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Feb 2, 2010 06:24 AM

Is Marcella Hazan's green lasagne bolognese worth it?

I've made her bolognese sauce countless times and I love it. I've read the recipe for her lasagne many times and have been intimidated by it. But now I think I am brave enough to give it a shot.
I am in the final weeks of my pregnancy and my nesting instinct is RAGING. My mom, who is coming up for the birth, loves Italian food and I thought this would be a great dish to make for her first night in town.
I have read reviews where people say the dish tastes almost of meatloaf...anyone make it and love it? Anyone make it an hate it? Anyone have any other REALLY good lasagne recipes to share?


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  1. I made it for the first time recently and I LOVED it! I'm pretty new to pasta making but the lasagne noodles turned out great. I made the dough in the FP BTW. I have packets of her Bolognese sauce in the freezer so that reduced the work alot. I'd recommend making it the day before --- and might as well double/triple whatever the amount. I'd never compare it to meatloaf, which I love. I'd never had that type of lasagne where the only cheese was the Parm. Hopefully others will vote LOVE also. Best wishes on your upcoming joyous event.

    1. Took me awhile to find this but it might be helpful.

      1. i know this is blasphemy, but i thought it tasted like hamburger helper. and i made everything from scratch with quality ingredients. took all stinkin' day. i am definitely in the minority.

        14 Replies
        1. re: eLizard

          I used to swear by Marcella's bolognese as the best I'd ever made (or even tasted outside of Italy) - until Saveur came out with an issue a couple of years ago with a half-dozen (all different, all authentic) variations. I tried Anna Nanni's and never went back. Much more flavorful than Marcella's with the same long-cooked texture and melding of elements. Be sure to make it with top-of-the line ingredients.

          1. re: BobB

            God, the photo of that dish makes me want to eat my arm. How delicious-looking.

            I am pretty partial to my bolognese, but maybe I'll give this one a try if it's as good as you say.

            1. re: ChristinaMason

              I made a lasagna with this a couple of weeks ago and my wife, who's not normally a big fan of Italian food, was raving about it for days.

              For the record - I took the basic Anna Nanni recipe, stirred in a couple of cups of bechamel when it was done, then simply layered it with al dente sheets of pasta and plenty of fresh-grated parmigiano-reggiano.

              P.S. Please don't eat your arm!

              1. re: BobB

                This sounds delicious, but I don't see how it's all that different than Marcellas or many other bolognese recipes. Am I missing something?


                1. re: JuniorBalloon

                  In Marcella's recipe (the one I used to use, from her book Essentials of...) the only meat is beef; Anna Nanni's calls for a mix of beef, pork, and pancetta. Nanni's also has more tomato and no milk. The combination of these three factors creates, to my palate at least, a more savory and tangy flavor profile.

            2. re: BobB

              Uh-oh ... did we take down their server? :D I want it to come back so *I* can want to eat my arm ...

              1. re: BobB

                That does sound really good. The first time I made M's B-sauce I used all pork and actually preferred it to all beef. I think I'm going to have to try this.

                1. re: c oliver

                  I made bolognese a week or two ago with mostly pork, just a little bit of ground beef (store was out). It came out really well, but I'll admit, I did add some beef base to up the flavor of the sauce.

                2. re: BobB

                  If you're in the market for another version to try, I would highly recommend Barbara Lynch's butcher shop bolognese in Stir. Amazing! I will say the Saveur version looks terrific... :)

                  1. re: AOski

                    I made Barbara Lynch's Bolognese, but I didn't care for the flavor of chicken livers.

                  2. re: BobB

                    Hey BobB, thank you for the Anna Nanni bolognese sauce tip. That recipe looks lovely!!

                    I've been making Marcella Hazan's recipe with a couple of mods that match Nanni's recipe. I can't wait to do Nanni's version.

                    It's good to have different versiona of a favorite sauce, for using with different types of pasta, etc.

                    1. re: BobB

                      I'm with you on Anna Nanni's recipe. Utterly delicious.

                      1. re: emily

                        Ditto. After reading this thread. I did Marcella's recipe with Anna Nanni's bolognese. Outstanding.

                    2. re: eLizard

                      I am with you on the hamburger helper reference. Not quite, but not so different. I was disappointed.

                    3. Its been years, but we thought it was really rich and excellent. (from her original Classic Italian Cookbook) You know, you can buy your fresh green pasta - dont have to make (Marcella specifies no dried pasta tho for this -its a delicate dish. Just dont skimp on your ingredients or substitute. Its a very simple recipe, pasta, ragu, bechamel, parmesan cheese.

                      I simply dont believe the hamburger helper comment below - if you make the ragu with the recommended meats, milk, wine etc it couldnt possibly coming out tasting that way.

                      15 Replies
                      1. re: jen kalb

                        Re second paragraph, I agree with you. This is not one of those everything goes recipes so perhaps too refined for some (I don't mean that in an insulting way). Since I made a quintuple batch last time, obviously I like it :)

                        1. re: c oliver

                          I just finished making Hazan's Bolognese and like some of the others, I'm not totally sold on it. The lasagna is in the oven now and I'm just hoping that it will all come together in the end. It didn't remind me so much of meatloaf but mine is very milky, and doesn't seemed spiced up enough. Seems to be lacking something.

                          I confess I did not make the pasta sheets.

                          1. re: millygirl

                            I can understand that reaction. It has a subtle, mild flavor, but tastes SO much more like what I've eaten in Italy than the quick ground beef in red sauce that typically gets served as "bolognese" in this country that it became my standard recipe for years. Until, as I described above, I discovered Anna Nanni's approach...

                            1. re: BobB

                              Thanks BobB, looks very good. I shall try this next time.

                              I just took a little taste now and it seems to have improved somewhat. The white wine really threw me. I just kept thinking I should use red, but who am I to second guess Hazan.

                              1. re: millygirl

                                BobB is right. the flavors in this type of emilia romagna ragu are very subtle and rich, not bold. The silkyness of the very thin homemade pasta of the region, the richness of the bechamel and the deep flavor of the ragus are very seductive but in a mild way. We had a great lasagna-type dish along these same lines but featuring a mushroom ragu at Arnaldo's Glinica Gastronimica in Rubiera in 2008 that I am still thinking abour - but the pasta is gossamer fine. I think that our clunky box pasta would completely ruin the dish. Arnaldo's also featured a very delicate vegetable ragu on taglietelle which was equally and unexpectedly wonderful.
                                I think we just have to adjust our expections in the direction of subtlety and make sure we make or find the highest quality rolled pasta to really make these dishes at their best.

                                1. re: jen kalb

                                  I had to chuckle over your referral to "clunky box pasta" (CBP) I'd never made my own lasagne pasta until recently. There was no comparison with CBP --- so important to the whole dish, not just something to divide the layers. Then over Christmas/New Year's we did two house exchanges and someone left CBP here. I was, like, that's cool, I'll certainly use it. Well, it's February now and I finally threw out that partial box (only a few left). I'm not a food snob but from now on if I don't have the time or inclination to make my own lasagne pasta, I'll make something else. I don't have that reaction to all other dried pastas so I haven't totally lost my mind.

                                  1. re: jen kalb

                                    How very well put, Jen Kalb!

                                    Delicately richly meaty (not shouting out loud, never full of tomato ) is how I want my ragù and the function of the milk is precisley to make the flavours in ragù more delicate.

                                    Gossamer thin (therefore barely cooked or they get soggy) fresh egg pasta sheets, very small amounts of nutmeg scented bechamel, well judged and not over done grated best Parmigiano, not too much tasty ragù.

                                    Making Lasagne Verdi is time consuming but once in a while well worh it for those light well-separated layers. When you use top ingredients and exercise restraint with the cheese and bechamel, it is a wonderful dish - satisfyingly rich but neither stodgy nor heavy.

                                2. re: BobB

                                  Checked out Anna Nanni, seems fine overall but for me - living in Bologna and teaching/eating Bolognese Ragù with great frequency - I miss the milk and feel it has way much fat (olive oil and butter amounts) and way too much tomato. Just the tomato paste would do, though I use passata.

                                3. re: millygirl

                                  Just rereading this thread and I see you say your Bolognese was "very milky." Just curious if you're using the recipe from one of her books or someone else's interpretation of it? I ask, because she says very specifically that the sauce should simmer until the milk "has bubbled away completely." Perhaps you were rushing a bit? I know that when I've made the Bolognese the milk isn't discernible at all.

                                  1. re: JoanN

                                    I noticed the same thing and forgot to comment on it. The first time I made the sauce I got the advice that the final result should be kinda "Sloppy Joe" consistency. Since I made quadruple and quintuple batches, it takes forever but there's really no way to rush it. And I agree that there's no evidence of milk by the end.

                                    1. re: c oliver

                                      Perhaps I should have let it go a little longer. It did seem to take forever and there was only a little bit of milk left but I could see it so I figured it's gotta be done. As I said up above, I do get impatient at times.

                                      The other thing was I worried it would dry out. I read further where she says it might dry out so you have to keep adding water to it. I figured I would rather have it wet with milk than have to start diluting flavour with water, no?

                                      Anyways I am happy to report that it was a winner - even with all my screw ups and the lousy cheating clunky box pasta :) Everyone loved it, esp hubby!! Lotta work but it was good. Would I make it again, I dunno.

                                      Aside from the screwups and stuff, I did make a few changes - I also added some cottage cheese to one of the layers. I know, it's not Hazan's now but for me, that's okay. I used her recipe as a guide and sometimes do make alterations.

                                      1. re: millygirl

                                        I'm curious what brand of spinach pasta you used. I've never seen it in my market.

                                        1. re: c oliver

                                          Brace yourself. Not only did I use cheap, cheating, clunky box pasta, but it wasn't even spinach at that. I completely forgot about that detail.

                                          I can only imagine how wonderful it would taste if I were to follow the recipe to a tee. However, if I am honest with myself, I just don't have that level of energy, or committment to cooking. As it was I spent the better part of a morning on my dummied down version. For me, it was fabulous just the same and everyone enjoyed it. That's all I need or want.

                                          Kudos to those that have the patience, skill and loyalty to see it through step by step though. I really do admire you folks.

                                        2. re: millygirl

                                          It wont dry out. you cook it at the slow rate recommended until the wet ingredient you have added has disappeared completely and the thing looks sort of glisteny and then go on to the next step.

                                          1. re: millygirl

                                            The way Italian sauces become so good is by letting reduce on very low heat ( your "dry out") and then topping up with a little water at a time. Drowning them in liquid is not the way to go. Bolognese is thick with meat, not runny at all. The long slow cooking does need lots of patience!

                                4. I guess to each his own, but I'm having real difficulty understanding the naysayers. I've been making this and serving it to company for years and almost uniformly people say it's the very best they've ever had. At least, in this country. Perhaps because I've made it so often, it just doesn't seem like a big deal to me. The biggest problem for me is finding a place in my small apartment to lay out all the pasta sheets. And, like c. oliver, I usually have the ragu in the freezer.

                                  I don't think it's really fair to judge the recipe if you haven't made the pasta yourself. Yes, it will still be lasagne, but it won't be HER lasagne. The pasta should be very light and almost paper thin, and you just can't achieve that with store-bought pasta, even freshly-made store bought. She calls for what, I forget now, at least 6? 7? layers of noodles? That's part of the character of the dish and just not achievable with a commercial product. And, as Marcella says, lasagne is all about the pasta--not about the meat, not about the cheese.

                                  I'm not slamming anyone for taking shorcuts. Heck, I've made a pretty damn good lasagne with no-cook noodles. I like the sound of that Saveur ragu and will give it a try, but up until now, at least, I think Marcella's Baked Green Lasagne, with Meat Sauce, Bolognese Style is the ne plus ultra of lasagnes.

                                  4 Replies
                                      1. re: JoanN

                                        JoanN, I had trouble getting my pasta thin enough to have even close to that many layers. 3, maybe 4 max. It would start to tear. Does that indicate too wet, too dry? After reading this thread, I'm seriously in the mood to make it again soon.

                                        1. re: c oliver

                                          The pasta does begin to tear if it's a little too dry.

                                          I've never been able to go all the way to the thinnest setting on my KA attachment. The next to the last is the best I've been able to do. But even if it tears you can still use it since you're usually cutting it to the shape of the pan anyway. At least, that's what I do. And you can always fill in with scraps. IIRC, I nearly always get at least six layers.