For those who haven’t eaten it, Del Posto's 100-layer lasagna was introduced to the restaurant in 2010 as part of a very fancy, very expensive meal at the restaurant. Unable to afford such a meal, but having had the lasagna as part of the $35 prix fixe where they serve leftovers of it the next day, I was inspired to come up with a "practical" (in as much as a four-hour recipe is practical) recipe for the home cook that subs in 7 1/3-by-7 1/3-inch Nasoya wrappers for the pasta, and makes the restaurant’s need for using skewers to hold things in place unnecessary.
If you want to make the pasta from scratch, check out the recipe on The Chew (he featured it there as part of their 10th episode celebration), but note that they're missing a meat ingredient from their recipe). If you want to get extra fancy, you can add a bit of pancetta for flavor to the ragù. It’s a nice touch, but not necessary.
Why 101 layers and not 100? Well, Del Posto has been one of restaurants on The Daily Meal's 101 Best Restaurants in America, and the number has become de facto the site's official mascot.
To create this monster (though a delicate one), all you need is one of those aluminum roasting pans that you can bend to the shape of the wrappers, a pastry brush for applying the béchamel, three hours to spare, and determination and patience. The result is pretty impressive, but definitely improved by allowing everything to set and meld overnight, and slicing it thin and reheating it either on the flattop or crisped up in the oven.
Oh, and make sure you have plenty of wine, and a piece of paper next to you with, "Ragù, Pasta, and Béchamel" written out in the order that they’re supposed to be layered so you can put check marks next to each one or you’re a goner — you'll never keep track otherwise. Buona fortuna!
Note: This works best if you have a slow cooker that you can cook the ragù in overnight or during the day while you're at work, but if you dont have one, you can just let the ragù simmer for a few hours, adding water (or wine) when necessary (to it or to your thirst).
Preheat a 6- to 8-quart pot over medium heat. Add the olive oil, then the onion, carrots, celery, and garlic. Allow them to get translucent for about 5 minutes, then add the tomatoes and push all ingredients to the side.
Add the beef, pork, and veal. Brown the meat, stirring often. Add the tomato paste, milk, wine, thyme, oregano, bay leaf, and red pepper flakes, then bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer for 1-1 ½ hours. Then season with salt and pepper, to taste. (Allowing this to sit overnight or all day in the slow cooker will give you a very smooth ragù to work with, which you'll be grateful for later.)
Keep in mind that you don't need this until right before you're going to begin. Warm the milk in a separate pot. Meanwhile, melt the butter in a saucepan, then add the flour, whisk until smooth, and cook until golden brown, about 6 minutes. Add the milk to the roux, whisking constantly until smooth. Bring to a boil and adjust the consistency so it's smooth, and then season with the salt, pepper, to taste, and nutmeg.
You’ll be using this for garnish for the finished lasagna (and it's always good to have a little in case you need to stretch out your filling). To a saucepan over medium heat, add olive oil, the onion, and garlic. When translucent, add the chopped tomatoes, grape tomatoes, basil, and bay leaf. Season with salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes, to taste. Cover and simmer, stirring occasionally until it turns into a sauce.
Bring a large pot of water to a boil over high heat, prepare an ice bath, and lay out delicate kitchen towels or paper towels for drying the pasta. Have the béchamel and the ragù nearby and a pastry brush. Adjust a disposable standard-sized aluminum roasting pan to form around the uncooked pasta wrappers.
Preheat the oven to 380 degrees.
(As you begin, and layer, keep in mind that you will be layering some 34 layers of ragù, 34 layers of pasta, 33 layers of béchamel — you do not want thick layers! Go easy.)
Drop a sheet of pasta into the water for 30 seconds. Meanwhile, layer the ragù on the bottom of the pan evenly and thinly, scatter Parmigiano-Reggiano over the entire surface of the ragù evenly and thinly, remove the pasta to ice bath for 10 seconds, then dry on the towels.
Drop the next sheet of pasta into the water, set the dried pasta over the cheese, spread béchamel evenly and thinly over entire surface of the pasta with the pastry brush, remove the boiling pasta to an ice bath, layer the ragù evenly and thinly over entire surface of béchamel, scatter Parmigiano-Reggiano over entire surface of ragù evenly and thinly, dry the pasta, drop the next sheet of pasta, and layer the dry pasta over the cheese again. Repeat until finished with all layers.
Cook in oven for 1 hour, remove, and let set for a ½ hour. Dress plate with a little sauce, slice the lasagna a little less than 1-inch thick, and serve. Mangia.