Well Dined

12Feb/110

Best Lasagna Ever

When Americans think of lasagna, we typically think of the noodles, meat, and melted mozzarella variety. But in many parts of Italy, lasagna is not made with mozzarella. Instead, it uses creamy and fluffy bechamel with Parmesan as the only cheese. This is my favorite type of lasagna, it is much more delicate (and I have a serious bechamel obsession). My favorite recipe (courtesy of Chef Massimiliano Bartoli, Miss Williamsburg Restaurant) also uses ground veal instead of beef, and white wine instead of red - which provides the meat ragu with a really distinctive and tangy flavor. Enjoy the best lasagna recipe ever!

Begin with the Ragu, as it takes several hours to make:

3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
6 tablespoons finely chopped onions
6 tablespoons finely chopped carrots
6 tablespoons finely chopped celery
1 pound ground veal
1 cup white wine
1 pound canned or fresh tomatoes (pureed and passed through a strainer)
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Heat 3 tablespoons olive oil over medium in a large pot. Add the onions, carrots, and celery and cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are tender, about 15 minutes. Add the veal and brown, breaking up any big chunks of meat. Add the wine, increase the heat and simmer until the pan is once again dry, about 10 minutes. Add the tomatoes and enough water to cover. Bring the sauce to a simmer then reduce the heat to low and cook, stirring occasionally, until the sauce is deeply flavored and no longer watery, about 4 hours. Season the ragu with salt and pepper and keep warm or refrigerate until ready to use.

Bechamel Sauce:

3 ounces butter (6tbsp)
3 ounces all-purpose flour (6tbsp)
1 quart milk
Freshly ground nutmeg
Kosher salt

Place the milk in the saucepan, and heat over medium-high until bubbles form at the edges of the pan.

Meanwhile, in a large saucepan, melt the butter over medium-low heat. Whisk in the flour and cook until the mixture is creamy and no longer smells floury.

Gradually add the milk to the roux a ladle at a time, working with a wooden spoon after each addition until the mixture is smooth. After all of the milk is incorporated, continue to cook over medium-high, whisking constantly. As the sauce returns to a boil, simmer until it thickens sufficiently to coat the back of a spoon, about 5 min. Season the bechamel with the nutmeg and salt; cover and keep warm until ready to use.

Ingredients

* Fresh Lasagna, recipe follows (**I use store bought no-boil sheets most of the time**)
* Kosher salt
* Bechamel Sauce
* Ragu
* 3 cups freshly grated Parmesan

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Cook the pasta, boiling salted water until just tender, drain and refresh in ice water. (**if using no-boil sheets, skip this step**)

Put a thin layer of bechamel in the bottom of a shallow baking dish or a jelly-roll pan. Cover the bechamel with a thin layer of ragu and a little cheese. Top the sauces and cheese with a layer of lasagna noodles. Repeat 6 times ending with a layer of bechamel, ragu and cheese. Bake the lasagna until it is warm at the center and the cheese topping golden brown, about 45 minutes (cover with some aluminum foil if the lasagna browns before it is fully heated).

*EDIT* Fresh Lasagna:

2 cups flour
3 eggs
pinch salt
pinch nutmeg

Pulse the flour, salt, and nutmeg in a food processor to evenly distribute and aerate. Add the eggs. Process until the dough forms a rough ball, about 30 seconds. (If the dough resembles small pebbles, add water or olive oil 1/2 tsp at a time; if it sticks to the side of the bowl, add flour 1 tbsp at a time.)

Turn the dough out onto a clean work surface and knead until smooth, about 1 minute. Cover with plastic wrap and set aside for at least 15 minutes or up to 2 hours.

Cut the dough into quarters and roll out one at a time, flouring as needed. Start at the widest setting, then fold the dough into thirds and pass through 2 more times. After that, decrease the width one setting at a time, running the dough through twice for each setting. I like to stop at setting 3 on a 6 level roller for lasagna noodles - a medium thickness. Cut the rolled out pasta in half and either hang on a pasta rack til needed, or layer between parchment paper and plenty of flour on a baking sheet.

To cook - bring a large pot of salted water to a boil, have a large bowl of ice water ready. Cook the noodles in 2 batches for about 1 minute (it doesn't take long), then transfer with tongs to the ice water. Remove, pat dry with a clean towel, and layer between parchment until needed. You can brush with olive oil if you are having problems with sticking.

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