Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Gourmet's Lasagna Bolognese

This month's issue of Gourmet will be its last, and I felt obliged to commemorate its productive and wondrous life somehow. With the cold weather making its way to California (cold being the low 60's of course), I was inclined to make something comforting to the soul, warm to the belly and unforgettably delicious.

Lasagna seemed to fit the bill. Lasagna Bolognese, to be exact.

The beauty of this recipe is that the ingredients are simple and few, so that aside from the pasta, cheese, a few vegetables and ground beef, you may likely have most of the items at home. I went to Whole Food's to pick up these items, and I ran into a problem I didn't expect--the market didn't carry fresh pasta sheets.

I could hear my culinary instructor smiling and asking, "You know how to make pasta don't you?" Well yes, but the idea of hauling out my pasta machine from its dusty stupor and making a bigger mess than I desired didn't appeal to my lazy self at the moment.

Off I went to the dried pasta aisle, and there I stood for about 15 minutes. No-boil lasagna sheets or original lasagna sheets? Whole Foods brand or Barilla? I hated myself for the indecisiveness but eventually I made a decision (mostly based on price)--Whole Foods branded no-boil lasagna sheets. I prayed it would work, since my last attempt with lasagna (three years ago) ended in a raw and inedible failure.

What I have come to love about Gourmet over many other food magazines is that their recipes always worked.

Until now.

It was strange--I followed the recipe but the half cup of white wine never quite cooked away, even after 45 minutes. I turned up the heat towards the end but was afraid to overcook the meat so I ended up just draining away the excess. As for the second step, I only added in half the amount of liquid and was glad I did--after four hours there was still a bit of liquid left.

Their bechamel sauce didn't succeed either so I ended up adapting it with the techinque I learned in school. When all was said and done, the lasagna baked beautifully and was delicious. But as I sipped my wine, I realized I was no longer as devastated over Gourmet Magazine's decease--needless to say, it seemed as though its recipe testers didn't always do a thorough job.

Below is a recipe for success, I promise!

Classic Lasagna Bolognese
-adapted from Gourmet Magazine (with my edits)

1/2 pound no-boil dried pasta
1 cup grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese
2 T olive oil
2 T butter
1 small onion, chopped
1/2 c chopped celery
1/2 c finely chopped carrot
1 lb ground beef
1/4 c dry white wine
2 c canned plum tomatoes, seeds removed and roughly chopped
1/2 c tomato juice (reserved from the canned tomatoes)

1) Heat the oil and butter together over low heat in a pot until the butter is melted.
2) Add the onion, celery, carrot and cook until wilted.
3) Add the meat, breaking up the meat with a fork or spoon. Cook over low heat, stirring frequently. Season the meat with salt/pepper, add the wine and allow the wine to cook down until it is almost dry. If it cooks down too quickly, you can add a little more. Cook the meat until it is just barely pink.
4) Add the tomatoes and 1/2 c tomato juice. Simmer over low heat for 3-4 hours, stirring occasionally. If the tomato juice cooks off you can add a little bit of water. If you still have juice remaining at the end of 4 hours, drain off the excess.

Bechamel Sauce:
3 cups milk
6 T butter
6 T flour
1/2 t salt
1/2 t finely ground pepper

1) Heat the milk over low heat but do not boil (it should be hot enough so that your finger can only stand the heat for 2 seconds).
2) In a sauce pot, melt the butter over low heat. When it is completely melted, quickly take the pot off the heat and whisk in the flour slowly to avoid lumps. Bring the pot back to the heat, and cook for about 1-2 minutes over medium-low heat. The flour should have a slight toasty smell.
3) Gradually pour in the milk, and whisk over medium heat until slightly thickened (it should completely coat a spoon). Take it off the heat. The whole process should take no longer than 5-10 minutes. Should your sauce become too thick and gloppy (this will happen if you don't take it off the heat right away), take it off the heat immediately and pour in a small amount of milk. Whisk until it is thoroughly incorporated.
4) Cool for 10 minutes before using. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

To assemble:
Spread the bottom of a baking pan with a thin layer of bechamel. Lay the no-boil pasta sheets over the bechamel in a single layer. Spread a thin layer of meat over the pasta, then a thin layer of bechamel, and then a sprinkle of cheese. Repeat until the meat sauce is used, then cover with a final layer of pasta. Spread bechamel and cheese on top.

Bake for 45 minutes. If the top has not yet browned by this time, you can broil it for 1-2 minutes (but keep your eye on it!).

Bon appetit!

1 comment:

Chef Dennis said...

we ate bolognese all over Italy your looks wonderful...great job with the lasagna