Lasagna Bolognese

Lasagne is a collated noodle dish.

Christmas guest from China

snapshot taken by our guest

My perfect lasagne would be straightforward al denté noodles framed with luscious sauce, just as lightning, seen against extravagantly swirling deep blue and grey clouds, is both dramatic and simple.

But lasagne, like life is blended, melded, and mushed. Even so, it’s delicious. Mr. Tess and Little Tess went to church on Christmas eve. They talked to a young man from China who asked if it was okay to take pictures, then invited him for Christmas dinner.

mushroom lasagne recipe 2012

mushroom lasagne recipe 2012

I’d been remembering the mushroom lasagne we had last year. It was so luxurious, flavorful, and different from the gooey cheesy version of American lasagne that I craved a just bite of it again. That’s why it was on our holiday menu…

It provides an abundant meal for guests. After the evening, I was very happy that we’d hosted such a charming, intriguing surprise guest.

Perhaps he will join us for another meal: I think the lasagne was not to his taste, but he loved the brussel sprouts which I’d parboiled then sauteéd in butter and soy sauce…

Lasagna Bolognese
lasagne with béchemel sauce

adapted from Cook’s Illustrated, published September 1, 2004
serves 12
lasagne bolognese christmas dinner

photo taken by guest, cropped

For the Meat Sauce:

  • 1 medium carrot, peeled and roughly chopped
  • 1 medium rib celery, roughly chopped
  • ½ small onion, roughly chopped
  • 1 28 oz. can whole tomatoes with juice
  • 2 Tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 8 oz. ground beef
  • 8 oz. ground turkey
  • 8 oz. ground pork
  • 1 ½ cups whole milk
  • 1½ cups dry white wine
  • 2 Tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1 teaspoon table salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground black pepper

❶ Process carrot, celery, and onion in food processor until finely chopped; transfer mixture to small bowl. Process tomatoes and juice until finely chopped.
❷ Heat butter in heavy-bottomed Dutch oven over medium heat until foaming. Add carrot, celery, and onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened but not browned, about 4 minutes. Add ground meats and cook, breaking meat into small pieces with wooden spoon.
❸ Add milk and stir, breaking meat into fine bits. Bring to simmer and cook, stirring, until almost all liquid has evaporated, 20 to 30 minutes. The meat should be broken up into very fine texture: no clumps.
❹ Add wine and bring to simmer. Cook, stirring occasionally, until liquid has evaporated, 20 to 30 minutes.
❺ Stir in tomato paste until combined, add chopped tomatoes, salt, and pepper. Bring to simmer, then reduce heat to medium-low and cook until sauce is slightly thickened, about 15 minutes. You should have about 6 cups meat sauce.
❻ Transfer meat sauce to bowl and cool until just warm to touch, about 30 minutes.

DO AHEAD: Sauces can be made up to two days ahead and refrigerated. Rewarm over stove before assembling the lasagne.

For the Béchamel:

  • 5 Tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 5 Tablespoons unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 5 cups whole milk
  • 3 sprigs of rosemary
  • 1 teaspoon salt

❶ While meat sauce simmers, melt butter in medium saucepan over medium heat until foaming; add flour and cook, whisking constantly, until thoroughly combined. The mixture should not brown.
❷ Gradually whisk in milk; increase heat to medium-high and bring to full boil, whisking frequently.
❸ Crush the rosemary leaves in your fingers, and toss it into the sauce. Add salt, reduce heat to medium-low, and simmer 10-15 minutes, stirring occasionally with heatproof rubber spatula or wooden spoon, making sure to scrape bottom and corners of saucepan. You should have about 4½ cups.
❹ Transfer béchamel to bowl and cool until just warm to touch, about 30 minutes.

Noodles and Cheese:

  • 12 sheets lasagna noodles
  • a pat of butter to grease the baking dish
  • 3 oz. Parmesan cheese, grated
  • 3 oz. Fontina cheese, grated

❶ Cook noodles very al denté. Rinse in cold water, and dry on paper towels.
❷ Toss the two cheeses together.


❶ Grease a 9 by 13-inch baking dish with butter.
❷ Adjust oven rack to middle position; heat oven to 425 degrees.
❸ Stir béchamel to recombine; mix 3/4 cup warm béchamel into warm meat sauce until thoroughly combined. Reserve 1 cup béchamel sauce for serving.
❹ Layers: Distribute 1 cup béchamel-enriched meat sauce in baking dish.

➻ Place three noodles lengthwise in single layer on top of sauce, arranging them close together, but not touching, at center of pan. Note: place noodle aligned lengthwise with the one in the previous layer: do not overlap!
➻Spread 1¼ cups meat sauce evenly over noodles, spreading sauce to edge of noodles but not to edge of dish.
➻Drizzle ⅓ cup béchamel evenly over meat sauce.
➻Sprinkle ⅓ cup cheese evenly over béchamel.
Repeat layering 3 more times.
For the final layer, cover completely with remaining béchamel, spreading béchamel with rubber spatula and allowing it to spill over noodles. Sprinkle evenly with remaining Parmesan.

❺ To bake: Spray large sheet foil with nonstick cooking spray and cover lasagna; bake at 425 degrees until bubbling, about 30 minutes. Remove foil, increase heat to 450 degrees, and continue to bake until surface is spotty brown, about 15 minutes. Cool 15 minutes; cut into pieces and serve.

DO AHEAD: You can assemble the lasagna a day ahead, keep it refrigerated overnight and bake the next day.

lasagne layersServe:

  • the reserved cup of béchamel sauce
  • chopped parsley and sliced tomato for garnish

Because the noodles were layered one on top of the other, you can cut neat cross-wise squares of lasagne, each with the pretty curly edges of the noodles along the edges. (smaller servings: cut half-squares or slices) Place a serving of lasagne on each plate, pour a little of the reserved bechamel sauce on top, and add a wedge to tomato sprinkled with parsley.


Can you see Mikey?
He is on the floor behind Mr. Tess.
His recommendation for this recipe, “meh”
— But what does he know: this is a recipe to make again!


5 thoughts on “Lasagna Bolognese

  1. Glad you didn’t tell anyone about me exploding the Pyrex pie plate with the brussels sprouts in it. Front burner, back burner; why’s it so hard to remember?

  2. What a lovely thing to do for Christmas! Lasagne and mystery guest both. I think I remember from childhood Passovers that the table was always set for one more. For Elijah? Auspicious if a stranger took that place. And what a sweet family portrait. Mikey does not want to face the camera though. Lol. And as for explosions in the kitchen, Mr Tess, cooking is all about physics and chemistry. No?

    • And Gracie made her escape before the flash…

      I hope to invite the young man again, maybe for oden which is fun to eat. Or maybe a different sort of nabe so my friend who doesn’t eat fish would enjoy the meal…

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