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What prompted me to make this next recipe began with a weekly call from my auntie, Ling Mee Mee.  She usually calls to see how Lolo and I are doing and if we are eating—and fortunately, we are having full square meals.  Funny, my parents used to always ask if had eaten, no matter the time of day – it could have been 11:30 pm.  Maybe it’s a Chinese thing?  Ling Mee Mee also reported rain was in the forecast for the coming weekend – and that we needed to stay warm and dry.  After a few more questions and answers – we said our good-byes.

As I perused the farmers market veggies stalls the following day, I came across some nice over ripened tomatoes – immediately I thought lasagna Bolognese.

What better way to comfort the weekend soul – than with a big piece of ooey gooey lasagna, especially on a cold and rainy night, right?

My second thought – I had missed a dear friend’s birthday dinner last weekend.  Knowing it was late notice Thursday, I quickly called to see if her and her husband were free for a belated birthday dinner Saturday –and they were!

Chilly it was Saturday, but thankfully dry.  I knew it was going to take time to prep…take pics, cook…take pics, simmer…take pics, and probably take more pics, so I began the morning at 9:45 am.

For this special occasion, I wanted to use the 1 ½ lb wedge of 24+ month aged Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese.

Lasagna Bolognese (adapted from Mario Batali’s Lasagna Bolognese)

Serves six to eight.

Ingredients

Ragù:
2 tbs extra-virgin olive oil
2 tbs unsalted butter
1 ½ medium onions, finely chopped
2 carrot, finely chopped
4 stalks celery, finely chopped
5 cloves garlic, chopped
¾ lb beef, ground
¾ lb pork, ground
¼ lb pancetta, chopped
2 Tbs double tomato concentrate
3 whole tomatoes, peeled, seeded, and chopped
1 c milk
32 oz. beef flavored broth
½ c red wine
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Sugar, to taste (optional)

Béchamel:
2 ½ tbs unsalted butter
¼ c flour
3½ c milk
½ tsp salt

Lasagna:
*½ lb no-boil lasagna sheets
2 c freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
Butter or oil for pan

Cooking Instructions Ragù:
In a large Dutch oven or heavy-bottom pot, over med-low heat, add olive oil and butter. Add onions, carrots, celery, pancetta, and garlic, and cook over medium heat until vegetables are tender and light brown, about 20 minutes.

Add beef and pork to the vegetables, and brown over medium heat, stir to keep the meat from sticking together.

Add wine to deglaze pot, and let wine evaporate, about 2-3 minutes.  Add the tomatoes, tomato concentrate, milk, 2 cups broth, bring to a simmer, then reduce heat to low for 2½ hours until Ragù is thick and rich.  Stir occasionally.  Add an additional cup of broth after 45 mins, then the last cup 45 mins thereafter.  The longer it simmers, the better it tastes – I like to simmer mine for at least 3½ hours.  At the end I add a pinch of sugar to the ragù, to help with any acidity the tomatoes may bring to the ragù.  Skim off and discard any oils floating on the surface.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Béchamel:
Melt the butter in a medium saucepan, add the flour, and whisk until smooth.  Cook over med-low heat, whisking continuously, until the mixture turns golden brown, about 6 to 7 minutes.  Meanwhile, heat the milk in a separate pan until it is just about to boil.  Add the milk to the butter mixture, 1 cup at a time, whisking continuously until the sauce is very smooth.  Bring to a boil and cook for 30 seconds longer. Remove from the heat and season with salt.

Assembly:

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.  Brush a 9-by-13-inch glass baking dish with melted butter or oil, and layer in the following order from the bottom: ragù, pasta, béchamel, and grated cheese (saving about 1 cup béchamel for last topping), I do 3 layers of pasta, finishing with ragù, béchamel, and ¼ cup of the Parmigiano-Reggiano sprinkled over the top.

Note **I use the no-boil lasagna sheets, some are better than others.  I don’t remember the brand I normally use.  I buy my dried pasta from a small local Italian bakery.  If you use no-boil, layer with more sauce.  The no-boil will absorb more liquid than blanched pasta sheets.

Bake covered with foil for 25 minutes, then remove foil the remaining 15 minutes to allow top to brown.  The casserole should be bubbling.  Remove from the oven, allow to cool for 20 minutes, slice, and serve.

This is my all-time way favorite lasagna, and I hope it will be yours too!  I served the lasagna with a simple caesar salad – dressed with freshly made dressing and more Parmigiano-Reggiano.

Bon appetit – Enjoy!

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