A well-structured casserole dish that’s filled with baked lasagne is a recipe that is thoroughly rewarding, and this particular one from Food 52 is as well because you are able to cook with slight supervision, feed a table full of people with a hefty portion size, and even reheat it later in the week with it being as delicious as ever.
1 pound of ground beef (at least 90% fat)
2-3 tablespoons of extra-virgin olive oil
3 ounces of pancetta or freshly-sliced bacon, cut into ⅛ in. pieces
1 large stalk of celery, cut into ⅛ in. pieces
1 medium-sized yellow onion, cut into ⅛ in. pieces
1 large carrot, cut into ⅛ in. pieces
8 cloves of garlic, grated finely
2 bay leaves, dried
1 ½ teaspoons of dried oregano
½ teaspoons of red pepper flakes
⅛ teaspoons of freshly ground nutmeg
Kosher salt, to taste
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
¼ cup of tomato paste (double-concentrated)
1 cup of dry white wine
2 28-ounce cans of whole peeled tomatoes
3 large sprigs of basil leaves
1 large rind of parmesan cheese
1 pound of dried lasagna noodles
2 cups of whole-milk ricotta cheese
1 ¼ cups of grated parmesan cheese
8 ounces of whole-milk mozzarella cheese
- Begin by placing your ground beef into a large bowl and then shred it with forks, breaking up any clumps without compacting it. Set this aside for later.
- Next, heat your vegetable oil in a large heavy pot or Dutch oven over medium-high and cook the pancetta while stirring occasionally. Cook this until the fat has rendered and is golden brown on all sides; this should take about 5-7 minutes. Afterward, use a slotted spoon to transfer the pancetta to a large bowl while also leaving the fat in the pot.
- In the same pot, spread the beef out into an even layer, and cook it for about 3 minutes until it’s lightly browned. Then, toss it and continue to cook it, break up any clumps, and scrape any remaining brown bits and pieces from the pot. Continue this until the meat is lightly browned on both sides (about 5-6 minutes), and then transfer the meat into the pancetta bowl while you leave the fat in the pot.
- Next, reduce your heat to medium and cook your carrot, onion, celery, half of the garlic, bay leaves, oregano, red pepper flakes, and nutmeg along with 2 teaspoons salt and ¼ teaspoon of pepper, and stir the pot occasionally, cooking until it’s all tender but not fully browned (6-8 minutes). Afterward, add the tomato pasteand continue to cook it while stirring constantly until it’s fragrant and rustic red in coloration (approximately 2 minutes).
- Then, add the dry wine, stirring it to combine, and bring it all to a boil until it’s reduced, very thick and no smell of alcohol remains (about 6-8 minutes). Add your tomatoes and bring it back to a boil, reduce to low, and add in the basil and parmesan rind. Simmer while stirring occasionally until most has evaporated away and the mixture resembles a sloppy joe-like mixture. This can take about 2½ hours. While it’s cooking, there shouldn’t be any rapid bubbles; instead, the ragù should release the occasional small bubbles. Try to cook this on a small burner, if available, and if the ragù reduced too quickly, you can always add ½ cup of stock and continue cooking. Be sure to repeat this process if necessary.
- After your ragù has finished cooking, discard the bay leaf, basil, and parmesan rind from the pot, and use the back of a spoon to break up any remaining clumps of meat, making an even-textured sauce. Season it all with salt, and set it aside until it’s ready to assemble.
- Arrange a rack in the center of your oven, preheating it to 350°F. Cook your lasagne in a large pot of boiling salted water, stir them occasionally, and separate them so that they don’t stick to one another. Transfer the noodles to a large bowl of cold water, and set aside. Next, whisk together your ricotta, parmesan, the remaining garlic, and 2 teaspoons of salt in a medium-sized bowl until it’s thoroughly combined. Set this aside.
- Take a 9×13-inch glass or ceramic baking dish and lightly oil it. Then, spread about 1 cup of ragù on the bottom of the dish evenly, lay a single layer of lasagne atop the ragù, (5 short noodles or 3 long ones), spread 1 ⅓ cups of ragù over noodles, then add a dollop of the ⅓ cup ricotta mixture over the ragù, and spread it slightly with a small offset spatula. Sprinkle the top with about ½ cup of mozzarella.
- Repeat this ordered process with the remaining ragù, lasagne, ricotta mixture, and mozzarella, and create 4 layers of pasta (or 5, depending on the depth of your pan. It should end and come just above the top of the dish, but as it cooks it will sink slightly with the top layer of pasta getting super crunchy when baked. Top it off with the remaining ¼ cup of parmesan.
- Cover the dish with a lightly-oiled piece of aluminum foil and set it atop on a rimmed baking sheet (to catch any falling drips). Bake the lasagna until it’s bubbling gently around the edges (about 1 hour).
- Remove it from the oven and increase your oven’s temperature to 425°F, uncover the lasagne, and continue to bake until the top is browned and crisp around the edges (15-20 minutes).
- Let it sit for 10 minutes before slicing into the dish, serve, and enjoy!
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