For this recipe I searched many websites and cookbooks for wouth-watering lasagna recipes. I found two that I really wanted to try (here and here), so I combined aspects of both recipes to make this awesome new recipe. The sauce is so delicious – with beef, pork and bacon, plus a purée of mushrooms and onions to add a ton of flavour.
The addition of the Parmesan rind was my idea; I’ve added this to sauces before, and it also adds a lot of flavour – the rind is removed before serving, but the cheesy flavour gets absorbed into the sauce. When I use up a chunk of Parmesan I throw the rind in the freezer to use one day when I make a tomato sauce. This time I needed to buy a new piece of Parmesan, so I used that rind.
I used fresh pasta instead of the dried kind. The original plan was to make my own pasta (when do I really have time for this on top of grocery shopping, cooking everything else, and cleaning my apartment??), but the store-bought fresh pasta was just as good. It makes a much more tender lasagna than the dried-pasta version. But both work just fine.
On a subsequent day I used up a bit of extra sauce by making a lower-lactose, higher-vegetable-content version of this. I made the white sauce with soy milk, and used only Parmesan cheese, which is very low in lactose. I roasted some eggplant slices and fried some mushrooms to add to the layers. Also delicious!
This recipe is a bit time consuming, but you can plan ahead by making the red sauce a day or two ahead of time. It was so delicious that I felt it was a good use of my time.
What you need:
- 3 rashers bacon, diced
- 250 grams extra-lean ground beef
- 250 grams lean ground pork
- tablespoon olive oil
- 1 tablespoon butter
- 4 cloves garlic, finely minced
- 1/2 large onion, diced (about 1/2 cup)
- 8-10 white or brown mushrooms, chopped
- 1-796mL can tomato puree
- 1-796mL can diced tomatoes
- 1-156mL can tomato paste
- 1 bunch fresh basil (or two – yum!)
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- pinch of thyme
- 1 Parmesan rind
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon pepper
- red wine (optional)
- 3 cups milk (I used homogenized)
- 1/2 small red onion or 1 shallot
- 6 peppercorns
- pinch of nutmeg
- 4 tablespoons butter
- 5 tablespoons flour
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- fresh pasta lasagna noodles (or use regular dried lasagna noodles but cook them for a few minutes first) (the fresh ones make this super awesome!)
- 1 pound mozzarella cheese, shredded (I used less and it was more than enough)
- 8 ounces of a good quality, bold aged Parmesan cheese, shredded
What you do for the red sauce:
- Begin by making the red sauce. I cooked the sauce in a very large pot, but cooked each part of the sauce in a large frying pan before adding it. Start by adding the two cans of tomatoes and the tomato paste to the large pot and set it at medium heat.
- Chop the bacon up and add it to a hot frying pan. When cooked, drain it on paper towels. Add the bacon to the tomato sauce.
- Fry the beef and pork in the frying pan, draining off any excess fat. Stir the meat into the tomato sauce.
- Put a little bit of olive oil and butter in the frying pan, then add the chopped onion and garlic. Cook until they have begun to brown slightly, then add the mushrooms, frying until they are browned. Transfer the onion-mushroom mixture to a blender, or another container in which you can purée with an immersion blender. Add the puréed vegetables to the tomato sauce.
- Chop the basil stalks finely (saving the leaves for later) and add them to the tomato sauce, along with the oregano, thyme, parmesan rind, and salt.
- Cook the sauce on very low heat for as long as you can, adding a little red wine if it starts to get too thick. I cooked it for at least two hours, stirring once in a while, but you could get away with an hour.
- Chop the basil and add it to the sauce last. Add salt and pepper to taste.
- Let the sauce cool completely, then refrigerate until you are going to use it (unless you are cooking it right before you assemble the lasagna, in which case you can keep it cooking until you are ready to use it.
What you do for the White Sauce:
- In a medium-sized pot, heat the milk, onion, nutmeg and peppercorns to boiling. Remove from the heat, strain the peppercorn and onion out and discard them.
- Pour the milk into a measuring cup or another container with a pouring spout.
- Add the butter to the empty pot and let it melt. Whisk in the flour in and let it cook for about a minute as you continue to whisk (I just use a spatula at this point).
- Add a little bit of milk to the flour mixture, combining the milk into the flour before you add more. Continue adding the milk gradually until it is all combined and you have a smooth sauce. Cook for another few minutes until the sauce has thickened slightly. Taste and add more salt only if you think it needs it.
To Assemble the Lasanga:
- Prepare a large casserole dish by coating it with a little bit of olive oil.
- Preheat the oven to 350F.
- In the bottom of the casserole, spread 1/3 of the tomato sauce. Place a layer of the uncooked fresh pasta on top of this. Spread 1/3 of the white sauce on top of the pasta.
- Repeat this process: red sauce, pasta, white sauce.
- One more time: red sauce, pasta, white sauce.
- Now sprinkle the cheeses all over the top, to the edges.
- You will need to cover the lasagna with a sheet of foil, but here you can learn from my mistake. When I peeled the foil off, I pulled cheese off with it. So if you put a bit of olive oil on the side of the foil that will face the cheese, it will help avoid that sticking problem later on. As well, if you can tent the foil a bit, but manage to still seal the edges of foil to the pan, this can help too.
- Bake with the foil on for 20 minutes, then uncover and cook for 30 more minutes. The lasagna should become browned and bubbly.
- Let the lasagna sit for 15 minutes before serving; this way it won’t fall apart when you plate it, and the cheese will get a nice stretchiness to it.
Enjoy with a salad and a crusty piece of bread. This one makes awesome leftovers, which you can freeze if you wish.