Leeks and lemon add a fresh twist to this classic lasagna with meat sauce.

Oh, lasagna. Seemingly such a pain in the ass to make but so delicious, if you do it right. This is kind of half way between “done right” and “from super scratch” because I do use a bechamel instead of ricotta but save a few steps by using the no boil lasagna-ready noodles instead of homemade ones.

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Honestly, I don’t even know where or how ricotta ended up in lasagna in the first place. According to the food blogosphere, this is not traditional. Store-bought ricotta is also just a sad sorry excuse for cheese, imho. The milk and the cow should be ashamed. If you’ve ever made your own ricotta you know what I’m talking about. I used to think it just wasn’t my thing; then I had homemade ricotta once. Then I made my own out of goat’s milk. It took a little more lemon and a little longer than I expected, but man was that some creamy goodness.

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But I digress, back to lasagna. I decided to go with the bechamel version of lasagna. Why? Because (see above) store bought ricotta is a disgrace to cows. And, I wasn’t gonna be making some anytime soon. Also, you can add cheese to the bechamel! So it’s a win-win! While this seems like a good bit of work, it’s actually not as daunting as it seems. Throw together the meat sauce, and while it simmers work on your bechamel. Then do the layering, cover for 45 minutes in the oven, uncover so the cheese on top browns and voila! Enough lasagna to feed… well to feed 3 people and one El Gallo at my house. We didn’t have any leftovers. Again. All that work for one meal. This is my life. (The struggle is real!)

My one piece of advice, other than don’t forget to cover it with foil for the better part of its baking time, is: don’t skimp when filling and layering. There will be plenty of innards to fill your lasagna, I promise.

Venison Lasagna

Ingredients

For the Meat Sauce

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2lb ground venison
  • 2 Large leeks (sliced and rinsed very well)
  • 4 cloves garlic (minced)
  • 2 cans diced tomatoes
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • zest and juice of 1 lemon
  • 3 sprigs fresh basil

For the Bechamel

  • 8 tablespoons butter (1 stick)
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 4 cups whole milk
  • 1 clove garlic (minced)
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 cup white cheddar (shredded)

For assembly

  • 1 box no boil lasagna noodles
  • 1 cup parmesan cheese

Directions

For the Meat Sauce
Step 1
Heat the oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Sauté the leeks with some salt and pepper to taste. Once soft, add the lemon zest and garlic and cook until fragrant, a minute or two. Add the red pepper flakes and ground venison and cook until the meat is browned. Add the diced tomatoes and tomato paste, bring to a light boil and let simmer while making the bechamel.
For the Bechamel
Step 2
Melt the butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Add the flour and whisk together until completely incorporated. Add a splash of milk and mix until incorporated. Keep adding splashes of milk and whisking until you get a batter-like consistency, then start adding the milk about 1/2 cup at a time. Once all the milk has been added, add the garlic, nutmeg, salt to taste and continue to stir and whisk until the sauce starts to thicken, about 10 minutes. Then add the shredded cheese, stir until it's all melted and remove from heat.
For assembly
Step 3
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Add the lemon juice to the meat sauce and stir until incorporated. Pour a little Bechamel into the bottom of your lasagna pan, then layer lasagna noodles to cover the bottom. Then layer the lasagna in this order: meat sauce, ripped or chopped basil leaves, Bechamel, grated parmesan, making sure to be generous in each layer. (About 1-1/2 cup meat sauce and about 1/2 cup Bechamel for each layer. ) For the top layer, just do Bechamel and parmesan cheese
Step 4
Cover with foil and bake for about 25-20 minutes, until the noodles are about cooked and everything is bubbly. Then remove the foil and bake for another 10-15 minutes until the top of the lasagna starts to turn golden brown. Let set up for 5-10 minutes before serving.

Non-game substitution: Use ground beef.

Vegetarian substitution: Either the black beluga or Le Puy lentils will hold up super awesome in this recipe. In fact, I was initially inspired by a friend’s lentil lasagna to make this in the first place!

Posted in Venison
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