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…)
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
- 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
- 10 oz lasagna noodles (or 10 noodles)
- 1 lb mozzarella sliced thin (=two packages of sliced cheese)
I cook the meat sauce, noodles, and Bechamel sauce simultaneously. You’ll use four burners if you have to heat the milk.
- Brown the meat in a large pot.
- Boil water for the lasagna noodles.
- 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).
- 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)
- Once the butter is bubbling, brown the flour and mix it until it doesn’t smell like flour anymore, 3-5 minutes.
- Add noodles and cook according to package directions. Dry on wax paper, or let dry haphazardly in the colander, like I do.
- 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.
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.)
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!