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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?

Thanks!!

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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.

      http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/351564

      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.

          http://www.saveur.com/article/Recipes...

          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?

                jb

                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.

                                      2. This is a fabulous dish. It's not an everyday, week, heck, I don't even make it once a year! But when I do . . . completely worth it. My only complaint is that it is small, so doesn't feed many unless I make a couple. But really I could happily just eat an entire one by myself.

                                        There was a great Saveur article on lasagna bolognese - green noodles and all - a few years ago. Is this it? http://www.saveur.com/article/Kitchen...

                                        Gosh I'm getting inspired just thinking about it. Maybe it is time once again to make the effort.

                                        10 Replies
                                        1. re: Splendid Spatula

                                          Agree about size. I only had enough pasta for a square pan. It was days later that I looked back at the recipe for the pasta and realized that it only made four servings. Silly me. Next time, I'll double that part of it. From a food standpoint, it was life-changing for me. As JoanN said above, it's about the pasta not the meat and certainly not tons of cheese(s). I've been taking things to my elderly MIL since she really doesn't cook anymore. I begrudged her that (small) portion.

                                            1. re: c oliver

                                              About to make this recipe again but I had the opposite problem. Her recipe makes about 1 lb of spinach pasta and I actually ended up with too much pasta. This was for a 9"x13" dish and consisted of 7 layers with enough leftover to cut for a single serving of pappardelle.Maybe you didn't roll it out thin enough? According to Hazan, lasagne is paper thin in Emilie-Romagna. It should be translucent and in plain pasta, you should be able to see the faint outline of your hand behind it. It was delicious but time consuming. I actually had more of an issue with her pork loin braised in milk which she recommended to serve with it. That came out dry. Hopefully the next time I make it, it will win me over.

                                              1. re: GOJIRA

                                                modern pork loin is awfully lean for a long cook method. I think the last time I made this I use the shoulder.

                                                1. re: jen kalb

                                                  I use the fattier heritage breed pork (same ones used back then) as opposed to our modern hybrids so that doesn't seem to be my issue. In fact, im usually not a fan of pork at all but heritage breed is delicious. Her cooking times have a tendency to be on the longer side. 3 hours for a 2.5 lb pork loin which includes the rib bones. Anthony Bourdain has a recipe that uses a 3 lb boneless pork loin and that cooks for an hour at low heat. Mario Batli cooks his 6-7 lb bone in pork loin roast for 1.5 hours. Bon Appetit has a recipe that cooks it for 2 hours. so something does sound off. My guess is she likes her food a little more well done. Next time I'll take the loin out when it reaches 145 degrees and reduce without the pork.

                                                  1. re: GOJIRA

                                                    <My guess is she likes her food a little more well done.>

                                                    I think that's true. And I also think it's typically Italian. She, as well as some Italians I know, seem to like vegetables cooked softer than I do. None of this al dente stuff for veggies, just for pasta. I nearly always cut back a bit on timing with many of her recipes.

                                                2. re: GOJIRA

                                                  I'm not at home so can't check my book when I posted that four years ago, I said it made four servings. The next time I double the pasta part and it made a perfect 9x13 pan. I roll the pasta out to 7 on my KA roller. Perfectly thin.

                                                  1. re: c oliver

                                                    Yeah, her book does say four portions for her green pasta dough recipe, but when combined with the bechamel and bolognese, Marcella says it will serve 6 and fill a 9x12 pan with at least 6 layers of lasagne.

                                                    Anyways, I just checked her son's blog and he normally gets 7 layers out of that recipe. He does make a comment on people having trouble getting it paper thin and says that some have a tendency to pass the pasta right away on the thinnest setting which will cause the pasta to break. According to his mother, she would compare it to someone on a 6 floor building jumping out of the window to go downstairs as opposed to going down the stairs one step at a time. Thats why he advises starting at the widest setting and then proceeding down one notch at a time.

                                                    1. re: GOJIRA

                                                      I can't even imagine doing it any other way. I can't imagine it would even go through. Plain silliness.

                                              2. re: Splendid Spatula

                                                What a great article! That really describes it perfectly.

                                              3. This conversation has been very interesting. I have made this dish once before and also thought it was meatloaf like. I was really disappointed because it is not common that I cook something with gluten in it. If I'm going to eat gluten, I'd better enjoy it.

                                                I'm lazy and have fear issues with dough. And I don't have a pasta maker or a mixer. So making the pasta is out of the question. I purchased spinach pasta from a very good pasta store. But I'm afraid I added way too much pasta -- over ten layers of pasta. So my lasagne turned into a brick.

                                                Thanks for the discussion and I'll give this recipe another shot in the future.

                                                3 Replies
                                                1. re: Miss Needle

                                                  when Ive been served this dish in italy it is often no more than an inch thick and quite delicate. The thinness of the pasta is the key to this delicacy

                                                  1. re: jen kalb

                                                    I appreciate your sharing that. I'm going to work on getting my pasta thinner. Didn't feel that it needed to be "super-sized."

                                                  2. re: Miss Needle

                                                    Hope you consider trying again. You may be using way too much sauce. Marcella uses just a very small amount, like just enough to coat the pasta, not a real layer.

                                                    Italians in general use very little, just enough to sauce their pasta; Americans sometimes use lots of sauce for small amount of pasta. The important thing according to Marcella, is the correct balance between the pasta and sauce. The pasta is NOT just a vehicle for the sauce, but an integral part of the dish.

                                                    Buon appetito

                                                  3. Absolutely worth it even if you take the short cut of using Barilla no bake lasagna noodles, I tried them because an article in -maybe in Saveaur- said they were excellent.
                                                    So delicious. i always make extra sauce and freeze it- like money in the bank. I also use a little more bechemel sauce than Marcella.

                                                    1. I'm new to this site and just had to jump in with my Marcella bolognese story: I made this for the first time in 1980 when I lived in Spain and didn't yet know how to cook much. My friends and I had a bare-bones kitchen, no FP, no pasta roller, not even a rolling pin - so we made this top to bottom by hand: picked the spinach, stemmed it, rolled out the pasta with a full (at the start, anyway) wine bottle, minced the beef... of course it took all day, but what a blast - and it was the most delicious creation. I think it made real cooks of us all. I make this often now, with my shiny FP, knives, and sleek pasta machine, and people just rave about it, but every once in awhile I go back and do it the old way. Somehow it's better.

                                                      1 Reply
                                                      1. re: elenacampana

                                                        what a wonderful cooking story! thanks for offering it!

                                                      2. Marcella's Lasagna is one of the best dishes ever created. It is definitely worth the time and effort.

                                                        It also freezed well. Assemble a few extra and freeze in baking dish. When frozen solid, unmnold and wrap in saran, freezer paper, and store in Freezer Zip Bag , labeled.

                                                        Bake by unwrapping, putting it back in the baking dish and baking until hot and bubbling. Put it in the oven frozen. It works.

                                                        1 Reply
                                                        1. re: Fleur

                                                          Oh, Fleur, thanks for the freezing tip. I've only made it once and it was SO perfect. Glad to know I can make an extra.

                                                        2. To all of you Bolognese fans....I have a pot cooking on the stove right now, waiting, waiting for the wine to cook down. I use Hazan's recipe. ( I have been making it for decades, from my first Italian cookbook, a present from Mom for Christmas). I love this book and it is being held together by tape. I am making 5 recipe batch. I found this post, while looking for some guidance on adjusting the amount of butter, oil, wine and milk for this large amount. It takes forever to cook down the liquid. I am sure that some educated cook out there, knows the 'formula' for adjusting recipes that are 4 to 5 times bigger than originally written. By the way, I do 'cheat' on this lasagna. I don't make the pasta, I use Trader Joe's no boil. I also put spinach in it, most times fresh, sometimes thawed frozen. I always get rave reviews...even from the step son who never liked lasagna. Maybe one day, I will be brave enough to try the homemade spinach pasta.

                                                          8 Replies
                                                          1. re: Margoe

                                                            brave to 5x the recipe.....there must have been some marcella miasma in the air yesterday, i spent the afternoon cooking her bolognese too. i've made the green lasagne with the home-made noodles, which really is worth it, and not too difficult, just a lesson in organization, yesterday no time for the lasagne but i did make home made tagliatelle to go with the ragu, also very good.

                                                            1. re: qianning

                                                              Sometimes when I'm feeling lazy, i.e., I don't want to make my own pasta, I make baked cavatappi with Bolognese, Besciamella, and Parmigiano-Reggiano. It's not as wonderful on the tongue as hand-rolled lasagne, but it's a hell of a lot better than most things.

                                                              1. re: Jay F

                                                                That's a really good idea, Jay F.

                                                                1. re: c oliver

                                                                  And to be honest, people make just as big a fuss over it as they do the lasagne, and (obviously) it's so much less work. It's very bring-able, too. Sometimes I assemble it with very al dente pasta the night before, then put it in to bake for 1/2 hr. right before dinner.

                                                                  1. re: Jay F

                                                                    I was wondering about papparadelle (?sp) also.

                                                                    1. re: c oliver

                                                                      I make Bolognese with papparadelle and love the combination...sauce is very similar to MH's, just a kiss of tomato near the end but I add toasted fennel seed (crushed) and nutmeg. I actually make the pasta with 1 cup of AP and one cup of semolina to four eggs and roll it to the next to thinnest setting on the old Atlas. The key is not too much sauce and toss it in a bowl with the pasta to coat it all. Grate a SMALL amount of Romano on it. I cannot even think of Hamburger Helper when I am eating it. It might be my favorite meal with a big mixed salad afterwards.

                                                                      1. re: c oliver

                                                                        I guess if I were going to the trouble of making my own pasta, I'd probably just stop at lasagne. Also, pappardelle I think of as a pasta you cook in water and then sauce.

                                                                        But when you think about it, there's no reason not to do it baked. At first, I wondered whether the pappardelle would overcook when you bake it in the oven. But why would it do so any more than lasagne would? It sounds like an interesting challenge. Maybe you could make it that way and report back.

                                                                        1. re: Jay F

                                                                          yes, the pappardelle just spend a minute or two in boiling water and then gets dump into a bowl to be tossed with the sauce, not remotely like MH's lasagna but luscious with a smidge of Romano on it. If I were going to bake it I agree, stop at lasagna.

                                                            2. Marcella's Bolognese is the best. I do double everything, including the bechamel to make one pan of lasagna. Marcella's is a little spare in her amount of sauce. I sometimes use the barilla no cook lasagne sheets and it comes out great. Barilla's lasagne sheets are very thin and taste like home made. A good layer of thin bechemel is important when using the no cook noodles as I think it helps provide the needed moisture. I also sprinkle some parmesan between layers. People are blown away by this recipe. It is not however the ricotta, red sauce lasagna. This is much more delicate and elegant. The Bolognese sauce is wonderful even just on pasta.

                                                              1. My wife and I have been making for years. Love it. we have found that you do need to double the bechamel in all of her recipes.

                                                                3 Replies
                                                                1. re: nobadfoodplz

                                                                  I have not found that to be the case at all. With homemade pasta, a light touch was all I needed.

                                                                  1. re: c oliver

                                                                    Ms Oliver

                                                                    I apologize for the late response, black tie charity dinner last night. You appear to be as big a Hazan fan as my wife and I. Maybe we will lighten ther next time, but we really like a little more bechamel.

                                                                    1. re: nobadfoodplz

                                                                      I'm sure she approves of either. After making it the first time I will never choose any other way.

                                                                2. YES. And make your own pasta. Spinach pasta, especially if you have a machine to roll it, is quite easy to handle. Bechamel should be spread sparingly.

                                                                  3 Replies
                                                                  1. re: mbfant

                                                                    I was pretty/quite nervous the first time I made the spinach pasta but it was much easier than I anticipated.

                                                                    1. re: c oliver

                                                                      We have found the most difficult part of the spinach pasta is running through the fettucini cutter. Sometime the strands do not cut with the rollers. The larger sheets for the pasta and manicotti avoid this issue.

                                                                      1. re: nobadfoodplz

                                                                        Since OP was asking about lasagne that's all I addressed. And all I've made. But thanks for the heads up. Perhaps best to cut with a knife like papparadelle.

                                                                  2. OK, here's the definitive answer to the original question! Or is it? The unequivocal answer is: it depends. I recently had about 20 people over for dinner and made both, Marcella Hazan's lasagne (albeit, not green), as well as the "World's Best Lasagna" from allrecipes.com (http://allrecipes.com/Recipe-Tools/Pr...), which is a more southern Italian/Americanized version of lasagna, with sausage and beef, garlic, mozzarella, ricotta, parmesan, herbs, tomato paste, etc, etc. I did actually modify Marcella's recipe a little by borrowing a bit from Anna Nanni's recipe (added pork and pancetta, as I have done with previous Bolognese ragus), and quadrupled the recipe so I had plenty for the lasagna and plenty left over for the freezer. I also doubled the Bechamel recipe (although with 1 cup less milk total), which ended up being a little more than I needed. While I did not make the fresh pasta myself, I did get fresh pasta from a local Italian market (one giant pasta sheet per layer!) After everyone tried both lasagnes, the vote was pretty clear -- well, actually it was pretty split. Some people favored the bold flavors of the "World's Best", while others preferred the soft and subtle delicateness of Marcella's recipe. Personally, I liked Marcella's better, although both were terrific (another person brought another lasagne, but it didn't compare to these two). So it depends on your audience and your taste. I liken it this way... if you want a soft and elegant lasagne that you would get in a fine-dining northern (mid?) Italian restaurant, make Marcella's; if you want a lasagne that knocks your socks off with bold flavors like you would get in a typical Italian/American restaurant, make the "World's Best" or something similar. As far as time and effort go, I would say both were pretty similar: with Marcella's you simmer the sauce longer (4 hrs.), but assembly and baking (15 mins.) are very quick; with the "World's Best", the sauce doesn't take as long (2 hrs.), but assembly is more complicated and baking takes about an hour. As a tip provided in the Saveur article in another post, when assembling, I like to put the sauce by itself between layers of pasta, then cheese by itself between layers of pasta, rather than combining the cheese and meat in a single layer. I think it makes for a prettier lasagne, especially if you use the spinach pasta (then you get separate layers of red, white and green (Italian flag)). Also, if you make "World's Best", you will need more pasta than the recipe calls for in order to do more layers (for some reason, it only calls for 2 layers, even though the photo shows about 6 layers -- maybe they forgot the word "repeat"). Also, I cut the sugar in half, and it was still too sweet for me. Taste, before adding too much. You really can't go wrong with either of these recipes. Whatever your taste preference, enjoy!

                                                                    17 Replies
                                                                    1. re: MarkFL

                                                                      MarkFL, this is a wonderful report and I enjoyed ALMOST everything about it. What did I NOT enjoy? The gigantic single paragraph! Please, in future, break it up so it's easier to read.

                                                                      Thanks.

                                                                      1. re: oakjoan

                                                                        Sorry about that. Guess I got a little verbose. I'll break it up in the future. ;)

                                                                        1. re: MarkFL

                                                                          Just want to say there are many Lasagne / Lasgana dishes in Italy of which - perhaps - the top two are Bologna's LasagneE Verdi and the Naples LasagnA or in its full title, la Gran Lasagna di Carnevale.

                                                                          Bologna's is made with very few ingredients: green spinach - once was nettles - soft flour (not durum wheat) and egg pasta - here nearly always made from scratch, Bolognese ragù, a little bechamel as too much makes it gloopy and heavy, plenty of grated Reggiano. It is rich yet light enough to eat as the first course in a multi course meal.

                                                                          The Naples Gran Lasagna is a feasting dish, a celebration dish originally meant to be eaten once a year on Mardi Gras, just before the meatless fasting days of Lent start . Uusally you eat ONLY this dish, which is a meal and a half all by itself.

                                                                          It is made using Naples ragù - lots of meat cooked in loads and loads of tomatoes, but the meat is then removed from the sauce to serve separately later - and it has many fillings: tiny meatballs, pork skin roll ups, fresh sausage, salami, mozzarella, ricotta, hard boiled eggs...and it is nearly always made with store bought durum wheat pasta.

                                                                          Another wonderful layered pasta dish of this type is the Vincisgrassi from the Marche region - has anyone ever made this? I've yet to try.

                                                                          1. re: MarkFL

                                                                            I hesitate to say this because I'm sure your Marcella lasagne was wonderful. But I've made it with both store-bought fresh noodles (from Borgatti's on Aruthur Avenue) and home-made and the latter was definitely superior. The store-bought noodles, because they're made to be transported, just can't be rolled as thin as noodles you make yourself. The home-made noodles are so thin and so silky they, and not the filling, are the star of the dish. If you have or can get access to a pasta roller, I suggest you try Marcella's recipe sometime using her recipe for spinach noodles. You may be surprised at what a difference it makes.

                                                                            Having said that, I just printed out recipes for both "The World's Best" and Anna Nanni's ragu and will be making it for company at the end of the month.

                                                                            1. re: JoanN

                                                                              Unfortunately, I don't have a pasta roller. Maybe someday I'll try rolling by hand (I do have that left over bolognese ragu in the freezer!), but I haven't done so yet. The pasta sheets from our local market, Mazzaro's in St. Pete, are fairly thin (on the border line of tearing, and even a few holes), but I'm sure they could be thinner. Cooking for 20 people I had plenty to do, so saving a few steps was worth it to me. Certainly better than dried boxed pasta.

                                                                              1. re: MarkFL

                                                                                In total agreement, and didn't mean to imply otherwise.

                                                                                I don't think I'd go to the trouble of making noodles if I had to roll them by hand. I have the roller attachment for the Kitchen Aid stand mixer and it makes it so easy to make pasta I rarely buy it, unless I'm looking for a shape like shells or macaroni.

                                                                                1. re: JoanN

                                                                                  I just recently bought the kitchen aid attachment and unwisely decided to make my first attempt at rolling my own pasta on the afternoon of a major party. An hour later, I threw it all out, after having all kinds of problems with rolling a smooth sheet (the dough kept shredding) any tips? Do you let your dough rest for an extended period before rolling? Do you use Marcella's egg pasta recipes? I was using the ingredient formulas from Splendid Table but putting together the dough in the food processor.. Id like to give this another try when I am not under the gun.

                                                                                  1. re: jen kalb

                                                                                    It's not unusual for pasta to shred the very first time you use the roller. I've had mine for years now, but I think I recall reading when I first got it that you should run a few pieces of test dough through it to clean out the mechanism. Evidently, when it's brand new there is still grease and perhaps even some steel grindings left over from manufacturing that will be picked up and removed during the first couple of passes.

                                                                                    That, though, should apply only the first time you use it. If the dough continues to tear, it may be that the dough wasn't sufficiently pliable or that you were trying to roll it too thin before getting the hang of it.

                                                                                    Yes, I usually use Marcella's egg recipe for pasta. And I do let it rest, but only for half an hour to an hour and on the countertop. I've never tried the recipe from Splendid Table and I always make my pasta by hand rather than in the food processor or mixer just because I like to feel the consistency of the dough so I know whether it needs a bit more flour or a bit more liquid.

                                                                                    Not counting the resting time, I'm now able to whip up a batch of linguine in less time than it takes me to go to the store to buy it.

                                                                                    1. re: jen kalb

                                                                                      I've never used a KA to make pasta, but no matter what you use, it takes practice to get it right. Given the shredding, it sounds as if your dough was too dry. My favorite recipe/method is Giuliano Bugialli's, which incorporates a bit of EVOO. It has always rolled out better for me. Oh, and I let the dough rest for around an hour before using the pasta machine, usually.

                                                                                      1. re: jen kalb

                                                                                        I like Marcella's egg pasta recipe the best, although in her book she does not mention letting it rest .. I think that's very necessary .. I got that tip elsewhere. I do it by hand, following her instructions. Knead for about 10 minutes. I wrap it in plastic wrap and leave it on the counter 30-60 minutes.

                                                                                        I tried other recipes but they just didn't work and I had to throw them out (such as with olive oil).

                                                                                        Do you have her book, Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking? Also, I graduated to the pasta attachment for the Kitchen Aid mixer -- so much easier.

                                                                                        I roll it through several times, changing # each time. I stop at the next to thinnest.

                                                                                      2. re: JoanN

                                                                                        Does that attachment work well compared with other specialty rollers? Anybody else have comments on their favorite pasta roller? I have the KA stand mixer with lots of other attachments, but not the pasta one.

                                                                                        1. re: MarkFL

                                                                                          I have the KA attachment, and I love it. The one time I had problems with my pasta dough shredding, I rolled it into a ball, patted it into a rectangle and re-rolled it. All the rolling seems to strengthen it, I guess. I was able to salvage that pasta, but it was time-consuming. (I do usually make egg pasta.)

                                                                                          Prior to getting this attachment I had a hand-cranked pasta roller, with clamps that never held onto anything tightly, no matter how hard I tried. It was a PITB so I rarely made my own pasta.

                                                                                          1. re: MarkFL

                                                                                            I never used any other kind of roller. What I love about the KA attachment is that you don't need a third hand to turn the crank. Maybe some people can feed the dough and remove it using only one hand, but not I.

                                                                                            I have a few other attachments for the KA and even though I'm using the meat grinder with increasing frequency, I still use the pasta roller the most. I just love the results. And as I said above, I can make it in less time than it takes me to go out and buy it.

                                                                                            1. re: JoanN

                                                                                              I have great hopes for this thing - the idea of having a motor on the roller seems to simplify matters - I can hardly imagine cranking and feeding and handling the rolled dough with just two hands. Ive been using the meat grinder forever, and just this year got the citrus reamer and a thing for seiving tomatoes (an alternate for the devilish food mill or hand seive) which made quick work of a large quantity of tomatoes needing skinning and seeding for tomato sauce this year. Leveraging off the motor makes a lot of sense.

                                                                                              Back to the past, I guess (really I know) that I need to get a better handle on how the pasta should feel before rolling - Im going to start by trying this again when I have plenty of time, and giving the dough a little longer rest. before attempting to roll.

                                                                                              thanks for the moral support.

                                                                                              1. re: jen kalb

                                                                                                My pleasure. I'm sure it won't be long before you're practically doing it with your eyes closed. In fact, when my grandsons were little they'd always ask me to make a pasta dish so they could put the dough through the rollers and cutters. We ended up with some funny shapes, to say nothing of quite a bit of pasta on the floor, but they loved doing it.

                                                                                                The citrus reamer is my least used attachment. I'm rarely making enough juice for it to be worth taking down off the shelf. And I didn't even know they had a tomato thingie. You're right that the food mill can be devilish, but I've used one for so many years now I've just gotten used to it's quirks.

                                                                                                1. re: JoanN

                                                                                                  i can have pasta from flour and egg to on the plate in about 40 minutes if i let the dough rest. faster if i don't. the kitchenaid attachment is amazing. might be my favorite one. but then again, the meat grinder is awesome. and so is the ice cream maker!

                                                                                  2. Question about the pasta. I've made fresh pasta before, so I'm comfortable with the process, but for this lasagna, she calls for cooking/ice bath/rinse/squeeze/dry pasta sheets on kitchen towels. For how long do you let them dry out before using in the lasagna?

                                                                                    BTW, thanks for this thread - so many interesting comments and takes on this recipe, which I cannot wait to try.

                                                                                    2 Replies
                                                                                    1. re: ImHungry5

                                                                                      You really don't need to let them dry out, you're just making sure that they're not still dripping wet after having been rinsed. They should be sufficiently dry to use almost immediately.

                                                                                      1. re: JoanN

                                                                                        Thanks so much, Joan - that's very helpful. In some ways, her recipe is meticulously detailed - in others, she leaves out essential info.

                                                                                    2. So, I made this over the weekend (thanks again for your help, Joan!) and followed it to the the letter. I have a few questions for those of you have done the same; I would LOVE your feedback, if you don't mind.

                                                                                      1) I had a terrible time with the spinach pasta. I've made fresh egg pasta dozens of times with no fuss or issues, but this didn't work out so well. I squeezed the water out of the spinach and then I squeezed some more and then again. So, it was very dry when I started. However, the dough was very sticky (is this normal?), so I continued to add flour until it wasn't sticking/leaving dough on my hands. I fear I added too much, even though the dough remained relatively sticky, because when I rolled it out, it cracked and I couldn't get it as thin as it should have been. . Should I have allowed it to remain a bit sticky? I was afraid it would stick to the rollers when I attempted to roll it out. BTW, I kneaded and rested the dough as instructed

                                                                                      2) It seemed like WAY too much bechamel to bolognese ratio, so I didn't mix the entire batch into thebolognese. it was still very runny when mixed together and it tasted fine. Just wondered about other poster's impressions of the quantity of bechamel.

                                                                                      Despite the above, I answer 'yes' to this post. I thought it was well worth it (And while I understand it's considered a necessary step, the washing and hang-wringing of the pasta is a little wacky - there were numerous jokes flying around the kitchen as Iwas doing this). I was skeptical about the bolognese being any good when I saw how relatively unsaucy it was, but it was absolutely delicious and I'm not a big meat eater. Despite my dough mishap, it still tasted really good.

                                                                                      Thanks for any insights you all might have!

                                                                                      1. As you can tell from the other posts, it is definitely worth it. I still vividly recall the first time I had lasagna bolognese thirty years ago when I was going to school there. I was raised on the American/Southern Italian style, but a properly made green lasagna is most memorable and my personal favorite.

                                                                                        I make the ragu in batches, typically with five or six pounds of meat. Two dutch ovens going at once saves lots of time when you are cooking off the wine and milk. When I learned to make it in Bologna our teacher used chicken livers and added them with the meats. Romagnoli's Table cookbook has this element and I think it makes a difference.

                                                                                        Needless to say, chopping the vegetables and livers in a processor is the way to go.

                                                                                        I can't imagine what is happening to a ragu to make it taste like meatloaf. The meat must be worked over and over as Marcella suggests to get the proper texture. Goes against what i have been taught not to overwork ground meat, but it works.

                                                                                        All in all, though, it is a pretty time consuming business, especially the pasta part. I rarely do my own pasta anymore, but have found a good local place for fresh pasta. A reasonable but very imperfect substitute. I then roll it down thinner. Must be thin! It is harder to work with, tends to overcook, and is more likely to tear, but well worth it. I use a spider to pull out the pasta as it cooks and lay it out on cloth towels to dry, after the cold water bath.

                                                                                        Good parmesan is critical.

                                                                                        I can't imagine making just a single batch of ragu. It freezes pretty well, but generally gets a little watery and needs to be cooked down a bit after thawing. It is also fantastic with fresh taglietelle.

                                                                                        1 Reply
                                                                                        1. re: lasagnaverdealforno

                                                                                          I'm totally with you regarding the Bolognese sauce. I always make a 4x or 5x batch and freeze in 2 cup portions. When we visit our SF daughter occasionally and I ask what I can bring her, this is her vote.

                                                                                          I'd been meaning to give this thread a bump as I make it recently a couple of weeks ago and froze in anticipation of our daughters, spouses and two one year old babies coming to visit. EVERYBODY, including the babies, LOVED it. I make this only a couple of times a year because, even with the sauce made, it's still a lot of work. But the last couple of times my husband has been an active participant with all the pasta handling and that has made a big difference. But it was still about four hours with a break for lunch. But worth it? You betcha! If this were the ONLY thing that CH had given me, I'd still be a lucky person.