Mark Bittman's version was much lighter without the ricotta cheese layer. I really enjoyed it. It was creamy and robust without the heaviness that is usually associated with this dish. My guys were happy and left the table quite satisfied. I will be adding this one to my permanent files.
Step 1. Make Bolognese Sauce. I added extra veggies and omitted the pancetta.
Bolognese Sauce (Meat Sauce)
Makes about 1 quart
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 small onion, minced
1 carrot, peeled and minced
1/4 cup minced bacon or pancetta
1/2 pound lean ground pork (or use all beef)
1/2 pound lean ground beef
3/4 cup dry white wine (or juice from the tomatoes)
1 (28- or 35-ounce) can whole plum tomatoes, drained (reserve juice, if needed instead of wine)
1 cup beef or chicken stock, preferably homemade
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 cup cream, half-and-half, or milk
Freshly grated Parmesan cheese (optional)
Put the olive oil in a large, deep skillet or saucepan. Turn the heat to medium-low and, a minute later, add the onion, carrot, celery, and bacon or pancetta. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are tender, about 10 minutes.
Add the ground meat and cook, stirring and breaking up any clumps, until all traces of red are gone, about 5 minutes. Add the wine or tomato juice, raise the heat a bit, and cook, stirring occasionally, until most of the liquid is evaporated, about 5 minutes.
Crush the tomatoes wit a fork or your hands and add them to the pot; stir, then add the stock. Turn the heat to low and cook at a slow simmer, stirring occasionally and breaking up the tomatoes and any clumps of meat that remain. After an hour or so, add salt and pepper. Cook for at least another hour, until much of the liquid has evaporated and the sauce is very thick. (This sauce may be covered and refrigerated for a day or two, or put in a closed container and frozen for several weeks. Reheat before completing.)
Add the cream, half-and-half or milk and cook for another 15 to 30 minutes, stirring occasionally; taste and add more salt and/or pepper as needed.
Classic Lasagne, Bolognese Style
Time: 45 minutes (with premade sauce)
At least 5 quarts water
1 recipe Spinach Pasta or other fresh pasta or 12 dried lasagne noodles
1 recipe Béchamel Sauce, about 1 1/2 cups
3 cups, more or less, Meat Sauce, Bolognese-Style (Ragu)
2 tablespoons softened butter (preferred) or extra-virgin olive oil
1 1/2 cups freshly grated Parmesan cheese
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
Salt, if needed
Set at least 5 quarts water in a large pot over high heat. When it comes to a boil, salt it.
Meanwhile, if you are using fresh pasta, roll it out. Cut to fit the dish. (Note that since I used purchased fresh sheets of pasta, and assembled the lasagne in advance, I did not cook my pasta.)
Cook the noodles a few at a time; keep them underdone (if they are fresh, this means little more than a minute in cooking time). Drain carefully in a colander, then allow to rest on towels while you prepare the béchamel sauce (see recipe that follows). Preheat oven to 400F
Smear the bottom of your baking pan with the butter or oil, then place a layer of noodles, touching but not overlapping. Trim any overhanging edges. Cover the noodles with about one-quarter each of the béchamel, meat sauce, and Parmesan, then with a light sprinkling of black pepper (between the meat sauce and the Parmesan there should be enough salt, but if you feel it is underseasoned, add a little salt to each layer also). Make four layers, ending with a sprinkling of Parmesan. (The dish can be prepared in advance up to this point, then well wrapped and refrigerated for a day or frozen for a month; defrost in the refrigerator for a day before cooking if possible.)
Bake for about 20-30 minutes, until the lasagne is bubbly. Remove from the oven and let rest for 5 minutes before cutting and serving. Or let cool completely, cover well, and refrigerate for up to 2 days, or freeze for up to a month.
1 1/2 tablespoons butter
1 1/2 tablespoons flour
1 1/2 cups milk
In a small saucepan, heat the butter over medium-low heat. When the foam begins to subside, stir in the flour. Turn the heat to low and cook, stirring with a wire whisk almost constantly, until the flour-butter mixture darkens, at least 3 minutes. You can cook it longer if ou would like a darker color and slightly more complex flavor.
Stir in the liquid, a little bit at a time, still using the whisk. When about a cup of the liquid has been stirred in, the mixture will be fairly thick. Add more liquid, a little at a time, until the consistence is just about a little thinner than you like, then cook, still over low heat until the mixture is the thickness you want.
Season to task and serve immediately or keep warm over gently simmering water for up to an hour, stirring occasionally.