Depending on your perspective (and perhaps your degree of optimism), lasagna bolognese is either a labor of love or smart meal planning. We argue for the latter. Sure, it takes time to simmer down meaty bolognese sauce, whisk together the light-but-creamy ricotta filling, assemble, and bake it all, but it can be made entirely ahead of time and reheated, which is pretty brilliant, really.
Hosting a dinner party or family get-together? Lasagna's the answer. Looking for an ideal make-ahead meal to gift the exhausted parents of a newborn? Lasagna. Want to cook once and have dinner (or lunch) figured out for the next couple nights? I think you know the answer. Prep and bake it Sunday night (or whenever you have a few hours to spare), and then put the leftovers to good use.
A quick note about this recipe in particular: do not go into it thinking that this is a red-sauce-heavy style of dish. Rather, layers of supersavory beef- and pork-based bolognese are alternated with an airy spinach-ricotta filling. Yes, the bolognese has tomato paste in the recipe, which adds lots of umami oomph; no, it's not a mistake that it's a mere 1/4 cup. If you prefer a saucier take, this recipe may be more to your liking.
For bolognese sauce:
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
3 ounces pancetta, finely chopped
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1 large peeled carrot, finely chopped
1 celery rib, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, chopped
1 pound ground beef chuck (not lean)
1 pound ground pork
1 1/2 cups dry white wine
1 1/2 cups whole milk
1/4 cup tomato paste
1 1/2 teaspoons minced thyme leaves
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
3/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
For ricotta filling:
2 (10-ounce) packages frozen chopped spinach, thawed
2 (15-ounce) containers whole-milk ricotta
4 large eggs, lightly beaten
1/2 cup grated parmigiano-reggiano
1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
2 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
3/4 cup whole milk, divided
For assembling lasagna:
12 Barilla no-boil dried lasagne noodles (from 1 box)
1/2 cup grated parmigiano-reggiano
- Make the bolognese sauce: Heat the oil in a 12- to 14-inch heavy skillet over medium heat until it shimmers. Cook the pancetta, onion, carrot, celery, and garlic, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are golden and softened, 12 to 15 minutes. Add the beef and pork, and cook, stirring occasionally and breaking up any lumps, until the meat is no longer pink, 6 to 10 minutes. Stir in the wine, milk, tomato paste, thyme, salt, and pepper. Simmer, uncovered, stirring occasionally, until most of liquid has evaporated but the sauce is still moist, about 1 1/2 to 2 hours.
- Make ricotta filling: Put spinach in a kitchen towel (not terry cloth), and twist to squeeze out as much moisture as possible.
- Whisk together the ricotta, eggs, parmesan, nutmeg, salt, and pepper.
- Transfer 1 1/2 cups ricotta mixture to another bowl, and whisk in 1/4 cup milk.
- Whisk the spinach and the remaining 1/2 cup milk into the remaining filling.
- Assemble and bake the lasagna: Preheat the oven to 375°'F with the rack in the middle. Soak the noodles in a bowl of very warm water until pliable but not softened, 3 to 5 minutes. Place on a kitchen towel (it's not necessary to pat the noodles dry).
- Spread 1 1/2 cups bolognese sauce in the baking pan, and sprinkle with 1 tablespoon parmesan. Cover with 3 noodles, leaving space in between. Spread half of the spinach filling on top, then 1 cup bolognese sauce, and top with 1 tablespoon parmesan and 3 noodles; repeat. Top with the remaining bolognese sauce, 1 tablespoon parmesan, and the remaining 3 noodles. Pour the reserved ricotta mixture over top, and sprinkle with the remaining 1/4 cup parmesan.
- Cover the pan tightly with parchment paper and foil (or just buttered foil), and bake 50 minutes. Remove the foil, and bake until the top is browned in spots, about 15 minutes more. Let stand 15 to 30 minutes before cutting.
- Pasta, Main Dishes