So as luck would have it, Deb of the fabulous blog “Smitten Kitchen” posted this amazing recipe a few days before Valentines day. As I was deliriously tired from travel home from Malawi and not in my most creative moment, I decided to adapt this recipe for our celebratory meal. So without further ado, this is according to Joey the best thing I’ve ever cooked! Note it takes a few hours to prepare.
Serves 12-15, or more, depending on how you cut the squares
1 large onion, chopped
2 carrots, chopped
2 celery stalks, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
3 Tb. olive oil
Salt and pepper
1 Lb. ground beef (I used 10% lean)
12 oz. tomato paste (buy the best paste you can afford)
8 oz. red wine (I used a hearty old vine Zinfandel)
2 bay leaves
1/4 Tsp dried basil
8 Tb. unsalted butter
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
4 cups milk (I used 1%)
1 teaspoon table salt
1 clove minced garlic
Freshly grated nutmeg, to taste
Freshly ground black pepper
1 1/2 cups shredded Parmesan cheese
1 box lasagna noodles (I used no cook noodles from Whole Foods)
1. First make the sauce! This will take a few hours. Heat olive oil in a large pan over medium-high heat. While the oil is heating blend the onion, carrots and celery in a blender or food processor until more finely chopped. Add the chopped vegetables to the pan and season with salt and pepper. Cook until vegetables are browned and golden (this is necessary for the sauce to be fully developed) for about 15 to 20 minutes. Once the vegetables are fully browned, add the ground beef and more salt and pepper.Brown the beef for another 10 minutes until fully cooked and browned. Then add the tomato paste and cook for a few minutes. Finally, add the red wine, deglaze the pan by scraping up anything browned and stuck to the bottom, and turn the heat down to medium. Add the bay leaves and the basil. Cook for another 3 hours or so, adding water about a 1/2 cup of water as the liquid cooks off. This will make about 1.5 times the amount of sauce you will need. It freezes well and tastes wonderful, so you’ll be happy that you made it!
2. Next, make the béchamel sauce. In a medium sized saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat. After it is melted, add flour and stir until the flour is incorporated into the sauce. Cook for a minute to remove the flour taste, and then pour milk slowly (like a slow drizzle) and whisk until the milk is all incorporated. Then add, salt, garlic, nutmeg and a dash of black pepper. Simmer for about 10 minutes.
3. Finally, assemble the masterpiece. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. In a large rectangular lasgana pan, spread about a 1/3 cup of the béchamel, then place a layer of the noodles, then add a cup of the bolognese sauce (make sure to drench the noodles, as they need to be moistened to fully soften during cooking). Then add another 1/3 cup béchamel and sprinkely a layer of shredded parmesan. Repeat the layers adding pasta, bolognese, béchamel and parmesan for three more layers of pasta. Top with another layer of pasta and then add a bit more béchamel and then parmesean. Bake for 30-40 minutes until the top is bubbly and brown. Rest for a few minutes after removing from the oven, and then enjoy!! It keeps well in the fridge for a day or so, and also freezes well!