Lasagna Bolognese has flavor unlike any I have ever tasted. I call it non-traditional because it is not tomato based. It was a family favorite of Anthony Bourdain and it was on his home menu rotation. This recipe served as the instruction manual for my first lasagna, so that in itself was a learning experience.
Who knew, besides every experienced cook, that you don’t have to cook the noodles in advance for lasagna? It was a revelation to me that it’s because they absorb plenty of moisture while baking. These noodles turned out perfectly, with an al dente bite to them.
I also learned how to make a bolognese sauce and I learned what made this one stand out. Most bolognese call for ground chuck, but this one uses a triumvirate of chuck, pork and veal, like the best meatloaf. A mystery meat is also included. The resulting flavor is unlike any other, because of the minerality and earthiness. You can’t quite put your finger on it until you learn the mystery ingredient is chicken liver.
Bechamel is one of the five traditional french “mother sauces”, and the easiest to make. It’s a stroke of genius to substitute this for the usual cheeses because it lends a creamier, more subtle flavor profile to the lasagna.
Traditional or Lasagna Bolognese?
Traditional lasagna is made with beef, noodles, cheeses, with heavy influence of tomato sauce. This version de-emphasizes the tomato sauce, adds the liver and bechamel to achieve something very different. I plan to enjoy both versions in the years to come.
- Yield: 8-10 1x
- 3 TBL olive oil – divided
- 1 large onion – peeled and finely chopped
- 2 large carrots – finely chopped
- 3 ribs celery – finely chopped
- 4 garlic cloves – peeled and minced
- 1/2 tsp fresh thyme leaves
- salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
- 3/4 lb ground chuck
- 1/2 lb chicken livers – trimmed of fat and connective tissues – finely chopped
- 3/4 lb ground veal
- 3/4 lb ground pork
- 6 oz tomato paste
- 1 cup Tuscan white wine
- 1–1/2 cups whole milk
- 2 bay leaves
- 4 cups bechamel sauce – get the recipe here
- 3/4 cup parmagiano-reggiano cheese – finely grated
- 1 lb dry flat lasagna noodles
- 6 oz fresh mozzarella cheese – thinly sliced
- Make the bechamel sauce (recipe here)
- Heat 2 TBL olive oil in a large heavy bottom pot on medium-high heat
- Add the onion, carrot, celery, garlic and thyme and season with salt and pepper
- Cook while stirring regularly with a spatula until evrything is tender and have released their juices, about 7-9 minutes
- Stir in the livers and cook on high heat for 2 minutes, then
- Add the beef, veal and pork
- Stir and break up the meats on high heat until all the meat is browned, stirring regularly and scraping the bottom to prevent scorching.
- Add the tomato paste, stir and cook about 20 minutes
- Add the wine and bring to a boil and reduce by half
- Drop in the bay leaves, add the milk and return to a boil
- Reduce the heat to a low simmer and cook for 1-1/2 to 2 hours.
- Add water or chicken stock or veal stock as “necessary”
- Note: AB does not describe what necessary is. My experience is there needs to be enough liquid to allow for scraping the fat off the top per the last instruction, but it should not be soupy.
- Taste and adjust seasoning with salt and pepper several times while simmering
- Remove from heat, set aside to cool slightly and skim fat off the top with a ladle and discard
- Preheat your oven to 350
- Coat the inside of a 9″ x 13″ baking dish with the remaining olive oil
- Build the lasagna by beginning with a layer of bechamel, a sprinkle of shredded cheese, then noodles, and then bolognese sauce
- Repeat the process until the pan is full and bolognese is the last top layer
- Cover the bolognese with a layer of the thinly sliced mozzarella
- Place the baking dish on a baking sheet in the center of the oven and bake for about 50 minutes or until the mozarella is browning and the lasagna bubbling
- Remove and rest for a minimum of 15-20 minutes before slicing, but AB recommends resting overnight to give the flavors time to meld