With the cooler weather coming in (and might I add not a day too soon), I decided it was time to make something nice and hearty. I tend to avoid doing anything that requires a lot of oven or stove time in the summer because I barely tolerate hot weather as it is, and to subject myself to further heat while hiding in the air conditioning seems foolish.
Anyway, this is a recipe that I first tried last winter when my parents came to visit, and it was a big hit. It’s definitely different than your standard lasagna, most noticebly in the lack of cheese. While most lasagnas are positively melting with cheese (which is generally the way to go) this uses a rather modest amount of pecarino-romano to provide a sharp contrast with the other flavors. While you are free to follow that advice, there is a deli 1/2 a block away from me that makes the best mozarella I’ve ever had, so I added some. Anyway, on to the good stuff!
It’s your pretty standard “brown ‘n braise method”. You season the short ribs (ask the butcher for “bone-in” short ribs if you don’t see any in the meat case) and brown them in your dutch oven. You’ll probably need to do it in 2-3 batches. Also, I used a bit more meat than it called for because the first time I made it, I felt it was a little short.
Take the time to brown as much of the surface as possible. Lean the cooked sides against the wall of the pot or other ribs if you need to. Your patience will be rewarded later.
Yeah, you know you want some of that.
Once you’re done with the ribs, throw in your veggies and get sauteing:
Bonus points if you know the combination of celery, carrots and onion is called mirepoix (pronounced “mere-pwah”). Now you can use this knowledge to impress your friends. If that doesn’t work, try feeding them the lasagna.
After you deglaze the pot with wine and add the crushed tomatos, congratulations! The hard work is over! Now you just need to watch it simmer for about 2.5-3 hours. Actually you don’t need to watch it the whole time, just move the ribs around about every 40 minutes.
The ribs shoud be “fall off the bone tender”. I only had one short rib still attached to the bone, the rest had fallen out. Set the ribs apart to cool, and move the sauce to a heatproof bowl. A note for all of you who think you will be clever and put the sauce in a gravy seperator for easy de-fatting: it won’t work. I tried that. The sauce is too thick. Just put it in the fridge and use a spoon to skim the fat off the top. This is also a good stopping point if you’re looking to do some of the work ahead of time. Just let both the ribs and sauce cool completely and store seperately.
Next step is to make the bechamel sauce.
Mix flour and butter and cook to a light roux. Then add your milk. I recommend letting the milk come to room temperature to avoid having the sauce clump. Simmer until it thickens. This is a little tricky. You may feel like that sauce isn’t thickening much, and boost your heat. Relax.
Take a step back and leave it at a simmer, it’ll start to thicken, sometimes really quickly, so keep an eye on it. Add it to the meat sauce (you remembered to skim the fat, right?). While this is happening, you can boil your noodles. Once they are just al dente, drain and hit them with some cold water to keep them from overcooking. Then start layering: sauce-noodles-meat. Keep doing this until you run out. Cheese can be added anywhere you like. This is another place where you can hold the lasagna if you don’t want to cook it just yet. All that’s left it to put it in the oven, and you get this: