Bolognese Lasagne

by Lael Hazan on February 21, 2011

Like many wives I periodically expect my husband to do the impossible – read my mind.  Although not always telepathic, Giuliano hit the ball out of the park for my birthday.  He knows my favorite dish is his lasagne bolegnese and that was his unexpected, but greatly appreciated gift to me this year.

A few weeks before, my girls asked me what I wanted for my birthday.  Specifically, they wanted to know if I wanted a party.  Like all good moms, I said, “Anything you make will please me”.  However, 7-year-old Michela, who adores making lists, came back and asked me whom I wanted at my party.  I told them, within hearing distance of my husband, that this year I didn’t want to think about it.  I wanted them to come up with and execute (yes, I really used that word) the entire project.

I have a confession to make.  Birthdays are a BIG deal to me.  Growing up, my parents meant well but because my birthday is so close to winter vacation, I often was told, “Oh, we are traveling to (insert name of city to visit family members here), or going to see (insert name of play I didn’t choose or great place I didn’t care about, or fancy restaurant here) and that will be your birthday present.  It wasn’t that they were forgetful nor that they weren’t generous.  The trips were great and the dinners spectacular, but they never occurred on the exact DATE of my birth and often seemed an afterthought, something that we would be doing anyway, and my birthday just coincided.  Yes… it is a whine that has stayed with me and even as I’ve grown older, it grates.  Not wishing to repeat my growing up experiences, I tend to throw my children overly lavish parties.

Now that you know my baggage, you will understand that giving up control of my birthday was a big deal.  However, I did want to mature, I was turning 45 after all, and I was thrilled that my kids, aged of 7 and 11, wanted to do something that didn’t necessarily revolve around themselves.  I tried not to give my birthday any more thought.

During the week before my birthday, both the kids and Giuliano acted completely normal.  At one point Giuliano said, “I’ve made arrangements with Cynthia to watch the kids on your birthday night, a Thursday, so we can go out”.  “Oh”, I thought, “that is generous of her and it will be nice to have a date night as we haven’t had one in awhile”.  Giuliano went on to say that the next night, Friday, we would celebrate my birthday with the kids.  It all sounded lovely and low key, a perfectly fine way to celebrate.  Later he asked which kind of lasagne he should make, mushroom or meat.  I told him I preferred meat lasagne and he said he would make it for the evening when we celebrated with the kids.  What more could I ask for or want?

Lasagne, the Italian plural of lasagna which refers to just one sheet of pasta, is now one of my favorite foods.  Before I met Giuliano I had experienced what I thought was lasagna and although I enjoyed the taste, it didn’t leave a fabulous impression.  You know the lasagnas of which I speak, those heavy things that rest in the pit of your stomach for days after eating.  The first time I had Giuliano’s lasagne was at a family celebration.  His father Victor adores green lasagne and Giuliano had made it.  It was nothing like what I had experienced before. True Bolognese lasagne is light, almost airy.  It is a savory concoction, with each creamy bite melting in your mouth.  It must be made with homemade egg noodles and there is NO ricotta to be found in any of the Hazan’s recipes.

Lasagne makers are often judged on how many layers than can create.  Five or six layers are considered the minimum for acceptability.  Ooh’s and ahh’s occur the higher they go.  For my birthday celebration, Giuliano created a spectacular 9-layer lasagne!

Thursday, the day of my birthday, arrived with great fanfare.  My children had created beautiful homemade cards that I proudly now display in my office.  My husband, who knew I wanted an easy point-and-shoot purse sized camera, bought me an iPhone because the camera is just as good as most point-and-shoots. I can see most of you wives smiling, as you understand the rationalization.  During the day I received a notice from the post office that a package had arrived from my “computer” friend Jamie, author of Life’s a Feast.  I also received great cards from friends and relatives.  My in-laws sent me a bouquet of beautiful peonies, and I was truly overwhelmed by the amount of Facebook and twitter kudos.  Thank you to all who participated.  Early that evening the girls got themselves ready and soon we were off to our friends’ house to drop them off.

When we arrived, the only person there was the housekeeper.  Both of our friends are physicians and often put in long hours, so I didn’t think that anything was unusual.  However, Michela ran off and I thought she was looking for her friend, so I admonished her to “listen” and ask “permission” from the housekeeper to explore.  Just as I was disciplining her, out from the hallway came our friends wishing me happy birthday!  I was so surprised I was speechless!  I later learned that Michela, who is known for telling me the endings of movies she has yet to see, not only knew of the surprise party, she had told everyone in her class and in her after school activities about it.  However, she amazingly had kept the secret from me. Giuliano had also invited another couple I am good friends with and I

was thrilled.  The evening began with Prosecco, and had a finale of a cake that our friends had made with help from our children!  Of course, the pièce de resistance was the lasagne, perfectly crispy on the top and soft and creamy inside. I teared up – the evening was perfect.

Below is Giuliano’s recipe for the lasagne he made and videos showing how to make the homemade pasta for it.  That evening, I think Giuliano made three times the recipe, enough, we thought, for a small army.  It was so tasty and delicious that even the kids had thirds.  So don’t expect any leftovers!

Lasagne alla Bolognese

(from How to Cook Italian by Giuliano Hazan)

Preparation time:  1 hour and 25 minutes

Total time from start to finish:  5 hours

Serves 6

Classic Bolognese Meat Sauce

Green or regular Egg Pasta of Emilia Romagna, made with 2 eggs and 1 1/2 cups flour

Béchamel sauce


3/4 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano

1 tablespoon butter

1.  Make the Bolognese sauce.

2.  Make the pasta dough, wrap it in plastic and set aside to rest.

3.  Make the béchamel sauce.

4.  Fill a pot for the pasta with at least 6 quarts of water, place over high heat, and bring to a boil

5.  Roll out the pasta dough according to the directions.  Cut the pasta sheets so you have a total of 8 pieces.  Fill a medium bowl halfway with ice water and keep it close to the pot of water on the stove.

6.  Add 2 tablespoons of salt to the boiling water and put in 4 of the pasta sheets.  Cook for a minute, then lift the pasta out of the water with tongs and place it in the ice water.  Swish the pasta sheets in the water, then lay them flat on dry towels.  Repeat with the remaining 4 pasta sheets.

7.  Preheat the oven to 425° on the regular bake setting.

8.  Coat the bottom of a 8” X 11 1/2” rectangular baking pan with some béchamel, then mix the rest with the Bolognese sauce and 1/2 cup of the Parmigiano-Reggiano.  Place a sheet of pasta on the bottom of the pan, trimming any excess so it fits.  Spread a thin coating of the filling over the pasta sheet, then cover with another sheet of pasta.  Continue until you have 7 layers of pasta and filling, saving a little filling to cover the top layer.  Do not worry if the sheets of pasta do not fit perfectly; it’s all right to patch as necessary.  Sprinkle the remaining 1/4 cup Parmigiano-Reggiano over the top and dot with the butter.

9.  Bake until the top has lightly browned, about 25 minutes.  Take the lasagne out of the oven and let rest for 10 minutes before serving.

Note: The lasagne can be assembled completely up to a day in advance and kept, well wrapped, in the refrigerator.  Take it out of the refrigerator I hour before baking.  It will also keep in the refrigerator after it is baked, for up to 2 days.

Comments on this entry are closed.

Ali Klein May 1, 2012 at 12:20 pm

Dear Lael and Juliano……Congrats on the book and happy happy birthday – the kids look wonderful – they are absolutely beautiful and have gotten so grown up!!!!!! We will of course be ordering several books for holiday giving……..and hopefully we will see you next winter for a private class – we are thinking of coming down for several weeks – Jay is now retired…….Have you given any thought to a different “grad” class?…(hint hint)…….Regards – to all – Ali and Jay Klein

Lavon Coleman May 1, 2012 at 9:04 am

Love this site!!
I really miss Italy and the wonderful experience I had while attending the Hazan Cooking School.

Are you doing cooking classes in Sarasota?

Lael Hazan May 1, 2012 at 9:13 am

Thank you!

We do classes in Sarasota during season; however, we can always create a class if you get enough people together. Thanks.

Angela Napolitano May 3, 2011 at 7:22 am

I watched your video on making pasta and tried it this past weekend. I’ve made several different pasta recipes in the past, but this one was by far the most perfect! So tender and easy to handle. Not sticky! I made lasagna bolognese with it and received rave reviews from my friends. Thank you so much!!

Jean @ Lemonsandanchovies March 15, 2011 at 2:33 am

What a lovely story to accompany one of my favorite dishes also. I give credit to your mother in law for helping me develop a taste for authentic Italian food. I could completely relate to you since my birthday is also in winter and contrary to what I let on with friends and family, I do think birthdays are a big deal. So nice of your family and friends to surprise you. I can’t think of a better way to celebrate a birthday.

brainySmurf March 14, 2011 at 1:19 am

For the sauce: I avoid alcohol because of dietary restrictions. What can i replace the white wine with? Also, could you replace the beef with chicken? Thanks!

Tom February 27, 2011 at 7:07 pm

I remember when Giuliano had a small prepared food shop on Hope St. in Providence, RI. Occasionally I would stop in and buy a portion of his lasagna. The layers were always so flavorful and the pasta so delicate, that I always referred to it as Ethereal Lasagna!

El February 27, 2011 at 11:09 am

Happy Birthday. It looks like you have an amazing family and are truly blessed. And the lasagna – it’s magnificent!

Sukaina February 26, 2011 at 3:27 pm

Happy Belated Birthday Lael. I’m so glad I came across your blog on Twitter. You have some great authentic recipes here. Although I love Italian food, I’m not the best at cooking it, so I’m sure this blog will prove to be a valuable resource. Your daughter is so beautiful and smart. Can’t believe she kept the surprise for so long :)

Lael Hazan February 26, 2011 at 3:49 pm

Thank you all who have been commenting and wishing me a happy birthday. It is as if my birthday keeps being celebrated. I truly appreciate it! Yes, I adore my girls and they are terrific fun. I too can’t believe the little one kept the surprise for so long. I hope everyone who makes this recipe enjoys it as much as we do. I look forward to continued “virtual” friendships with many of you, and hope to become “friends” with all of those who I am meeting for the first time. I am overwhelmed and in awe of social media. Grazie Mille.

Kulsum at JourneyKitchen February 26, 2011 at 11:37 am

Happy belated birthday Lael. I always love it when I see family pictures in celebration. Shows you hada great evening

Gina Melton February 26, 2011 at 9:02 am

Happy Belated Birthday Lael!

What a sweet and kind family you have.

Sylvie @ Gourmande in the Kitchen February 23, 2011 at 2:52 am

Happy Birthday Lael, it sounds like it was just perfect! I can’t believe your daughter was able to keep it a surprise for so long, kids always have a way letting the cat out of bag! What a sweet and loving family you have. It’s so nice to see pictures of all of you at the celebration, looks like it was a great evening.

Kit February 22, 2011 at 1:33 pm

What a lovely surprise they put together for you. A lovely meal with good friends – far better than a huge surprise party. Great post on birthday baggage too. My kids each have a birthday party every year too with treasure hunts and chocoalte cake. The party always used to be on teh day itself, but now my son is older and wanting sleepover parties we’ve had to shift his to the weekend. We still have the cake and pressies on the day itself though.

Katie@Cozydelicious February 21, 2011 at 11:10 pm

Happy Birthday! Those beautiful homemade sheets of pasta must make for a fantastic dish! It looks amazing, I will have to bookmark this one!

Becky February 21, 2011 at 7:50 pm

Ooh, I was just thinking about this the other day. I must try it soon. :) So good to see you had such a lovely birthday!

jasmine February 21, 2011 at 4:31 pm

What a great piece–it kept me reading to the very end. I’ve been in a lasagne alla bolognese mood for the past few weeks and my attempt was midling, at best. I’ll correct that by trying this one. Happy belated birthday, my dear.


SMITH BITES February 21, 2011 at 12:59 pm

goodness Lael, you’ve made ME tear up today – happy tears with happy sighs for a husband and children who adore you! can you tell i love a good love story?? and the lasagne is exactly like i remember eating in Rome back in 1997 before The Professor and I were married – i’ve wanted an authentic recipe since then and until now, hadn’t found one. now i must try my hand at making homemade pasta . . . and then i shall tackle gnocchi!! and thank you for the wonderful gelato recipe – it is indeed perfetto!

Sara February 21, 2011 at 11:16 am

What a sweet husband & adorable daughters you have! I’m so glad that you had a wonderful birthday! Lasagna looks superb…love the video!

Robin Axelrod February 21, 2011 at 9:44 am

Happy, Happy Birthday, Lael! Brad taught me that one’s birthday celebration is not limited to the actually date of birth, but rather is extended for an entire week. (And, the older we get, for an entire month!) So, here’s to a very healthy and happpy time of birthday merriment. Enjoy!

Lora @cakeduchess February 21, 2011 at 9:27 am

Ciao Lael-Gorgeous lasagne bolognese by your talented hubby! What a perfect birthday party:)I like to start off with Prosecco too! Michela is just precious holding the cake. Happy belated birthday:)un grosso bacione!xx

The Italian Dish February 21, 2011 at 8:59 am

Wonderful post, Lael! Happy Birthday.

Rosa February 21, 2011 at 8:11 am

Happy belated Birthday! What a wonderful party.

Homemade l asagne is one of my favorite dishes. So flavorful and comforting. Nothing compares to it.



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