The holidays are once again upon us and you know what that means. Tis the season for large-format meals designed to feed the unending onslaught of family, friends, and well-wishers. These dishes must be cozy, have broad appeal, and be filling as all get out. If you can achieve all three without going bankrupt, so much the better. So to kick off this cook and bakeathon, I bring you this French Onion Lasagna. A golden and gooey casserole that features layers of homemade pasta, buttery caramelized onions, sharp gruyere cheese, and a velvety béchamel sauce. This is a crowd-pleaser if there ever was one, so let’s get into it.
I think it goes without saying but I’ll say it anyway – this lasagna is inspired by the classic French Onion soup. Personally, I think French Onion soup is the coziest soup of all time, so I guess you could say this is the coziest lasagna of all time. I’m not going to sugar-coat it, this recipe is a project. It is less of a project if you don’t make your own pasta. But even then you are going to be caramelizing onions for a solid 2-3 hours. So just bear that in mind when you embark on this journey.
Although there is a tone of warning to this fact, I personally don’t see the word “project” and feel deterred. It’s kitchen project season after all. I would much rather spend my time warm in my kitchen with a vat of slow-cooking onions than be out in the snow. Plus, it is perfectly acceptable to invite friends and put them to work. A party might just break out. Trust me on this, I come from the land of kitchen parties.
Okay, let’s start with the pasta. Place equal parts semolina flour and all-purpose flour in a large bowl. You can find semolina flour at most bulk stores. I’ve even spotted it in a handful of regular grocery stores. Add some salt and whisk to combine. Form a well in the center and add 4 yolks and 2 whole eggs. Whisk to combine the eggs and slowly work the dry ingredients into the wet. Once a shaggy dough forms, knead it until the dough is smooth-ish. The dough will feel extremely stiff – this is normal. Gather the dough into a ball and wrap it in plastic wrap. Let rest for 30 minutes. This will allow the flours to hydrate fully and allow the glutens to relax.
While the dough rests, it’s time to cut onions for all eternity. Okay, that is an exaggeration but I am going to ask you to slice 10 good-sized red and yellow onions into half-moons. I like to use a medley of onions, but it’s not necessary. You could use all yellow or all red. Just note the color of your finished caramelized onions may be a little different than mine.
Heat some oil in a large Dutch oven and add the onions and a very generous sprinkling of salt. Add a few sprigs of rosemary and thyme and a few bay leaves. Set the heat to low and cover. Cook for 2-3 hours, stirring the onions every 30 minutes or so. The onions will barely fit in the pot when you start and by the end, they will struggle to clear a quarter of it. It’s seriously magical.
With the onions on their way, it’s time to prep the remaining components. Take the rested pasta dough and cut it into 8 evenly-sized pieces. Working with a piece at a time, roll the pasta out into sheets. I used the Kitchen Aid pasta maker and I rolled my sheets out to a #4. That was thin enough to be able to see my hand faintly through the pasta sheet. The number may be different on your pasta maker. Transfer the pasta to a large baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Fill the baking sheet with the pasta then place another piece of parchment paper on top. Fill that layer with pasta and continue in this fashion until all the dough is rolled out and stacked.
Bring a large pot of water up to a boil. It’s time to par-cook the pasta. Since we are using fresh pasta, you can theoretically skip this step, but I feel like it gives the finished lasagna a better texture. We’re not fully cooking the pasta sheets. We’re only going to give them 45 seconds in the boiling water before rinsing them and returning them to the baking sheet in the same stackable fashion. Set the pasta aside.
Now, grab your food processor and add the ricotta, a clove of garlic, an egg, salt, and crushed red pepper flakes. Blitz on high until the ricotta is smooth like velvet. Transfer the cheese to a bowl and set it aside as well.
And finally, we have the bechamel. This is a very straightforward bechamel. We don’t have to do anything fancy to it because we’ve already got so many bold flavors flying around. Start by making a roux. Melt butter in a large, deep skillet until foamy. Add all-purpose flour and whisk to combine. Continue to cook until the roux emits a warm nutty aroma. Slowly whisk in some dry white wine or vermouth. Once the wine is integrated, gradually add some whole milk to form a creamy sauce. Season it with some Dijon mustard and salt. Simmer until thickened slightly.
Now, it’s time to assemble the lasagna. Start with a thin layer of the bechamel followed by a layer of pasta. Add a third of the caramelized onions and spoon some more of the bechamel over top. Sprinkle with the gruyere cheese and place another layer of pasta on top. Add the ricotta mixture and another layer of pasta. Repeat the onion layer two more times and finish the lasagna with a final layer of pasta and the remaining bechamel. Sprinkle the top with gruyere, torn mozzarella, and buttered panko breadcrumbs. Bake until golden.
And that’s everything you need to know about this French Onion Lasagna. A golden, cheesy delight that will feed a crowd and have them begging for seconds.
French Onion Lasagna
- 1 Pasta maker
- 1 9×13 casserole dish
- 1 Food Processor
- 1 Dutch oven
- 160g (5.5oz) semolina flour
- 160g (5.5oz) all-purpose flour
- 1 tsp salt
- 4 large egg yolks
- 2 large eggs
- 1 tbsp water
- ¼ cup olive oil
- 4 red onions sliced into half-moons
- 6 yellow onions sliced into half-moons
- 2 tsp salt
- 3 sprigs fresh rosemary
- 4 sprigs fresh thyme
- 3 bay leaves
- 475g (17oz) ricotta
- 1 large egg
- 1 clove garlic peeled
- 1 tsp salt
- ½ tsp crushed red pepper
- 4 tbsp unsalted butter
- 4 tbsp all-purpose flour
- ¼ cup dry white wine or dry vermouth
- 3 cups whole milk
- 1 tbsp Dijon mustard heaping
- 1 tsp salt
- 300g (10.5oz) gruyere or comte cheese shredded
- 1 ball fresh mozzarella torn
- ½ cup panko breadcrumbs
- 1 tbsp salted butter melted
- ¼ red onion sliced very thin
- fresh rosemary for sprinkling
- fresh thyme for sprinkling
For the Pasta
- Pour the semolina flour and all-purpose into a large bowl. Add the salt and whisk to combine.160g (5.5oz) semolina flour, 160g (5.5oz) all-purpose flour, 1 tsp salt
- Create a well in the center of the dry ingredients and add the egg yolks, eggs, and water. Whisk the wet ingredients together and start gradually integrating the dry ingredients into the wet until a shaggy dough forms.4 large egg yolks, 2 large eggs, 1 tbsp water
- Knead the dough for 7-10 minutes or until smooth. The dough should feel fairly stiff. Wrap the dough tightly in plastic wrap and let rest at room temperature for 30 minutes. **
For the Onions
- While the pasta dough is resting, get the onions underway. Pour the olive oil into a large Dutch oven over medium heat. Add the onions and salt. Add the rosemary, thyme, and bay leaves. Reduce the heat to low and cover the pot. Cook the onions for 2-3 hours, stirring the onions every 30 minutes, until very soft and golden.¼ cup olive oil, 4 red onions, 6 yellow onions, 2 tsp salt, 3 sprigs fresh rosemary, 4 sprigs fresh thyme, 3 bay leaves
- Remove the bay leaves and the rosemary and thyme stems. Transfer the onions to a bowl and set them aside to cool.
For the Pasta
- Divide the dough into 8 evenly-sized pieces. Make sure you keep the pasta covered with plastic wrap as you work. Working with a piece at a time, roll the pasta out into thin sheets using a pasta roller. *** Place the sheets on a large baking sheet lined with parchment paper. When the baking sheet is full, place another piece of parchment on top and build another layer of pasta. Repeat until all the dough is rolled out.
- Bring a large pot of water up to a boil. Liberally salt the water and add 3-4 sheets of pasta. Cook for 45 seconds before rinsing the pasta and transferring it to another large baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Repeat until all the pasta has been blanched.
For the Ricotta
- Place all of the ingredients in a food processor and blitz until very smooth. Transfer to a bowl and set it aside.475g (17oz) ricotta, 1 large egg, 1 clove garlic, 1 tsp salt, ½ tsp crushed red pepper
For the Bechamel
- Melt the butter in a large, deep skillet over medium heat until foamy. Whisk in the flour and cook until it emits a warm nutty aroma.4 tbsp unsalted butter, 4 tbsp all-purpose flour
- Gradually whisk the wine and milk into the roux to form a silky sauce. Bring the sauce up to a gentle simmer and whisk in the Dijon mustard and salt. Simmer until thickened slightly. About 5 minutes.¼ cup dry white wine or dry vermouth, 3 cups whole milk, 1 tbsp Dijon mustard, 1 tsp salt
- Take the sauce off of the heat and set it aside.
- Preheat the oven to 350°F. Grease a 9×13" casserole dish and set it aside.
- Spoon some bechamel into the casserole dish and spread it to form a thin even layer. Place pasta on top. Dot the pasta with a third of the caramelized onions and spread them to form an even layer. Drizzle some of the bechamel on top and cover with a quarter of the gruyere cheese.300g (10.5oz) gruyere or comte cheese
- Add another layer of pasta and dot it with the ricotta mixture. Spread it to form an even layer and cover it with pasta. Repeat the caramelized onion layer two more times and top the final layer of pasta with the remaining bechamel and gruyere. Add the torn mozzarella.1 ball fresh mozzarella
- In a small bowl, toss to coat the panko breadcrumbs in the butter. Sprinkle the breadcrumbs over the surface of the lasagna. Transfer the casserole dish to the oven and bake for 40 minutes. Turn on the broiler and broil until golden. ****½ cup panko breadcrumbs, 1 tbsp salted butter
- Take the lasagna out of the oven and let rest for 10. Top with the shaved onions, additional rosemary, and thyme. Slice into pieces and serve immediately.¼ red onion, fresh rosemary, fresh thyme