I think we can almost all agree that lasagne is in everyone's top 10, right? It's comforting. Everyone's mom made it a different way, but everyone seems to have fond memories of how their mom made it. And my dear friend Rachel, a fabulous massage therapist (who has healed my aching pregnant back on too many occasions to count, bless you, Rachel!), claims it's her favorite dish of all time. And asked me to teach her how to make the ultimate lasagne from scratch.

I don't actually remember my mom making lasagne. But I do remember liking it as a kid. The first time I had a lasagne that blew me away, though, was my sister's. She was in college, I was in high school, and I was always impressed with her food. In fact, she's the real reason I started cooking. I wanted to learn to cook like her. And this was the first dish I insisted she teach me.
Lasagne alla Bolognese. Not to be mistaken with the more commonly copied version here in the U.S., Lasagne Romana. Both are fantastic and hearty and satisfying, but I tend to favor the former. The creamy bechamel, the hearty bolognese, all layered together into this dense, rich, comforting meal. It's hard not to overeat when this is for dinner. I did try. I kept finding myself going back for more, though.

Of course I can't really claim it's the ultimate lasagne, and somehow it always turns out better when my sister makes it, but it's one I'm proud of. And after all these years, I've yet to find a recipe that I like better.

Lasagne alla Bolognese
makes 1 9x13 inch pan, however many people you think that'll serve;)
1 box no-boil lasagna noodles (I use Barilla brand)*
2-1/2 C grated mozzarella cheese
1 C finely grated parmigiano reggiano cheese

for the Bolognese sauce:
2 cans crushed tomatoes
1 medium yellow onion, chopped fine (
I use my food processor)
equal amount of carrots, chopped fine
1~2 stalks celery, chopped fine
4-5 cloves of garlic, minced (optional)
vegetable or olive oil
1 lb lean ground beef
1/2 C red wine (optional)

for the Béchamel sauce:
3 T butter
3 T flour
3 C milk
1/4 onion, chopped fine
salt & pepper to taste
1/8 t grated nutmeg (optional)
  1. For the Bolognese: In a large pot, cook onions, garlic, celery and carrots on medium-high heat until soft and slightly browned, stirring constantly. Once cooked, add beef, breaking up as you go. Cook through. Add red wine, if using, and cook until completely evaporated. Add the crushed tomatoes, and cook, stirring constantly, until slightly thickened. Let simmer for 30~45 minutes at least. Longer, if you have time. The longer it simmers, the deeper the flavor.
  2. For the Béchamel: In a medium pot, melt butter and cook onions until soft. Add flour and stir constantly. Add milk gradually and stir quickly and make sure no lumps form. Add salt and pepper and nutmeg and combine. Keep cooking until sauce thickens. Set aside.
  3. In a 9x13 inch pan, pour a layer of Bolognese sauce on the bottom. Layer with 3 pieces of lasagna noodles. Top with Béchamel and 1/3 of the cheese. Place 3 more pieces of noodles. Repeat until no noodles are left. I put a combination of Bolognese & Bechamel with left over cheese on the top layer (because my husband insists that we have Bolognese on top).
  4. Bake at 375° for 45 minutes. Take the foil off and let bake for another 10~15 minutes until the cheese is bubbling and browned. Pull out of the oven and let cool for 15 minutes before serving.
* I do realize that using boxed, no-boil noodles takes away from the "made from scratch"-ness of the dish, so if you'd like, by all means make your own homemade noodles. I figure lasagne is a time consuming enough dish that we can cheat with 1 ingredient;)