This has to be my favorite lasagna recipe. The combination of meat sauce with the béchamel makes it a sumptuous dish. If you have time to make your own pasta, it is even better. You can also use spinach lasagna as it is done in Bologna. Please, no cottage cheese in this dish.
You will need:
1 recipe ragù alla Bolognese
1 recipe béchamel (see below)
lasagna pasta, fresh or dry, if dry it needs to be cooked, obviously
lots of Parmigiano Reggiano or Grana Padano
other melting cheese for the top like provolone, Emmental, Gruyère or cheddar or a combination
1. Set the oven to 400 F.
2. Assemble the lasagna by putting a bit of ragù in the bottom to prevent the pasta from sticking, then a layer of pasta, more meat sauce, a good drizzle of béchamel and a few generous handfuls of parmesan.
3. Repeat for every layer and make sure you put enough sauce. The amount of sauce you will need depends on what type of pasta you use. If using ”no boil” pasta sheets, make sure your sauce is more liquid than usual.
4. Top with the melting cheeses you have chosen and cook in the middle of the oven until the cheese on top starts to brown. If using fresh pasta, you will need about 20 minutes. If using ”no boil” pasta, follow the directions on the package.
5. Let rest for 10 minutes before cutting and serving if you can wait that long.
The idea of infusing the milk with savory ingredients before making the actual sauce is from Laura Calder from French Food at home. Since I started to make béchamel this way, I will never go back to the bland, glue-type sauce I have had so many times before.
When I use a béchamel as a base for mac and cheese, I add one tablespoon of Dijon mustard and I replace the salt by chicken bouillon powder for additional flavor.
For the béchamel, you will need:
1 litre (4 cups) whole milk
1 onion, whole
1 bay leaf
1 clove garlic, halved
3 sprigs thyme
1/4 cup butter
6 tablespoons flour
1 teaspoon kosher salt or more to taste
4 or 5 gratings fresh nutmeg
1 big pinch cayenne
freshly ground white pepper
1. In a medium saucepan, put the milk, onion, bay leaf, garlic and thyme and warm it up over medium heat. When the milk just starts to boil, turn the heat off, cover with a lid and let steep off the heat for 20 minutes. Longer will not hurt.
2. In another saucepan over medium heat, melt the butter and add the flour. Whisk for about one minute to get rid of the raw flour taste.
3. Strain the solids from the warm milk and pour the milk into the white roux you just made. You can add it all at once and whisk well. I have never had a lumpy sauce whatever others might say.
4. With a wooden spoon stir constantly until the sauce thickens. Add the salt, nutmeg, cayenne and pepper and mix well. Adjust seasonings and your sauce is ready to use in your favorite recipe.