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Monday, March 24, 2008

sunday afternoon lasagne

lasagna finl

This is a Sunday afternoon dish because it's great to make ahead for the week, and also because you need about 4 hours to prepare it. There are some very easy shortcuts to trim that down to about 45 minutes of active prep time, if you don't want to spend an afternoon in the kitchen. It takes about 3 hours to make the bolognese sauce the traditional way, and I love it. You could actually make this for any kind of pasta, since it can stand on its own. (The bolognese is basically Marcella Hazan's recipe, with the addition of pancetta, which imparts a rich flavor.)

Grocery list: 1.5 pounds of ground beef, 2 carrots, 2 ribs celery, 1 onion, 2 ounces pancetta, whole milk, dry white wine, nutmeg, 1 28-ounce can of whole peeled plum tomatoes, 1 pound lasagne noodles, 30 ounces ricotta cheese, 1 egg, parsley, 1 pound mozzarella (grated).


Start by making the bolognese sauce. Over medium heat, melt 3 T butter plus 1 T olive oil, then add chopped onion. Cook for 1 minute, then add the cubed pancetta and cook for 2 more minutes. Add the chopped celery and carrot, and continue to saute for another 2-3 minutes.


Add the ground beef and break up into small pieces. Cook until it is just a little pink, then add a tiny pinch of nutmeg and season with salt and pepper. Pour in 1 cup of whole milk, and keep cooking until all the liquid cooks out, which may take a while. Then add a cup of dry white wine, and cook this completely down as well.


At this point you add the whole can of tomatoes, juice included. When the bot returns to bubbling, turn the heat down very low. Stir occasionally; after a while, the tomatoes will soften and easily break apart with a spoon. Keep simmering for a couple of hours.

If you need to boil your pasta noodles, get started on that now (while you work on the ricotta mixture, as the bolognese sauce is finishing). Boil according to the directions, then rinse in cold water and spread each noodle flat in a cookie sheet. Keep layering parchment paper and noodles so they all can dry flat and not stick together.

ricotta filling

For the ricotta mixture, take 2 15-ounce containers of ricotta and add to 1 beaten egg. Stir in salt, pepper, and a handful of chopped parsley.


To assemble the lasagne, oil the bottom of a large lasagne pan. Spoon a little bolognese sauce into the bottom, then layer the noodles. Spread the ricotta cheese over the noodles, then layer in the grated mozzarella. Repeat with sauce, noodles, ricotta, and mozzarella until you're out of ingredients (typically about 4 layers), ending with mozzarella. You can sprinkle a little grated parmesan on the top as well.


Bake for around 40 minutes at 375 degrees, until the top is golden and bubbly.

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