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Lasagna is one of those things that has about as many variations as the vast number of cooks that make it. A quick search brings up a list including Chicken Alfredo Lasagna, Spinach Lasagna, Vegetarian Lasagna, Mexican Lasagna, Cajun Lasagna and even a number of dessert versions. I’m pretty sure I’d enjoy just about all of them, too.
When it comes to what people consider “traditional” lasagna, although not as many, there are certainly a number of varieties.
Most lasagna I’ve had, and made, has layers of pasta, meat, sauce, cheese and fluffy ricotta cheese (usually mixed with an egg to help bind it). I make a lasagna like this in one of two ways. Either with meat or with lots of veggies (this usually shows up in the middle of summer with goodies from our CSA).
But I also have a slightly different style that I find myself making most often. It doesn’t use the ricotta. Instead, you make a creamy white sauce (a béchamel) that makes it the ooiest, gooiest yum fest you can imagine.
And that’s my purely scientific observation.
Since it’s not a variety that most people have tried, I thought I’d share the recipe with you today.
Lasagna Bolognese with Bechamel
While you can definitely pre-cook your noodles, I usually buy the ones you can use dry that cook while the lasagna bakes. If you do cook the pasta ahead, be sure to lessen the time a bit otherwise you’ll end up with mushy noodles. And when it comes to pasta, mushy is kind of the worst description there is.
I find if I use all Italian sausage, the flavor is a bit too…sausage-y. Mixing it with ground beef adds a meatiness that makes an already hearty dish even more hearty. You could use any variety of sausage you like. Our preference is the sweet/mild version.
After browning your meats together, add your sauce. My favorite store bought sauce is Trader Joe’s Marinara. It comes in a large can, and is kind of a blank canvas…meaning it’s not heavily seasoned. I like to mix in some dried Italian seasoning, garlic powder, a pinch of hot pepper flakes and some fresh chopped basil (or a cube of frozen basil that I keep on hand in the winter). The can is a bit shy of a quart, so I add a little can of plain tomato sauce, some diced tomatoes, or even just some water, to stretch it a little for this recipe. You can use any homemade or jarred sauce you like.
Once you have the Bolognese (meat sauce) done, next up is the béchamel. Traditionally, it is a white sauce that starts by making a roux of flour and butter and whisking in milk until thick. It’s usually seasoned only with salt pepper, and sometimes a grating of fresh nutmeg. If that’s how you want to keep yours, please do. I like to add garlic and lots of grated parmesan to mine to make the most amazing sauce ever. I know it’s not traditional, but it’s so yummy I do not care.
Now it is time to begin layering.
Start with a small amount of your Bolognese on the bottom of your pan. It’s a nice buffer between the pasta and the pan.
Next, place a layer of your pasta, breaking pieces to fill in gaps as needed. And then ladle on some of each of the two sauces.
Then another layer of pasta. After the next layer of the two sauces, I sprinkle on a layer of shredded mozzarella cheese. Because…cheese.
Repeat your layers again, a couple of times. The top will be your two sauces and then another sprinkling of mozzarella.
Spray a sheet of tinfoil with nonstick spray to avoid sticking, and cover the pan tightly.
After it’s done baking, be sure to let it rest for at least 10-15 minutes–it’s worth the wait.
This is perfect served with some crusty bread and a salad. And leftovers freeze beautifully! (I’ve even frozen pans of unbaked lasagna. Just add a little time when baking and you have a quick dinner on a busy weeknight).
If you’re looking for a new twist on a classic, give this a try. Unless you don’t like cheese oozing between layers of meaty, saucy goodness and tender pasta. In that case, definitely do not make this lasagna.
If you do want to try it, here’s the recipe: