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Chicken Cacciatore Lasagna

Makes 2 lasagnas, serving 16 to 20
Porcini, pancetta, and rosemary bring the woodsy goodness to this lasagna. Layer that with nutmeg scented bésciamella sauce and a sprinkling of parmesan and you have a lasagna that’s more wooing than a box of chocolates. There’s quite a bit of chopping here but the sauces can be easily made ahead and the oven-friendly noodles let you relax when it’s crunch time. If you prefer to make just one lasagna, halve the recipe or cook enough sauces for two and freeze the second half for a rainy day.... it’s like money in the bank.

For chicken cacciatore ragu:

  • 1 1/2 cups white wine
  • 1 oz dried porcini (about 1 cup)
  • 6 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 4 medium onions, finely chopped
  • 4 medium carrots, finely chopped
  • 4 celery ribs, finely chopped
  • 5 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 4 lbs ground dark meat chicken or turkey
  • 8 oz sliced pancetta, finely chopped
  • 1 (28-ounce) can whole tomatoes in juice, pureed in a blender
  • 2 (6-inch) rosemary sprigs
  • 2 Turkish bay leaves or 1 California

For Bésciamella Sauce:

  • 10 tablespoons (1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons) unsalted butter
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 6 cups whole milk
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 3/4 teaspoons freshly grated nutmeg

For Assembling Lasagnas:

  • 2 (9-oz) boxes Barilla no-boil pasta sheets (made with egg)
  • 1 cup grated Parmigiano Reggiano

    2 (13- by 9- by 2-inch) baking pans (if you choose to broil your lasagna at the end, then choose flameproof pans, which means avoid glass ones.)

Make Ragu:

  • Bring wine to a simmer in a small saucepan. Stir in porcini and remove from heat. Let stand (while cutting vegetables), at least 15 minutes.
  • Drain porcini in a fine-mesh sieve set over a bowl, pressing on mushrooms and reserving wine. Coarsely chop porcini.
  • Heat olive oil and butter in a wide, heavy, 7- to 8- quart pot over medium heat. Cook porcini, onions, carrots, celery, and garlic with 1/4 teaspoon salt, stirring frequently, until tender, about 12 minutes.
  • Transfer half of vegetables with a slotted spoon to a bowl.
  • Increase heat to high, then stir half of ground chicken and half of pancetta into vegetables remaining in pot and cook, stirring occasionally and breaking up any lumps, until meat is no longer pink, 8 to 10 minutes. Transfer meat mixture with a slotted spoon to another bowl.
  • Repeat with reserved vegetables and remaining meat and pancetta, then return previous batch to pot.
  • Stir in porcini-infused wine and simmer 2 minutes, scraping up brown bits.
  • Add puréed tomatoes, rosemary, and bay leaves and bring just to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer uncovered, stirring occasionally, until ragu is saucy but not wet, 45 minutes to 1 hour (Ragu will have reduced to about 4 quarts).
  • Season with salt and pepper and discard rosemary stems and bay leaves.

Make Bésciamella Sauce:

  • Heat milk in a medium saucepan until almost boiling.
  • Melt butter in a 3- to 4- quart heavy saucepan over medium heat. Whisk in flour until smooth, then cook, whisking frequently, until pale golden brown, 4 to 6 minutes.
  • Meanwhile, add milk, 1 cup at a time, to butter/flour mixture, whisking until smooth. Bring sauce to a boil, whisking, then cook, whisking, 1 minute.
  • Remove from heat and stir in salt and nutmeg. Cover with a buttered piece of waxed paper (buttered side on sauce), stirring occasionally. until ready to use.

Assemble and Bake Lasagnas:

  • Preheat oven to 375°F. If oven is large enough to hold both pans on a single rack, put rack in middle position. If not, arrange racks in upper and lower third position.
  • Spread about 2 cups of ragu on bottom of a 13- by 9-inch baking dish. Top with 4 sheets of pasta, overlapping slightly. (Spread sauces to edges of pan even though pasta will not completely cover; pasta will expand while cooking.
  • Spread 3/4 cup bésciamella sauce over pasta and sprinkle with 2 tablespoons parmesan.
  • Repeat layering 3 more times. (You should have 4 layers of pasta ending with pasta topped with bésciamella sauce and cheese; make sure final layer of pasta is completely covered with sauce.)
  • Repeat with second lasagna.
  • Cover lasagnas with lightly oiled foil and bake 45 minutes. Uncover and bake until bubbling and tops are browned, about 15 minutes. (If tops are not as brown as you’d like, broil lasagnas under a preheated broiler, about 6 inches from heat and watching carefully, 1 to 2 minutes.
  • Let lasagnas stand 15 minutes before serving.
Ragu and bésciamella sauce can be made 3 days ahead and chilled, covered once cool. Warm ragu gently just before using.
Lasagnas can be fully cooked 4 days ahead and cooled completely, uncovered, before chilling, covered. Reheat in preheated 350°F oven, covered with foil, until hot, about 45 minutes to 1 hour.
If you can’t find Barilla no-boil pasta sheets, be aware that other brands will vary in shape and size. (Please consult box.)