Sometimes you just need comfort food. Like when it's cold outside. Or you've had a bad day. Or your toddler has had a fever for five straight days and it peaked at 106 degrees. Or your three month old baby rolls off an ottoman and hits his head. You know, those kinds of days. This lasagne certainly fits the bill. It's homey, it's rustic, and it's utterly delicious.
If you love short ribs, you'll love this lasagne. If you love porcini mushrooms, then you'll love this lasagne. If you love lasagne, then you'll love this lasagne. It's rich and filling, but a little goes a long way, so you don't have to eat a giant slice to be satisfied. Though you may eat a giant slice (or two) because it's so darn good.
Admittedly, it is a bit of an undertaking from a time standpoint. But it's great for when you want to zone out and forget all your worries and just cook. Nothing is terribly difficult or time-consuming, but from start to finish it will take a few hours - but don't let that scare you away. A majority of the prep-time is cooking the short ribs, so that is inactive. And you can actually make them a few days ahead of time, so that will save you a lot of time the day you plan to serve this. If you are feeling particularly ambitious, you can make your own pasta, but I took the easy way out this time and used no-boil noodles. Which surprisingly taste almost as good as fresh pasta once the whole thing has been assembled and cooked.
Once assembled, this lasagne is pretty awesome. The tender pasta, the short ribs (it's hard to go wrong with short ribs), the earthy mushrooms, rich and hearty tomato sauce, and the creamy bechamel all work so wonderfully together. Yes, it takes a long time to make, but what a perfect project for a cold and dreary weekend. While you're at it, invite some friends over to eat. They will most definitely thank you.
Short Rib and Porcini Lasagne
adapted from Fine Cooking, Dec 2011/Jan 2012
- 3/4 oz (1 cup) dried porcini mushrooms
- 2 lbs beef short ribs
- kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 1 Tbs extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 small yellow onion, finely chopped
- 1 small carrot, finely chopped
- 1 celery stalk, finely chopped
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 Tbs tomato paste
- 1 bay leaf, fresh or dried
- 1/2 cup dry red wine
- 1 1/2 cups canned crushed tomatoes
- 3 Tbs unsalted butter
- 3 Tbs all-purpose flour
- 2 cups milk (low-fat is fine)
- 1 clove garlic, smashed
- 1 1/2 cups finely grated Parmesan cheese
- 1 box no-boil lasagne noodles
Season the short ribs with salt and pepper. In a large Dutch oven, heat 1 Tbs of the oil over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add the short ribs, in batches if necessary, and brown on all sides, 2 to 3 minutes per side. Transfer to a plate and pour off all but 1 tablespoon of fat.
Reduce the heat to medium and add the onion, carrot, and celery. Cook until the vegetables are tender, 4 to 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant 30 seconds to 1 minute. Add the tomato paste and cook until it darkens 1 to 2 minutes. Pour in the wine and add the bay leaf. Simmer, stirring and scraping up any browned bits as you go, until almost all the wine has evaporated, 2 to 3 minutes.
Add the reserved mushroom liquid and the tomatoes, and bring to a simmer. Return the short ribs to the pot, along with any accumulated juices and the chopped porcini. Cover and reduce the heat to maintain a gentle simmer. Cook, turning the ribs every 30 to 40 minutes, until the meat is fall-off-the-bone tender, 2 1/2 to 3 hours total.
Use tongs to remove the ribs from the pot and move them to a plate to cool. Pour the sauce into a heatproof bowl and discard the bay leaf. Allow to sit for a few minutes, until the fat rises to the surface. Be sure to get as much fat off as you can, or the tomato sauce will be greasy. Skim it off with a large spoon and discard. When the meat is cool enough to handle, remove and discard the bones and any fat or cartilage. Shred the meat and set aside in a medium bowl.
Make the bechamel sauce. Melt the butter in a 3-4 quart saucepan set over medium heat. Stir in the flour with a wooden spoon and cook until golden, stirring constantly, about 2 minutes. Gradually whisk in the milk and add the garlic clove. Cook at a gentle simmer, stirring often, until the mixture thickens, about 10 minutes. Fish out the garlic clove and season with 1 teaspoon of salt. Mix the bechamel sauce into the tomato sauce.
Add the lasagne noodles to a large heatproof bowl or casserole dish. Pour enough boiling water over them to cover completely, and allow them to soak about 5 to 10 minutes, or until they are soft and pliable. Drain the water, and when cool enough to handle, line them in a single layer on a lint-free kitchen towel. Pat dry with another kitchen towel.
Assemble and bake the lasagne. Heat the oven to 350 degrees and lightly grease a 9x13 inch baking dish.
Spread 3/4 cup of the sauce on the bottom of the dish and cover the sauce with a slightly overlapping layer of the noodles. Spread 3/4 cup of sauce over the noodles, and add 1/2 cup of the shredded meat over the sauce. Sprinkle with 1/4 cup of the shredded Parmesan cheese.
Add another layer of noodles, then repeat the layers as instructed above, to make a total of 4 layers of sauce and meat and 5 layers of noodles. At this point you should have used all the meat, but still have some sauce and cheese left over. Spread 3/4 cup of the sauce over the top and sprinkle with the remaining cheese.
Cover the baking dish with foil and bake for 40 minutes. Remove the foil and bake until the top is browned and bubbly, 15 to 20 minutes. Cool for at least 10 minutes before serving. Sprinkle with additional cheese as desired when you serve.