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Milk Street Lasagna Bolognese (Ep 408)

Tagliatelle alla Bolognese

Start to finish: 20 minutes | Servings: 4

Tagliatelle resembles fettuccine, but typically is made with eggs, so the noodles have a yellow hue, a richer flavor and a more delicate texture than eggless pasta. It’s not uncommon to find tagliatelle wound into small nests for packaging; other times, the noodles are in straight strands, like fettuccine.

Don’t boil the pasta until al dente. Drain it when it’s just shy of al dente. It will finish cooking in the ragù. This technique yields better integration of pasta and sauce.


  • 8.8-ounce package dried tagliatelle
  • Kosher salt and ground black pepper
  • 2 cups ragù Bolognese (recipe below)
  • Extra-virgin olive oil, to serve (optional)
  • Finely grated Parmesan cheese, to serve


In a large pot, bring 3 quarts of water to a boil. Add 1 tablespoon salt and the pasta, then cook, stirring occasionally, until just shy of al dente. Reserve ½ cup of the cooking water, then drain.

In the same pot over medium, bring the ragù to a simmer, stirring occasionally. Add the tagliatelle and cook, stirring occasionally, until the pasta is al dente, about 2 minutes; add cooking water as needed to thin. Off heat, taste and season with salt and pepper. Serve drizzled with oil (if using) and sprinkled with Parmesan.

Lasagna Bolognese

Start to finish: 1 utes active), plus cooling

Servings: 8 to 10

We liked Barilla oven-ready lasagna noodles for this recipe, preferring them even over fresh sheet pasta. Both the ragù and the besciamella should be warm for lasagna assembly; the ragù reheats well in a large saucepan over medium and the besciamella can be microwaved in a covered 1-quart liquid measuring cup or medium microwave- safe bowl. A serrated knife is best for cutting the lasagna for serving.

Don’t use the noodles without first soaking them. Unsoaked noodles absorb moisture from both the ragù and besciamella, leaving the lasagna too dry. But on’t soak them for longer than 10 minutes.


  • 12 no-boil 6½-by-3½-inch lasagna noodles (see note)
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • Kosher salt
  • 6 cups ragù Bolognese, warmed (see recipe)
  • 3 cups Parmesan besciamella, warmed (see recipe)
  • Finely grated Parmesan cheese, to serve

INSTRUCTIONS Heat the oven to 350°F with a rack in the middle position. Place the noodles in a 9-by-13-inch baking dish, then add hot water (about 140°F) to cover, along with the oil and 1 tablespoon salt; swish the noodles around to dissolve the salt. Let stand for 10 minutes, moving the noodles around halfway through to ensure they do not stick together.

Remove the noodles from the water and arrange in a single layer on a kitchen towel; pat dry with paper towels. Wipe out the baking dish. Distribute 2 cups ragù evenly in the baking dish, then place 3 noodles in a single layer on top. Spread ¼ cup besciamella onto each noodle, all the way to the edges. Pour 1 cup ragù on top and spread evenly.

Repeat the layering 3 more times, using the remaining noodles, besciamella and ragù, then cover the baking dish tightly with foil.

Bake until the edges of the lasagna are bubbling, 45 minutes to 1 hour. Transfer to a wire rack, uncover and cool for about 30 minutes. Cut into pieces and serve sprinkled with Parmesan.

Ragù Bolognese

Start to finish: 3¼ hours (40 minutes active) | Makes about 8 cups

This recipe makes enough ragù for lasagna Bolognese with enough leftovers for another night's pasta dinner. Try to purchase pancetta in a large chunk from the deli counter, and if it comes in casing-like plastic, make sure to remove and discard the wrap before use. The next best option is packaged already diced pancetta; if pre-sliced is the only option, it will work, but will cost a lot more and requires less time in the food processor. We add a bit of powdered gelatin to give the ragù a rich, velvety body that otherwise would require a lengthy simmer to achieve. The finished ragù can be cooled to room temperature and refrigerated for up to three days.

Don’t trim the fat from the beef and pork. The fat makes the ragù rich and supple, and carries the flavors of the other ingredients. Don’t process the beef and pork too finely; a coarse grind yields the best-textured sauce.


  • 4 tablespoons (½ stick) salted butter
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 large yellow onion, cut into rough 1-inch pieces
  • 1 medium celery stalk, cut into rough 1-inch pieces
  • 1 medium carrot, peeled and cut into rough 1-inch pieces
  • Two 28-ounce cans whole tomatoes
  • 1½ pounds boneless beef short ribs, cut into rough 1-inch chunks
  • 1 pound boneless pork shoulder, cut into rough 1-inch chunks
  • 8-ounce piece pancetta, cut into rough 1-inch chunks (see note)
  • ¼ cup tomato paste
  • ½ cup dry white wine
  • 2 cups low-sodium beef broth
  • 4 bay leaves
  • ½ teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 2 tablespoons unflavored powdered gelatin
  • Kosher salt and ground black pepper


In a large Dutch oven, combine the butter and oil. In a food processor, pulse the onion, celery and carrot until roughly chopped, about 5 pulses. Transfer to the Dutch oven. One can at a time, add the tomatoes with juices to the food processor and puree until smooth; transfer to a medium bowl. Add half the beef to the food processor and pulse until coarsely ground, 5 to 10 pulses, then transfer to another medium bowl; repeat with the remaining beef. Repeat with the pork, in batches, adding it to the beef. Finally, process the pancetta to a coarse paste, about 30 seconds; add to the other meats.

Set the pot over medium-high and cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are lightly browned, about 5 minutes. Stir in the tomato paste and cook, stirring, until the paste begins to brown, about 5 minutes. Add the wine and cook, scraping up any browned bits, until the pot is almost dry, about 1 minute. Stir in the ground meats, then stir in the broth, tomatoes, bay and pepper flakes. Bring to a simmer, then partially cover, reduce to medium-low and cook, stirring occasionally, until the meat is tender, the sauce is thick and the volume has reduced to about 8 cups, 2½ to 3 hours. Remove the pot from the heat.

Pour ¼ cup water into a small bowl and sprinkle the gelatin evenly over the top; let stand for 5 minutes to soften. Meanwhile, taste and season the ragù with salt and pepper, then remove and discard the bay. Stir in the softened gelatin until fully dissolved.

Parmesan Besciamella

Start to finish: 40 minutes | Makes about 3 cups

This white sauce is packed with flavor from bay, basil and Parmesan and gets a hint of heat from red pepper flakes. The finished besciamella can be refrigerated in an airtight container for up to two days.

Don’t allow the sauce to cool completely before straining. It flows more easily through the mesh of the strainer when warm and fluid.


  • 6 tablespoons (¾ stick) salted butter, cut into 6 pieces
  • ¼ cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 quart half-and-half
  • 3 bay leaves
  • ½ teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • Kosher salt and ground black pepper
  • 3 ounces Parmesan cheese, finely grated (1½ cups)
  • 6 large fresh basil leaves


In a large saucepan over medium, melt the butter. Whisk in the flour, then cook, whisking constantly, for 2 minutes. While whisking, gradually add the half-and-half and bring to a simmer. Add the bay and pepper flakes, then reduce to low. Cook, whisking often, until thickened and reduced slightly and no longer tastes of raw starch, 10 to 15 minutes.

Off heat, whisk in the Parmesan and basil. Cool for 5 minutes, then set a fine mesh strainer over a medium bowl, pour the sauce into the strainer and press on the solids wit a silicone spatula; discard the solids. Taste and season with salt and pepper.

© 2020 Christopher Kimball’s Milk Street. All Rights Reserved.