Name a more comforting food than lasagna…go on, I’ll give you a minute. That rich meaty Bolognese sauce, creamy bechamel, and all that wonderful cheese! Beef lasagna is my ultimate comfort food, and without a doubt, one of my favourite all-time foods. (And in case you’re wondering, this is technically lasagne alla Bolognese.)
Before we really get started with this one, I want to address the scariest part of this recipe – the cooking time. 5 hours 30 minutes…total recipe time is approximately 6 hours. No, that’s not a typo. That’s how long it takes to cook a traditional lasagna recipe from scratch. And trust me, you will feel a special kind of accomplishment for cooking this the old fashioned way.
However, I realise that not everyone has that kind of time (…I certainly don’t!) so I’ve addressed all the ways you can speed up the process by substituting or using store-bought components, turning this into something that can be made in as little as 1 hour and 15 minutes. (The things I do for you, bestie.)
For that reason, this is a bit of a long read! Grab a cup of espresso, and put on your favourite Italian playlist.
Everything you need to know about lasagna
Gosh, I love lasagna – pasta, Bolognese, cheese…ohmygawd, the cheese!!! *ahem* Here are answers to some questions you may have about this classic recipe.
Lasagna vs lasagne
In Italian, lasagna refers to ‘one lasagna noodle’ (that is the long, flat, pasta we use to may lasagnas) while lasagne refers to multiple lasagna noodles or a completed lasagna dish. In English, we don’t necessarily carry over this meaning as we pluralise the lasagna by adding an ‘s’ at the end. (You’ll still see lasagna spelled with an ‘e’ in many European countries.)
What is lasagne al forno
Lasagne al forno is the proper Italian name for a completed ‘standard’ lasagna dish (we mostly just call it ‘lasagna’ in North America) that’s made by layering lasagna noodles, ricotta, mozzarella and some sauce, in contrast to the lasagne alla Bolognese, which we’re making today. So…
What is lasagne alla Bolognese
Lasagne alla Bolognese is a version that layers the noodles with a meaty sauce, béchamel, and cheese (usually mozzarella).
What is a soffritto
Soffrito means ‘fried slowly’ or ‘under-fried’ in Italian. It is an aromatic flavour-base made by cooking chopped onions, celery, and carrots. The concoction is the foundation of many types of foods. You may hear the word battuto used for the same mixture – this usually refers to the ingredients in their uncooked state.
Soffritto vs sofrito
If you’re worried about the difference between “soffritto” and “sofrito” – don’t be. They are both essentially the same thing. The reason for the difference in spelling is language – “sofrito” is Spanish, while “soffritto” is Italian – both spellings are used, the Spanish spelling is usually favoured in North America. I’ve opted to use the Italian spelling as this is an Italian recipe post.
What is tomato passata
Tomato passata is a thick sauce made from strained tomatoes – it is essentially an uncooked tomato puree, and is available in most large supermarkets.
Apple cider vinegar seems to be the one ingredient that trips everyone up – mostly because it’s not as much a pantry staple as some other ingredients. Here is a basic substitution guide in case you want to switch it out.
The apple cider vinegar can be swapped with an equal amount of white wine. This is a very popular option.
An equal amount of broth can be used instead of apple cider vinegar.
White wine vinegar
For an alcohol-free option, use 50% the amount of apple cider vinegar, and 50% water.
Plain ol’ water
If using good ol’ fashioned water to replace apple cider vinegar, use 75% the amount. It won’t add much to the overall flavour, but it will make sure your dish doesn’t dry out.
Using store-bought sauces
You’re probably wondering whether you can cut out a lot of the cook time (and honestly a little headache) by using your favourite store-bought sauce. Well, yes. You can. But you’ll feel less Italian. And if you happen to have an Italian nonna, she will be very disappointed in you.
Note: Nonna is the Italian word for grandmother.
Bolognese / Ragu
Using a good store-bought ragu or meat sauce is absolutely do-able – it certainly won’t taste as good as making your own from scratch, but it will save you quite bit of time. Personally, I like to make my own meat sauce, and use it to cook a number of things over the next week or so.
If you’re using a store-bought sauce, toss in a tablespoon or so of granulated white sugar to counteract the extra concentrated build of the sauce. (You’ll need to judge this based on the flavour of the sauce you choose to go with.)
You can generally swap in store-bought bechamel without any issues. I do find it to be quite expensive for what it is, but it is a timesaver.
- Avoid super lean ground beef. You want a bit of fat to enhance the flavour of your ragu.
- Generally speaking – you want the full-fat versions of everything in this recipe. Lasagna is one of those dishes that demands to be eaten in all its indulgent glory. The one substitution I’ve seen work pretty well (in the case of lasagne al forno) is to switch out ricotta cheese with cottage cheese.
- Use a baking dish that is deep enough for your lasagna. If it’s too shallow, you’ll find that the top layer of your delicious Italian dinner may bubble out over the sides…right on to the floor of your oven.
- Make sure to put a little sauce in the bottom of your baking dish before you start layering in your lasagna sheets. This will stop the cooked sheets from sticking to the dish!
- Generously cover the top layer of your lasagna with sauce (and cheese!) before baking – this will prevent the top layer of lasagna noodle becoming too hard.
- Once baked, allow the lasagna to sit for 5-10 minutes before cutting into it.
Lasagna can be refrigerated for 3-5 days in an airtight container. If freezing, it can be frozen for up to two months – allow it to thaw before re-heating.
More Italian-inspired recipes
- Spaghetti & Meatballs
- Roasted Shrimp & Asparagus Linguine
- Creamy Mushroom Pappardelle
- Lemon Fettuccine with Garlic Shrimps
- The Almost-Perfect Grilled Cheese Sandwich
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Nothing too special here – you’ll ideally want a 9×13 inch Baking dish to cook your beef lasagna in. But even if you use a slightly different size, it should be fine…providing the sides are high enough!
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So…? Have you tried this lasagna alla Bolognese recipe yet, bestie? Did you go for the quick store-bought hacks, or did you opt for a more traditional cooking experience? Let me know in the comments below.Print