Traveling with David's sister, Elise, is like going on a Barefoot Contessa food tour. She researches the best places to eat, the best markets, the best food and holiday fairs, the best "hole-in-the-wall" joints. It was so fun to go to New York City with such a fellow foodie and one of the most amazing places she took us to was called Eataly.
While David and I waited the 30+ minutes to get a table at the few tables on a Friday night we walked around the market. I died over 400 cheeses and meats, rows and rows of fresh pastas, the most amazing fresh, crusty, artisan breads, a tempting gelato bar, fresh, local produce and aisle upon aisle of gourmet chocolate. I told David I wanted to live there. The place takes up an entire city block and is so beautiful. If you go to New York, you must go to Eataly.
Once we were finally seated for dinner David looked at the menu and proclaimed that he was getting lasagna. They had two kinds - a bolognese variety and a butternut squash variety. He opted for the bolognese and even though my dish of fusilli with veal ragu was very good, I could not get enough of David's lasagna. We both like lasagna but we're very picky about what's good and what's not. Here's what we've decided: we do not like lasagna made with ricotta cheese (which seems to be the most popular American variation). Who started such a disgusting version anyway? The only way to get lasagna is made with a bechamel sauce. Trust me on this one.
1/4 cup flour
3 cups milk
2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 cup grated Parmesan-Reggiano cheese
Melt the butter in a medium saucepan until bubbling slightly. Add flour and whisk continuously until smooth. Continue whisking over medium heat until the mixture turns golden brown, about 5 minutes. Meanwhile, pour the milk into a glass measuring cup. Microwave on high for 1 1/2 minutes until the milk is just about to boil (checking after 1 minute). Add the milk to the butter mixture, 1 cup at a time, whisking continuously until the sauce is very smooth. Continue to stir over medium heat until thick (about 5 minutes). Remove from heat and add salt, nutmeg and cheese. Set aside.
1 pound dried lasagna noodles, blanched for 6 - 8 minutes (do not overcook)
1 cup freshly grated Parmesan-Reggiano cheese
1/2 cup fresh grated or sliced Mozzarella cheese
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Brush a 9x13 inch glass baking dish with butter to coat. Layer the bottom of the dish with a single layer of blanched lasagna noodles, then a layer of bechamel sauce, then a layer of bolognese sauce. Continue this order until you have about 4 layers, ending with the bechamel and bolognese on top. End with the cheeses on top. Cover loosely (tented) with aluminum foil and set on a cookie sheet in case it bubbles over. Bake in the oven for 30 minutes until golden brown and bubbling, then remove foil and bake another 15 minutes (I like to turn mine to broil for the last 3-5 minutes - watch carefully!) Remove from the oven and let sit for 20 minutes before serving.