  Remove noodles from water, place in single layer on kitchen towel, and pat dry.  Wipe out baking dish. Stir béchamel to recombine; mix 3/4 cup warm béchamel into warm meat sauce until thoroughly combined.

Distribute 1 cup béchamel-enriched meat sauce in baking dish.  Place three noodles in single layer on top of sauce, arranging them close together, but not touching, at center of pan.  Spread 1 1/4 cups meat sauce evenly over noodles, spreading sauce to edge of noodles but not to edge of dish.  Drizzle 1/3 cup béchamel evenly over meat sauce.  Sprinkle 1/3 cup Parmesan even over béchamel.  Repeat layering of noodles, meat sauce, béchamel, and Parmesan cheese 3 more times.  Place final 3 noodles on top and cover completely with remaining béchamel, spreading béchamel with rubber spatula and allowing to spill over noodles.  Sprinkle evenly with remaining Parmesan.

Spray a large sheet of foil with nonstick cooking spray and cover lasagna; bake until bubbling, about 30 minutes.  Remove foil, increase heat to 450F, and continue to bake until surface is spotty brown, about 15 minutes.  Cool 15 minutes; cut into pieces and serve.

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