Friday, July 3, 2015

Lasagne Bolognese

So right off the bat, I'm going to let you know that this lasagne recipe (courtesy of epicurious) takes time. However the outcome from this labor of love is worth every step, every ingredient, every minute you spend preparing it. Also, almost all of the components can be made in advance.

The day before I wanted to serve the lasagne, I got to work on making the sauces. First up was the Bolognese.

I chopped onion, celery, and carrot, popped them into the food processor, and buzzed them around until finely chopped.

In a large pan, I added ground beef, ground pork, bacon (the recipe calls for pancetta, but it's not available here), and the veggies. All of this was left cook until the meat was well browned. That took about 30 minutes.

Wine was added to the pan and the brown bits got scraped from the bottom. Milk was then added and left to simmer until almost completely evaporated. Then tomatoes joined in, along with homemade chicken stock. Everything got a good stir, and was left to simmer for about three hours.

When the sauce was finished, I set it aside to let it cool. It would then be put in the fridge overnight. And trust, you want to give it time to meld together.

With the Bolognese cooling away, it was time to start on the Bechamel. I warmed up milk in a saucepan and used another pan to melt the butter. Once it started to foam, flour was added and whisked for about a minute. The warm milk got whisked in, about 1/2 cup at a time. The sauce was then brought to a boil, the heat then reduced, and allowed to simmer for about 10 minutes. I added some grated nutmeg and salt, gave everything another whisk, and removed the pan from the heat. After transferring the sauce to a bowl, I pressed plastic wrap directly onto the surface of the sauce. This prevents a skin to form. Once cooled, the Bechamel joined the Bolognese sauce for an overnight nap.

As an aside, you've probably noticed that more than a few pots and pans are needed for this dish -- much to the chagrin of my dishwasher, David.

The next day, I tackled the lasagne noodles. The dough is comprised of flour and eggs. That's it! The dough got needed until smooth.

It was then wrapped in plastic and left to rest for about two hours. When ready, the fun really began.

David and I set up the pasta machine and started rolling out the dough sheets. Now this is something that can be done by one person, but it's faster and easier with two people. 

We needed 16 8"-long noodles. As we were rolling and cutting, a very loud thunderstorm was underway. That meant we had three dogs milling around being nervous. As for the cat? She is fascinated by watching pasta being rolled out, so we had to keep shooing her away.

As the sheets were cut, they were placed on stacked pieces of parchment paper. When we achieved the requisite number, I covered the pan with plastic wrap and popped the pan in the fridge.

Later that afternoon, it was time for the assembly. 

The first step was reheating the sauces. While they were coming up to temp, the lasagna noodles needed to be blanched and shocked in ice water.

Bechamel on back burner, Bolognese in the front

Blanching and shocking lasagne noodles
After taking the noodles out of the ice bath, they were layered on a sheet pan covered in paper towels.

Moving on to the home stretch...

With the noodles made and the sauces heated, the final assembly could begin.

Some Bechamel sauce was ladled into a butter pan.

A layer of noodles were put on top, then some Bolognese was ladled on. 

Some more of the Bechamel was added, along with a bit of grated Parmesan. 

This layering process was repeated seven times.

The pan was put into a pre-heated 350 degree oven and left to bake for about 60 minutes.

The lasagne was left to cool for 45 minutes. This is a really important step and don't worry that it won't still be hot. It will be.

And finally, the plating...

There are so many elements that we love. I think, first and foremost, are the noodles. They are so thin and don't overwhelm the dish. In turn, the sauces really shine. The Bolognese is rich and all those meat elements marry together perfectly. The Bechamel also adds a richness quotient, but in a more subtle way. 

In every way, this dish is time well spent. 

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