Venetian Lasagna

Venice, Italy has a centuries-old tradition of fine cuisine. Their dishes are significantly different that the rest of Italy, one difference being that their lasagna has no cheese in it--it is made with creamy Béchamel sauce flavored with nutmeg and clove. This recipe can be adapted for vegetarians by using tofu sausage instead of spicy Italian pork sausage.

Servings: 10

Cook Time: 4 hours

Pair With: A good quality Italian red.

Source: Recipe and photo courtesy Tama Takahashi, Touring & Tasting Food Editor


Ingredients for the Bolognese Sauce:

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

1 medium yellow onion, finely chopped

1 stalk celery, finely chopped

1  carrot, finely chopped

14 oz sausage (pork or tofu)

1/2 teaspoon ground clove

1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1 teaspoon white pepper

1 28-oz can whole peeled chopped tomatoes, or 6 large, ripe, fresh tomatoes, peeled

1 bay leaf

1 cup whole milk


Ingredients For the Béchamel Sauce:

4 tablespoons 1/4 cup unsalted butter

1/4 cup all-purpose unbleached flour

Other Ingredients:

16 sheets lasagna noodles, cooked according to package instructions

2 cups freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Spray olive oil


Instructions For the Bolognese Meat Sauce:

Sweat (cook without browning) the onion, celery, and carrot in olive oil over medium low heat until the onion is transparent. Add the sausage and turn up the heat to medium. Cook until the sausage is browned, chopping up the sausage into chunks with a spatula or wooden spoon. Sprinkle with the clove, cinnamon, and pepper. Stir in the tomatoes, bring to a simmer, then reduce the heat to medium low. Add the bay leaf and simmer for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove the bay leaf and add 1 cup milk. Turn the heat down to lowest setting and simmer for 2 and 1/2 hours, stirring occasionally. Season with salt to taste. Take off the heat and set aside.

Instructions for the Béchamel Sauce:

Heat 2 cups of milk until almost boiling in a heavy bottomed sauce pan, then set aside. Melt butter in another saucepan over medium low heat. Whisk in the flour and cook for a two minutes. Whisk in the milk a bit at a time, mixing well as it cooks. When the sauce is creamy, use a whisk to mix thoroughly and dissolve any lumps. Cook until thick and creamy, adding salt and white pepper to taste. Take off the heat and set aside.

Assembling the Lasagna:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray a 13x9-inch glass baking pan with olive oil. Spread a layer of lasagna noodles on the bottom, then half of the bolognese sauce, then a half of the Béchamel sauce. Sprinkle on half the Parmesan. Repeat. Bake for 45 minutes or until the top begins to get lightly browned. Let cool 10 minutes before serving.


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Chef's Notes:

Use good quality Parmesan cheese that you grate yourself for the best results. Grated Parmesan turns salty and loses its complex flavors quickly, so grate right before using.