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~ Melanie's Bolognese Sauce & Bolognese Lasagna: Veal & Rosemary-Tomato Cream Sauce & Lasagna~

6a0120a8551282970b0168ebcb6373970cThis is one of my signature recipes.  No, I didn't invent Bolognese sauce or Bolognese lasagna, but, my personal recipe is so special, it will suffice to say:  I do not believe you will find one anywhere that is better than mine.  That is that.  This is a recipe I have never taught in a cooking class.  It is, however, a recipe I have taught to several upscale restaurant chefs, which they have been selling/serving seasonally for more than a few years now.  At The American Ale House & Grill in State College, PA, I'm proud to say it appears on Scott Lucchesi's (the owner's) menu as:


ScanThis is not a particularly hard recipe to make, but it does take time and patience... and love.  Yes folks, this is a recipe that is actually made with love.  That is that.  Everyone who has ever tried to "dumb it down" or "take a shortcut" has found that out. Like many other things in life, you only get out of something what you put into it, and, this is one such recipe.  I am posting this at an odd time of year, in May and just a few days prior to Memorial Day, because:  Scott has asked me to show his chef at Champs Sports Grill, also located in State College, PA, how I make it this week, so, posting it while I work is what I've decided to do!

Scan 1Proudly,  my recipes are no stranger to Scott's Champs' menus either.  My foodie life here in Happy Valley is really a lot of fun, and, consulting for local restaurants is something I love to do. It's very challenging, and over the years I have easily learned as much as I have shared. Compared to developing a recipe for the home kitchen, to teach in a cooking class, put in a cookbook, or, cook on TV, developing restaurant recipes is a much bigger deal.  For instance: Every restaurant chef has his/her own style, and, every restaurant kitchen, from an equipment standpoint, is different; profit margins, price points and time constraints must be adhered to, and; once the dish is served to customers... it is show time, there is nowhere to run or hide, and, the feedback is immediate!

Scan 1 PICT0014A bit about Bolognese sauce: Known in Italy as "ragu alla Bolognese", it is a meat-based sauce for pasta hailing from Bologna, Italy.  In Bologna itself, it is referred to simply as "ragu". Outside of Italy, particularly in the United States, it often refers to tomato sauce with ground meat (beef or pork) added to it, and, unfortunately, it bears little or no resemblance in taste or texture to real-deal Bolognese.  Ragu alla Bolognese recipes are complex and involve several cooking techniques, including sweating, sauteing and braising.  While Bolognese lends itself well to interpretation (like the addition of pancetta and/or mushrooms), real-deal recipes will be made with lean veal, aromatic vegetables (onion, carrot, celery), a tomato product (fresh, canned or paste), herbs and spices, wine or broth, and, cream.  Because of its chunky texture, Bolognese sauce is typically used to sauce wide pasta shapes, like tagliatelle or pappardelle, and, used to make a luscious, decadent lasagna, called "lasagna alla bolognese"!

PICT0027A bit about lasagna:  Lasagna refers to the wide flat pasta sheets (sometimes with ruffled edges) used to prepare a baked casserole, also referred to as lasagna.  The plural of lasagna is lasagne. Lasagna is made by layering the noodes with various cheeses (usually including mozzarella and Parmigiano-Reggiano) and the cook's choice of any sauce.  There are almost as many variations to this beloved dish as there are cooks.  Once assembled, lasagna is always baked in the oven until bubbly and golden brown. Once the cook decides upon the cheeses, the sauce and the filling, there are only three simple guidelines to preparing a great lasagna:

#1.  Pasta Sheets:  No matter what type of pasta you are using (fresh or dried), undercook them quite a bit because they are going to continue to cook in the oven.  When I am using dried (boxed) pasta, I don't cook them at all and the lasagna comes out perfect every time!

#2.  Sauce:  Keep the sauce in proportion to the pasta.  The pasta is going to absorb quite a bit of sauce as it cooks or continues to cook.  You will need enough sauce to keep your lasagna from being dry, but on the other hand, you do not want it to be swimming in sauce when served.  The general rule is to use about 1 1/2-2 quarts of sauce for 8-12 ounces of pasta!

#3. Assembly:  If you have boiled your pasta, make sure it is patted dry prior to assembling the lasagna.  If you've made your sauce ahead of time, make sure it is warm when you are assembling your lasagna.  Dry, water-free pasta + warm sauce = success!

Part 1.  Making the Bolognese Sauce 

PICT0006For the Bolognese Sauce (yields 4 1/2 quarts/enough for two lasagne):

PICT00166  pounds coarsely-ground, lean veal (Note:  I can't begin to stress enough how important this grind of meat is to this recipe.  Coarsely -gound veal produces the perfect texture for this sauce.  Request that your butcher coarsely grind a veal shoulder roast for you.)

1/2  cup olive oil

12-16 ounces diced yellow or sweet onion

12-16 ounces diced celery

12-16  ounces peeled and diced carrots

1-1 1/2 ounces diced garlic cloves

1/2  teaspoon ground nutmeg

1  teaspoon dried rosemary leaves

1  tablespoon sea salt

1  tablespoon white pepper

1  cup white wine

4  14 1/2-ounce cans diced tomatoes, undrained

1  6-ounce can tomato paste

4  cups heavy or whipping cream

6  6-inch fresh rosemary sprigs

PICT0006~ Step 1.  Place olive oil in a 14" chef's pan.  Prep and place the onion, celery, carrots and garlic in the pan as you work.  Add the nutmeg, rosemary, salt and white pepper.  Adjust heat to saute, until the onion is just short of beginning to brown and no liquid remains in the bottom of pan, about 10-15 minutes.

PICT0009~ Step 2.  Add the veal and continue to cook, stirring frequently, until almost all of the veal's liquid has evaporated from the pan and the veal is just short of beginning to brown, about 30-45 minutes. 





PICT0018~ Step 3. Add the wine and continue to cook until it too has evaporated from bottom of pan, about 2-3 minutes.

Note:  In all three of the above steps, the evaporation of liquid is more important than the time it takes for that to happen!

PICT0025 PICT0023~ Step 4. Add all of the diced tomatoes and the tomato paste to the pan.  Add 2 cups of the cream.  Stir until the tomato paste is thoroughly incorporated and the mixture is a creamy pink-orange in color.  Adjust heat to a gently, steady simmer.



PICT0029~ Step 5. Place the rosemary sprigs on top of the mixture.  Adjust heat to barely simmer, partially cover the pan and continue to cook until the rosemary has lost its bright green color, about 10-15 minutes.  Uncover and discard the rosemary.  This process will allow the rosemary to impart its flavor into the sauce without overpowering it.

PICT0051~ Step 6.  Add the remaining two cups of cream, stir thoroughly, and adjust heat to a gentle, steady simmer.  The pan will be very full.



~ Step 7.  Continue to simmer, uncovered, stirring frequently, until the mixture is nicely thickened and reduced slightly, about 45-60 minutes, or longer.  Remove from heat, cover the pan and allow to steep, 45-60 minutes.

~ Step 8:  Serve immediately over wide pasta topped with a sprinkling of Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, or, refrigerate and/or freeze for use at a later date:

Note:  Refrigerated sauce keeps well for 3-4 days.  Return to room temperature and reheat gently, until steaming (not simmering), in the microwave or on the stovetop, prior to serving over pasta or making lasagna (as directed below).

PICT0009Part Two:  Making the Bolognese Lasagna

  PICT0005For the lasagna (yields 2, 13" x 9" x 2" lasagne):

Sliced vs. grated cheese:  I do not use grated cheese when I make lasagna.  Sliced cheese eliminates airspace that grated cheese creates, which makes for a prettier lasagna.  Because the thickness of the cheese does matter, politely ask your deli-person to "slice the cheese as thinly as possible, without the slices breaking or crumbling, and, stack the slices neatly"!

PICT00131 1/2  pounds thinly-sliced Cooper CV sharp cheese, or white American cheese (Note:  If you live near Amish country, the northeastern United States, or more specifically, in Lehigh Valley, PA, you grew up like I did, eating Cooper CV instead of white American cheese.  This rectangular-shaped cheese is almost identical to square-shaped white American cheese, but melts creamier and has a delightful sharp, tangy flavor.)

1 1/2  pounds thinly-sliced provolone cheese

1 1/2  pounds thinly-sliced mozzarella cheese

1  cup finely-grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

2  tablespoons dried rosemary leaves

1  1-pound box ruffled-edge lasagna, uncooked

Note:  As I stated above, this recipe is written to make two lasagne.  The following pictures of the assembly process only picture one.  Just place two, 13" x 9" x 2" casserole dishes side-by-side and assemble them both, simultaneously, as directed below:

PICT0003~ Step 1.  Spoon a thin, even layer of sauce in bottom of casserole dish.




PICT0009~ Step 2.  Place 4 lasagna over sauce.  Break 1 to fit in empty space.




PICT0013~ Step 3.  Arrange a layer of Cooper CV cheese slices over the lasagna.




PICT0019~ Step 4.  Arrange a layer of provolone slices over the CV.




PICT0022~ Step 5.  Arrange a layer of mozzarella slices over the provolone.




PICT0027~ Step 6.  Spoon another layer of sauce over the cheeses.




PICT0037~ Step 7.  Sprinkle grated Parmigiano-Reggiano over sauce.




PICT0040~ Step 8.  Arrange a second layer of lasagna in the dish and repeat the above process (a second layer of cheeses, a third layer of meat and a sprinkling of Parmigiano-Reggiano).  Sprinkle dried rosemary over all.



PICT0050Note:  the lasagna/lasagne are now ready for the oven or the freezer, or: they can be refrigerated overnight, returned to room temperature and baked the next day.  Refrigerating overnight prior to baking is best.

PICT0008~ Step 9.  Cover lasagna with a piece of aluminum foil that has been sprayed with no-stick cooking spray.  Place the foil, sprayed side down, over lasagna and cover tightly.

Bake on center rack of 350 degree oven 45 minutes. Remove foil and continue to bake an additional 35-45 minutes, or until browned and bubbly.  Remove from oven and rest, 45-60 minutes, prior to slicing and serving... 45 minutes if you want to eat your lasagna at that "ooey-gooey" stage, or, 60 minutes if you want nicer, neater slices and a more refined presentation:

PICT0023Melanie's Bolognese Sauce & Bolognese Lasagna:  Veal & Rosemary-Tomato Cream Sauce & Lasagna:  Recipe yields 4 1/2 quarts Bolognese sauce, and, 2 lasagne with 8-12 servings each.

Special Equipment List:  cutting board; chef's knife; 14" chef's pan w/straight, deep sides & lid, or 8-quart stockpot; large spoon or spatula; 2, 13" x 9" x 2" casserole dishes; aluminum foil

6a0120a8551282970b0162ff5a0b7c970d-800wiCook's Note:  To try another another one of my lasagna recipes, you can find ~ Jesse's E-Z Spatini Lasagna (& Mrs. Dicindio) ~ in Categories 3, 12, 14, 19, 20 or 22.  This lasagna is a much easier recipe than the one I've shared with you today.  It is ready to go in the oven in about an hour but compromises nothing in flavor or texture! 

"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2012)


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