Monday, March 17, 2008

Lasagne al Forno

I already knew all lasagnas aren't created equal, but I didn't know that in some areas, lasagna is completely different from what I know. I have grown up with the American style of lasagna with the layers of red pasta sauce, ricotta cheese, ground beef, etc... Apparently, there is a whole other world of lasagna that is "lasagne" and does not have red sauce and is made with a white bechamel sauce.

This didn't feel like lasagna to me. It felt like a completely different dish, kind of like the difference between fish fingers and chicken fingers; similar concept but not the same.

That said, I did like this lasagne, I just have to recognize it as a completely different style than what I'm used to. I loved that I could use regular lasagna noodles and not precook them! I hate having to precook lasagna noodles and keep them from sticking while doing the layers. I have worked out a system for that, but it's still nice to not have to do that.

I made a few changes with the recipe. I did not use chicken livers for this recipe. I just couldn't bring myself to do that. I also would shred the mozzarella cheese next time to make it easier to spread evenly. I had difficulty layering the cubes and I could get it much more even if it was shredded. I also had to stir the ragú approximately every 45 minutes because otherwise the meat was blackening and I was worried about it drying out. Lastly, I sprinkled some Parmesan cheese over each layer of mozzarella cheese.

This wasn't as difficult as it sounded. The best thing to do is to set out all your materials you will need so you are not rushing about. I actually chopped up everything before starting to cook. I just then added things as needed. I also set out my pots and pans ahead of time. This made it so much more relaxing for me since I didn't have to stress about getting things chopped in time to go in, while worrying about the things already cooking becoming overcooked. I'm not the fastest cutter, so this is definitely the way to go for me.

This recipe is from Delia Smith, a British cookbook author, who seems to be to the English what Julia Child is to the Americans.

Lasagne al Forno

1 lb. lasagna noodles
14 oz. mozzarella (diced)
4 oz. Parmesano Reggiano cheese

For the Ragú Bolognese:
12 oz. (350g) ground beef
12 oz. (350g) ground pork

200g pancetta
4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 large white onion, chopped
2 large cloves of garlic (chopped )(I double this)
630g Italian chopped tomatoes
6 tablespoons tomato purée
6 fl. oz (175ml) red wine
whole nutmeg
freshly ground black pepper
15 g fresh basil

Bechamel Sauce:

6 cups(1.5l) milk
6 oz. (175g) butter
4 oz. (110g) flour
2 large cloves garlic, minced
6 fl. oz (175ml) heavy/double cream

  1. In a large sauté pan, heat 1 tablespoon oil over medium heat. Add onion and fry for about 10 minutes.
  2. While the onion is cooking, chop the pancetta. The best way to do this is to roll it up, cut lengthwise then across.
  3. Once onion is softened, add the pancetta and cook for another 5 minutes.
  4. Place the pancetta and onion in a 6 quart dutch oven, add another tablespoon of oil to the sauté pan and return to heat.
  5. Add the ground beef and cook until browned. Transfer to the dutch oven, add another tablespoon of oil to pan and return to heat.
  6. Add the ground pork and brown.
  7. Once pork has browned, add it to the dutch oven.
  8. Preheat oven to 275°F (140°C, Gas Mark 1)
  9. Place dutch oven on burner and stir ingredients together. Add the tomatoes, tomato purée, red wine, salt, pepper, and about ¼ nutmeg, grated. Stir all ingredients together and bring to a simmer.
  10. While bringing mixture to a simmer, tear half of the basil leaves from the stem, tear or chop the leaves and add them to the pot. As soon as the mixture is simmering, place in preheated oven. You do not need to cover the mixture.
  11. Here the recipe says to let simmer for 3 hours before giving a stir, I stirred every 45 minutes.
  12. When liquid has reduced to a concentrated sauce, season to taste with salt and pepper and add the remainder of the basil.
  13. About 20-30 minutes before the ragú bolognese is due to come out of the oven, begin the bechamel sauce.
  14. Place the milk, butter, flour, salt and pepper, and garlic in a large saucepan. Heat oven medium-low heat and whisk until simmering and thickened. Reduce heat as low as possible and simmer for 10 minutes more.
  15. Sieve the sauce into a large bowl and add the cream. Adjust seasoning and add another quarter of nutmeg.
  16. Preheat oven to 350°F (Gas mark 4, 180°C).
  17. Now for the assembly. Organize your materials in the order in which you will use them, with the baking dish on a cookie sheet (to catch spillage) in the middle.
  18. Spread a thin layer of the ragú bolognese on the bottom of the pan. Cover with ¼ of the bechamel sauce, diced mozzarella and a sprinkling of Parmesan cheese. Add a layer of lasagna noodles (They don't need to be cooked, the large amount of sauce cooks the noodles). Repeat in this manner, finishing off with a top layer of cream sauce and a coating of Parmesan cheese.
  19. Place in oven (be sure to keep the baking sheet underneath!) and bake for 45-50 minutes or until golden brown and bubbling.


Made by Lena