Wine Guide and Food Blogger Melissa Summar is here to warm up your December with her recipe for classic lasagna, a signature Italian dish at the holidays and year round. Its robust flavors, rich and meaty sauce, and salty cheeses make lasagna and Merlot a perfect match. Read on to see how Melissa’s lasagna recipe comes together, and how it stacks up to our favorite velvety red.
Lasagna is a labor of love, but the reward is so amazing! If you make one giant pan, you can also enjoy great leftovers all week. Whenever I’m making it, I always make two smaller lasagnas. One to enjoy right away, and one for the freezer for a quick, delicious meal on a night I don’t feel like cooking.
My lasagna recipe is adapted from a cooking group I’m in on Facebook. We joke and say that this recipe is the absolute only recipe that can be considered lasagna. If you search the internet these days, you will see many different dishes called “lasagna,” which has become a description for any layered meal in a pan. But this one? It’s the real deal meal.
Classic Lasagna Sauce
Let’s start with the sauce that make this bake so good. In culinary school, I learned to create the five French “mother” sauces. Mother sauces serve as a starting point for a variety of delicious sauces used to complement countless dishes. When making lasagna, I use two mother sauces: Béchamel and Bolognese. Béchamel is a white sauce that easily converts into an Alfredo sauce and makes a wonderful addition to creamy lasagna. Bolognese is a meat-based tomato sauce. Together, they’re perfecto in this dish!
- 4 cups milk
- ½ medium onion, chopped
- A few peppercorns
- 1 bay leaf
- 5 tablespoons butter
- 4 tablespoons flour
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 pinch nutmeg
Heat the milk in small saucepan with the onion, peppercorns, and bay leaf. Let this sit 20 to 30 minutes and infuse. The longer you let the milk infuse, the more flavorful the sauce. While that’s simmering, melt butter in a different saucepan on low. Add the flour. Cook six to seven minutes, whisking often, until the color is sandy blonde. Add the milk mixture to the butter mixture slowly through a strainer to remove onions, peppercorns and bay while. Keep whisking! Cook for 10 minutes until thickened. Season with salt, pepper, and nutmeg. Set aside.
- 2 tablespoons Olive Oil
- 1 onion, minced
- 2 carrots, diced
- 2 celery stalks, minced
- 3 garlic cloves, minced
- 1-lb ground beef
- 1-lb Italian sausage
- 1 teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes (add more for a spicier sauce)
- 1 teaspoon dried basil
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- ½ teaspoon dried rosemary
- 2 tablespoon tomato paste
- 2 tablespoons flour
- ½ cup milk
- 1 28-oz. can crushed tomatoes
Slowly sauté onion, carrots, celery, and garlic in olive oil in a Dutch oven until soft. Add beef and sausage and cook until browned. Add salt, herbs, crushed red pepper flakes, tomato paste, and flour. Cook three minutes. Add milk and tomato sauce, then simmer—the longer, the better! While it simmers, cook your
How to Assemble Lasagna
Ready to layer your lasagna? First, you’ll need to have one box of lasagna noodles, uncooked, at the ready (fresh noodles are even better!), as well as plenty of freshly grated Parmesan or my preference, Parmigiano Reggiano (anything but the stuff in a can). Preheat your oven to 350 degrees and get ready to stack.
- Mix the Béchamel and Bolognese sauces together and place a small ladleful, spread evenly, on the bottom of a 9-by-13-inch baking dish.
- Lay three noodles on top of that first sauce layer.
- Add another ladleful of sauce, spread evenly.
- Sprinkle with fresh Parmesan.
- Here’s where it gets interesting! Layer three more noodles, but this time in the opposite direction.
- Continue with layers of sauce, Parmesan, and noodles until you use all the noodles.
- Pour the remaining sauce over the last layer of noodles.
- Sprinkle with Parmesan and cover with foil. Bake for about 45 minutes to an hour, until bubbly and delicious looking.
- Remove foil the last 5 to 10 minutes to brown the cheese.
You might feel like you’re using way too much sauce, but the uncooked noodles really need it, so have no fear!
Lasagna and Merlot
Which wine pairs best with lasagna? When making such a beautiful meal I love to serve it with a beautiful wine like Traveling Vineyard’s velvety 2018 Luxx Merlot, which was awarded a Silver medal this year in the 2020 Sommelier Challenge, International Wine and Spirits Competition. Merlot is well-balanced on the palate alongside red sauces and it’s always a great choice with your Italian dishes. I also think that serving a premium red, like Luxx, makes the whole meal feel fancy. In fact, I recommend feeding your kids early, and keeping the lasagna warm in the oven for a mini date night at home with your significant other once the kids are in bed.
Lasagna and Merlot sound like the perfect holiday dinner to share on date night or with the whole family. Maybe even leave some for Santa? If luscious Merlot and lasagna sound good to you, reach out to your Wine Guide or shop our cellar. As always, six or more bottles ship free! Order by December 14 for under-the-tree delivery.