We must be very discreet about this post. If Marcella Hazan found out that I had made this utterly unorthodox lasagne (multiple times) with her classic Bolognese meat sauce, she would probably have a stroke. But the elements of a delicious dish are all here—whether they represent correct Italian cooking is another matter, no doubt. When I first made Marcella’s bolognese meat sauce, I saw her note that you can use it mixed with bechamel sauce to make her “Baked Green Lasagne with Meat Sauce, Bolognese Style.” I have tweaked the recipe to include more vegetables (in this case, Swiss chard), which lightens it a bit. (New Haven shoppers: the Swiss chard came from Stone Gardens at CitySeed’s Wooster Square market.)
But the creation of lasagne with bechamel sauce (as opposed to the ricotta-and-egg mixture that is omnipresent on American pasta boxes) has been a revelation. Perhaps people who grew up in more cosmopolitan locales than myself have always known that proper lasagne was made with bechamel instead of ricotta and eggs. But to me, this was news, crucial, magnificent news. Not that I disliked the lasagnes made with supermarket ricotta and eggs—though the cheese was always a bit squealy between the teeth, and the cooking of the eggs, I knew, produced the excess liquid in the pan. But with bechamel, the dish is transformed.
I have made it true to Marcella’s cookbook, with homemade pasta sheets, rolled out, boiled quickly, rinsed, and wrung out to dry. (If you know her book, you know she is emphatic about the only right and proper way to carry out this process.) You should make the lasagne as she suggests at least once. But when I make my giant batch of bolognese meat sauce, I have to confess, I take about one-third of the recipe, and simply mix the lasagne filling as below, and spread it between layers of uncooked, dried, commercially-bought lasagne sheets. After a day or two in the refrigerator, it is a marvelous meal that cooks in no time at all.
Even knowing how much Marcella probably disapproves, the dish is so marvelous that you will enjoy it nonetheless.
Lasagne Bolognese with Swiss chard
You will need:
- 2 heaping cups of Bolognese meat sauce using this recipe
- 1 recipe of bechamel sauce (below)
- 1 recipe of blanched Swiss chard (below)
- hard Italian cheese for grating, such as Grana Padano or Parmesan
- 1 box of dried lasagne noodles of any type
1. Depending on the size of the pans you cooked them in, mix together the meat sauce, the bechamel, and the chard in one of the pans or a large, clean bowl.This is the filling for the lasagne.
2. Butter a 13 x 9 baking pan. Spread a thin layer of sauce in the bottom of the pan. Cover completely with lasagne noodles, touching each other, but not overlapping. Spread a thin layer of the filling (about 1 cup) on top of the noodles. Grate some cheese over the filling.
3. Add another layer of noodles, and continue until you run out of sauce, ending with a thin layer of sauce on top of the last layer of noodles.
4. Cover pan tightly with cling wrap and aluminum foil, and refrigerate overnight or up to three days.
5. Preheat the oven to 400 F. Unwrap the lasagne in the pan, and place it in the oven. Cook it for 45 minutes to 1 hour, until the filling is bubbling and cooking, and the noodles are cooked.
6. Remove from the oven and grate additional cheese over the top. Return to the oven for about 15 minutes, until melted and beginning to brown. Remove the lasagne from the oven and let it rest 10 – 15 minutes before cutting into wedges and serving.
- 3 cups milk
- 4 tablespoons butter
- 3 tablespoons flour
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
1. In a heavy-bottomed saucepan from which you can easily pour the milk later, heat the milk at medium low. Let it heat up just to the point of boiling, but do not let it boil.
2. In another heavy-bottomed saucepan, turn the heat to low and add the butter. When it has melted, add the flour and stir it with a wooden spoon. Cook, while stirring constantly, for about 2 minutes. Do not let the flour and butter mixture begin to brown.
3. Off the heat, add a couple of tablespoons of the hot milk to the flour mixture. Stir vigorously, and add a couple more tablespoons of hot milk. Continue adding the milk in little dribbles like this, stirring vigorously after each addition, until you have added half of the milk. Then you can add the milk in half-cup measures, stirring vigorously all the while, until it is all added.
4. Return the pan to low heat and cook it, stirring constantly, until the sauce is not quite as thick as cream. You actually want it to be rather runny for this lasagne. It should not be thick as pudding, like some bechamel. Remove it from the heat and stir in the salt.
Blanched Swiss chard
- 2 bunches, about 10 ounces, of Swiss chard, washed in cold water thoroughly to remove all grit
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
1. Fill a large soup pot three-quarters full with water, and add the salt.
2. Bring it to a rolling boil on high heat.
3. Add the cleaned chard and stir to cover all leaves with boiling water. Cook until the leaves are bright green and chard is tender, about 4 to 5 minutes.
4. Remove the chard to a strainer and rinse in cold water to stop the cooking.
5. On a cutting board, chop the chard finely as you can.