Lasagna Bolognese (History & Recipe)

Lasagna Bolognese (History & Recipe)

Mar 09, 2024Kajo Kajevic

Lasagna Bolognese is an institution, the quintessential baked lasagna, the typical Sunday dish. This rich and flavorful dish originates from Emilia Romagna (the land of the Balsamic Vinegar of Modena), and specifically, the city of Bologna. However, baked lasagna is known, appreciated, made, and remade for holidays and not only, tasted and shared throughout Italy and abroad as an Italian symbol dish. Baked lasagna consists of layers of fresh egg pasta, seasoned with the classic traditional ragù, béchamel, and grated cheese. Of course, there are numerous and delicious variations of lasagna such as pumpkin and sausage lasagna, mushroom lasagna, mountain-style lasagna, perfect for autumn menus, artichoke lasagna for the winter and spring season, or white lasagna, without tomato, and one without béchamel. There are also playful reinterpretations like lasagna swirls with ragù. From preparation to ingredients, this recipe is the quintessence of the "richness" of traditional Bolognese cuisine, also famous for many other fresh pasta recipes and not only, just think of fried gnocco. All that's left is to prepare it and enjoy it with your family for a truly special day... for example, as the main course of the Easter or Christmas menu!

For the Green Egg Pasta Dough:

  • Semolina Flour (re-milled hard wheat): 12.3 ounces (approx. 2.5 cups)
  • All-Purpose Flour: 5.3 ounces (Type 00, approx. 1 cup + 1 tablespoon)
  • Spinach: 8.8 ounces (fresh, approx. 2 cups once cooked and pureed)
  • Eggs: 2 large
  • Egg Yolks: 3 large

For the Ragù:

  • Ground Beef: 10.6 ounces (coarse grind, approx. 2/3 pound)
  • Pancetta: 5.3 ounces (diced, approx. 2/3 cup)
  • Carrots: 1.8 ounces (finely chopped, approx. 1/3 cup)
  • Celery: 1.8 ounces (finely chopped, approx. 1/3 cup)
  • Golden Onions: 1.8 ounces (finely chopped, approx. 1/3 cup)
  • Red Wine: 3.4 fluid ounces (approx. 1/3 cup + 1 tablespoon)
  • Tomato Purée: 10.6 ounces (approx. 1 1/3 cups)
  • Vegetable Broth: As needed (start with 1 cup and adjust)
  • Extra Virgin Olive Oil: 3 tablespoon
  • Fine Salt and Black Pepper: To taste

For the Béchamel Sauce:

  • Butter: 2.5 ounces (approx. 5 tablespoons)
  • All-Purpose Flour: 2.5 ounces (Type 00, approx. 1/2 cup)
  • Whole Milk: 4.2 cups (1 liter)
  • Fine Salt: To taste
  • Nutmeg: Grated, to taste

For Seasoning:


Preparing the Ragù:

  1. Start with the vegetable broth: Keep a pot of vegetable broth warm on the stove. You'll add this to the ragù as it cooks.
  2. Prepare the pancetta: Cut into strips and then finely chop. Set aside.
  3. Mince the vegetables: Finely chop carrots, onions, and celery. Keep these ready for adding to the ragù.
  4. Cook the pancetta: In a large saucepan, heat a drizzle of oil. Add the pancetta, breaking it up with a wooden spoon, and brown for a few minutes.
  5. Sauté the vegetables: Add the minced vegetables to the saucepan. Stir and let them sauté until fragrant, about 5-6 minutes.
  6. Brown the meat: Incorporate the ground meat, increase the heat, and brown it slowly. Aim for well-browned meat that's juicy, not dry.
  7. Deglaze and simmer: Add red wine, letting it fully evaporate before introducing the tomato puree. Stir well. Let the ragù simmer for two hours, adding a ladle of hot broth periodically. Keep the lid partially open, stirring occasionally.

Making the Spinach Pasta:

  1. Cook the spinach: Wilt spinach with a bit of water in a covered pan, then squeeze out excess water after cooling slightly.
  2. Blend the spinach: Puree the spinach in a blender until smooth. You'll need 100g for the pasta.
  3. Prepare the dough: On a clean surface, mix semolina, flour, and spinach puree. Form a well, add beaten eggs, and knead into a homogeneous dough. Let it rest for 30 minutes.
  4. Roll out the pasta: Cut pieces of the dough, using semolina to prevent sticking. Roll it into thin sheets and cut into rectangles. Boil each sheet briefly, then lay them out on a cloth to dry.

Preparing the Béchamel Sauce:

  1. Warm the milk: Heat the milk in a pot until hot but not boiling.
  2. Make the roux: Melt butter in another pan, add flour, and cook until golden. Gradually add hot milk, stirring constantly.
  3. Finish the sauce: Season with salt and nutmeg. Continue stirring until the sauce thickens. Transfer to a bowl, cover with cling film touching the surface, and set aside.

Assembling and Baking the Lasagna:

  1. Layer the lasagna: In a buttered lasagna pan, start with a layer of béchamel sauce, then ragù, followed by a pasta sheet. Alternate layers of béchamel, ragù, grated Parmesan, and pasta. Finish with ragù and a generous topping of Parmesan.
  2. Bake: Dot with butter and bake at 170°C for 40 minutes. Once baked, let the lasagna rest before serving.

Store the Bolognese sauce in the refrigerator, closed in an airtight container, for a maximum of 2-3 days. It is possible to freeze the Bolognese sauce. You can store the Bolognese green lasagna in the refrigerator, covered with cling film or in an airtight container for 1-2 days. They can be prepared the day before, kept in the refrigerator covered with cling film, and cooked the next day. It is possible to freeze them, only if you have used all fresh ingredients, better if uncooked: to cook them, it will be enough to thaw them in the refrigerator about 24 hours before and then bake in the oven.

TIPS FOR A PERFECT RAGÙ: There are many variations of Bolognese sauce. If you prefer, at the end of cooking, you can add a glass of milk or a pinch of sugar to reduce the acidity of the tomato. Milk was used in the past also to soften the wild taste of the meat during cooking, but this is something that is not done or is rarely done today. 

Some people use a mix of pork and beef to achieve the right amount of fat. We recommend using, in addition to pancetta, beef flank or anyway a cut that is not too lean. 

Instead of vegetable broth, you can use hot water or meat broth. It's important to add the broth as needed.

Wait for the meat to be well browned before deglazing with wine; we have chosen red wine, but some people also use white wine.

Cooking times can also vary: we recommend cooking the ragù for at least 2 hours. You can extend the cooking time by checking it often and adding more broth as needed.

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