Prep Time:1 hour |
Cook Time:45 minutes
While last-minute lasagna may seem like an oxymoron, it’s actually doable if you use fresh pasta sheets (which take 1 minute to cook) and Bolognese sauce that you’ve made ahead. The key is to enrich the sauce with cream, then you don’t have to make a bechamel sauce or use ricotta. Besides, having Bolognese sauce on hand means you can always heat some up at the last-minute to ladle over spaghetti or ravioli, too. Look for pasta sheets in the refrigerated pasta case or go to an Italian market.
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 yellow onion, chopped
2 carrots, diced
3 ounces pancetta, finely chopped (optional)
2 garlic cloves, pressed or minced
1 pound ground beef
1 pound ground pork or veal
1 cup dry red wine
28-ounce can crushed tomatoes
1/4 cup chopped basil or Italian parsley
1 cup heavy cream
12 ounces fresh pasta sheets
1-1/2 cups shredded parmesan cheese
In a heavy pot, such as a Dutch oven, warm the oil, then add the onion, carrots and pancetta if using. Cook, stirring, until vegetables soften and pancetta is lightly browned, about 4 minutes. Stir in garlic and a good pinch of salt and cook for 30 seconds. Crumble in the ground meats and cook, stirring often, until meats are broken up and no longer pink, about 10 minutes. Pour in red wine and cook 1 minute. Stir in tomatoes, then swish out the tomato can with about 1/2 cup of water and pour into pot. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low, cover and simmer until sauce is thickened and smells fantastic, about 1 hour. Check pot every now and then to make sure sauce isn’t scorching; if it is, add another half cup water. When sauce is ready, you can make your lasagna or cool, cover, and refrigerate the Bolognese sauce for up to 3 days or divide it into smaller portions and freeze.
If you are making the lasagna right away, stir the basil or parsley and the cream into the sauce, then season to taste with salt. Preheat an oven to 375°F and bring a large pot of salted water to boil for the pasta. Place a deep, 3-quart baking dish or lasagna pan on the counter near the stove. If necessary, cut your pasta sheets to fit the lasagna pan. (If you are making the lasagna later, bring sauce to a simmer in a pot before proceeding with these steps.)
Ladle enough sauce into the bottom of the lasagna pan to create a thin layer. Now drop enough pasta sheets for one layer into the pot of boiling water and cook 1 minute; lift out the pasta with tongs or a skimmer (they can be slippery) and lay the pasta over the sauce in lasagna pan. Ladle a thicker layer of sauce over the pasta and sprinkle with some of the cheese. Drop another layer’s worth of pasta sheets into the boiling water, cook 1 minute, lay it in the pan, cover with sauce and some cheese. Repeat until you have used up the pasta and sauce, ending with sauce on top and enough cheese to sprinkle over that. Bake lasagna until bubbly on the sides and crusty on top, about 45 minutes.