Although we tested three different Bolognese-style lasagnas with creamy béchamel sauce, we decided that the definitive lasagna had to have tomato sauce, chunks of meat, shredded mozzarella and creamy ricotta cheese.
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 pound ground beef chuck
1/2 pound ground sirloin
4 teaspoons minced garlic
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano, crumbled
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
2 tablespoons tomato paste
Two 28-ounce cans Italian peeled tomatoes, finely chopped, juices reserved
One 28-ounce can tomato puree
2 cups chicken stock or low-sodium broth
2 bay leaves
6 thyme sprigs, tied together with kitchen string
Pinch of sugar
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1 1/2 pounds sweet Italian sausage, casings removed
In a large enameled cast-iron casserole, heat the olive oil until shimmering. Add the chuck and sirloin and cook over moderately high heat, breaking up the meat into large chunks, until no pink remains. Add the garlic, oregano and crushed red pepper and cook until fragrant. Stir in the tomato paste and cook until the meat is coated. Add the tomatoes and their juices and the tomato puree along with the chicken stock, bay leaves, thyme and sugar. Season with salt and pepper and bring to a boil. Simmer over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until thickened and reduced to 8 cups, about 1 1/2 hours. Remove the bay leaves and thyme sprigs.
Meanwhile, heat a large skillet. Add the sausage meat in large pieces and cook over moderately high heat until browned and just cooked through, about 10 minutes. Drain the sausage and break it into 1/2-inch pieces.
In a large bowl, combine the ricotta with the parsley, basil and 1/4 cup of the Parmesan. Add two-thirds of the shredded mozzarella and season with salt and pepper. Beat in the egg.
Cook the lasagna noodles in a large pot of boiling salted water, stirring occasionally, until al dente. Drain the noodles and rinse under cold water. Dry the noodles between layers of paper towels.
Preheat the oven to 375°. Spread 1 cup of the sauce in the bottom of a 9-by-13-inch glass baking dish. Line the dish with 4 overlapping noodles. Spread one-half of the ricotta mixture over the noodles, then top with one-half of the sausage, 1 1/2 cups of the sauce and another 4 noodles. Repeat the layering with the remaining ricotta, sausage and another 1 1/2 cups of sauce. Top with 4 noodles and cover with 1 1/2 cups of sauce. Toss the remaining 1 cup of mozzarella with the remaining 1/4 cup of Parmesan and sprinkle over the lasagna.
Bake the lasagna for about 45 minutes, or until the top is golden and crisp around the edges and the filling is bubbling. Let the lasagna rest for 20 minutes before serving.
Make Ahead: The lasagna can be prepared through Step 5 and refrigerated overnight, or it can be baked ahead and then reheated in a 325° oven.
I received two enthusiastic thumbs up from a food critic when I made this for a dinner. They said it tasted like their mother's. It was the first time I had made a lasagna from scratch. Time intensive but well worth it! It's a great meal on a snowy Saturday. Note: on the ipad version of the recipe, it claims it takes 2 hours to make. It was more like 3.5 from start to table for me. (I'm also a rookie cook.)
One of the best lasagnas I have ever made. Was a lot easier than I thought it would be with making the sauce from scratch but that step was so worth it. Will make again for sure! Would make for guests, holidays, pot lucks... Didn't change a thing.