Sort-of Authentic Italian Lasagna

LT isn’t particularly a fan of Ricotta or cottage cheese, but that’s what my grandmother always used in her lasagna. So, because I love my husband and want him to be happy (and was curious about lasagna), I went in search of a recipe that didn’t use either of the chunky cheeses.

Some recipes said to just use shredded mozzarella, but I did want a little more texture. Then I discovered bechamel sauce, which is the white sauce that the Italians actually use in their lasagne, along with pork. So I altered my grandmother’s already yummy recipe to use bechamel. It was wonderful. And surprisingly easy, considering I am no chef. And because I love my readers oh so much, I have decided to share the recipe with ya’ll. So enjoy!

Prep time: 1-2 hours. Cook time: 30 min. (Some people think that lasagna tastes better if it ages in the refrigerator for one day. I am not sure if that means they bake it first…)

INGREDIENTS

Ragu (meat sauce):

  • 1 lb ground beef
  • 1 lb can tomatoes
  • 12 oz tomato paste
  • 1 T parsley flakes
  • 1 ½ t salt
  • garlic salt to taste

Bechamel sauce:

  • ½ c (1 stick) butter
  • ½ c flour
  • 4+ c WARM milk
  • ¾ c shredded Italian cheese (Parmesan is the most authentic)
  • homemade Italian seasoning to taste
  • salt, pepper, parsley to taste

Other ingredients:

  • 10 oz lasagna noodles (or 10 noodles)
  • 1 lb mozzarella sliced thin (=two packages of sliced cheese)

COOKING INSTRUCTIONS

I cook the meat sauce, noodles, and Bechamel sauce simultaneously. You’ll use four burners if you have to heat the milk.

Ragu:

  • Brown the meat in a large pot.
Noodles: 
  • Boil water for the lasagna noodles.
Bechamel sauce:
  • Heat the milk on low heat until ready to use, in its own pan.
  • Melt the butter on medium-low heat in a large sauce pan (don’t use a nonstick pan).
Ragu:
  • Drain and return to pot.
  • Add other 5 ingredients for meat sauce.
  • Simmer uncovered until sauce is thick, 45 min-1 hr. (Just keep it on low while you prepare everything else. The tomato paste will soften. Stir, and it will thicken to a good consistency)

Bechamel sauce:

  • Once the butter is bubbling, brown the flour and mix it until it doesn’t smell like flour anymore, 3-5 minutes.

Noodles:

  • Add noodles and cook according to package directions. Dry on wax paper, or let dry haphazardly in the colander, like I do.

Bechamel sauce:

  • Add milk slowly while stirring vigorously to keep lumps from forming.
  • Stir slowly over moderate heat until thick. Add extra milk as needed.
  • Add seasoning and cheese to taste.

Preheat oven to 375°F

Place half of the noodles in a 9×13 pan.

Layer half of the bechamel sauce, half the mozzarella, half the meat sauce.

Finish with noodle, bechamel, mozzarella, meat.

(I like thinner layers, so I usually go the 3 layers of everything route . You have to get a bit creative with spacing the cheese and noodles, but no one has ever noticed a gap of cheese here or there)

Bake 30 min uncovered. Let stand 15 min covered with tin foil.

REHEATING INSTRUCTIONS

Heat covered (with foil) at 220°F for 20-25 min. (This is generic reheating instructions for lasagna. Maybe it’s just our oven, but 220 is way too low to heat our lasagna. We reheat portions at 350 for 15-30 minutes.)

RECIPE VARIATIONS

For a more authentic lasagna, use pork instead of hamburger and use fresh tomatoes and pasta, rather than canned or packaged.

For a less authentic (or more Southern Italian) lasagna, find a different recipe that uses cottage cheese or ricotta instead of bechamel sauce. Most American recipes use either cheese. You could also try exchanging a pre-made Ragu sauce for the meat sauce.

Have fun, and buon appetito!

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