Make Ahead

The Ultimate Lasagna

January 31, 2021
0 Ratings
Photo by Rae Friedman
Author Notes

Lasagna is a food we all know and love, but I won’t lie—I find most lasagnas to be utterly flat. My lasagna starts with a full-flavor, slowly simmered Ragu, and is finished with a luscious bechamel-based cheese sauce, layered between sheets of homemade pasta.

Yes, you can undoubtedly forgo the homemade pasta, but I encourage you to give it a try. There are several benefits to using the fresh stuff in this recipe. For one, it’s texturally perfect. And two, it doesn’t need to be par-cooked before baking. So while it takes a little extra work, it saves you the annoyance of boiling each sheet.

While this recipe does take quite a bit of time, both the pasta and Ragu can be made ahead of time and stored in the fridge till you’re ready to assemble. I highly recommend making your lasagna sheets the day before, layering them between parchment, and popping them in the fridge till you’re ready to use them. This is a whole-egg pasta dough, so if you plan to wait more than a couple of days to use your fresh sheets, store them in the freezer.

As for the Ragu, expect it to thicken if you make it ahead of time. It’s not a problem if it does; keep a little extra vegetable broth on hand so you can thin it back out before ladling it over your pasta. Because you don’t need to par-boil the pasta, you will need that extra moisture to ensure your pasta cooks thoroughly while in the oven.

The pasta dough recipe is based on the Whole Egg Pasta Dough from The Farm Cooking School. I have tried a slew of pasta recipes before, and I find that one to be the most successful. The only change I have made is regarding the type of flour I use, though you certainly can use All-Purpose flour as the original recipe suggests. I love the taste and texture of the Italian Soft Wheat Flour "Type 1", though I understand All-Purpose flour is more accessible.

Note: The recipe format only allows for a two-part recipe; however, this is a three-part recipe. To compensate for the formating, the Cheese Sauce recipe has been listed as a continuation of the Ragu recipe. Please note that Lemon Juice the last ingredient included in the Ragu, and the components listed below are part of the Cheese Sauce. —Rae Friedman

  • Prep time 2 hours
  • Cook time 6 hours
  • Serves 8
Ingredients
  • Ragu
  • 1 pound Ground Beef
  • 1 pound Ground Pork
  • 1 Medium Onion, Roughly Chopped
  • 2 Medium Carrots, Roughly Chopped
  • 1 Leek, Roughly Chopped
  • 4 Cloves Garlic
  • 1 tablespoon Fresh Thyme, Stemmed
  • 1 teaspoon Dried Oregano
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons Fennel Seed
  • 1 teaspoon Smoked Paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon Chili Flake
  • 1 teaspoon Black Peppercorn
  • 2 tablespoons Tomato Paste
  • 28 ounces Crushed Tomatoes
  • 1 cup Red Wine
  • 1 cup Vegetable Broth
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons Olive Oil, Divided
  • 1 tablespoon Salt, Divided
  • 1 Parmesan or Pecorino Rind
  • Juice of 1/2 a Lemon
  • 2 tablespoons Butter
  • 2 tablespoons Flour
  • 2 cups Whole Milk
  • 1 cup Mozzarella, Roughly Chopped
  • 1/2 cup Parmesan
  • Pinch Salt and Pepper
  • Pasta
  • 4 Eggs, Room Temperature
  • 2 2/3 cups Soft Wheat Flour "Type 1"
  • 2 tablespoons Olive Oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon Salt
In This Recipe
Directions
  1. Ragu
  2. Pasta Dough: Whisk together flour and salt in a large bowl. Pour flour mixture onto a clean work surface. Using a fork, create a well in the center. Crack eggs directly into the well and add the olive oil. Break the yolks with a fork and slowly whisk together, adding small amounts of flour into the eggs as you go. Mix until a shaggy dough forms, then knead until smooth. If the dough is too sticky, add a light dusting of additional flour to your work surface. If the dough is too dry, wet your hands and continue kneading till smooth, about five minutes. The dough should be fairly stiff. Wrap tightly in plastic wrap to hydrate, and rest for at least 30 minutes.
  3. Set the pasta maker to the thickest setting. Divide dough into four equal portions, working with one piece at a time, keeping the remaining portions wrapped in plastic wrap. For perfect, full-width sheets, start by rolling the dough with a rolling pin, folding it over on itself into thirds, and rolling again until it’s nearly as wide as the pasta maker’s mouth. This lamination process will create better texture in the final product.
  4. If the dough is too tacky, dust sparingly with flour. Pass through rollers, adjusting the machine to a thinner setting with each pass. Roll until the sheet is about 1/16 of an inch thick. Once rolled to the final thickness, dust with additional flour and trim to the desired size. This recipe will yield 12, 9” long sheets. Perfect for a six-layer lasagna in a standard 9”x13” tray.
  1. Pasta
  2. Ragu: Begin by pulsing carrots, leeks, onions, and garlic in a food processor until finely chopped. In a spice grinder or small blender, combine thyme, oregano, fennel seed, paprika, chili flakes, and black peppercorn. Blitz together until the mixture is a homogenous spice powder.
  3. Meanwhile, heat 2 tsp of oil in a heavy-bottomed pot over medium heat, add ground beef and pork along with 2 tsp of salt, stir to incorporate. Using a spatula, break up the meat and arrange it in a ring around the pot's perimeter so that the center is bare. This will allow the fat to gather in the center of the pot so that the meat can take on more color.
  4. Stir occasionally as needed to promote even browning. Once the moisture is almost completely evaporated, and the meat is well browned, about 10-15 minutes, remove the meat from the pot and set it aside.
  5. Reduce heat to medium-low, add the remaining 2 tsp of oil to the pot, followed by spice powder. Stir to combine, being careful not to burn the spices.
  6. Once the spices are fragrant, add the vegetable mixture. Stir to combine, and allow the vegetables to sweat for about 10 minutes. Add tomato paste and allow to cook for one minute before adding the wine.
  7. Stir wine into the mixture, scraping up all the brown bits from the bottom of the pot, and allow to reduce for around 10 minutes or until it no longer smells alcoholic.
  8. Add the browned meat back into the pot, followed by the crushed tomatoes and broth, and the remaining tsp of salt. Allow mixture to come to a gentle boil, reduce heat to the lowest setting, toss in pecorino rinds, cover with a lid, and simmer for 3 hours. Check on the Ragu once an hour, stirring as necessary. If the sauce is reducing too much, add extra broth in half-cup increments.
  9. Once the sauce is cooked, finish with the juice of half a lemon. Allow to cool on the stove till ready to assemble. If making ahead of time, cool thoroughly before refrigerating.
  10. Cheese Sauce: In a medium non-stick pan, heat butter over medium-low heat until melted and foaming. Add flour, whisking constantly till golden, about one minute. Slowly add milk, whisking to ensure there are no lumps. Bring the sauce to a gradual boil, then reduce heat to the lowest setting and simmer until the sauce thickens. Once it reaches the consistency of heavy cream, turn off the heat, and stir in the cheese until melted and smooth. Add a pinch of black pepper and salt to taste.
  11. Assembly: Pre-heat oven to 350ºF.
  12. Start by spooning an even layer of Ragu along the bottom of a 9”x13” baking dish. Next, add a layer of fresh pasta, followed by an additional layer of Ragu, and lastly, a generous drizzle of cheese sauce. Repeat the process until all the pasta, cheese sauce, and Ragu is used
  13. For the top layer, use the back of a spoon to swirl the cheese sauce into the Ragu evenly. Top with a dusting of grated parmesan. Cover the tray with aluminum foil, and place on a rimmed baking sheet to catch any overflow that may occur while baking.
  14. Bake for 40 minutes covered, then remove foil, turn the oven to broil, and continue to cook for about 5 minutes, depending on the strength of your broiler, until the cheese is golden and bubbly.
  15. Allow to cool for at least 45 minutes before slicing and serving. Finish with additional grated parmesan, fresh thyme, and the zest of one lemon. Slice into desired size portions, garnish with a drizzle of high-quality olive oil and serve.

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