This is one of those recipes that I have in my cookbook strictly for me. It is a manly, meaty dish that I won't even pretend is healthy for anything but your soul. If pressed hard enough, I will probably tell you that lasagna is my favorite food in the whole world, but only if it's well-made. I have tried dozens of different ways of making lasagna, including some with sausage, some with ham and chicken, some with alfredo sauce and spinach, and some that are more Mexican than Italian. Still, there is nothing greater than lasagna bolognese, a.k.a. lasagna with meat sauce. I have spent most of my life perfecting this recipe, and now I present to you one of my proudest achievements: three meat lasagna.
Heat a dutch oven or large pot over high heat. If you're going to use cast iron, as I do, make sure it is extremely well-seasoned as you are going to be boiling something pretty acidic for an hour. Once the pot is hot, add the ground beef along with a heavy pinch of salt. Stir occasionally until all the meat is browned. Drain and set aside.
Place the pot back over high heat and add the ham and bacon. Cook for 5 minutes, stirring frequently. Add the onion, celery, garlic, and carrot. Cook for another 5-15 minutes over medium heat (the time determines how soft the vegetables will be in the final product; for softer vegetables, cook them longer), stirring often.
Once the vegetables are softened, raise the heat back to high and pour in the wine, being sure to scrape the bottom of the pan. Return the ground beef to the pot, along with the herbs and cayenne pepper. Stir for 1 minute.
Add the tomato paste and chicken broth. Stir until the paste is fully incorporated. Bring to a boil and reduce the heat to medium-low. Let simmer for 45 minutes.
Once the 45 minutes is up, check on the sauce. If most of the chicken broth has reduced, take it off the heat. If it's still watery, leave it to simmer while you make the béchamel. Either way, preheat the oven to 350°. Then melt the butter in a small, wisk-safe saucepan over low heat. Add the flour and wisk to form a roux. Cook for 3-5 minutes, wisking regularly.
Raise the heat to high and add the milk, wisking constantly. Continue wisking heavily for at least 1 minute--preferably longer--while the milk comes to a boil. Once it starts to bubble and thicken, reduce the heat to low and let it simmer for another 5 minutes. Turn off the heat and then add salt and nutmeg to taste. Meanwhile, add salt and pepper to the bolognese.
When you're ready to start assembling the lasagna, it is easiest to form a prep station with all the ingredients you'll need laid out in one place. Start by spreading a thin layer of bolognese over the bottom of a lasagna dish. Then add a layer of lasagna noodles, completely uncooked, followed by another layer of bolognese.
Drizzle over this a third of the béchamel and a third of the parmesan cheese. Then add half the mozarella. Repeat for the second layer, but don't add any more mozarella.
For the top layer, make sure you use the last of the bolognese, béchamel, and parmesan. Top with the rest of the mozarella.
Bake for at least an hour (longer if you don't like your noodles al dente). Let the finished lasagna rest for 15 minutes before serving. Enjoy!
-e. magill 5/12/2011
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