Lasagna with Meat Sauce

For the first post on the new blog I’ve got to post something very… me.  Right?  I’m pretty sure this is it.

This recipe goes back to a cooking class that myself, my sister and one of our friends took on a weekend getaway in March of 2009 to The Shelby Inn just outside Round Top, Texas.  We were going to enjoy a bed & breakfast stay, some antiquing and just hanging out, but the highlight was to be the cooking class on Saturday night.  The chef asked beforehand what we wanted to work on and it turned out to be an Italian night – we would learn how to make a simple risotto, fresh pasta, and a hearty meat sauce that would be used to assemble a lasagna.  We were to bring the wine and be ready to chop.  We could do that! We can laugh now about the “breakfast” portion of the stay, the smears of tomato sauce and/or wine on our take-home cookbooks and the amount of flour all over The Shelby Inn’s kitchen, but we have great memories and a stock of recipes we’ll remember for years to come.

shelby inn

That hearty meat sauce has been adapted since I’ve made it frequently at home.  Will is the fresh pasta maker, so if he is around this lasagna is made with fresh pasta sheets.  If it is a cold, winter day like today when I am home enjoying a day off from work, I use basic dried pasta sheets found in the grocery store.  The other major adaptation is the absence of the traditional ricotta cheese between the layers of pasta. Will hates ricotta.  Hates it. We’ll keep working on that in other recipes, I mean ricotta is a cheese after all, but replacing ricotta with a classic Bechamel sauce really does compliment the lasagna.  It makes for a creamy inside that adds to the comfort-food characteristic of the lasagna.

This Lasagna with Meat Sauce is a labor of love but makes for a pretty tasty dinner.  The leftovers aren’t bad for lunch either 🙂  Try it out and let me know what you think!

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Lasagna with Meat Sauce

For the Sauce:

  • Extra Virgin Olive Oil (EVOO)
  • 3 carrots, peeled and diced
  • 3-4 celery stalks, leaves included, diced
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 1 bell pepper, any color, diced
  • 4-5 garlic cloves, chopped
  • ½ pound ground pork
  • 1 pound ground beef
  • 1-2 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 1 cup red wine
  • 28-ounce can crushed tomatoes
  • 15-ounce can tomato puree
  • 14.5-ounce can diced tomatoes
  • 2 T tomato paste
  • 2-3 bay leaves (I used 4 small)
  • 1 tsp rosemary
  • 1 tsp whole thyme
  • 1 tsp oregano
  • 1 tsp basil
  • 1 T sugar

For the Bechamel:

  • ¼ cup butter
  • ¼ cup flour
  • 2 cups milk
  • ½ tsp ground nutmeg, or shave fresh nutmeg

For the lasagna:

  • 1 box lasagna noodles
  • 2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese

Cover the bottom of a large, heavy pot with EVOO, a couple turns around the pan.

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Chop the carrots, celery, onion and bell pepper into a small dice. You can use any color of bell pepper – or add a couple if you like the variety!  I just happened to have a sweet yellow pepper on hand today.  Mince the garlic. Saute carrots, celery, onion, bell pepper and garlic a few minutes until softened.

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**A quick note about chopping bell peppers:  you will have a more stable cut if you place the skin of the pepper on the cutting board and slice inside the pepper.

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Add the ground pork and beef, crumble and brown. The meat you use in this meat sauce can be changed up depending on your tastes. We happened to have a half-pound of ground pork leftover from another dinner and I like the addition of some pork over using all beef.  Have some Italian sausage or ground turkey?  That would be great as well!  Make it your own by mixing up the protein.

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Add red pepper flakes and continue to brown.  Will and I like spicy food and generally add a good amount of heat to our cooking.  In this recipe, I added around 2 heaping teaspoons to the pot.  Start with about a teaspoon and work your way up as you taste throughout the cooking process.

Add red wine, scraping bottom of pan to release brown bits.  So what wine should you cook with?  The answer is always “wine that you would drink in a glass”.  You don’t have to use your best bottle when cooking, but keep in mind that the flavor of the wine is concentrated as it cooks down.  If you don’t like the wine in a glass, you won’t like it in your food.  For this recipe, use a slightly-dry to dry red wine – cabernet, merlot, zinfandel, good red table wines all would work.  Just stay away from a sweet red in the tomato sauce.  This is what was in my fridge, so it went into the sauce today 🙂

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Add crushed tomatoes, tomato puree, diced tomatoes and tomato paste, stirring to combine.  Here’s what went into the sauce today:

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Add bay leaves, rosemary, thyme, oregano and basil.  The recipe calls for 2-3 bay leaves – my bay leaf stash is calling to be replenished, so today I used 4 small leaves.  Just remember what you put in so you can pull them back out later!

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Stir in sugar.  Sugar helps to neutralize the acid of the tomatoes a bit.  Start with about a tablespoon but as you check the sauce while it simmers, add a touch more if you’d like to settle the tomatoes down a bit.

Bring to a boil, then reduce heat, cover and simmer for at least an hour, stirring now and then and checking seasoning. Sauce can simmer on the stove top for several hours as flavors continue to develop.  Since today was so cold and rainy, I started this sauce mid-morning and let it simmer very low all afternoon.

Remove and discard the bay leaf and remove sauce from heat when ready to assemble lasagna.

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To assemble lasagna:

Bring a large pot of water to boil.  Salt the water once it is boiling and add the lasagna noodles, stirring to separate the noodles.  When cooking pasta, you want the boiling water to be salty like the ocean to season the noodles.  If you are using fresh noodles, use less salt in your pasta water.

Cook until al dente, 10-12 minutes.  Drain the noodles and set aside.

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As the noodles are cooking, make the Bechamel sauce:

Melt the butter in a medium saucepan.  Add the flour and whisk until smooth and golden in color – you are making a roux, but you don’t want to get it as toasty brown as you would for a gumbo or brown gravy.

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Whisk in the milk and add salt, pepper and nutmeg.

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Whisk until thickened, about 4-5 minutes.  Check seasoning and adjust as needed.  Keep in mind that the Bechamel sauce is in place of layering cheese inside the lasagna, so you want the sauce to have a good amount of flavor.

Remove from heat.

Spray a 9×13 pan, or two 8×8 pans, with cooking spray.  At this point, I always make a little assembly line of all the lasagna components.  It definitely makes it easier to keep going as you assemble the pan (s). I often make two small pans, one in a disposable aluminum pan, and freeze one for later.  The lasagna stores nicely in the freezer and is handy to keep for no-dinner-idea nights or to gift to friends.  Who doesn’t like to have a lasagna on hand?!

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Spread a light layer of meat sauce in the bottom of the pan(s). Lay lasagna noodles across the pan in one layer – it’s okay if the noodles overlap a little. Will and I both like the edges and the pieces where the noodles fold over and crisp up a bit… it’s a struggle when dishing out dinner.

Spread a layer of meat sauce across the noodles. Drop a few tablespoons Bechamel sauce across the pan. Spread with the Bechamel across the meat sauce with the back of the spoon. Cover with another layer of lasagna noodles.

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Repeat 2-3 times.

Top with a final light layer of meat sauce and cover with shredded mozzarella.

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*If freezing a pan set lasagna aside to cool, then cover and freeze.

Spray a sheet of foil with cooking spray and cover the pan to bake.

Bake, covered, at 350 for 25-30 minutes.

Uncover and bake another 10-15 minutes.

If desired, broil a few minutes to brown the top.  We always broil.  Always.

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From frozen:

Bake, covered, at 350 for 1 ½ hours from frozen (1 hour if thawed).  

Uncover and bake another 10-15 minutes.

If desired, broil a few minutes to brown the top.  

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There you have it – one of the most “Lindsey” recipes to start of How We Cook.  Let me know what you think!  It sure did brighten up our cold day.


Full Recipe

Lasagna with Meat Sauce

For the Sauce:

  • Extra Virgin Olive Oil (EVOO)
  • 3 carrots, peeled and diced
  • 3-4 celery stalks, leaves included, diced
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 1 bell pepper, any color, diced
  • 4-5 garlic cloves, chopped
  • ½ pound ground pork
  • 1 pound ground beef
  • 1-2 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 1 cup red wine
  • 28-ounce can crushed tomatoes
  • 15-ounce can tomato puree
  • 14.5-ounce can diced tomatoes
  • 2 T tomato paste
  • 2-3 bay leaves (I used 4 small)
  • 1 tsp rosemary
  • 1 tsp whole thyme
  • 1 tsp oregano
  • 1 tsp basil
  • 1 T sugar

For the Bechamel:

  • ¼ cup butter
  • ¼ cup flour
  • 2 cups milk
  • ½ tsp ground nutmeg, or shave fresh nutmeg

For the lasagna:

  • 1 box lasagna noodles
  • 2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese

Cover the bottom of a large, heavy pot with EVOO, a couple turns around the pan.

Saute carrots, celery, onion, bell pepper and garlic a few minutes until softened.

Add ground pork and beef, crumble and brown.

Add red pepper flakes and continue to brown.

Add red wine, scraping bottom of pan to release brown bits.  Cook out wine.

Add crushed tomatoes, tomato puree, diced tomatoes and tomato paste, stirring to combine.

Add bay leaves, rosemary, thyme, oregano and basil.

Stir in sugar.

Bring to a boil, then reduce heat, cover and simmer for at least an hour, stirring now and then and checking seasoning. Sauce can simmer on the stove top for several hours as flavors continue to develop.

Remove and discard the bay leaf and remove sauce from heat when ready to assemble lasagna.


To assemble lasagna:

Bring a large pot of water to boil.

Salt the water and add the lasagna noodles.  

Cook until al dente, 10-12 minutes.

Drain the noodles and set aside.


As the noodles are cooking, make the Bechamel sauce:

Melt the butter in a medium saucepan.

Add the flour and whisk until smooth and golden in color.

Whisk in the milk and add salt, pepper and nutmeg.

Whisk until thickened, about 4-5 minutes.

Check seasoning and adjust as needed.

Remove from heat.


Spray a 9×13 pan, or two 8×8 pans, with cooking spray.

*I often make two small pans, one in a disposable aluminum pan, and freeze one for later

Spread a light layer of meat sauce in the bottom of the pan(s).

Lay lasagna noodles across the pan in one layer – it’s okay if the noodles overlap a little.

Spread a layer of meat sauce across the noodles.

Drop a few tablespoons Bechamel sauce across the pan.

Spread with the Bechamel across the meat sauce with the back of the spoon.

Cover with another layer of lasagna noodles.

Repeat 2-3 times.

Top with final light layer of meat sauce.

Cover with shredded mozzarella.

*If freezing a pan set lasagna aside to cool, then cover and freeze.


Spray a sheet of foil with cooking spray and cover the pan to bake.

Bake, covered, at 350 for 25-30 minutes.

Uncover and bake another 10-15 minutes.

If desired, broil a few minutes to brown the top.

From frozen:

Bake, covered, at 350 for 1 ½ hours from frozen (1 hour if thawed)

Uncover and bake another 10-15 minutes.

If desired, broil a few minutes to brown the top.

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