Lasagna Bolognese

This isn’t a quick and easy lasagna. This is a slow and divine lasagna. A memorable lasagna. And we have a Simply Recipes reader to thank for it.

Several months ago a commenter on this site, by the name of “El Cocinero Loco” (The Crazy Cook) left a detailed and delightful lasagna Bolognese recipe in the comments of one of our recipes.

The recipe given was a little incomplete; I had to fill in the blanks by referring to a few cookbooks. But it sounded so good that we just had to try it.

Yes it takes hours, and yes, it is worth it. Mr. Loco’s commentary is quite amusing, so I do encourage you to read it (just scroll down the comments on this page).

Lasagna Bolognese Recipe

  • Yield: Serves 8
Yum

Ingredients

Bolognese Sauce:

  • 2 oz. Diced pancetta, finely chopped
  • 1 Medium Spanish onion or yellow onion, finely chopped
  • 1 Stalk celery, finely chopped
  • 1 Carrot, finely chopped
  • 4 Tbsp unsalted butter
  • 11 oz Ground beef
  • 4 oz Ground pork
  • 4 oz Ground Italian sausage
  • 1 freshly ground clove
  • Dash of freshly ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 lb peeled and chopped tomatoes (or 1 28-oz can whole peeled tomatoes)
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt

Béchamel Sauce:

  • 2 cups whole milk
  • 1/4 cup unsalted butter
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose unbleached flour

Lasagna:

  • Enough lasagna noodles to make four layers in a 13x9-inch baking pan with the lasagna pieces overlapping each other a little bit.
  • Recommended 16 sheets of De Cecco brand Italian lasagna noodles.
  • 1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Method

Prepare the Bolognese Meat Sauce

1 Make the soffritto. Combine pancetta, onion, celery, and carrot in sauté pan with butter and cook over medium heat until onion turns pale gold.

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2 Add the beef, pork, sausage to the soffritto, and increase the heat to high; cook until browned. Sprinkle with the clove, cinnamon, and pepper.

3 Stir in tomatoes, bring to a simmer and reduce the heat to medium. Cook over medium heat for 15 minutes. If you are using whole canned tomatoes, break them up as you add them to the sauce.

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4 Add milk and season with sea salt. Then turn down the heat and let simmer for 2 and 1/2 hours. Stir at least every 20 minutes. Whenever the sauce simmers down to the point that it is sticking to the bottom of the pan, just add 1/4 cup of water and scrape up the browned bits from the bottom and continue to cook.

 

Make the Béchamel sauce.

5 Heat the milk until almost boiling in a heavy bottomed sauce pan. In a separate pan melt the unsalted butter with the flour over low heat. Stir rapidly with a spoon. Cook this for 1 minute and then remove from the heat. (See Wikipedia on Béchamel Sauce for more information on this sauce.)

6 Slowly add half the hot milk to your butter and flour mixture. During this process stir constantly.

7 Return the milk, butter, flour mixture to low heat until the sauce begins to thicken. Add the remaining milk slowly while stirring working it into the thickened sauce. Continue to stir until it comes to a boil.

8 Season with some sea salt, and continue stirring until the right consistency has developed. If any lumps form, beat them out rapidly with a whisk until they dissolve. Remove from heat.

 

Prepare the Lasagna

9 Preheat oven to 375°F. Cook the lasagna according to instructions. About 8 minutes in 6 quarts of boiling salted water. Drain, rinse with cold water. Lay the individual lasagna noodles out on kitchen towels, not touching, so they do not stick together while you layer the casserole.

10 Spread a little olive oil around the inside of a 13x9-inch baking pan. Make sure your baking pan is non-reactive - pyrex or stainless steel. Do not use an aluminum pan as it will react with the acidity of the sauce and ruin the flavor. Put a layer of lasagna noodles down first. Layer on a third of the bolognese sauce, then a third of the bechamel sauce.

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Sprinkle with grated Parmesan. Repeat two more times. Top with a final layer of noodles and sprinkle with grated Parmesan.

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11 Tent the casserole with aluminum foil. Put lasagna into the middle rack of a pre-heated 375°F oven. Bake for 20-30 minutes, until the top begins to get lightly browned. Remove from oven and let cool 5-10 minutes before serving.

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Showing 4 of 74 Comments

  • Anne

    This sounds like a wonderful recipe. I do have to ask, however- how strong is the clove flavor in this sauce? One entire clove is used? I’m not too crazy about cloves so I’m wondering if it is simply an enhancer or if you can actually taste it. Thank you.

  • Elise

    Hi Anne – the clove flavor is not too strong. It may be discernible if you are looking for it, but more likely you would taste the cinnamon. Both the clove and the cinnamon greatly enhance the flavor of the sauce.

  • missb

    I wanted to save this for a big Sunday dinner but here I am on Saturday and I couldn’t wait. I was raised on my Mother’s fabulous All-American Cheese-Laden Lasagna and couldn’t believe how good this recipe sounded…without mozz! NO mozz? Unimaginable.

    I followed to a “t” with two exceptions: I had no pancetta, so went with good supermarket bacon (I always buy “Bar S” bacon, which is miles above the rest)and I have no patience for boiling/draining/drying lasagne noodles so used the Oven-Ready kind. This changed the layering technique (you must have sauce on the bottom and sauce on the top in order to cook the noodles) and the cooking time (50-60″).

    This was the richest and most fantastic lasagne I’ve ever had. The bechamel was heavenly. I can’t wait to share it with my Mom. She’s in for a surprise!

  • Alex

    Just wanted to say this is almost exactly the recipe my mother (born and raised in Tuscany) uses, with a few exceptions. We use beef, pork and veal in the sauce and no cinnamon, although I can’t wait to try for the addition. As for now cheese, you will find that most pastas that traditional are stuffed ro layered with cheese in the southern regions of Italy are stuffed or layered with meat in the norther regions (i.e. meat ravioli, tortelline, cannelloni, etc.). In my family we do sprinkle with a combination of Parmeggiano Reggiano and Romano cheeses – not to add a layer, just to add flavor.

    Thanks for the recipe and the mention of a cookbook that sounds like a must have.

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