A Proper Lasagna

My mom’s favorite thing to say about me used to be, “The only thing Jewel makes is reservations.”

So I taught myself how to cook.  Or at least read and follow directions, which is what I usually do when it comes to cooking: follow recipes. But sometimes I just can’t find a recipe that fits the bill, and I make something up on the fly.  And– here’s the shocker, Mom– sometimes it works out to be pretty fabulous.

Like this lasagna.  It isn’t exactly low-cal, but sometimes you want something indulgent.  Am I right?  Using the bechamel took this lasagna to new heights, giving it a creamier, richer texture.  Also: a note on the truffle oil.  I know it’s expensive, but it lasts, and it goes with so many things.  Toss it on your scrambled eggs with a little goat cheese and chives, stir it into your mashed potatoes, mix it into your meatloaf, or dress your salads with it.  It’s worth having in your pantry, trust me.


1 lb extra lean ground beef

1 lb ground pork

1 28 oz. can of diced tomatoes

2 tbsp good quality balsamic vinegar

1 tbsp sugar

2 carrots, peeled and finely chopped

2 celery stalks, finely chopped

1 medium sized onion, chopped

2 garlic cloves, chopped

1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

1 cup white wine (stuff you’d drink.. no cheapy cooking wine here)

1 cup beef or chicken stock (or veal stock, which is not as easy to find but makes a difference)

1 hefty tablespoon of truffle oil

1 box of lasagna noodles, any brand is fine

4 tbsp unsalted butter

4 tbsp flour

4 cups whole milk

a pinch of nutmeg

2 cups parmesan cheese

2 cups mozzarella or Italian cheese blend

salt and pepper


1. First step is making your meat sauce.  Heat the olive oil over medium high heat in a big pot or deep skillet.  Brown the pork and beef for a few minutes, breaking it up as you go along.  Next add your onions, garlic, celery, and carrots and season the whole thing with salt and pepper.  After about ten minutes, deglaze with the wine, scraping up all the delicious bits at the bottom of the pot.  Add the stock and the can of tomatoes and let it come up to a good simmer.  Then add the balsamic vinegar, the sugar, and the truffle oil.  Put a lid on it and bring the heat down to a gentle simmer.  Let that go for an hour or so.

2. Preheat the oven to 400F. Boil your noodles in some salted water (like Batali says, it should be salty like seawater, so it flavors the pasta itself).  Don’t let them go too long so they’re limp– they should definitely have a bite to them, so drain them after about five minutes.  Don’t rinse them under water!  You want them to stay starchy to absorb all that sauce later.

3. Make the bechamel sauce.  Heat the butter in a sauce pot over medium-high heat.  Add the flour and whisk away, cooking for a few minutes to get that floury taste out.  Slowly whisk in the milk and bring it up to a bubble to thicken it.  Season with salt and pepper and a little nutmeg.

4. Assembly time!  Take a 9 by 13 casserole dish and dot the bottom with olive oil.  Take a ladle full of the meat sauce and spread evenly.  Place some lasagna noodles on top of that, then add another ladle of meat sauce, then a handful of parmesan and Italian cheese, then a ladle of bechamel.  Add another layer of noodles, more meat sauce, more cheese, and bechamel.  Repeat with the remaining ingredients, ending with a layer of cheese to sprinkle on top.  Bake in the oven for 35 minutes, uncovered, until bubbly and browned.  Let it rest for at least ten minutes before you cut into it so it doesn’t fall apart.  Serve it with garlic bread (of course) so you can soak up that sauce.

SERVES 8 (or 4 with leftovers, which somehow always taste better the next day)

Wine pairing, you ask?  Why, of course!  My favorite with this is a zinfandel, something a little spicy and fuller bodied.  I’m digging Norman Vineyards “Monster” Zinfandel.  And it ain’t called monster for nothing… Buy it here: www.normanvineyards.com

42 Comments Add yours

  1. Darjan says:

    I’m glad you’re one of the few people out there who still use bechamel for lasagnas, kudos to you.

    Sounds very much like my own recipe, although I don’t use parmesan.

    Bon apetite, or as they say in Catalonia: “menja bé, caga fort”

    1. Anarchangel says:

      I was wondering what people who don’t use Bechamel sauce use; I guess from the comments, ricotta? That dose sound terribly bland.

      As Tallulah says, I’ll have to try this with the truffle oil and balsamic. Where does one buy veal stock in LA? Whole Foods?

  2. Bret Taylor says:

    I’ve gotta say, I miss your cookin’. I’ll never forget that orange bourbon chicken.

    1. Tiffany says:

      I’ve never had the privilege of eating Jewel’s supposide divine food.:(But I guess you’ve gotta b invited…

  3. joe z says:

    That ain’t lasagna… that’s food porn! sounds good…

  4. Tarisa says:

    That garden in your picture is one of my favourite places in Paris. Beautiful eh?

  5. pamQ says:

    Yeah, indulgence is good. 🙂
    I am so going to try this, Jewel!
    Thanks for sharing this recipe. 🙂

  6. Karlie says:

    Sounds amazing! Shouldn’t be too hard to gluten-freeify as well, with rice noodles and maybe a starch in the bechamel! Are any of the fancier restaurants in LA starting to provide GF options?

  7. Arcanum says:

    That sounds tasty!

  8. Spleen says:

    Jewel, honestly, it *sounds* good … but where’s the picture of the lasagna!?? It’s not food porn if there are no pics! Good point about not rinsing the lasagna noodles.

  9. Frank Schutter says:

    I love lasagna!! This sounds super!!now I am hungry.

  10. farleyk says:

    Whenever I see a recipe for lasagna, I inwardly (and sometimes outwardly) cringe, waiting for the ubiquitous “ricotta cheese” ingredient. To state it briefly, I loathe ricotta cheese. So, to see that someone else makes a fine bechamel sauce to slather on in the layers warms my little heart.
    I always make enough for a little “half-lag”, to ensure leftovers, ’cause lasagna is one of those foods, like beef stew, that is awesome when reheated.

  11. Steve says:

    Lasagna in the UK is normally made with pasta sheets, rather than noodles, but your recipe sounds delicious. 🙂

    1. Steve says:

      What a dumb ass I am. :-]
      I Googles Lasagna Noodles and they are actually the pasta sheets I was talking about, rather than noodles like spaghetti. :-]

  12. slamaina says:

    I know what is for dinner tomorrow!


  13. Tallulah says:

    I do that too – I cook a lot but mainly I just make stuff up =p
    This looks amazing though – have never tried balsamic or truffle oil in a bog sauce before – and I’ve honestly never seen veal stock anywhere; will have to look a bit harder!

  14. Robin Hudson says:

    What?! No photos? What’s cooking porn without photos?!

    You know what this means, right? You’ll have to make up a batch and get gooey pics for us!

  15. Rachael says:

    Normally I’m not one to have meat and pasta dishes mix – especially with lasagna – but with the bechamel sauce, I’m inclined to give this a whirl. As for truffle oil; I had some once but found it too pungent for my palate. I wouldn’t mind giving it another go so long as it doesn’t make every dish taste like the fungi floor of a forest. I love mushrooms but whoa.

  16. Cindy says:

    I’m impressed that you left out the ricotta/egg mixture layer, and emboldened by it. That’s always been my least favorite part of lasagna — bland and pointless. The bechamel sounds vastly superior. I can’t wait to try it!

  17. fojoy says:

    My husband is always looking for a good lasagna recipe – I’ll have to forward this to him.
    He does all the cooking; my job in the kitchen is the “official taster”. Which is just how I like it!

  18. sham says:

    Peeeectures peeectures. Wherefore art the peeectures? 🙂

  19. Murk Loar says:

    3. Make the “bechamel’ sauce.

    This is where I silently devoted myself to being a life long disciple of Jewel Staite.You are truly a Goddess.

  20. Colleen H. says:

    Three cheers for a lasagna without ricotta cheese, which I do not like. Everything else about lasagna always makes my mouth water, until I hear ricotta. I will happily add this recipe to my collection and will try to substitute bechamel sauce in other lasagna recipes! Thanks for the inspiration! 🙂

  21. Holmesie says:

    Excellent, thanks for sharing. I will definitely be trying this soon =)

  22. Toby says:

    I love a good lasagna!
    I do the Bechamel Sauce thing frequently.. as I find I never have the ricotta handy when the pasta pie urge strikes.

    Would have loved to see them muffin tinned lasagnas, though

  23. Lisa Alm says:

    Thank you for sharing this Jewel! I couldn’t find any truffle oil, but this is still the best lasagna I’ve ever cooked. <3

  24. AllieMcNally says:

    My mom always used ricotta for our lasagna and so I really enjoy it that way. I had never heard of using bechamel sauce since it wasn’t made that way in the house. When I moved over to Ireland everyone here makes it with bechamel, or white sauce it’s more commonly called here, and I really like it that way too! I think the white sauce makes it nice and creamy, I’ll have to try your recipe and wow the socks off my husband! :o) Thanks for sharing!

  25. Dangerboy says:

    Sounds absolutely wonderful. We’ll have to give this one a try next time we’re layering the pasta!

    Wifefish and I make a lasagna that includes italian sausage and zucchini, it is the yum.

  26. Abby B says:

    Sounds delicious!!! I know what I’m making this Saturday.
    Oh and if you like Norman, you need to try Rex Goliath (there’s a giant rooster on the front of the bottle). It’s a cheap wine that’s super smooth.

  27. Danny O' Yellow says:

    Truffle oil? O.o, what does that do?

  28. Matteo says:

    It’s so strange to see this recipe for Lasagna, I really ask you to fetch a copy of “La scienza in cucina e l’arte di mangiare bene” (The Science of Cooking and the Art of Eating Well).
    The first cooking book of united Italy in middle 1800.
    There you will find a lot of real recipes.

    I’m really curious to see if you like the original one!

  29. Harlan says:

    Sounds great, and I do love truffle oil!

  30. Eridani says:

    I am gonna make just the sauce for pasta this weekend. Sounds a-freakin-mazing.

  31. AJ says:

    I’ve been searching for a favorite lasagna recipe. Looking at the ingredient list, I must say I’ve got a great feeling about this. I’ll make it pretty soon. Might get the zin too, although what I don’t know about wine could fill a book (the book is any book about wine).

    Good to see no ricotta. I don’t mind ricotta, but it doesn’t contribute much.

  32. Mandie says:

    I have definitely got to try this.

  33. Spike says:

    Lasagna is so therapeutic to make- something about all those layers making something magical.

  34. Mike M says:

    My GF Robbie and I had only had ricotta in our lasagnas, I’d heard of no other way, and I was apprehensive over the nutmeg being the top note as I assembled this dish yesterday. Well, the nutmeg did marry in superbly, and we both really enjoyed it. I’m now sold on using bechamel in lasagna and this recipe in particular – thanks!

  35. Tom says:

    I just got a new stove and may try this out. I haven’t had homemade lasagna at home in about 15 years. My mom used to add in pepperoni as well which of course goes with everything! 🙂

  36. Adrian says:

    Top tip for bechamel – while the stuff is cooking out, put in an onion studded with some whole cloves, and use a bay leaf too.

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