Basic White Sauce
Besciamella, white sauce, is most often associated with northern Italian cooking and is used in oven-baked pasta dishes like lasagne alla Bolognese or with vegetables or fish. It can be made ahead and refrigerated for 3 or 4 days but will thicken as it sits. To reheat it, thin the sauce with a little milk. The basic recipe does not have the addition of herbs or spices. Those ingredients should be added after the sauce is cooked and should be tailored to the dish being prepared.
Ragu Bologna Style
Bolognese ragù is the signature meat sauce of the region of Emilia Romagna. It is simmered for at least an hour to develop a complex layer of flavors and proper thickness. Cooking the ragù in a heavy duty enamel or similar pot will hold the heat steady and help to give a velvety texture to the ragù. Bolognese ragù is a classic sauce for lasagne and tagliatelle. The sauce also freezes beautifully.
Spinach flavored pasta is an integral part of making a true lasagne verdi alla Bolognese. I prefer to make this in a food processor instead of by hand because the spinach blends in more easily.
Ingredients for the White Sauce
Makes 4 cups
1/2 cup unsalted butter
1/2 cup unbleached all purpose flour
4 cups hot milk
Fine sea salt to taste
Ground white pepper to taste
Ingredients for the Ragu
Makes 4 cups
1/4 pound pancetta
1 medium onion, quartered
1 medium carrot, peeled and quartered
1 rib celery, quartered
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1/2 pound ground chuck
1/2 pound ground veal
1/2 pound ground pork
1/2 to 1 teaspoon fine sea salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
4 tablespoon tomato paste
1/2 cup dry red wine
1/2 cup milk or cream
Ingredients for the Pasta
Makes about 1 pound
10 ounces fresh spinach, stemmed and well rinsed
2 large eggs
3 to 3 1/2 cups unbleached all purpose flour
1 cup grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese
Directions for the White Sauce
Melt the butter over medium-low heat in a 1 1/2 quart saucepan; do not let the butter brown. Whisk the flour into the butter and cook it until a uniform paste is formed and no streaks of flour remain. Slowly whisk in the milk. Cook about 10 minutes, stirring slowly until the sauce coats the back of a wooden spoon. Season with salt and pepper. Add herbs if desired.
Tip: adding the milk hot will prevent bringing down the temperature of the ingredients
Directions for the Ragu
Mince the pancetta, onion, carrot, and celery together and set aside.
Heat the olive oil in a heavy duty Dutch oven type pot. Cook the pancetta and minced vegetable mixture over low heat uncovered for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Stir in the ground meats, salt, pepper, and brown them completely. Stir the tomato paste into the wine and add it to the meat mixture. Simmer the ingredients uncovered for 45 minutes, adding the milk or cream, a little at a time, to keep the mixture from sticking while it cooks. The milk also lends richness and creaminess to the sauce. The sauce should have a thick consistency.
Directions for the Pasta
Place the spinach leaves n a pot without any additional water; cover and wilt them down; this will take just a few minutes. As soon as it is wilted, drain it in a colander and when cool enough to handle, squeeze it very dry.
Place 1/3 cup of the spinach in the bowl of a food processor fitted with a steel blade. Reserve any remaining spinach for another use.
Add the eggs and pulse to combine well.
Add the flour 1 cup at a time and process until a ball of dough forms that is not tacky or sticky. You may or may not need additional flour.
Knead the dough on a lightly floured surface for two or three minutes then place a bowl over it and allow it to rest for at least a half hour to relax the gluten.
Working with half the dough at a time, either by hand or using a pasta machine, thin the dough to about 1/16-inch thick and cut the pasta into 3 by 6-inch oblongs. Cook them in rapidly boiling salted water for about 1 minute. Transfer the cooked lasagna pieces into a dish of ice water to quickly cool them down, then pat them dry and lay them on a clean towel-covered cookie sheet.
Directions for assembling the Lasagna
Preheat the oven to 350°F.
Butter a 14 x 11 x 3-inch deep lasagne pan. Spread a thin layer of the besciamella sauce in the pan. Place a layer of the pasta sheets over the sauce. Spread another thin coating of the béchamel sauce over the pasta and then a thin coating of the ragù sauce over the béchamel. Sprinkle the top with about 2 tablespoons of the grated cheese.
Continue making layers as above until all the ingredients have been used up, ending with a layer of cream sauce and a sprinkling of cheese. Reserve about 1/2 cup of the béchamel sauce and 1/3 cup of the cheese for this top layer. Be sure to spread the sauce evenly over the top layer to completely cover the pasta.
Cover the dish tightly with aluminum foil and bake for about 30 minutes. Uncover and continue baking until the lasagne is hot and the top has a nice crust.
This recipe is featured on show 2121 - Classic Bolognese Pasta.
Want More Recipes? See My Latest Book:
Mary Ann returns to her family's humble beginnings to bring us a treasure trove of more than 200 time-honored recipes.
Buy it now from Amazon for just $24.00
A Testimonial From Mario Batali:
This collection epitomizes the tradition and love that goes into all of Mary Ann Esposito's cooking. Like her award-winning TV series, this book will live on for years with all of those who cook her delicious recipes. My kids love everything Mary Ann cooks!"