This recipe is adapted from Marcella Hazan (via Tamasin Day-Lewis). It is simple, even if not exactly quick to make (I allow a couple of hours from start to finish) - but absolutely delicious and worth the time. I make the ragu fairly liquid, using a large can of tomatoes, so that I can use dried lasagne sheets (not the quick-cook sort) without boiling them first. They cook fine in the juicy sauce.
2 T olive oil
2 large onions
3 sticks celery
4 large cloves garlic
2 lb ground beef (15% fat, like our Pym Farm ground)
2 bay leaves
1 cup milk
1 cup white wine
1 large can (28 oz) Italian whole plum tomatoes OR in summer, about 2lb fresh tomatoes
1 box dried lasagne
Plenty of freshly grated Parmesan
For the bechamel sauce:
4 cups milk
6 T butter
6 T flour
1. Make the beef ragu: finely chop the vegetables. Saute the onion in oil in a large pan until translucent. Add celery, carrots and garlic and cook another 5 minutes. Add beef, a large pinch of salt and some freshly ground pepper. Saute until the beef is nicely browned. Add bay leaves and 1 cup milk and simmer gently for 10 minutes. Add wine and simmer until it's evaporated. Chop the tomatoes and add them with their juice. Bring to a gentle simmer (ie the occasional bubble) and cook, covered, for at least 30 minutes and up to 3 hours. Check seasoning.
2. While the ragu is cooking, make the bechamel: melt the butter in a saucepan, add the flour and stir over low/medium heat for 5 minutes or so to cook the flour. Add the milk gradually, stirring or whisking to keep the sauce smooth, another 5 minutes. Season to taste with salt, pepper and freshly grated nutmeg.
3. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.
4. Assemble the lasagne, starting with a layer of bechamel, then pasta, then ragu and repeating until your sauces are used up. Finish with bechamel and cover with freshly grated Parmesan.
5. Bake for about 40-50 minutes until the dish is bubbling and a knife slips through easily. Let stand for 10 minutes before serving with a green salad.
Simple and delicious. Serve with tomato sauce, mashed potatoes and a green vegetable.
1 T olive oil
1 large onion, finely chopped
(1 stick of celery and 1 carrot, both finely chopped - optional)
4 large cloves garlic, chopped
3 lb ground beef (15% fat, like our Pym Farm ground)
2 T dried thyme or handful of fresh, finely chopped
3 eggs, beaten
1/2 lb fresh ricotta
1. Saute the onion and garlic (and celery and carrot, if using) in olive oil over low/medium heat until translucent, not brown.
2. Tip vegetables into a large mixing bowl and add the beef, thyme, eggs and ricotta. Season generously with salt and pepper and mix everything thoroughly (with your hands is easiest) but without packing the mixture too firmly.
3. Pack the mixture into two loaf tins and bake at 350F for 50 minutes or so. After the first 20 minutes, pour off any excess fat off the top of the tins.
Note: this is a very adaptable recipe. I've made it adding a cup of leftover tomato sauce and I imagine other leftover vegetables could be added (eg cooked leeks, mushrooms). Other herbs would work well (basil, parsley, oregano) and you could add some breadcrumbs to make it go further. Leftovers are great cold in sandwiches with chutney or with tomato jam.