A note from Chef Mark Ganem: You can purchase wild boar at specialty suppliers such as Adventure in Food Trading in Albany, or simply substitute high-quality ground chuck. And, while we make everything, including the pasta, from scratch at Vico, I’m a big fan of time-saving ingredients such as no-boil lasagna sheets, which let you bring healthful, homemade food to the table quickly. Another timesaver: You can double the meat sauce recipe and freeze half for several weeks.
For the meat sauce:
- 2 Tablespoons of chopped onion (we use red3 Tablespoons of olive oil
- 3 Tablespoons of butter
- 2 tablespoons of chopped celery
- 2 Tablespoons of chopped carrot
- ¾ pound of ground wild boar shoulder (or lean ground beef chuck)
- 1 cup of dry white wine
- ½ cup of milk
- 2 Tablespoons of unsweetened cocoa powder
- ¼ teaspoon of nutmeg
- ¼ teaspoon of cinnamon
- 1/8 teaspoon of clove
- 2 cups of canned Italian San Marzano tomatoes, chopped, with their juice
- Salt and pepper to taste
For the homemade pasta:
- 2 eggs
- 1½ cups of all-purpose flour
or 4-5 large fresh egg-pasta sheets, often available in the grocery deli section. If you cannot find fresh, “no-boil” egg pasta (Barilla is an excellent brand) is far better than dried macaroni pasta sheets.
For the béchamel:
- 3 cups of milk
- 6 Tablespoons of butter
- 4½ Tablespoons of flour
- Pinch of nutmeg
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 2/3 cup freshly grated Parmiggiano Reggiano or other high-quality Parmesan
- 2 tablespoons of butter
Make the meat sauce: In a large heavy pot, sauté chopped onion in oil and butter briefly over medium heat until just translucent. Add celery and carrot and cook gently for 2 minutes or until vegetables are softened.
Add the ground meat, breaking it up with a fork as it cooks, just until the meat has lost its rawness. Add the wine; turn the heat up to medium high and cook, stirring occasionally, until all the wine has evaporated.
Turn the heat down to medium; add the milk, cocoa and spices, and cook, stirring frequently, until the milk has evaporated.
Add the tomatoes and stir thoroughly. When the tomatoes have started to bubble, turn the heat down until the sauce cooks at a bare simmer. Cook, uncovered, for a minimum of 3½ to 4 hours, stirring occasionally and adding enough liquid to prevent it from drying out before done. Salt and pepper to taste.
Make the pasta according to your favorite method.
Prepare the béchamel: In a small heavy saucepan, melt the butter over low heat. When the butter has melted completely, add the flour, stirring constantly with a whisk or wooden spoon, making sure to scrape the full surface of the pan bottom and sides regularly. Cook for two minutes, without allowing the mixture to brown, until it begins to adhere to itself and pull cleanly away from the pan.
Turn up the heat and add all the milk at once, and immediately begin whisking vigorously. The mixture will thicken as it heats. When the milk is fully incorporated and there are no lumps, you can turn down the heat, while continuing to stir constantly.
When done, the béchamel should be the consistency of sour cream. (Note: This requires a bit of practice, so if you find some lumps, don’t despair: Just pour the béchamel into a food processor or blender while still hot and process until smooth.)
Fill a large bowl with ice water and keep handy by the stove, and lay down clean, dry towels where you’ll keep the cooked pasta. (You can skip these steps and the following for no-boil pasta.)
Bring a large pot of well-salted water to a boil, and cook the fresh pasta sheets in batches small enough so they don’t touch one another in the water. Do not overcook! Fresh pasta needs only 10-20 seconds of cooking once the pot returns to a boil. Fish each sheet out individually and drop in the ice bath to stop cooking. Lay out in a single layer on the towels.
Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.
Assemble the lasagna:
Reserve about ½ cup of béchamel, and fold the remainder into the meat sauce until well incorporated. If using no-boil pasta, you may need to add additional liquid to this mixture, as the pasta will absorb it during cooking. (Follow the advice on the package for best results.)
Place a couple of tablespoons of the mixture in a 14-inch Pyrex or enameled cast-iron lasagna pan to coat the bottom of the pan. Line the pan with fresh pasta sheets, with about a ¼ inch overlap. (By contrast, no-boil sheets should be spaced about ½ inch apart, as they will expand.)
Trim so the sheets lie flat without creeping up the edge of the pan. Add enough of the meat and béchamel mixture for a half-inch layer, sprinkle with Parmesan, and top with another layer of pasta. Repeat until the final layer of pasta comes within ½ inch of the pan rim, coat with the reserved béchamel, and dot with butter.
Bake on the uppermost rack of the oven for 10-15 minutes until a light, golden crust forms on top. Allow the lasagna to settle for 5-8 minutes before serving.
Makes 6 servings