One of my biggest culinary goals is to learn how to make my own pasta. I know that for many of you this is a challenge long-ago conquered and you don’t even give the task a second thought now. I’ve had my Kitchenaid Pasta Maker attachment for a couple years but sadly, it still sits unused in the drawer. Life happens so these goals find themselves stepping down my priority ladder. I’m confident that one day I’ll become well-acquainted with my pasta maker but until then, I’ll happily use my favorite dry pasta from Barilla (or De Cecco).
This week, my pasta of choice was lasagne. I made a large batch of Bolognese ragù recently and I was lucky to have some leftovers to freeze. Out it came from the freezer to join a simple béchamel sauce, thin sheets of Barilla lasagne, some cheese, and–voilà–dinner! All I’ll need is a nice, crisp salad to complete the meal.
This is a simple, classic lasagne. You won’t find ricotta cheese in it, although once upon a time I prepared mine with it. The béchamel sauce takes its place and takes away the clumpy texture of the ricotta which never quite blends in. I’ve probably just never used good ricotta cheese, and over time, I’ve grown to prefer the version below.
While this dish requires the separate preparation of its components, the finished product is well worth the effort for the comforting bites you’ll enjoy. The ragù leads this dish but the creamy béchamel balances, softening the former’s meaty impact while finally, the pasta provides the toothsome anchor. There’s not one flavor that dominates; they all work together quite nicely. So, if you’re just a little lazy like I am, make the lasagne out of leftover ragù so that all that’s left to make before the meal is the béchamel sauce (soon the fresh pasta, too!) before assembling the dish. This dish came together easily this afternoon, leaving me time to get a much-needed haircut (which I was lucky enough to be squeezed in for) and more importantly, to prepare this post for this week’s Presto Pasta Nights. Susan of The Well-Seasoned Cook hosts this week’s roundup. Check out both sites for great cooking inspiration.
Lasagne alla Bolognese * This made enough lasagne to fill an 8 x 8 baking dish
* Adapted from Mario Batali’s recipe here (halved in this case).
2 1/2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons flour
2 cups milk
freshly grated nutmeg
1. Preheat your oven to 375º. Boil your lasagne sheets if using the old-fashioned kind. Make sure your ragù is warm and ready and prepare the Béchamel.
2. For the Béchamel, warm the milk in a separate pan and keep at just under boiling point. Melt the butter in a saucepan over medium-low heat. When melted, add the flour and whisk until smooth. Turn the heat up to medium and cook the mixture until you get a light amber color. This will take about 5-6 minutes. I use a flat whisk and stir almost constantly to prevent uneven cooking. Add the milk in 1/2 cup – 3/4 cup increments, making sure the milk is combined well with the roux (flour and butter) before adding more. When all the milk has been added, cook for 8 – 10 minutes, stirring constantly. The sauce will thicken slowly. Remove from heat and add salt (to taste, but I ended up adding a couple of pinches) and freshly grated nutmeg (about 1/8 teaspoon).
3. To assemble, ladle some sauce into a baking dish. Grate a very thin layer of parmigiano (I also combined manchego cheese since I have so much of it right now). Place one layer of the lasagne sheets, top with Béchamel, more cheese, then the ragù. Continue with the layers (I ended up with three) until you’ve used all your ingredients, ending with a top layer of pasta, Béchamel and cheese.
4. Bake for about 40 -45 minutes. I found that covering the lasagne was unnecessary in this case since this made a smaller batch and thus, cooked more quickly.