Lasagne

 

Let’s clear this up right now: ‘lasagna’, as this dish is called in English-speaking countries, is the wrong name for it. One single square of fresh pasta is in fact a lasagna (a corruption of the Latin word for ‘lozenge’), but since it is always used in layers the name becomes plural – hence ‘lasagne’. Having said this, “lasagne” is also just the broad definition of a multi-layered oven cooked pasta dish. The name is eponymous with lasagne alla bolognese (literally ‘as they are done in Bologna’), but starting from central Italy and below each region has its variations of lasagne based on locally grown ingredients. For your information, the most frequently seen types of alternative lasagne are with pesto basil sauce (Liguria); Trevisan chicory (Veneto); meatballs and vegetables (Sicilia); entrails (Umbria) or even shredded and not layered at all (Molise). The typical, Bolognese-style lasagne recipe is however the oldest as well: it is first mentioned in a cooking book written in 1238, and with some updating it is what we are describing here today. Please note that the below quantities serve eight persons, as lasagne can be easily “revived” up to three days after cooking and are usually prepared in bulk.

 

Ingredients

 

  • 500g lasagne – In a ideal world they are fresh from the expert hands of a rezdora(a woman specialized in preparing fresh pasta), but even the industrial kind from the supermarket will do
  • 200g grated parmigiano reggiano cheese
  • 1kg béchamel sauce
  • 1 carrot
  • 1 white onion, large
  • 1 celery stalk
  • Ground pepper
  • Ground salt
  • 4 tablespoons of extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 glass of milk
  • 50g butter
  • 1 glass of red wine
  • 100g pancetta (not bacon, but real pancetta)
  • 250g ground prime beef
  • 350g ground pork leg meat
  • 250ml stock
  • 30g triple-concentrated tomato sauce

 

 

Preparation

 

The trick to make great lasagna is not in the pasta, nor in the cooking. What makes them memorable is the ragù sauce – and that you’ll have to prepare it yourself. Finely dice the onion, celery and carrot and sauté them in a pot with the oil and butter. Cook for a few minutes, then add the (finely ground) pancetta, pork and beef and stir for five minutes over your best fire. Then add the wine and let it evaporate. When the wine is completely gone, it is the turn of the tomato sauce, half the stock, salt and pepper. This must cook for at least two hours in the partially covered pot, stirring from time to time and adding broth until it’s finished. The last step is to add the milk, keep stirring and – finally! – setting the ragù aside. Set the oven to 160° (Celsius! Nobody use Farenheits anyway…). Butter up your oven pan, spread a couple of tablespoons of ragù sauce on the bottom and place the first layer of pasta. Now spread a few tablespoons of béchamel sauce, sprinkle it with cheese, and cover with another layer of pasta. Repeat until you are out of ingredients. As a matter of fact, keep a couple of tablespoons of ragù and béchamel and mix them together for the last topping, on which a little more cheese should be sprinkled to form a nice crust. Put your masterpiece in the oven to cook for no less than one hour. They’ll be ready when you see the above-mentioned crust. Don’t try to eat the lasagne out of the oven: you are advised to let them cool for 10-15 minutes, then you can cut each serving from the pan, and enjoy a real Italian delicacy!