Birthday Lasagna

By • February 4, 2013 59 Comments

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Author Notes: This meat lasagna doesn't have any ricotta -- instead, it employs a bechamel for creaminess. Use fresh pasta if you can find it!Merrill Stubbs

Serves 6

Lasagna

  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 cups whole milk
  • Salt
  • Pinch freshly ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 package no-boil (or the equivalent in fresh) lasagna sheets
  • 3/4 cup shredded fresh mozzarella
  1. To make the bolognese, heat the vegetable oil over medium-high heat in a large, heavy saucepan. Add the ground beef, along with a couple pinches of salt. Brown the meat well and remove it to a bowl using a slotted spoon.
  2. Add the carrot and onion to the pan and lower the heat to medium-low. Cook until the vegetables begin to soften, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for another minute. Add the tomato paste and cook for one more minute. Stir in the browned meat.
  3. Stir in the flour and then the red wine, if using. Add the tomatoes, stock and oregano and stir well to combine. Raise the heat and bring the sauce to a simmer. Cover the pan and lower the heat so that the sauce is just simmering. Cook until the meat is tender and the flavors have melded, at least half an hour and up to an hour and a half. (Add more stock or water if the sauce starts to look dry.)
  4. While the sauce is cooking, make the bechamel. In a medium heavy saucepan melt the butter over medium-low heat. Whisk in the flour, and once the mixture starts to bubble cook for another 2 minutes, whisking frequently. Don't let the mixture brown.
  5. Whisk in the milk slowly and raise the heat to bring the mixture to a boil. Lower the heat and keep whisking until the sauce turns thick and smooth, 2 to 3 minutes. Remove the bechamel from the heat, cover and set aside.
  6. Heat the oven to 350 degrees. To assemble the lasagna, spread a couple of tablespoons of the bolognese in the bottom of an 8-by-8-inch square baking dish. Add a layer of lasagna noodles, overlapping them slightly if necessary. Spread 1/3 of the bechamel evenly over the noodles, and then spread 1/4 of the remaining bolognese over that. Add another layer of noodles.
  7. Repeat until you have used all of the bechamel. Add a final layer of noodles and spread the remaining bolognese over the top. Sprinkle the mozzarella evenly over the top of the lasagna. Cover the lasagna with a sheet of parchment paper and then wrap the dish tightly in aluminum foil. Bake for about 40 minutes, until the noodles are just tender (test them by piercing the lasagna with a sharp knife).
  8. Turn the oven up to 425 degrees and remove the foil and the parchment. Return the lasagna to the oven and cook for about 10 minutes, until deeply browned and bubbling. Let the lasagna cool in the pan for 5 to 10 minutes before serving.

Bolognese

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 pound ground beef (85% lean)
  • Salt
  • 1/2 cup chopped carrot
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped onion
  • 1 clove garlic, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon tomato paste
  • 2 teaspoons all-purpose flour
  • Splash red wine (optional)
  • 1 1/2 cups canned chopped tomatoes, with their juices
  • 1 cup beef stock or water
  • 1/2 teaspoon chopped fresh oregano

Tags: bechamel, birthday, bolognese , lasagna. pasta

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Comments (59) Questions (5)

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20 days ago Cindy Vallon

My husband requested a lasagna for his birthday dinner so I made this and he was beaming with every bite. Thank you so much!

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4 months ago phinneycook

True Northern Italian lasagne. Made it tonight for dinner...fantastic. Half size for smaller households but can be doubled. Can't wait to try a veggie modification using mushrooms and spinach. And, it's easy to make!

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6 months ago Nancy

I doubled this anticipating great leftovers. It was amazing on day one. However the second day it was definitely dry and much less impressive. Lesson learned, only make what you will consume the first day. Its incredible then and people will rave.
I'll make again for sure.

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7 months ago fuhsi

Thank you, Merrill; could not have been happier with the result.
We loved the complexity and the relative dryness of this northern version.
We modified it with a fake (soy) mozzarella that holds up with a good texture, swapped rice milk for milk, and added spinach in the layers. Will add mushrooms next time - think the added moisture will be nice.

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9 months ago Stephanie G

Thank you Merrill. We enjoyed this immensely!

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12 months ago deb tysall

Made this last night, very simple, I thought the ragu was delicious, did not use the mozzarella but used a combination of pecorino, parmesan and a little cheddar, as that's what I had on hand. Would make again.

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12 months ago BavarianCook

Made this tonight with homemade pasta sheets - phenomenal. I added a little crushed fennel seed for that 'sausage-y' flavor and finely chopped a red bell pepper in place of the carrot. Thanks for a great recipe!!

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8 months ago Audrey Adkins

Do you boil the homemade pasta sheets prior to assembling the lasagna?

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about 1 year ago whmcdevitt

i never commented after i asked the question about freezing. my bad!
amazing lasagna! try the bolognese over pasta too! the best lasagna ever!

Cbfb27ea-071f-4941-9183-30dce4007b50.merrill

about 1 year ago Merrill Stubbs

Merrill is a co-founder of Food52.

Thanks!

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about 1 year ago Dina Moore-Tzouris

I've made this recipe a hundred times, and it's just as amazing the 102nd time--thanks!

Cbfb27ea-071f-4941-9183-30dce4007b50.merrill

about 1 year ago Merrill Stubbs

Merrill is a co-founder of Food52.

So glad to hear it!

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about 1 year ago linda

If I assemble, freeze then bake from frozen what temp and timing should I use? TIA.

Cbfb27ea-071f-4941-9183-30dce4007b50.merrill

about 1 year ago Merrill Stubbs

Merrill is a co-founder of Food52.

You can use the same temps, and just bake it for a bit longer at 350 (10 or 15 minutes).

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over 1 year ago Ian Brereton

Is it possible to make this vegetarian style with the Hazan tomato sauce or will it be too liquidy?

Cbfb27ea-071f-4941-9183-30dce4007b50.merrill

over 1 year ago Merrill Stubbs

Merrill is a co-founder of Food52.

You'll want something solid to provide some structure. You could add mushrooms...

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over 1 year ago crista

When a recipe calls for fresh shredded mozzarella, do they mean the white ball or the kind that comes in a block at the deli counter?

Cbfb27ea-071f-4941-9183-30dce4007b50.merrill

over 1 year ago Merrill Stubbs

Merrill is a co-founder of Food52.

In this case, the white ball!

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over 1 year ago (]Celia[)

I made this a few weeks ago and I'm still dreaming about it. Next time I'm going to quadruple the recipe, instead of just doubling. So perfectly tasty. I used regular lasagna noodles and precooked them, and added an extra layer - I'm very glad I did!

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over 1 year ago whmcdevitt

can you freeze this before you cook it? or should you cook, freeze it then reheat when ready to eat?
BTW the best lasagna I've or my friends have ever eaten!!!!! Amazing!

Cbfb27ea-071f-4941-9183-30dce4007b50.merrill

over 1 year ago Merrill Stubbs

Merrill is a co-founder of Food52.

I would freeze it assembled but uncooked, and then bake it completely from frozen -- otherwise you'll end up with soggy, overcooked noodles. So happy you like the recipe!

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over 1 year ago sevenfaces

This is my go-to recipe, it's simply brilliant! I double everything to fill my large baking dish, and I use half milk half water for the bechamel since I ran out of milk the first time I made it and no-one could tell... the bolognese makes up for it in flavour, I think it's as creamy and delicious as any lasagne I've ever had :)

Cbfb27ea-071f-4941-9183-30dce4007b50.merrill

over 1 year ago Merrill Stubbs

Merrill is a co-founder of Food52.

Glad you like it!

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over 1 year ago Tara Seeger

what is the caloric breakdown? I'm just curious if the béchamel substitution is higher in fat? I use skim ricotta normally, but am certainly willing to try this one!

Cbfb27ea-071f-4941-9183-30dce4007b50.merrill

over 1 year ago Merrill Stubbs

Merrill is a co-founder of Food52.

I don't know what the caloric breakdown is, but bechamel will certainly be higher in fat than skim ricotta, since it has butter and whole milk in it. But it's delicious!

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over 1 year ago Sarah Clark

Yes! This is the best way to make lasagna! I use veal and white wine in my ragu and slow simmer it for 4 hours. No mozzarella, though. Just Parmesan sprinkled on top of the bechamel. I also like to make my own pasta when I can, but I use the no-boil sometimes, too.

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over 1 year ago Phillip

Oops! My bad.

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over 1 year ago Phillip

Recipe text refers to ground beef but quantity isn't provided under Ingredients.

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over 1 year ago sexyLAMBCHOPx

sexyLAMBCHOPx is a trusted home cook.

Absolutely delicious. Perfect for people who prefer a non ricotta lasagna. Kept my carrots small dice. Easy and delicious. Made ahead and ate the day after. I did not use red wine, I cook for a recovering alcoholic, instead subbed an additional cup of broth with a few splashes of red wine vinegar. Tried & True! Thank you for a great recipe.