Thyme for dinner, everyone! (Ba-da dum!)
Sometimes, life gives you extra Bolognese sauce. When that happens, I’m firmly of the mind that you should make lasagna Bolognese.
You’ll probably be tempted to invite some friends over for dinner when you do this, because one typically does not make a lasagna for two. I’m here to advise you that you might want to reconsider this; consider having your friends over on another night, a night when you’re having something not quite so good and you won’t mind having NO LEFTOVERS AT ALL because your friends LICKED the inside of the baking dish clean.
My stove: Cradle of Industry
Bolognese is a soul-warmingly-good dish of rich meat sauce, lasagna noodles and creamy bechamel. If you already have the sauce sitting around (which you should, at all times), the lasagna comes together in about the time it takes to par-cook the noodles; bechamel is a quick study.
You can add cheese if you like – layers of mozzarella between some of the pasta layers for added gooeyness, or a crust of grated parmigiano-reggiano over the top – but no ricotta is necessary (or desired) for a lasagna Bolognese. Frankly, I find that mozzarella also detracts from the finished dish. I won’t judge you for adding cheese, but…okay, yes I will. Don’t use cheese. Parm on the top is the limit of my tolerance.
No leftovers at ALL! I mean, seriously!
Bechamel is a simple enough affair: A light roux (equal parts butter and flour) with some milk whisked in, heated ’til it’s thickened. I season simply, just salt, pepper and a little fresh nutmeg (which is always tasty in a cream sauce, and especially welcome here with the cinnamon-tinged meat sauce). I also enriched this version just a little by whisking in an egg yolk to help the final product hold together.
I know that no-boil noodles are supposed to make my life easier, but I just don’t trust ’em. My inner nonna makes me feel guitly enough for not making my own fresh pasta, so no-boil noodles would probably send me into a bottomless shame spiral. Still, you can save a little time by par-boiling the noodles instead of cooking them all the way – 5 or 6 minutes rather than 9 or 10.
I had to cut off the noodle ends to get them to fit in my baking dish, so Brian made himself little hors d’oeuvres with the leftover meat sauce. I tried to point out tht the noodles were only par-cooked, but we don’t all care about nuances like that.
I’m still trying to figure out how to have my neighbors repay me.
After spreading some meat sauce in the bottom of the baking dish, I layered pasta – meat sauce – bechamel, ending with a final layer of pasta topped with bechamel and parmigiano. Since everything is already (mostly) cooked, the lasagna goes in the oven just to allow everything to heat and meld together, with a final 10 minutes under the broiler to make the top gorgeously bubbled and brown. It then needs to rest for 10 or 15 minutes so it can firm up a little for easy serving; don’t worry, it’ll still be plenty hot.
And you know what, even if you wait too long and end up with tepid lasagna – although, frankly, I’m not sure how someone could possibly have that problem – it won’t matter. Because it is that frigging good. The combination of the meaty Bolognese sauce with the rich and creamy bechamel is un-fucking-beatable. The hint of spice from the nutmeg and cinnamon adds warmth and depth.
Leftovers, if you have any, freeze well, so consider doubling the recipe.
Lasanga Bolognese: One situation in which hoarding behaviors are not necessarily pathological.
1 quart Bolognese sauce
12 lasagna noodles
3 tbsp. butter
3 tbsp. all-purpose flour
2 1/2 c. whole milk
1 c. cream (or just use 3.5 c. milk)
1/4 tsp. nutmeg
s&p to taste
1 large egg yolk
1/2 c. grated parmigiano-reggiano
Pre-heat your oven to 350.
Re-heat the meat sauce.
Bring a large pot of water to a rolling boil. Add a tablespoon of salt and the noodles. Cook for 5-6 minutes, until softened but not cooked all the way through. Remove from the water, being careful not to rip them up.
Make the bechamel: In a medium saucepan, melt the butter over medium-high heat. When the foaming subsides, whisk in the flour. Cook for 2-3 minutes to get rid of any raw floury flavor. Whisk in the milk and cream, stirring the whole time to minimize lumps. Continue heating, stirring occasionally, until the sauce comes to a gentle boil; roux-thickened sauces do not fully thicken until they hit the boiling point. Stir in the nutmeg, and s&p to taste. Stir the egg yolk in in little dribs and drabs, whisking constantly.
Begin layering the components in an approx 6×8 casserole dish, starting with some meat sauce on the bottom and then adding noodles –> meat sauce –> bechamel. End with a layer of noodles covered in bechamel and sprinkled with the cheese.
Bake for 25 minutes, then turn on the broiler and cook for 5-10 minutes more, until the top is brown and bubbly. Remove from the oven and let rest for 10-15 minutes before serving.