Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Balls-out Lasagna Bolognese

Damn near a year ago, Serious Eats posted one of the most full-boar lasagna recipes I'd ever seen.  Now, this isn't something that I'd undertake just for the Mister and I, especially considering the things pasta does to my insides.  But, last month when I was expecting a house full of hongry dudes, it seemed like the easiest way to feed a crowd without going broke.  With the notice being a little on the short side, I didn't exactly have time to hunt down some of the ingredients (lamb, veal stock, etc), so I improvised.  I had every intention of following the SE recipe (though some of the ingredients made me scratch my head), but time and funds 86ed that idea this time around.  I'm sure the full-on version is superior, but  making a few substitutions didn't put limitations a seriously delicious outcome.  Behold, y'all - the bolognese of the gods.  

Here's my improvised version, but feel free to follow the SE link above to the original recipe, too.  

  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • 2/3 lb lean ground beef (or lamb)
  • 2/3 lb hot Italian sausage
  • 2/3 lb sweet Italian sausage
  • 1 large onion, finely chopped (about 1 1/2 cups)
  • 1 carrot, peeled, and cut into 1/4-inch dice (about 1 cup)
  • 1 rib of celery, finely diced
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/4 cup fresh sage leaves, finely chopped
  • large pinch red pepper flakes (optional)
  • 1 (28-ounce) can crushed Italian plum tomatoes
  • 1 1/2 cups dry red wine (I used pinot noir)
  • 1 C whole milk 
  • 2 C chicken stock
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tbsp minced basil 
  • For the ricotta mixture:
  • 2 C fresh ricotta*
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 tsp minced basil (fresh)
  • 1 tbsp minced oregano (fresh)
     1 box Barilla no-boil lasagna noodles**
     1 lb+ fresh, whole milk mozzarella, sliced
     3-4 oz aged parmesan, shredded

*SE has a link to make your own, which seems 'tarded easy.  Or, look in the fancy cheese case at the grocery and eyeball the ingredients list for something with no preservatives.  You should really only see "milk, whey, vinegar."

**Next best thing to fresh pasta.  Trust me on this one.  None of the work and all of the texture you need in a sturdy noodle. Just soak them in warm tap water before and you're golden.  

In a stock pot or large dutch oven, heat your oil and butter until foaming, then add your meats, breaking them up with a wooden spoon as they simmer.  This shouldn't take much longer than 10 minutes.  Using a spider or strainer, remove the cooked meat from the pot without taking the oil and juices with it.  Now that you have a pot full of delightful juices, toss in the onion, celery carrot, garlic, sage and pepper flakes and simmer over low-medium heat for about 10 mire minutes.  

Return the meat to the pot, and add the tomatoes, wine, milk, stock and bay leaves.  Bring to a low boil, then reduce the heat down to low and let it simmer (partially covered) for 2-3 hours.  Remove it from the heat and allow it to cool for a spell (you could whip up your ricotta mixture while it cools), then remove the bay leaves and add the heavy cream and basil.  Now would be a good time to taste it, and adjust any seasonings accordingly - though you should really only need a little salt and/or pepper.  Now is also a good time to exercise restraint and stop eating the bolognese straight out of the pot, or telling your house guests that you're going to take a bath in it.  

Now, honestly - layer it however the hell you want.  This is a personal preference for a lot of people. My only advice is to make sure you smear at least 1/2 cup of the bolognese on the bottom of your baking dish to prevent sticking, and make the top a nice, thick layer of ragu and cheese.  Because, well...it just looks nice that way, so stop arguing and wipe that smug look off your face.  
Bake at 375 for about 45 minutes (an aliminum drip pan underneath is always advised), and let it cool for at least 10 minutes before serving.  

One of my favorite things about cooking a seriously kick-ass meal from scratch is that my husband wants to marry me again every time I pull something like this off.  But, so do all of his friends who come over for dinner - so, uhhh, be careful there, tiger.  


Jen said...

thank goodness for canned tomatoes! they are my life-saver in this never-ending black hole of no fresh food! my husband is also very thankful for my cooking; and sometimes he is so grateful he offers to cook (like tonight!)

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