Lasagna alla bolognese is a traditional dish from the Emilia-Romagna region of Italy, in particular from the city of Bologna.
In Italy, it is usually prepared as a Sunday lunch dish, or as a main course for special occasions such as festivities. The main ingredients of lasagna are pasta sheets, Bolognese sauce, béchamel sauce and lots of grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese.
You can prepare the lasagna sheets beforehand yourself by following this homemade fresh pasta recipe, or by purchasing premade pasta sheets at the store.
How Lasagna Was Born?
Lasagna is considered to be one of the oldest types of pasta in the world. How do we know this? Well, let’s trace the origins of this unique pasta and the dish of the same name, back to their roots, shall we?
Attributed to have come from the province of Naples in the Campania region, historians are not 100% certain when the lasagna was first created. During the Middle Ages, however, a cookbook called Liber de Coquina contained a recipe that resembled the lasagna of today. Liber de Coquina is one of the oldest cookbooks from the medieval period and it was published around the 13th to 14th century.
Historians believe it was written by an Italian from Naples, hence the conclusion of where the recipe originated. There’s also another story that researchers have found a British cookbook, which was discovered earlier than the Liber de Coquina. They say it contained something that also resembles a lasagna recipe. But whichever of the stories may be the pasta’s true origin, most historians agree that lasagna had become one of Italy’s traditional dishes by the late 1300s.
Historians theorize though, that the original lasagna recipe didn’t have tomatoes. Why? Well, because tomatoes weren’t cultivated in Europe at that time. Their research states that tomatoes were first brought to Europe, particularly to Sicily, by Spanish explorers from South America only in the 16th century. But even though the original recipe didn’t have yummy tomatoes, it did contain various kinds of cheese.
Regional Variations of Lasagna
In Italy, you can find almost a different type of lasagna for each Italian region:
- Bolognese sauce is replaced by pesto sauce in Liguria.
- In Campania, the pasta sheets are made without eggs, the main ingredients are Mozzarella or Provola cheese, small meatballs and Ricotta Romana.
- In the Marche region, there is a particular version called “vincisgrassi“, where bigger pieces of meat are used in the sauce with the addition of chicken giblets and spices and a thicker bechamel sauce.
- In central Italy, is popular a mushroom lasagna version.
- In Veneto, the ragú sauce is replaced by red radish or Treviso.
Do you cook lasagne sheets before layering?
You can bake lasagna without pre-cooking the pasta sheets. You just need to make sure there’s enough moisture in the dish when you bake it.
How long does it take to make a lasagna from scratch?
Making a lasagna may take 30 minutes up to 3 hours. This is because of one of its time-consuming ingredient, the ragú meat sauce, that takes up to a minimum of a couple of hours to make.
How long do I leave lasagna in the oven?
It really depends on the number of layers the lasagna has. Typically you can bake the lasagna for 25 to 35 minutes while covered with aluminum foil and another 5 to 10 minutes without it.
Can I freeze lasagna?
Freezing a baked or unbaked lasagna is completely fine. If you have already baked the lasagna, allow it to cool down completely, cover it with aluminum foil and then freeze it in the same baking pan. Alternatively, you can cut it in smaller portions, and then freeze it. You can freeze an uncooked lasagna, make sure that it’s tightly covered with plastic wrap, then aluminum foil. Lasagna can be stored in the freezer for up to 3 months.
Now, after metaphorically munching on all these interesting facts, below is the recipe for authentic lasagna alla bolognese.
Authentic Lasagna alla Bolognese
- 21 lasagna sheets cooked
- 1/2 kg ground beef
- 1/2 kg ground pork
- 1 medium-sized carrot finely chopped
- 250 grams tomato puree
- 1 celery finely chopped
- 1 medium-sized onion finely chopped
- 1/2 cup milk fresh
- 150 grams white wine
- 100 grams butter
- 1.5 cups Parmigiano Reggiano grated
- 1.3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- 1 pinch nutmeg powder or freshly grated
- 1 cup water
- 1/3 cup flour
- 1 pinch salt
- 1 pinch black pepper
Cooking & Preparation:
- In a pasta pot, cook the lasagna sheets in boiling water until they’re al dente. Set aside.
- In a saucepan, heat the extra virgin olive oil in medium heat, and then add the chopped carrots, celery, and onions. Cook for about 20 minutes.
- Next, add the ground pork and ground beef. Cook in medium heat until they’re dark brown.
- Pour in the white wine. Cook until the wine evaporates.
- Add the tomato puree and water. Simmer over medium-low heat for about 2 hours, stirring occasionally. If the sauce dries up, add more water.
- When the sauce is cooked, make sure it is so thick that almost all the liquid has evaporated. Then, add salt and pepper according to your preference.
- Next, add 1/4 cup of fresh milk. This is to lessen the acidity of the tomatoes. Mix well and simmer for a few minutes. Set aside.
- Preheat oven to 200 degrees.
- Meanwhile, you now make the besciamella sauce. First, sift the flour to make it easier to mix with the other ingredients.
- Next, melt the butter in a saucepan. Once it’s all melted, remove from heat and put in a mixing bowl.
- Add the sifted flour and mix with a whisk. Make sure there are no lumps.
- Put the butter and flour mixture in a saucepan and cook in low medium heat until it becomes a bit brown.
- In another saucepan, heat the remaining 1/4 cup milk and add some nutmeg powder and a pinch of salt for flavor.
- When the milk is hot, pour it in the saucepan with the butter and flour mixture. Under low heat, mix all the ingredients with a whisk. Make sure the sauce is creamy and smooth.
- Cook for about 5 to 6 minutes, stirring frequently. Set aside.
- In a baking dish or lasagna pan, put a thin layer of the besciamella sauce on the bottom of the dish.
- Then, place a layer of lasagna on top. Take note if you set it vertically or horizontally.
- Pour another layer of besciamella sauce on top of the pasta sheets.
- Next, put a layer of meat sauce and then spread Parmesan cheese on top of that. So the layers after the besciamella sauce at the bottom of the pan should be: lasagna sheets, besciamella sauce, meat sauce, and then Parmesan.
- For the next layer of lasagna, lay it in the opposite direction so it will be in the crossed position with the previous lasagna layer. So if you placed the first lasagna sheets vertically, set this second layer horizontally.
- Repeat the layers until all ingredients are used. Just make sure to have enough sauces and grated Parmesan for the top layer.
- For the top layer, it should be the meat sauce and then the rest of the Parmesan cheese.
- Cover the pan with aluminum foil and bake in preheated oven for 25 to 35 minutes.
- Next, remove the foil and bake for another 5 to 10 minutes. Once you see a light golden crust on top, then your lasagna is perfetta.