Here at Itinerant Foodies, we’re nothing if not servicey.
When a friend asked me to share a lasagne recipe, I had the perfect excuse to pull out January’s Gourmet, an issue devoted entirely to Italian-American cooking. I’d dogeared the page with this fantastic-looking Lasagne Bolognese with Spinach, but hadn’t quite found the right time to make it; with a lazy Sunday afternoon at my disposal and a friend in need, I finally found my motivation.
Be forewarned: Despite the fact that spinach is a key ingredient, the generous use of olive oil, full-fat ricotta, whole milk, pancetta, and not-lean ground beef means that this doesn’t even remotely resemble health food.
This isn’t your typical red-sauce-and-mozzarella concoction, either— that particular cheese isn’t even on the list of ingredients. Other irregularities: The ricotta layer is spread over the top instead of being sandwiched in the middle, and the tomato flavor is minimal, but these variations don’t preclude success in the slightest.
I made a few slight changes to the original recipe, using a touch more pancetta, garlic, and tomato paste and swapping half a pound of sausage for the ground beef called for in the bolognese, as well as opting for fresh pasta (instead of Barilla no-boil noodles) from my favorite local purveyor of meat and Italian goodies.
As the lasagne baked, my kitchen smelled more and more like a trattoria, and the fifteen minutes between when the pan came out of the oven and when we could actually dig in seemed interminable. Thankfully, it turned out to be well worth the wait: Rich, satisfying, homey comfort food at its best.
Lasagne Bolognese with Spinach
Adapted from Gourmet, January 2009
¼ cup olive oil
¼ pound sliced pancetta, finely chopped
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1 large carrot, finely chopped
1 celery rib, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, chopped
1½ pounds ground beef chuck (not lean)
½ pound fresh Italian sausage, casings removed and crumbled
1½ cups dry white wine
1½ cups whole milk
1 can (6 oz.) tomato paste
1½ teaspoon thyme leaves
For 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
½ teaspoon grated nutmeg
¾ cup whole milk, divided
For assembling lasagne:
12 Barilla no-boil dried lasagne noodles (from 1 box)
½ cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
1. Heat oil in a 12-to 14-inch heavy skillet over medium heat until it shimmers. Cook pancetta, onion, carrot, celery, and garlic, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are golden and softened, 12 to 15 minutes.
Make ricotta filling:
1. Put spinach in a kitchen towel (not terry cloth) and twist to squeeze out as much moisture as possible.
1. Preheat oven to 375°F with rack in middle.2. Soak noodles in a bowl of very warm water until pliable but not softened, 3 to 5 minutes. Place on a kitchen towel (it’s not necessary to pat noodles dry).
3. Spread 1½ cups bolognese sauce in baking pan and sprinkle with 1 tablespoon parmesan. 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, and remaining 3 noodles. Pour reserved ricotta mixture over top and sprinkle with remaining ¼ cup parmesan.
4. Cover pan tightly with parchment paper and foil (or just buttered foil) and bake 50 minutes. Remove foil and bake until top is browned in spots, about 15 minutes more. Let stand 15 to 30 minutes before cutting.
•Bolognese sauce can be made 2 days ahead and chilled (covered once cool).
•Lasagne can be made 1 day ahead and chilled. Reheat in a 350°F oven, loosely covered with foil.