Teenage Boy was the other inspiration for this blog (as you probably guessed from the name he’s a teenage boy). As such, he embodies all of the characteristics one associates with human beings in that category. Annoying, self-obsessed, Facebook loving, Xbox playing shells of their former younger more charming and sweet selves. Fortunately thanks to the rare occasions when you can see glimpses of their former selves, you still manage to love them and look forward to the coming years when their minds catch up with their bodies and the sound upbringing they received.
Much to my dismay I had unwittingly broken one of the unwritten rules regarding peaceful coexistence with teenage boys. I ENCROACHED ON HIS SPACE! DA DA DAA!!!
My aunty being the ever gracious host she is would let me sleep in Teenage Boy’s room. He would have to take the couch. Given that the frequency of my trips to NYC had led me to purchase a little rack from Ikea to house my personal goodies, Teenage Boy was understandably not happy with the arrangement. Therefore he was set on making my time at HIS HOUSE as unbearable as possible, much as only teenage boys can do…
During these visits he began asking me to make “my lasagna”. Granted at this point I had not made “my lasagna” in over a year. The last time I had made lasagna for him was 7 years before that. It’s a recipe I learned and perfected during my time studying abroad in a little town on the outskirts of Rome. Given his persistence I caved in and cooked this lasagna.
I have to say that it was incredibly comforting for me to make it. Like riding a bike the recipe just came back to me. The beautiful thing about making lasagna bolognese is that the recipe slowly transforms, the aromas shifting, dancing from room to room through your house, saying “hi, come eat” to all those it passes by.
It was during those moments, while the bolognese sauce wafted through my aunt’s home that Teenage Boy magically put together the piece of Ikea furniture I had purchased sometime before. He didn’t even huff and puff through the process. Teenage Boy was even nice for days to come.
Once again the magical power that good food has on men was demonstrated to me.
Ragu alla Bolognese (Bolognese Sauce)
1 large onion, very finely chopped
1 large carrot, very finely chopped
1 large rib of celery, very finely chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
1 lb (450g) ground beef
2 tbsp olive oil
1/3 cup (66g/80ml) milk
1 cup (180g/240ml) red wine
1 cup (220g) tomato puree
4 basil leaves chopped
1 fresh bay leaf (or 2 dried bay leaves)
1 tsp salt (approx)*
1/2 tsp black pepper (approx)*
Olive Oil Bechamel
1/2 cup (120ml) olive oil
1/2 cup (60g) flour
4 cups (950 ml) of whole milk
3/4 tsp salt (approx)*
a pinch (or two) white pepper
1 bay leaf
Fresh or no boil lasagna sheets (about 10, but obviously depends on size of pasta)
1/2 cup parmesan cheese (parmigiano reggiano)
Serves: 4 – 6
Total time: about 4 hrs
1. In a large pot add olive oil, onions, carrots, and celery and a pinch of salt. Heat over medium low for about 10 minutes, until vegetables are relatively soft.
2. Add ground beef and minced garlic to pot. Raise heat to medium high and cook meat for about another 10 – 15 minutes until it is well browned and cooked through. As it cooks, use a fork to break up pieces of meat and fully incorporate vegetables into the mixture.
3. Add milk to meat mixture. Cook until evaporated out.
4. Add red wine. Cook until all wine has evaporated out.
5. Stir in tomato puree, bay leaf, basil, salt and pepper. (If you are unsure about the amount of S&P add less… As mom says, you can (almost) always add salt but you can’t take it out.) Lower heat and let simmer with cover on for about 90 minutes.
6. Check on pot from time to time, stirring it to make sure it doesn’t stick. Add a little water (1/4 – 1/3 cup at a time) if it looks dried out, never too much at a time because it will start to taste like beef broth soup.
7. Remove bay leaf. Add salt and pepper if needed.
Olive Oil Béchamel
1. Heat olive oil on medium low heat for about 2-5 minutes
2. Add flour. Stir until ingredients are fully incorporated.
3. Slowly whisk in milk, beat vigorously so the mixture doesn’t form lumps. (But not so much that it splatters all over the stove)
4. Add bay leaf, salt and pepper once milk is completely incorporated into oil/flour mixture.
5. Continue to whisk for about 15 minutes. It’s very important to stir frequently especially towards the end so mixture doesn’t stick and burn at the bottom of top.
6. Turn off heat once mixture thickens and completely covers spoons (see photo). The mixture should not get too thick (nothing like mash potato thick) since we are not pre-boiling the pasta. It’s the liquid from the béchamel sauce that will cook pasta.
6. Remove bay leaf. Salt as needed.
Put it all Together
1. Preheat oven to 325° F (gas mark 3, approx. 160° C) Fahrenheit, ventilated if your oven has that option.
2. Add about 1/2 cup of béchamel sauce to the bottom of a 9 X 13 inch pan.
3. Place pasta sheets on top of béchamel sauce, letting them over lap a little (no more than 1/2 inch overlap). Cup sheets if necessary so pan is completely covered.
4. Pour about another 1/2 cup of béchamel sauce on top of pasta sheets.
5. Place 1/2 of bolognese sauce on top of béchamel covered pasta sheets.
6. Cover meat sauce with more béchamel sauce, again about 1/2 cup.
7. Cover layer of meat and béchamel sauce with more pasta sheets.
8. Pour another layer of béchamel over pasta sheets.
9. Cover the above with the remaining bolognese sauce.
10. Spread 1/2 cup of béchamel on top of meat sauce.
11. Place more pasta sheets on top of mixture to cover.
12. Use remaining béchamel sauce to completely cover pasta.
13. Evenly spread grated parmesan cheese on top of lasagna.
14. Bake lasagna for about 50 – 60 minutes.
15. Remove lasagna from oven once the top is well browned. (And your kitchen smells yummy)
16. Cool for about 20 minutes before serving (this way it’s easier to cut, and less likely to burn the roofs of your mouth).
*Salt and pepper amounts are indications of approximately how much you will need. Please adjust according to personal taste and the type and brand of S&P you are using. You’d be surprised how much the saltiness changes from one type/brand to another…