The stuff of legends and Fat Cat dreams.
A centuries old recipe that in the last few decades has evolved. From spinach noodles to cottage cheese; vegetable to seafood; Chicken to Lamb... I even saw one that layers potato slices and leaves out the noodles (conveniently enough called lasagna noodles). Seems you can slap payers of about anything into a 9X13 pan and call it lasagna. Some day I may tackle "52 Lasagnas", but I am a believer that you don't know where you can go without knowing where you have been. Meaning before you start monkeying with a recipe you ought to know the basic traditional.
So, I tackled the traditional.
Basically, you need the noodles. Sure, store bought is fine, but why not MAKE YOUR OWN FRESH PASTA. The flat noodle you need is the easiest to make. You can even make them without a pasta machine, just a rolling pin to get them thin, thin, thin.
And of course you need a great sauce.
As I posted yesterday, traditional Italians make a FESTIVAL SAUCE, LOADED with meat, soffritto (vegetables) and the tomato sauce. Sure, a jarred sauce and a pound of hamburger will work, but this is so much more with the vegetables sauteed along with the meat so all the meat drippings become a part of the sauce. Simply loaded with flavor.
A Traditional Lasagna calls for a a Bechamel Sauce, one of the CLASSIC sauces of French cuisine (adopted by the Italians (some Italians say stolen by the French, but I digress... ). Often called a white sauce, it is thickened milk (thickened with a roux (equal parts butter and flour)). Seasoned with Onion, Nutmeg and a Bay Leaf.
There is considered an Italian version of cooking the sauce which differs slightly from the classic French version. The French Chefs will make the roux and add milk and heat. Italians will heat the milk and then add the already made roux. I tried this for the first time and it worked perfect. It cut the time of making the sauce, it thickened fast and was ready to use in about half the time. I also made an Onion Bechamel for this.
Onion Bechamel Sauce
- 1 Quart Whole Milk
- 1 Small Onion, Minced
- 1 Whole Bay Leaf (to be removed when the Roux is added)
- A Big Pinch Nutmeg
- A Big Pinch Salt
- Several Turns of a Pepper Grinder
- 6 TBS Butter
- 6 TBS Flour
- 1 TBS Whole Milk, more as needed
- In a large sauce pan, over medium high heat, bring the milk to a slow simmer, add the onion, bay leaf, nutmeg, salt and pepper.
- Meanwhile, make your Roux, in a small saute pan, melt the butter over medium heat.
- Add the flour and whisk until combined. This is a white sauce, so cook only until well combined. Do not brown the butter or roux. Whisk, whisk, whisk continually for 2 minutes.
- Add the Roux to the gently simmering milk and whisk to combine.
- Add additional milk a TBS at a time to thin as needed. For a lasagna, the sauce should be the consistency of soft serve yogurt after it has been left out room temperature for a few minutes... soft soft serve.
- Use in many many dishes and ENJOY!
I Like Cheese...
- 18 Sheets of Fresh Pasta
- 1 Quart Bechamel Sauce
- 1 Gallon Festival Ragu Sauce
- 1 Pound Mozzarella Cheese, Grated
- 1/4 Cup finely grated Parmesan
- Slivers of fresh basil For Garnish
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
- First, have all of the sauces ready. The Ragu is best if it simmers in it's own juices for at least an hour or two. The Bechamel is best made fresh right before it is to be used. If you make it more than 5 minutes before use, cover the top with a sheet of plastic wrap to keep a skin from forming.
- Have the pasta made, but wait to cook until right before assembly. You are going to bake this dish, so be sure to cook the pasta al Dente. If you are using dry pasta cook for 2 minutes laess than what the package recommends. If you are using fresh made, 2 minutes in boiling salt water is fine.
- And now, assemble your layers...
- Little Ragu, single layer of Pasta, Little bechamel, Little Mozzarella, Little Parmesan
- Repeat making 4 layers, ending with the Ragu. Top the final layer of Mozzarella in batches so the red shines through making a patchwork look.
- Bake for 40 minutes until the cheese is slightly browning and the sauce is bubbly.
- Allow to cool for 20 minutes or longer before cooking. Longer you wiat the better the layers hold together when you serve.
- Serve WARM AND ENJOY!!!
WHOOP DEE DOO... WHOOP DEE DOO... WHOOP DEE DOO!!!
All in All, this is your Italian Grandmother's Lasagne!
My fresh thin lasagna noodles absorb the liquids as the dish bakes, making them grow and thicken. And of course the cheese that melds into the ragu that melds into the bechamel just makes this traditional, original, the BEST!
Well over 52 recipes actually as I just can't stop. The world's most popular cuisine, authentic, natural, organic, Farm to Table... the Italians started, perfected or embraced it before it became a fad. This page is a guide to Italian Cooking... For the home cook! So, Cin Cin (toast) and Buon Appetito (Enjoy your Meal) to you all and let's Cook authentic Italian!
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