Chicken-N-Pickle’s director of culinary Alex Staab loves him some Italian food—almost to the point of obsession. In fact, the Kansas City native has been focusing on Italian cuisine for the past ten years. His style? To elevate and refine rustic dishes while paying homage to the dish’s origins. (You can thank his Italian mother who had a passion for authenticity in her food.)
In his spare time, Staab has been teaching how-to classes on creating the perfect lasagna from—you guessed it—his well-traveled, nuanced recipe. Save your pennies, kids—Staab spares no expense on his ingredients. “General rule of thumb is to spend the extra money on quality—it goes a long way to the finished product,” he says. “And try to use local as much as possible. The beef we get comes from Good Natured Family Farms from Ft. Scott, Kansas. It has the only ‘grass fed, grass finished’ label in the U.S. as of now.”
Yes, we agree—there are a lot of ingredients and it takes time, but the finished product is worth it. “Sorry if the recipe is a little labor intensive, care is the name of the game,” he says.
Ragu Bolognese: (Meat Sauce)
1 onion, finely diced
2 carrots, finely diced
4 ribs of celery, finely diced
1/2 pound of butter (Preferably European, Pulgra is a good brand)
2 tablespoons olive oil (Chef’s note: Preferably Italian. I have a preference for Sicilian, but a good Tuscan will do the trick—look for estate bottled.)
3 pounds ground beef
5 fresh bay leaves
6 sage leaves
6 thyme sprigs
1 rosemary sprig
1 bottle of red wine
1 ½ pounds of beef shin bones with marrow
1 ½ bottles Mutti passata, an Italian-brand tomato puree (24 ounces)
8 ounces heavy Shatto cream
Nutmeg to taste (Freshly grated is preferred)
In a large saucepan, make the sofrito. (Sauté the vegetables with the butter and all of the herbs. Chop the sage and rosemary, remove thyme leaves from stem and add the whole bay leaf.) Sauté the sofrito over low heat for 30 to 45 minutes until the vegetables start to break down. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
In a Dutch oven, sauté the ground beef in batches with the olive oil, salt and pepper, no more than one pound at a time. The ground beef is finished when all the liquid is cooked out and the meat starts to brown in its own fat. Once it starts to brown, remove it from the pan and repeat the process until all the meat is browned.
Rinse the marrow bones and roast them with a pinch of salt and a little olive oil at 350 degrees for 15 minutes. In the same pot the ground beef was browned in, add the marrow bones, the red wine, and salt and pepper to taste and simmer for 30 to 40 minutes to infuse the beef flavor into the reduction. Remove the bones, scoop out the marrow and add to the marrow the sauce. Bones can be reserved for a beef stock.
Add the vegetable sofrito, the tomato passata and the cream to the reduced wine, grate nutmeg into the sauce and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and simmer for four to six hours or overnight if making a large batch. Season to taste.
1 pound of butter
10 ounces flour
2/3 gallon of Shatto whole milk
Salt and pepper to taste
Nutmeg to taste (Freshly grated is preferred)
In a saucepan, make a roux by melting the butter, seasoning with salt and pepper to taste, then sprinkle in flour, stirring constantly for five to eight minutes over low heat. (Chef note: if you don’t cook it this long, your bechamel will taste more like flour than a silky sauce, however you do not want your roux—flour and butter mixture—to get dark.)
Add milk and freshy grated nutmeg, whisking constantly over low heat until the sauce coats the back of a spoon. Remove from heat.
Ingredients for Lasagna
1 ½ quarts of Bolognese ragu
3/4 quart bechamel
1 box lasagna noodles (Chef note: De Cecco is the best commercial pasta you can find in the States.)
8 – 12 ounces of mozzarella (depending on how cheesy you like it)
2 cups Parmigiano Reggiano cheese
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Cook lasagna noodles in boiling water for 8 to 10 minutes. To assemble, spread 3/4 tablespoon of ragu and bechamel on the bottom of a 9×13 baking dish before layering in the noodles. To layer the lasagna, start with the ragu, then the mozzarella, parmesan cheese, and bechamel. Add another layer of lasagna noodles. Repeat the process until the dish is full. Over the last layer of noodles, top with a thick layer of bechamel, followed by parmesan, and small spoons of ragu.
Bake in preheated oven for 45 minutes. Turn the oven to broil and brown the top for 5 to 7 minutes until golden brown.