Nonna’s Lasagna alla Besciamella
Nonna-style Lasagna for 8 guests
7 layers large fresh lasagna sheets (about 1 lb)
8 oz good quality Parmesan cheese, grated
1 recipe ragu, see below
1 recipe besciamella, see below
2-3 tbsp olive oil
3 clove garlic, minced
1 carrot, finely diced
½ medium onion, finely diced
1 stalk celery, finely diced
2 tbsp Tuscan seasoning blend
2 bay leaves
1 sprig rosemary
⅛ cup handful pine nuts, finely chopped
5 large tomatoes, peeled (about 1 lb)
9 oz tomato paste
9 oz of water
½ tbsp sugar
¼ cup Parmesan cheese, grated
1 lb local ground beef
½ cup dry white wine
1 beef bouillon cube
salt and pepper to taste
2 ½ cups whole milk
4 tbsp butter
4 tbsp flour
pinch ground nutmeg
The key to this delicious, light lasagna is getting your hands on fresh lasagna sheets from your local pasta maker. If you can’t, acquire the largest sheets you can from dried lasagna sheet boxes at the store. Cook them until resistance to the tooth is just barely on the hard side of al dente. Then rinse in cool water.
1. For the ragu: In a large sautè pan over medium high heat, combine 2 tbsp olive oil, garlic, carrot, onion, celery, Tuscan seasoning, bay leaves, rosemary, and pine nuts. Cook until the garlic begins to brown, about 5 minutes.
2. Add the peeled tomatoes to the sautè pan. Cook until the tomatoes are seared and start to break down, about 5 minutes. Remove the tomatoes, vegetables, and herbs to a mixing bowl and, with a knife or the back of a spoon, crush tomatoes. Add the tomato paste, water, sugar, salt, and Parmesan and stir to combine. Set sauce aside. Wipe out the pan, return to medium-high heat, and add 1 additional tbsp olive oil.
3. Add the beef to the sautè pan and brown until cooked through, about 8 minutes. Add ½ cup of white wine and bouillon. Scrape the pan and bring wine to a simmer. Add the sauce. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Reduce the heat to low, cover, and let simmer while stirring occasionally, up to an hour, while you make the besciamella.
4. For the besciamella: Heat milk in saucepan until just before it scalds. Remove from heat. Meanwhile, in a large skillet over medium heat, melt the butter. Once melted, slowly add the flour, whisking to form a smooth paste. Add the heated milk to the skillet while whisking. Continue stirring until the besciamella thickens and begins to lightly bubble. Add salt and nutmeg to taste and remove from heat.
5. To assemble the lasagna: Preheat the oven to 350°F. Lightly brush the bottom of an 11″ by 8″ baking pan with olive oil. Rinse the first sheet of pasta in cool water and quickly dry. Place on the bottom of the pan. Continue to build your lasagna with the following layers, laying sheets of pasta between each:
LEVEL 1: ¾ cup ragu and ⅓ cup besciamella
LEVEL 2: ¾ cup ragu, ⅓ cup besciamella and ⅓ cup Parmesan
LEVEL 3: ¾ cup ragu and ⅓ cup Parmesan
LEVEL 4: ⅓ cup besciamella and ⅓ cup Parmesan
LEVEL 5: ¾ cup ragu and ⅓ cup Parmesan
LEVEL 6: Remaining ragu, ⅓ cup besciamella and ⅓ cup Parmesan
LEVEL 7: Remaining besciamella and Parmesan (this will end up being the top of the finished lasagna)
6. Bake for 35-45 minutes. Checking occasionally after 30 minutes. Remove from oven when the top is bubbling and evenly browned.