Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Old School Lasagna with Meat Sauce Gets Us Back in the Saddle

To my faithful readers and food enthusiasts alike, it has been WAY too long since my last posts and for that I owe you all an apology. I took an unexpected hiatus you see. We bought a house and then we headed off to Italy…and then to Africa and then life just seemed to get in the way.  It’s been one hell of a year folks, but I’m back and I’m hungry for more food adventures. Thought I’d kick things off again with an ode to my roots….meat sauce, cheese, pasta…mmmmmmmm oh yeah it’s my unapologetic homemade meat lasagna folks and it is a doozy!

This one is not for the faint of heart. This is a dish that oozes hominess with sweet yet spicy meat sauce smothered over al dente sheets of pasta tucked between layers of creamy, gooey cheese all bubbling over the side of your favorite casserole dish. With mother nature turning her wintery eye on San Francisco this week, I though it apt to share this “hide out on your couch cause it’s too damn cold outside” dish.

I have to give a nod to my girl, Alex Guarnaschelli, whose Old School Lasagna was my inspiration for recreating a childhood favorite.

Old School Lasagna with Bolognese Sauce
Adapted from Alex Guarnaschelli 

Bolognese Sauce:
1/4 cup olive oil, plus more as needed
1 1/2 pounds ground beef  (could mix beef, pork and veal if feeling fancy)
2 hot Italian sausage links removed from casing (optional)
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
2 carrots, rough chopped
2 onions, rough chopped
2 ribs celery, rough chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 or 3 sprigs of fresh thyme
1 big bay leaf
Pinch of red pepper flakes
1 wedge of parmesan rind
1/2 cup good red wine
5 28oz cans of tomatoes and their juices (either whole peeled or diced, or mix!)
1/4 cup whole milk

8 quarts water
2 tablespoons kosher salt
1 pound lasagna sheets, pre-cooked
1 pound fresh Mozzarella, sliced (shredded ok substitute)
1 pound shredded Parmesan

Special equipment: 13 by 9-inch baking pan

Make the Bolognese
In a large wide pot over medium-high heat, add the olive oil. Add the meat and cook until brown, about 4 to 5 minutes, stirring with a wooden spoon to break up the pieces. Season with salt and pepper, to taste. Remove the meat from the pot and set aside. Set the pot back over the heat and add a little more olive oil. Add carrots, onion, garlic and celery. Cook until lightly browned, about 5 minutes. 
 Add the wine and let simmer 2 minutes. Add the meat back to the pot, then add the thyme, red pepper, cheese rind, and bay lead. 
 Add in the tomatoes and stir to mix well. Cover slightly and simmer for at least 20 minutes but an hour or so is better (feel free to cover the pot and put it in a 300 oven to roast if you don’t want it sitting on the stove). Taste for seasoning and adjust as needed. Stir in the milk once cooking is adds a very slight silkiness.

Put together the Lasagna
Preheat oven to 350. Spoon a thin layer of the sauce in the bottom of the baking pan. Arrange a layer of pasta sheets over the sauce (make sure the pasta sheets overlap slightly).
 Arrange a layer of the mozzarella and Parmesan over the pasta and another thin layer of sauce. 
Repeat the layering process 2 more times at least. It is important there be remaining cheese and sauce for the top. Cook's Note: When you finish, there should be 4 layers of pasta and 5 layers of filling…though may very depending on depth of baking dish.
Cover the dish tightly with aluminum foil, set on top of large cookie sheet, and put it in the center of the oven. Bake for 45 minutes. Raise the temperature of the oven to 450 degrees F and remove the aluminum foil. Bake until the top browns slightly, about 10 to 15 minutes. Remove the pan from the oven and let it cool for 15 minutes or so before serving. 


  1. looks great. have been making a great spinach/mushroom lasagna recently, but this brought back fond memories, only i would have included ricotta, balancing cheeses as appropriate.

  2. Oh i love love love ricotta and use it in most of my veggie lasagnas too, but here the mellow sweetness of the fresh mozz is enough for me and holds its own against the meat sauce wihtout blending into it. having said that, a dollop of fresh ricotta on top of a slice of this would be divine!!! mmmmmmmmm