Ready to wow your guests, family or friends with the most delicious, authentic Italian lasagna you’ve ever made?!?
I prepared this classic oven-baked pasta at least one hundred times in my life… Possibly more! For dinner parties, for holiday feasts, for Sunday lunch, for potlucks at school or at work, and for countless ordinary weeknight family dinners.
No matter what’s the occasion, this lasagna will make your meal special and memorable. I have friends that still mention the time they ate my lasagna several years ago, and remember it as the best they’ve ever tasted. I’m not trying to exaggerate the comforting power of lasagna – Yes, I really believe lasagna has a special powers ;) Nor I want to brag. But seriously, this lasagna is that good!
There really isn’t any secret ingredient to it. It’s just the simple combination of amazing flavors and ingredients. The creamy and soft besciamella together with the flavorful and savory bolognese sauce makes this lasagna to die for.
Now, don’t get scared by the many steps and long list of ingredients. It’s really not that hard once you break it down in three main parts.
Start by preparing the bolognese sauce. I like to use a mix of ground beef and ground pork to make it a little more tasty. But you are welcome to use just beef, or your favorite combination.
While the bolognese sauce is cooking, you can prepare the besciamella (white sauce). This takes a lot of whisking and mixing to make it perfectly smooth and creamy. If something goes wrong along the way, don’t worry! I have a trick for you in the recipe below :)
Once the sauces are ready, all there’s left to do is juggle the ingredients together. Add some cheese and pasta at the right time, and you’ll end up with the perfect lasagna.
You can prepare it ahead of time and refrigerate, before or after baking. I recommend letting the lasagna cool down a little before cutting and serving. The besciamella can be a very soft and runny at first, and can use a little time to settle.
Depending on what you like best, you can cut and serve after about 10 minutes of baking for a soft and cheesy lasagna (photo on the left). Or wait a little longer (or prepare ahead of time and reheat at the last minute) for a picture-perfect serving of lasagna (photo on the right).
Both are pieces of the same lasagna, cut at different times. See the difference?!? And what’s your favorite?
Ingredients: to make 13 x 9 inch (33 x 23 cm) lasagna, serving about 10
For the bolognese sauce: to make about 6 cups (1.5 quart)
- half onion
- 1 carrot
- 1 celery stalk
- 2 tablespoons of olive oil
- ½ lb (225 gr) of ground beef
- ½ lb (225 gr) of ground pork
- 1 can of 28 oz ( 800 gr) of crushed tomatoes (I used San Marzano)
- 3/4 cup (175 ml) of white wine
- 1 rosemary sprig
- 1 whole clove (optional)
For the besciamella sauce:
- 6 cups (1.4 l) of milk
- 3 oz (85 gr) of unsalted butter
- 1 ¼ cup (180 gr) of all-purpose flour
- salt to taste, about 1 teaspoon
- ½ teaspoon of grated nutmeg
- 1 box of oven-ready lasagna pasta (I use Barilla)
- around 12 oz (340 gr) of shredded mozzarella cheese
- 1 cup (60 gr) of freshly grated Parmesan cheese
- 1 tablespoon of butter (optional)
Preparation time: about 2 hours
1. Let’s start by preparing the bolognese sauce:
Chop the onion, carrots and celery in small pieces. Saute’ the vegetables in a large sauce pan, over medium heat with two tablespoons of olive oil, for 3 to 4 minutes.
Add the ground pork and beef. Stirring continuously with a spoon, cook over medium-high heat for about 5 minutes, or until all the meat is browned.
Add the crushed tomatoes, white wine, rosemary sprig and whole cloves (if you use them). Salt to taste. Cover the pan, and simmer the sauce for about 50-60 minutes over medium heat. Check and stir once in a while. If the sauce is too watery, uncover the pan and cook uncovered for the last 5-10 minutes. Remove (if you can or if you like) the rosemary and whole cloves.
2. Twenty minutes before the bolognese sauce is ready, you can start with the besciamella sauce:
In a large sauce pan melt the butter with one cup of milk over medium-low heat.
Add the flour and whisk continuously, cooking for a couple of minutes.
Over medium heat, whisking more energetically, add milk half cup at a time. Whisk well before adding more milk until you get a smooth mixture (no lumps). Add the rest of the milk, salt and nutmeg. Bring it to slow boil.
Reduce the heat to the minimum and let cook for about 5 more minutes making sure to whisk often. The sauce gets dense when boiling and you need to make sure it doesn’t stick to the bottom of the pan. If too dense, add some more milk.
If by any chance you don’t end up with a smooth, lump-free sauce, don’t worry. I’ve used my immersion blender before, and it works perfectly to remove remaining little lumps of flour.
3. Preheat the oven to 375° F (190° C) and start assembling the lasagna. In an oven pan, add a couple of tablespoons of bolognese sauce for the bottom, add a layer of pasta, topped with some bolognese sauce (about 1.5 cups), about one forth of the besciamella sauce and some mozzarella mozzarella cheese.
Repeat the same layers three more times (if you can!): pasta, bolognese sauce, besciamella and mozzarella. Then on top of the last layer add the Parmesan cheese, and small pieces of butter if you’d like.
4. Cover with aluminum foil and bake for 25 minutes. Uncover and bake for an additional 10 minutes at 400° F (205° C) in upper part of the oven, so that the Parmesan cheese melts and forms a nice golden layer. If that doesn’t work with your oven you can always broil for a few seconds. Just be really careful not to burn the top
Let cool down for about 10 minutes before cutting and serving. This will allow the besciamella sauce to set a little, and not run off the plate making the lasagne too soft. You can also prepare the lasagna ahead of time, and warm it up (really hot!!) before serving. In this case you don’t need to wait before cutting and serving.