There are several things that differentiate Lasagna Bolognese from the Southern Italian style Lasagna that is more familiar to Americans. The most noticeable differences are the use of Béchamel Sauce instead of ricotta cheese, and the absence of mozzarella–only Parmagianno-Reggiano cheese is sprinkled on each layer–which results in a more delicate lasagna.
Lasagna Bolognese should be made using an authentic slow cooked Ragu alla Bolognese (Bolognese Sauce). Marinara sauce mixed with browned ground beef just won’t do here. Finally, fresh egg pasta should always be used, not dried lasagna noodles. Most typically, but not required, it is prepared with green pasta made with spinach. When made with the spinach pasta the dish can also be called Lasagna Verde Bolognese.
When boiling the sheets of pasta it is very important not to overcook them, because they will cook more when baking the lasagna and you don’t want to end up with mushy noodles that fall apart. Cook them in the boiling water for no longer than 1 minute, just so they are soft enough to work with, and rinse them with cold water quickly to stop the cooking.
- ¼ cup olive oil
- 1 small onion, chopped fine
- 1 carrot, chopped fine
- 1 celery stalk, chopped fine
- ¼ pound pancetta, chopped coarsely
- 3 pounds ground beef, preferably chuck
- 1 35 ounce can imported Italian plum tomatoes
- 2 tablespoons tomato paste
- 1 cup meat broth, hot
- salt and pepper to taste
- 6 tablespoons butter
- ¼ cup all purpose flour
- 3 cups whole milk
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 1-1/2 pounds fresh green lasagna noodles
- ⅔ cup freshly grated Parmagiano-Reggiano cheese
- In a large deep sauce pan, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onion, carrot and celery, cook stirring occasionally until translucent, about 10minutes.
- Add the pancetta and ground beef, turn heat to high and cook, stirring occasionally until browned about 15 minutes.
- While the meat is cooking run the tomatoes through a food mill into a bowl. Add the tomatoes, tomato paste and meat broth, and season with salt and pepper. Let come to a boil, then lower the heat to low and simmer for 2 hours, stirring occasionally.
- Melt the butter in a medium sauce pan over low heat. Add the flour and stir with a wire whisk until it forms a paste.
- Meanwhile, heat the milk in a separate sauce pan just to the verge of boiling. Add the milk to the butter and flour mixture 1 cup at a time, whisking until smoothly combined.
- Add the salt and continue to cook over low heat, stirring occasionally until the mixture is thick and smooth, it should coat the back of a spoon.
- Preheat the oven to 375 Degrees F.
- Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. In 3 batches add the lasagna sheets to the boiling water and cook briefly, about 1 minute. Remove the sheets from the pot using a slotted spoon, place in a colander, rinse under cold water to stop the cooking and spread out on clean kitchen towels.
- Spread a thin layer of Bolognese sauce on the bottom of a 13×9 baking pan and sprinkle with Parmigiano cheese. Cover with a layer of pasta, overlapping the pasta where necessary. Cover the pasta with a thin layer of béchamel, spread a layer of bolognese on top of that, then sprinkle with cheese. Repeat until you place 4th layer of pasta on top.
- Mix the remaining bechamel and bolognese sauce together, spread thinly over top layer of pasta and sprinkle with the remaining cheese. Place pan in oven and bake for approximately 30 minutes, the top should be slightly browned and the sauces should be bubbling.