Thursday, October 25, 2012

Gourmet: Lasagne Bolognese with Spinach

When you have company, what's the first thing that pops into your head to make for dinner?  Lasagne, right?  Heck, it's easy and filling and pretty much everyone likes it.  Except for that one picky person who has the tomato phobia.  Moving on.  Lasagne is a good dish for parties and get-togethers because it can be put together ahead of time.  This means more time for the hostess to be drinking with her friends.  And that's always a good thing.

This version of lasagne was boasted by Gourmet magazine to the BEST lasagne.  And you know when I see words like that, it's like a dare.  I have to cook the dish and either prove or disprove the claim.  And with this one, I may have to say they're on to something.  However, the lasagne turns out a little dry for my tastes (but cuts prettily!), so I like to serve it with some delicious tomato sauce on the side.  Your call.

Lasagne Bolognese with Spinach
From Gourmet: Italian Kitchen magazine

For the Bolognese sauce:
¼ cup olive oil
3 ounces sliced pancetta, finely chopped
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1 large carrot, finely chopped
1 celery rib, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, chopped
2 pounds ground beef chuck
1½ cups dry white wine
1½ cups whole milk
¼ cup tomato paste
1½ teaspoons thyme leaves

For the ricotta filling:
2 (10-ounce) packages frozen chopped spinach, thawed
2 (15-ounce) containers whole milk ricotta
4 large eggs, lightly beaten
½ cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
½ teaspoon grated nutmeg
¾ cup whole milk, divided

For assembling lasagna:
12 Barilla no-boil dried lasagne noodles
½ cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

Heat oil in a 12- to 14-inch heavy skillet over medium heat until it shimmers.  Cook the pancetta, onion, carrot, celery, and garlic, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are golden and softened, 12 to 15 minutes.  Add the beef and cook, stirring occasionally and breaking up any lumps, until the meat is no longer pink, 6 to 10 minutes.  Stir in wine, milk, tomato paste, thyme, ¼ teaspoon salt, and ¾ teaspoon pepper.  Simmer, uncovered, stirring occasionally, until most of the liquid has evaporated but the sauce is still moist, about 1 hour.

Put the spinach in a paper towel and twist to squeeze out as much moisture as possible.  Whisk together ricotta, eggs, Parmesan, nutmeg, 1¼ teaspoon salt, and 1 teaspoon pepper.  Transfer 1½ cups ricotta mixture to another bowl and whisk in ¼ cup milk; set aside.  Whisk spinach into remaining filling with remaining ½ cup milk.

Preheat the oven to 375°F with the rack in the middle.  Soak the noodles in a bowl of very warm water until pliable but not softened, 3 to 5 minutes.  Place on a paper towel.  Spread 1½ cups of the Bolognese sauce in a 13x9-inch baking pan and sprinkle with 1 tablespoon of Parmesan cheese.  Cover with 3 noodles, leaving space in between.  Spread half of spinach filling on top, then 1 cup Bolognese sauce, and top with 1 tablespoon Parmesan and 3 noodles; repeat.  Top with remaining Bolognese sauce, 1 tablespoon Parmesan cheese, and 3 remaining noodles.  Pour reserved ricotta mixture over the top and sprinkle with the remaining ¼ cup of Parmesan cheese.

Cover the pan tightly with parchment paper and foil (or just buttered foil) and bake 50 minutes.  Remove foil and bake until the top is browned in spots, about 15 minutes more.  Let stand 15 to 30 minutes before cutting.

Makes 8 servings

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