When next you’re planning to have a family Sunday dinner, I highly recommend you prepare this dish.

After last weekend’s family dinner, I discovered that I had a few quarts of ingredients left. One can only cook and eat so much queso fresco, paneer, or ricotta salata, so I made a traditional Lasagna Bolognese to use up the extra ingredients in what is arguably the least effective (but most delicious) method.

Ok, ok. Not precisely traditional, since the most authentic lasagna Bolognese is made entirely with ragù Bolognese, Parmigiano-Reggiano, and nutmeg-flavored besciamella (Italian for bechamel, which is French for “white sauce”) layered between layers of fresh pasta dyed green with spinach.


Ragù Bolognese: What Is It?

Of all beef sauces, ragù Bolognese is the king. Words like “deep,” “rich,” “rib-sticking,” “soul-satisfying,” “heart-warming,” and “yumm-o” have all been used to describe it. This ragù is all about the meat, unlike red sauce restaurants whose Bolognese is essentially tomato sauce with ground beef. It is created with a blend of lamb for flavour (ground beef works just fine), pork for fat, and veal for suppleness.

Additionally, I like to include a few chicken livers, which are customarily used in Ragù Bolognese made for special occasions.


Picking the Best Ricotta


If you don’t want to go through the trouble of making your own ricotta and you can’t find good store-bought ricotta, look for brands whose ingredient list is limited to milk, an acid or starter, and salt. Avoid using any gums or stabilizers), I’d strongly advise substituting store-bought whole milk cottage cheese.


To finish the sauce, I add a little fish sauce at the end to increase the umami, my recipe doesn’t contain anything else particularly unique. It won’t taste fishy, so don’t be concerned. When preparing the vegetables in the second stage, you may get the same effects by including a few smashed anchovies and a half teaspoon of marmite.

For the noodles, even though no-boil flat noodles are almost as good as the genuine article, hand-rolled pasta works excellently. This is because, with a 40 minute cooking time, even with fresh pasta, al dente is not the desired outcome. An excellent lasagna should have pasta that is soft, supple, and highly flavorful by the ragù’s liquid that has been absorbed into the pasta.





For the Ragù Bolognese:

  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • 2/3 pound ground lamb
  • 2/3 pound ground pork
  • 2/3 pound ground veal
  • 4 ounces chicken livers, finely chopped (optional)
  • 1 large onion, finely chopped
  • 2 large carrots, peeled and chopped
  • 3 large ribs celery, peeled, and cut into small bits
  • 4 cloves garlic, finely minced
  • 1/2 cup fresh sage leaves, finely chopped
  • Large pinch red pepper flakes (optional
  • 1 can crushed Italian plum tomatoes, preferably D.O.P. San Marzano
  • 1 1/2 cups dry red wine
  • 1 1/2 cups whole milk
  • 2 cups homemade chicken or veal stock (or 2 cups low-sodium canned chicken broth)
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 tablespoon Vietnamese or Thai fish sauce
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 cup minced basil or parsley (or both)

For the Ricotta Mixture:

  • 3 cups home-made fresh ricotta or 3 cups store-bought whole-milk cottage cheese
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/4 cup minced basil or parsley (or both)

For the besciamella:

  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely minced
  • 2 cups whole milk
  • 1/2 pound dry whole milk mozzarella cheese, grated
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper

To assemble:

  • Fifteen 4- by 8-inch sheets fresh rolled pasta, or 15 pieces no-boil lasagna noodles from 1 package
  • 4 ounces parmesan, grated on a microplane grater
  • 2 tablespoons minced basil or parsley (or both)



  1. For the Ragù Bolognese: In a large Dutch oven, heat the butter and olive oil over high heat, stirring occasionally, until the butter has stopped foaming. Add the lamb, pork, veal, and chicken livers. Cook, breaking up the meat with a wooden spoon, for 7 to 10 minutes, or until it is no longer pink. Remove from heat, move meat to a strainer in a large basin, let it drain, then return drained liquid to Dutch oven. Set over medium heat with the addition of the following ingredients: onions, carrots, celery, garlic, sage, and red pepper flakes. Cook for about 10 minutes, stirring regularly, until veggies are softened but not browned.
  2. Return the meat to the skillet, then stir in the tomatoes, wine, milk, stock, and bay leaves. Heat the mixture to a simmer. Reduce heat to low, partially cover, and simmer for 2 1/2 to 3 hours while stirring occasionally, yielding a total of 2 quarts of sauce (you may need to add excess stock while cooking if your burner is cooking it too hot). During cooking, a layer of fat could form on top; do not scrape it off. After cooking, take out the bay leaves, add the fish sauce, and then simmer for five minutes to emulsify the fat. Add salt and black pepper to taste. Remove from heat and let cool for 30 minutes at room temperature. Basil and parsley are combined. In the refrigerator, bolognese will last up to a week and get better over time. Before adding the bolognese in the lasagna, reheat until warm.
  3. Make the ricotta mixture while the ragù is cooking. Put the ricotta in the bowl of a stand mixer or food processor and blend/process until smooth. Season with salt and pepper. Add two eggs and the minced herbs, then blend or process until combined. until you are ready to use, leave at room temperature.
  4. Make the Besciamella: In a medium saucepan, melt butter over medium-high heat for approximately a minute, stirring regularly, or until foaming subsides. Flour should be added and whisked for about a minute, or until the mixture turns light blonde and begins to smell somewhat nutty. Stir in the garlic before continuing. Milk should be added steadily while whisking until completely integrated. Put on a simmer (mixture should thicken). Heat being off, stir in cheese and nutmeg until completely melted. Continue whisking as you bring the mixture back to a simmer, turn off the heat, and add salt and pepper to taste. When ready to use, set away.
  5. Preheat the oven to 375oC and adjust the oven racks to the lowest, middle, and upper positions. Lasagne noodles should be placed in a 13 by 9-inch baking dish, covered with hot tap water (or boiled water), and allowed to soak for 10 minutes. During this time, the water should be changed once. Drain in a single layer on paper towels or clean kitchen towels. Pat dry by covering with a second kitchen towel or paper towels.
  6. 1/6th of the pork ragù (or around 1 1/3 cups) should be added to the bottom of the baking dish, followed by 1/2 cup besciamella. On top of the sauce, arrange three noodles in a single layer (noodles will not quite touch each other; this is okay). Add three more noodles, 1/6 of the remaining meat sauce, 1/2 cup besciamella, and 1/3 cup Parmigiano on top. With a rubber spatula, spread half of the ricotta mixture over the noodles. Add one-sixth of the meat sauce, three more noodles, and one-third cup of parmesan cheese. Add three more noodles, 1/6 of the remaining meat sauce, 1/2 cup besciamella, and 1/3 cup Parmigiano on top. With a rubber spatula, spread the remaining 1/2 of the ricotta mixture over the noodles. Next, add 1/6 of the meat sauce, 1/3 cup parmigiano, and three more noodles. Add the remaining 2/3 cup parmesan, 1 cup of leftover besciamella, and 1/6 of the remaining meat sauce on top. At this point, the baking dish should be nearly full.
  7. To prevent drips, place a foil-lined rimmed baking sheet on the lower rack. Then, place the lasagna on the upper rack and bake for 45 minutes, rotating the pan halfway through, or until the top is bubbling and golden brown. Take out of the oven, then let cool for ten minutes at room temperature. Add some fresh herbs, then serve.


By Elijah Hughes

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