Picture your current idea of lasagna: red sauce, ground beef, watery ricotta, mozzarella, maybe some spinach or even sausage for interest. Got it? Good. Now crumple it up and throw it away. Maybe even stomp on it a little. Because this is The Best Lasagna Ever. I know a lot of people lay claim to “the best” lasagna, and while some versions very are good, none of them come even close to the majesty that is Short-Rib Lasagna. (Capitalization intentional.) Everything from the tender, deeply flavored shreds of beef to the rich béchamel and tangy cheese does nothing but highlight the abject inferiority of other lasagnas. So long as you’re willing to splurge on the price of ingredients, this is a must-make.
The recipe originally came from Bon Appetit, I believe. It makes a pretty solid 8 servings.
Also, be forewarned this is an all-day project—while a lot of the cooking time is inactive, it still is going to take a 5- or 6-hour chunk out of your day. It’s totally worth it, but something to note nonetheless.
• 4 lbs. short ribs ($4.29/lb.—seriously?!): $17.16
• 1 cup flour: 8 cents
• 4 T canola oil: 12 cents
• 1/2 oz. dried porcini: $2.01
• 5 thyme sprigs plus 1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme (garden): $0
• 2 rosemary sprigs (garden): $0
• 2 Italian parsley sprigs (garden): $0
• 6 garlic cloves, peeled: 21 cents
• 1 bay leaf: 1 cent
• 4 medium carrots, chopped: 12 cents
• 2 celery ribs, chopped: 18 cents
• 1 medium onion, chopped: 25 cents
• 2 T tomato paste: 33 cents
• 2 1/2 cups beef broth: 21 cents
• 1/2 cup ruby port: 50 cents
• 2 cups dry red wine: $2
• 2 cups good-quality Parmesan cheese, grated: $2.79
• 1 1/2 boxes no-boil lasagna noodles: $3.10
• Salt & pepper to taste: 2 cents
• 5 T unsalted butter: 30 cents
• 3 cups whole milk: 48 cents
• 1/4 cup flour: 2 cents
• 1/2 tsp ground nutmeg: 4 cents
• Salt & pepper to taste: 2 cents
TOTAL: $29.95/8 = $3.74/serving
Put the porcini mushrooms and 1 cup of water in a small bowl. Cover with plastic wrap, cut a few slits in the plastic wrap. Microwave for 1 minute, let sit for 20 minutes. Alternately, pour 1 cup boiling water over the mushrooms, let sit for 20 minutes. Once softened, lift them carefully from the soaking liquid and drain it through a sieve lined with a paper towel; set the soaking liquid aside. Chop the porcini finely.
Make a bouquet garni: Tie the rosemary, thyme, parsley and bay leaf together with butcher’s twine, or wrap tightly in cheesecloth.
Spread the 1 cup of flour on a large platter or in a bowl. Sprinkle the short ribs with salt and pepper, dredge in the flour.
Heat 2 T oil in a large skillet (12+ inches). Brown the dredged short ribs on all sides, working in batches so as not to crowd the pan.
In a large oven-proof pot with a lid, heat the remaining 2 T oil over medium heat. Add the onion, carrot and celery, cooking until softened, about 10 minutes. Stir in chopped porcini. Sprinkle 1 T flour (it’s OK to use what’s left over from dredging) over the mixture, stir for a minute or so. Add the tomato paste, cook until the mixture is starting to stick to the bottom. Deglaze the pot with the port. Again, cook until almost all the liquid has been absorbed.
Preheat the oven to 325 F. Add the wine and porcini soaking liquid. Bring to a boil and simmer until reduced by about 1/3.
Add the beef broth, garlic and bouquet garni. Add the short ribs in a single layer, meat-side down, replace the lid, and bake for 2 1/2 hours, or until the meat is falling-off-the-bone tender.
Immediately upon removing the pot from the oven, skim as much grease off the surface as you can. Remove the ribs to a large plate or cutting board to cool, discard bouquet garni. Boil the sauce until reduced to about 5 cups. Stir in the chopped fresh thyme.
Meanwhile, once the ribs are cooled, pick the meat off the bones and shred it with your fingers. Add it back into the reduced sauce, stir to combine. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
To make the béchamel: Melt the butter in a large saucepot over medium heat. Add the 1/4 cup flour and whisk constantly for about 5 minutes. It should be a light golden brown; a little darker than it appears below.
Slowly add the milk, whisking all the while. Bring to a boil, still whisking, and boil until thickened. Remove from heat, add nutmeg, and season to taste with salt and pepper.
Preheat oven to 375 F. To assemble lasagna, spread 1 cup of the meat mixture in the bottom of a buttered 9×13-inch baking dish. Sprinkle with 2 T cheese. Arrange 6 lasagna noodles over (they will overlap), spread on 1 cup of the béchamel. Sprinkle with 1/4 cup cheese. Spread 2 cups of meat sauce over the top of the béchamel. Repeat with noodles, béchamel, cheese, meat sauce. For the final layer, cover the top with another 6 noodles, spread the remaining béchamel over the top, and sprinkle with the remaining cheese. Bake for 45 minutes, until lasagna is bubbling. You may have to tent it with foil for the last 10 minutes or so to keep the top from burning.
Let rest for 10 minutes before cutting and serving.