Bryan had been visiting his family in the northeast for the past two weeks or so, and since he was going to get home just in time for dinner, I decided to splurge and make him his all-time favorite meal: lasagne. However, I couldn’t just make a traditional lasagne, as delicious as it is. That would be too predictable. So I did a little googling, found a wonderful béchamel sauce from Mario Batali, and decided to go about changing up the traditional meat filling. I combined my favorite flavors of Italy and the Middle East, and it turned out “amazing” (Bryan’s words, not mine).
1 box Barilla no-boil flat lasagna noodles
15 sage leaves
1 c freshly grated parmesan cheese
1 lb bag grated mixed Italian cheese
3 stalks celery with leaves, chopped
2 small carrots, chopped
1 large shallot, minced
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 T fresh sage, chopped
2 T fresh rosemary, chopped
1 lb ground lamb
28 oz fire roasted crushed tomatoes
6 oz tomato paste
1 c red wine (I used a sweet Merlot)
2 T Worcestershire sauce
1 T kosher salt
1/2 t celery salt
1 t turmeric
1/2 t freshly grated nutmeg
1 T dried minced onion
4 c whole milk
5 T unsalted butter
4 T all-purpose flour
1/2 t freshly grated nutmeg
2 t salt
Over medium heat, sauté celery, carrots, garlic, and shallots in a healthy drizzle of olive oil until fragrant.
When choosing a wine, a sweet red really compliments the lamb and brings a fruity undertone that I loved. I used a super cheap bottle of Merlot, and it worked perfectly. Let simmer, stirring every fifteen minutes or so, for an hour and a half. The consistency should be thick, with most of the liquid evaporated.
The béchamel sauce takes about twenty minutes to make, so when the ragú is nearing the thickness you want, go ahead and start this sauce. I’ll go ahead and warn you, you need to set aside a solid twenty minutes for the sauce, because once you start it, you really can’t walk away or it’ll scorch.
With that said, go ahead and melt your butter over med-low heat in a heavy-bottomed saucepan. While that’s melting, pour your milk into a smaller saucepan and heat until not quite boiling.
Once the butter has melted, whisk in flour, and keep whisking until it takes on a light golden-brown color and smells kind of nutty. You’ve now made a roux. Whisk your hot milk into the roux, one cup at a time, and keep whisking until it is very smooth. The first cup or two will give you an immediately clumpy sauce, but keep whisking vigorously, and it’ll smooth out. Bring your roux and milk to a boil, and stir constantly for ten minutes. The sauce really wants to stick to the bottom of the pan and take on a nasty burned flavor, so you have to keep it moving so it doesn’t have a chance to stick.
Now we get to assemble the lasagne! Preheat your oven to 350°F, and get out a deep baking dish.
Now add half the parmesan cheese, and half the mixed Italian cheeses. You can really use whatever cheese you want, but I decided to give myself a break with the grating. Repeat with the second layer, cover with aluminum foil, and bake for 50 minutes. For the last 7 minutes, take off the foil, crank the oven up to 400°F, and let the cheese get brown and bubbly. Remove from the oven, and let cool for 10 minutes.
While the lasagne is cooling, go ahead and crisp up some sage leaves. I used about 12 leaves. Wash and dry them thoroughly, and heat a pan to med-high heat with a good drizzle of grapeseed oil. Once the oil is hot (test with the edge of a leaf–it should sizzle on impact) drop in your leaves in an even layer across the pan. Flip after about 30 seconds, cook on the other side for 30 seconds, and put on a plate lined with paper towels to drain. Just before serving, add your sage leaves to the top of your lasagne, decorating however you want.