A Northern Italian Tradition

A rich, cheesy lasagna is one of the most celebrated Christmas Eve dinners among northern Italians, yet perfect comfort food year round in Canada. It might be just the right time to invest in a make-it-yourself classic lasagna. Our recipe hails from Bologna, just south of Modena and Parma in the Emilia-Romagna region. It's layered flat pasta filled with rich Bolognese and bechamel sauces, Parmesan, Tuscan Herb olive oil and fresh herbs, too. And for a plant-based option, leave out the meat and replace it with porcini mushrooms. 

 SERVES: 6 to 8

(Emily's Bolognese Sauce)
1 large yellow onion
4 cloves garlic
2 tbsp Tuscan Herb infused olive oil
1 lb extra-lean ground beef
1 lb lean ground pork
1 (28 oz) can San Marzano plum tomatoes
2 sprigs rosemary
4 springs thyme
1/2 to 1 tsp dried fennel (optional but delicious)
1/4 cup fresh flat leaf parsley
1/4 cup fresh basil leaves
1 (5-1/2 oz) can tomato paste
Sea salt and ground black pepper

Vegetarian Option: Replace meat with 3 cups porcini mushrooms, diced and one cup drained frozen spinach. 

(Bechamel Sauce)
7 tbsp unsalted butter
1/4 cup plus 3 tbsp all-purpose flour
6 cups whole milk (room temperature)
4 oz. Parmesan, coarsely grated (about 1 cup)
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper

(Classic Bologna Lasagna)

1 package lasagna noodles (no cook works, too)4 to 6 cups Bolognese sauce (or vegetarian sauce)4 to 6 cups bechamel sauce
1 tbsp kosher salt (for pasta water)
2 cups ricotta cheese, drained plus 2 eggs, mixed well

For Top Layer

1 cup grated fresh parmesan

For Serving
Extra Tuscan Herb & Black Mission Fig for drizzle


(Bolognese Sauce)
Finely chop the onion and mince the garlic. In a large saucepan, over medium heat, saute the onion and garlic in the olive oil until just translucent, about 2 minutes. Add the ground beef and pork, then cook until the meat is almost fully browned, the onion is soft and the garlic is golden. Drain off extra juices, reserving 1/2 cup. Pour the tomato juice from the can into the pan, keeping whole tomatoes to the side. Stir constantly at medium heat to blend, careful not to let it boil. You don't want the sauce to reduce at this point. Transfer whole tomatoes to pan by holding each one over the pan and crush in hand (or blend in food processor). Stir for 5 minutes. Add spinach (if using) herbs and allow the sauce to minimally reduce, about 10 to 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the tomato paste and 1/2 cup of juices, then blend completely. Cook for another 5 minutes.

If using mushrooms add them in place of beef and pork and saute with onion and garlic until golden brown for 5 to six minutes on medium-low heat. 

(Bechamel Sauce)
Melt butter in a large saucepan over medium heat. Whisk in flour and cook, whisking occasionally, until flour begins to lightly brown, about 4 minutes. Whisk in milk a bit at a time, blending to remove any lumps. Increase heat to medium-high. Do not bring it to a boil. Bring to a simmer then continue to whisk for about 4 minutes. Then reduce heat to medium-low. Whisk occasionally until smooth. Add Parmesan, spices and salt and pepper to taste. Blend completely. Remove from heat. Transfer to a bowl and cover with plastic until ready to use (same-day).

(Assemble Lasagna)

Heat oven to 425 degrees. Cook lasagna noodles in a large pot of boiling salted water careful to keep the noodles separate from each other. No prep if using "no cook" pasta. Once they start to soften (2 to 3 minutes) remove from heat immediately, drain and then transfer to bowl of cold water. Drain again, then move to a baking sheet and pat fully dry, always careful not to overlap. Grease a 13" by 9" baking dish. Spread 1-1/2 cups Bolognese in bottom of dish. Then cover with layer of noodles. Spread 1 - 1/4 cups of bechamel sauce evenly, then another layer of Bolognese sauce, then 1/2 cup ricotta mixture. Repeat 3 times or more, until you reach the top of the baking dish. For the final topping, spread a layer of bechamel only. Spread extra parmesan cheese. Cover with a lightly greased piece of foil. Transfer to oven and bake until the edges bubble, about 45 minutes to one hour. Remove foil and increase oven to 425 degrees and bake until the top is golden brown. Remove from oven and rest for 10 to 15 minutes. Serve with Tuscan Herb & Black Mission Fig at the table as a drizzled garnish.