- 1/2 T extra virgin olive oil
- 1/2 white onion, cut into 1/4" dice
- 1/2 lb ground lamb (or beef/turkey/pork)
- 1/2 t coarse salt
- 3/4 t ground cinnamon
- dash freshly ground pepper
- dash ground nutmeg
- 1/4 c dry red wine
- 43 g tomato paste
- 1 dried bay leaf
- 1/2 c stock
- For the Bechamel:
- 1.25 T unsalted butter (18g)
- 1 T Flour (Plain)
- 1 c whole milk
- 1/3 c grated parmesan cheese
- 1/2 t Salt (Sea)
- pinch freshly ground black pepper
- pinch ground nutmeg
- To assemble the dish:
- butter or cooking spray for the baking dish
- 113 g noodles (like penne, rigatoni, or ziti), cooked
1. Make the meat sauce first. Saute the onions in olive oil over medium eat. Add the meat and the spices and cook until browned. Add the wine and cook until reduced, then add the tomato paste, the bay leaf, and the beef stock. Simmer for 30 minutes and then cover and remove from heat. The smell of the cinnamon and nutmeg mixing with the onions and meat makes your whole house smell amazing! It is very difficult to not eat the sauce without waiting for the dish to be finished.
2. Next make the bechamel. Scald the milk (heat to 180F); set aside. Melt the butter over medium-low heat until melted, and then add the flour. Cook, stirring with a whisk, until smooth. Over medium heat, cook until the mixture turns a light, golden sandy color, about 6 to 7 minutes.
Add the hot milk to the butter mixture 1/4 at a time, whisking continuously until very smooth. Bring to a boil. Cook 10 minutes, stirring constantly, then remove from heat. Season with salt and nutmeg, stir in cheese, and set aside until ready to use.
3. Now, preheat your oven to 375ºF/Gas 5 and assemble your dish. Grease your baking dish with the butter or spray. Cook your pasta, if you haven't already done so - don't cook it as long as you would if you were eating it right away - very al dente is best. Drain the noodles and add them to the meat sauce; stir to combine. Pour the meat and pasta into the baking dish.
Then spread the Bechamel over top. Sprinkle with a bit more parmesan, if you have it, and bake until the top is golden, about 30-40 minutes. Let the dish settle for 10 minutes before you serve it.
*Note 10 July 2009: The bechamel didn't come out right; the flour + butter + milk was a paste, not a sauce. So I evened out the flour and butter, by volume, and lowered them both. Also upped the cheese, since it wasn't cheesy enough. May need more tinkering.
*Note 24 Nov 2009: I updated the bechamel section using Mario Batali's recipe: http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/mario-batali/bechamel-sauce-recipe/index.html. The reviews on that suggest that some people had trouble getting it to thicken up; other reviews suggest the problem may have been impatience. Make sure to cook for the full time in order to see the desired results.