So far this week, we’ve talked legendary meat sauce and fresh, homemade pasta. Now I’m throwing the two together, along with a béchamel sauce and lots of cheese, and turning it into a fabulous lasagna.
I have a confession. It wasn’t until a short time ago that I found out there was a difference between regular lasagna and lasagna bolognese. In my estimation, most “regular” lasagna recipes include layers of ricotta filling, along with sauce and some mozzarella cheese. By contrast, lasagna bolognese does not use ricotta, but instead layering noodles with a chunky meat sauce, a béchamel sauce and some additional cheese.
As it turns out, I spent the better part of my life eating lasagna bolognese. On the Sundays that my grandma served up lasagna, it never, ever had ricotta cheese in it; in fact, I was surprised the first time I had lasagna somewhere other than my grandma’s and I found ricotta! Her lasagna was a simple layering of whatever sauce she had simmered that particular day, noodles, and lots and lots of cheese. We all loved it and happily devoured it. While I will gladly eat a lasagna with ricotta, I have a large soft spot in my heart for lasagna made without it, especially when I found out this sans-ricotta version usually includes a creamy béchamel sauce. Be still my beating heart… This lasagna was made for me!
I was all sorts of inspired after seeing a recipe for this extra cheesy classic homemade lasagna over on Half Baked Harvest. I seriously wanted to jump through the screen and eat lasagna for days on end. I used her cheesy béchamel sauce and paired it with my father-in-law’s meat sauce, homemade pasta, and lots of cheese!
It made a perfect Friday night dinner and I gobbled up the leftovers for days. While you can certainly make this with store-bought lasagna noodles, there is such a difference in the taste and texture of fresh, homemade pasta. It just melds right into the sauces and the cheese; pasta perfection.
I wish I could have served this up to my grandma; I have no doubt she would have finished every last bite.
Don’t forget to grab a fresh loaf of crusty Italian bread to serve alongside the lasagna. I couldn’t imagine a pasta dish without a fresh piece of bread to wipe up all of the leftover sauce on the plate :)
Make the Béchamel Sauce: In a medium saucepan placed over medium heat, melt the butter. Add the flour and cook, whisking constantly, until the flour turns light brown and emits a nutty aroma. Slowly add the milk, whisking constantly. Once all of the milk has been incorporated, whisk in the nutmeg, and allow the mixture to come to a simmer. Once simmering, cook for 2 minutes, whisking constantly. Remove from the heat, and add the shredded provolone a handful at a time, stirring until it melts. Stir in the Parmesan cheese and season with salt and pepper, then set aside and let cool to warm room temperature.
Meanwhile, preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
Assemble the Lasagna: Spread 1 cup of the meat sauce on the bottom of a 9x13-inch pan. Place noodles in a single layer on top of the sauce (if you are using store-bought lasagna noodles, this should be 3 noodles; if you made fresh pasta, you'll probably use 2 sheets and can cut to fit as needed). Spread 1¼ cups of the meat sauce over the noodles. Drizzle one-quarter of the béchamel sauce over the meat sauce. Sprinkle ¼ cup Parmesan cheese and ¼ cup shredded mozzarella cheese over the béchamel sauce.
Place another layer of noodles on top of the cheese. Top with another 1¼ cups of meat sauce, a quarter of the béchamel sauce, ¼ cup Parmesan cheese and ¼ cup shredded mozzarella.
Place another layer of noodles on top of the cheese. Top with another 1¼ cups of meat sauce, half of the remaining béchamel sauce, ¼ cup Parmesan cheese and ¼ cup shredded mozzarella.
Place the final layer of noodles on top of the cheese. Pour the remaining béchamel sauce over the noodles and sprinkle with the remaining ¼ cup Parmesan cheese and ¼ cup shredded mozzarella.
Cover the lasagna with a piece of aluminum foil that has been sprayed with non-stick cooking spray. Bake, covered, for 1 hour. Remove the foil and bake for an additional 15 to 20 minutes, or until the top is golden brown. Remove from the oven and let stand for 15 minutes before serving. Leftovers can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.
Note: This lasagna can be assembled, covered and refrigerated for up to 3 days before baking. It can also be frozen for up to 1 month. If the lasagna was cold, bake it covered for an additional 15 to 30 minutes, checking to ensure it is heated the whole way through.