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Lasagna with Bechamel Sauce????

What is the origin of this??Never heard of this way...

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  1. I believe this is how it was originally done. Correct me if I'm wrong. I've never done it this way myself, but am certainly intrigued...

    1. A classic Italian lasagne has bolognese and balsamella (italian bechamel) sauces. Check out Marcella Hazan for the details. One of the time consuming and sublime dishes I've ever enjoyed making.

      1. Yes, this is the classic way it is done in Italy. In Italian, a thick white sauce is called "besciamella" and is used along with layers of fresh egg pasta (in sheets) and meat sauce (made with braised meat, not ground hamburger-type meat). This is how it was made and served when I living in Bologna, in Emilia-Romagna. It was elegant and while rich, much less goopy/heavy than typical American lasagna.

        1 Reply
        1. re: dixieday2

          That sounds a bit like the Greek Pastichio - though that tends to use a long tubular pasta, and put the white sauce on top.

        2. Yep, the addition of bechamel makes it a classic lasagna indeed. The braised meat mentioned above I'm assuming would be braised in a tomato based liquid. Absolutely heavenly stuff when you put the time in.

          1. One of Mario Batali's recipes for lasagna, which was originally published in "NY Magazine, includes Bolognese meat sauce + a bechamel. It's very easy to make, i.e., not terribly time-consuing, and is seriously delicious!

            1 Reply
            1. re: RGR

              Yes, recipe was was in Gourmet last year and it was fairly orgasmic. Between the pancetta and the bechamel, mmm mmm mmm.

              Next time I'll make it with homemade, whisper-thin lasagne noodle. Ach.


              We made it a cooking project between three of us, and had fun doing it together.

            2. Here is a link to Marcella's Green Lasagna, with bechamel: http://www.chowhound.com/topics/35203... If you make the sauce ahead of time and refrigerate or freeze until you're ready to use it, it's not so bad. You could also make the pasta ahead of time, and then it's a piece of cake, er... lasagna!

              1. I always make my lasagna with the bechamel sauce, as I like it real creamy. It is absolutely delicious in combination with the tomato sauce and cheeses. It also reheats better, in my opinion, it doesn't dry out so much.

                1. This is where one can see the dividing line between Northern and Southern Italian cooking. "Northern" tends to use bechamel in lasagne to bind the flavors. You are also more likely to find fresh egg pasta in the lasagne rather than the dry product, which is more common in the south.

                  1. I put fresh and smoked salmon and spinach in my bechamel lasagna - yum!

                    1. I've done a spinach and mushroom lasagna with bechamel. And made the bechamel with lots of white wine. :) Deeeelish!

                      But I'll have to try the smoked salmon. That sounds divine. Smoked salmon pairs very nicely with a cream sauce (i.e., the smoked salmon pastas I've had). I would have never thought of that for lasagna---thanks!

                      10 Replies
                      1. re: venera

                        Will you share your spinach/mushroom lasagna recipe? Always on the lookout for vegetarian renditions.

                        1. re: Sarah

                          Me too! I used to work at a mostly veg restaurant years ago and they had the best vegetable lasagna, better than any meat one I've ever had. Of course, at the time (I was in high school) I didn't really pay much attention to cooking (always liked to bake, but not necessarily cook), so I didn't get the recipe and they've since closed! :-(

                          1. re: Katie Nell

                            Sarah and Katie Nell,

                            I'd love to share what I can with you. I generally want to make something, look at several recipes, take my favorite components out of each one, and then go from there. So I don't have a recipe per se to share.

                            However I do recall:

                            --For the bechamel, I replaced half of the liquid called for with white wine

                            --For the mushrooms, I included a handful of dried shitaake that I reconstituted in with the fresh mushrooms (mix of crimini and button. Fresh chanterelles would be divine here). Then I cooked down the water in the mush completely, threw in some white wine and herbs for flavor, and again cooked down until dry. You need to do this so that they don't release all that water in your lasagna.

                            --I don't recall in the least what I did to the spinach. My apologies, I made it some time ago last year. But I'm sure it involved garlic. ;> Spinach without garlic is a sin.

                            You're likely to find some great starting points from epicurious, then you can take it from there...

                            Sorry I couldn't be of greater assistance. Good luck, and bon appetite!

                            1. re: venera

                              Thank you, Venera -- no tomato sauce involvement?

                              1. re: Sarah


                                Nope, no tomato sauce. I wanted a "white" lasagna, so to speak. :) I didn't miss the tomato a bit, though you certainly can add some if you wish. Many of the other recipes being discussed have both a ragu and bechamel.

                                1. re: venera

                                  Since you're cooking "outside the lasagna pan" here, I wonder if a layer of (seasoned?) tomato slices wouldn't have been interesting for those who want tomatoes.

                                  1. re: yayadave

                                    One of my favourite vegetarian lasagna recipes is the following one for Artichoke and Spinach Lasagna from Allrecipes.com:

                                    I like it better than any meat lasagna I've had outside of Italy. It's a tomato-sauce lasagna so maybe it doesn't fit in this thread.

                                    1. re: aktivistin

                                      I love the sound of this recipe, adding artichoke hearts and flavored feta cheese could actually make veggie lasagna palatable to my husband! (I'll probably call it something like Italian Veg/Cheese Casserole, he has strict ideas on lasagna) Thanks!

                                    2. re: yayadave

                                      <Since you're cooking "outside the lasagna pan" here, I wonder if a layer of (seasoned?) tomato slices wouldn't have been interesting for those who want tomatoes.>

                                      But then it wouldn't be "white." I make a lasagne with 4 cheeses and pesto/bechamel sauce. To appease those who miss the tomato, I serve a marinara sauce on the side that can be spooned over. Looks kinda like the Italian flag, and tastes great. ;)

                          2. re: venera

                            With Lent coming up, smoked salmon is a nice sub for bacon, pancetta and the like in all recipes.

                          3. I've always wondered how the change from bechamel to ricotta ocurred.

                            2 Replies
                            1. re: free sample addict aka Tracy L

                              Northern Italian = Balsamella which predates the "french" bechamel, remember french food comes from the marriage of french royalty to then venezia.

                              Southern Italian = some type of cheese generally ricotta.

                              Personally I think the Balsamella version is much smoother than the ricotta or american cottage cheese versions.

                              1. re: free sample addict aka Tracy L

                                Actually, it was not was not a matter of things changing. The lasagna with ricotta is from Campania (the region of which Naples is the capital). Lasagne with bechamel is northern style lasagne alla bolognese, from Emilia-Romagna. The two styles also use different types of ragu' as well and somewhat different types of pasta. Both are equally traditional and authentic.

                                In Italy, you will find northern style lasagne dominates in central and northern regions (more or less from Rome on north) while the Neapolitan style (or something similar) is more popular in the South. Since most Italian immigrants to the US came from the southern regions of Italy, that is the version they took with them and is more familiar to Americans.

                              2. we use bechamel, ricotta, and mozzerella on our meatball lasagne.

                                we like fat in my house, i guess ;)

                                1. It also makes for a much lighter lasagne, not as heavy as the ones with ricotta and meat and so forth. It enables you to have it in the hot summer months if you're craving Italian without feeling over stuffed.

                                  1 Reply
                                  1. re: cbauer

                                    I'm still trying to get my head around the repeated assertion that using a sauce made from fat and starch gives a "lighter" product than one made from a nearly fat-free cheese! Yes, I do use an egg in my ricotta filling, but I was so happy to learn how to make that precisely because I knew I had to cut back on my intake of rich sauces, and bechamel is one of the richest. Egg and ricotta, on the other hand, is very low-fat and high in protein. Add plenty of chopped parsley and scallion, and the only thing dietetically dangerous about it is my inability to stop at one serving!

                                  2. Last night on Barefoot Contessa, Ina Garten made a vegetarian lasagna using a wide variety of beautiful wild mushrooms. She made a traditional bechamel and layered the lasagna with it, the mushrooms (rough chopped and sauteed with some onions - I think - and herbs) and lots of parmesan cheese. It looked wonderful, and I'm eager to try the recipe myself.

                                    1. mousakka is also made with bechamel.

                                      one of the things taught earliest in culinary school is sauces. bechamel is one of the "mother sauces", and important in any cook's repertoire. it's simple and easy and can be embellished with so many things. i often make a tomato bechamel for these sorts of dishes. just add tomato paste.

                                      1. Lasagna varies tremendously from place to place in Italy. You'll get lasagna made with sugo alla bolognese, bechamel sauce, and parmigiano in Tuscany and Emilia Romagna, whereas lasanga made with ricotto and or mozzarella and tomato sauce, with meatballs or whatever, is more of a southern thing, especially from Campania, where it's a Carnival dish.

                                        People in Italy get quite wound up about whose lasagna is the true lasagna. I've had Tuscans tell me what they make is the only way to go, and Neapolitans tell me the same thing.

                                        As far as I'm concerned they're both right, and both equally good. Also both winter foods. In summer I make lasagna with pesto sauce and if I want a little bechamel as well. It's much lighter and quite refreshing.


                                        1. I work for an Italian and that's how he makes lasagne. He thinks the ricotta version is a sin against mankind--and after having his lasagne, I agree.

                                          1. Cook's Illustrated also offers a bechamel/bolognese lasagne that I've used often. They suggest adding the milk before the wine to sweeten and tenderize the meats. Once my family tried it, they won't go back to the ricotta version.

                                            1. I often make vegetarian "white" lasagnas with bechamel, ricotta, parmesan, garlic, herbs and whatever veggies are in season. My favorites are spinach; zucchini and fresh oregano, marjoram, and a little basil; or eggplant, fresh tomato, basil and sage.

                                              1. since you're posting about it you have indeed heard of it :)

                                                1. oh yes. the "real" italian recipes i use, like marcella hazans, layer (ragu) bolognese sauce with parmesan cheese and fresh made lasagna noodles. several layers of that. bechamel on the top, with a sprinkling of grated parm over that. no ricotta or mozzarella. it is divine...

                                                  4 Replies
                                                  1. re: jackie57

                                                    That's certainly how we've always made lasagne, with bechamel and bolog. Never seen it with ricotta - just doesnt seem "right" to me.

                                                    1. re: Harters

                                                      It's the common Italian-American recipe: ricotta, mozzarella, marinara or tomato-meat sauce, etc. Very different than bechamel-and-ragu lasagne!

                                                      1. re: Caitlin McGrath

                                                        Thanks for the explanation.

                                                        And I'm also just starting to remember that marinara means something different in the US than it does in the UK. Next thing you know, I'll be talking about eggplants and cilantro.

                                                    2. re: jackie57

                                                      That's how I make it, too. Made it this past weekend ... yum!

                                                    3. I always make the Marcella Hazan Bolognese, mix with a bechemel, layer with the noodles, top with more bechemel. I love this! I love ricotta, but not in a lasagna, I think it makes it too goopey. Try her lasagna recipe!

                                                      5 Replies
                                                      1. re: cassoulady

                                                        hazan does the food of her native emilia-romagna. there are regional differences throughout italy and many areas don't depend so much on dairy and meat. they simply couldn't afford to keep cows, so beef, milk and cream sauces aren't omnipresent.

                                                        1. re: hotoynoodle

                                                          Hotoynoodle, do you want types of lasagna are typical in other regions of Italy, or is not really made outside Emilia-Romana?

                                                          1. re: cassoulady


                                                            americans often think of italy as a unified whole, while italians never do. they are fiercely regional and the traditional cuisines varied from each other. it's like the whole cheese with fish controversy. seacoast folk simply didn't have access to dairy, and food wasn't shipped like it is now. you ate what you grew or caught.

                                                            hazan's region was relatively wealthy, while much of the rest of the country was desperately poor, especially in the south. so luxuries like copious amounts of meat and cheese were not afforded by many.

                                                            everybody on here treats hazan like she has the one true way that is all things italian and it makes me chafe.

                                                            1. re: hotoynoodle

                                                              A great comment on all those who go on about "authentic" Italian food.

                                                              1. re: hotoynoodle

                                                                I'm not sure it's about being "authentic" or not. I think, since the mid-80's Americans have been discovering that there is another whole repetoire of Italian cooking that is different from that of the Mezzogiorno. Remember, most of what Americans knew as "Italian" was distinctly Southern Italian. I say "hooray", let's enjoy all of the diversity in Italian cooking. One isn't better than the other, they are just different.

                                                        2. I have only ever made lasagna with bechamel. I have never heard of it without bechamel, at least for the top layer. Does ricotta get a golden top crust if you use that instead of bechamel? How do you use the ricotta, just make it smooth and pour it on top?

                                                          1 Reply
                                                          1. re: luckyfatima

                                                            Ricotta is typically used as a filling layer in lasagne, between layers of pasta, along with a sauce, perhaps veggies, etc. In this style, more sauce goes on the top layer of pasta and then usually a layer of cheese - mozzarella and/or Parmesan, typically - which forms its own golden crust at the end of baking.