Cooking Lasagna Ragu With Chef Anthony Ballesteros

This delicious Lasagna Ragu recipe is from Chef Anthony Ballesteros, General Manager/Executive Chef at JARE Food Products .

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Cooking Lasagna has always been a bit daunting for me. I imagine that it must be very hard to cook. Truth to tell, I’m a bit scared of cooking it. Maybe because of the baking part since I always had a bias against recipes where you need to bake. I didn’t have an oven till about a year ago.

I mean, there’s no problem with eating it! In college, we survived by eating all kinds of pasta and lasagna was always one of the cheapest and most filling at the canteen.

Since we had an Italian cooking class at The Maya Kitchen with Chef Anthony, I got a chance to re evaluate my  fear of cooking Lasagna. It turned out that my fears are groundless! There’s a lot to do but it really is easy cook.

Here’s the recipe:

Lasagna Ragu

  • 500 grams Bechamel Sauce
  • Ragu Bolognese
  • Cheese Toppings

CHEESE TOPPINGS

  • 500 grams Mozzarella Cheese
  • 250 grams Cheddar Cheese
  • 250 grams Parmesan Cheese

Shred all cheese and set aside.

RAGU BOLOGNESE SAUCE

  • 1 medium size white onion
  • 250 grams ground beef
  • 500 grams crushed tomatoes
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 100 ml olive oil
  • 3 TBSP chopped fresh basil
  • 3 TBSP fresh oregano
  • salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
  • ground Parmesan Cheese
  • 1 TBSP butter
  • 1 carrot (finely chopped)
  • 1 small rib celery with leafy top, finely chopped
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1/2 tsp. ground cloves
  • salt and pepper
  • 1/2 cup white wine
  • 3 cups chicken stock

Instructions:

Make the Ragu. In a medium stock pot, heat the oil. 2 turns of the pan, over medium heat. When it ripples, melt in the butter. Add the carrot, celery, onion, garlic; partially cover and cook until vegetables are softened, 7-8 minutes. Add the meat, basil, oregano, and bay leaf, season with salt and pepper. Cook. Breaking up the meat into crumbles as it browns. Deglaze the pan with the wine, let it cook off then add the tomato and tomato sauce and cook until it has been absorbed. Add stock and simmer for 30 minutes. Discard the bay leaf. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.
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BECHAMEL SAUCE

Ingredients:

  • 2 1/2 cups whole milk
  • 30 grams clarified butter (around 2 TBSP), or 35 grams unsalted butter (slightly more than 1/4 stick
  • 30 grams Maya All Purpose Flour
  • 1/4 onion peeled
  • 2-3 cloves
  • 1 piece fresh bay leaf
  • salt, to taste
  • ground white pepper – to taste.
  • pinch of ground nutmeg

Instructions:

Make the Bechamel Sauce. In a heavy bottomed sauce pan, warm the milk over medium heat, stirring occasionally.  You want it to be warm, but not hot nor boiling. Meanwhile, in a separate sauce pan, melt the butter over medium heat until liquefied.

Using a wooden spoon, stir the flour into the melted butter a little bit at a time, until it is fully incorporated into the butter. Heat until almost pale yellow until you cook off the taste of the raw flour. As with the milk, this should be moderately warm and not too hot.

Using a wire whisk, slowly add the milk to the roux (butter -flour mixture). Whisk vigorously and thoroughly until mixture is free of lumps. Add bay leaf, onion and cloves. Simmer until the total volume has been reduced by 80%, stirring frequently to make sure sauce doesn’t stick to the pan.

The sauce should be smooth and velvety. If its too thick, add a bit of milk until its just thick enough to coat the back of a spoon. Turn off the heat and remove the onion, clove, and bay leaf. For an extra smooth consistency, carefully, pour the sauce thru a wire mesh strainer line with a piece of cheesecloth.

PASTA

Cook the pasta according to package directions. Run thru cold water after cooking to stop the cooking process. Dry with a fresh kitchen towel. Stack neatly. You can do this ahead and freeze until ready to use.

ASSEMBLY

Coat the bottom of a 9 x 13 lasagna pan or two 8″ square pans with a thin layer of the bechamel sauce. Add pasta sheets and top with bechamel sauce and ragu in thin layers.

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Repeat layering to the top of the pan ending with the bechamel and cheese. Bake until browned and bubbling – 30- 35 minutes (1 hour if using dried pasta). Top with parsly and let stand for 20 minutes before serving.

Enjoy!

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