Tuesday, 16 April 2013

Lasagne made simple

I love lasagne.  I mean love it.  I used to make it when I was in university and it was always a huge affair.  I would make the sauce, then the spinach with the ricotta, then boil the noodles, grate immense amounts of cheese, assemble and bake.  And even though it seemed to take a great deal of effort, it would never be quite what I was hoping it would be. Still I loved it and made it frequently.

Then about a year ago,  I discovered this recipe.  It seemed too simple to be good, I mean, where was all the cheese and spinach?  But after I made this the first time, I knew I could never go back.  The ingredients are simple, but that is what makes it so good.  It isn't complicated and yet it is everything you would hope lasagne to be.  It is rich, but not over the top, it is creamy and warm and the egg noodles make it so buttery. The only trick to this dish is that you have to make a good sauce, there just isn't any getting around it, but once you have done that, the rest is quick and easy.  This tastes best the second day, so it is worth making on the weekend to have as a weeknight meal.  It also freezes really well.

Simple Lasagne
adapted from David Rocco's Dolce Vita

6 cups Bolognese sauce-see below
500 grams lasagna sheets or less depending on the size of your pan*
3 cups béchamel sauce-see below
3 cups mozzarella cheese grated-one ball of the PC brand from Superstore is enough
Freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, for sprinkling

First the Bolognese sauce:

1 onion finely chopped
1 stalk celery, finely chopped
1 large carrot, peeled and finely chopped
3 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
2 tbsp unsalted butter
½ pound lean or extra lean ground beef
½ pound ground pork
1 cup white wine
1 cup milk
5 cups tomato puree (use passatta in the jars or blend whole canned tomatoes)
1 cup water
Salt to taste
5 fresh basil leaves

Heat your olive oil in a large pan, one big enough to hold all this sauce. Slowly sauté carrots, onions and celery until all the sugars come out and it starts to brown, careful not to burn it.   It helps to chop your veggies as small as you can or use a grater, it helps to melt them into the sauce.

Then add your butter along with the meat.  Cook over medium to high heat until the meat is browned.  Next, pour in the white wine and cook until it is absorbed.  Then in goes the cup of milk and the tomatoes, water and salt.  Let this simmer for 1 ½ hours to 2 hours.  When it is close to being finished, throw your basil leaves and  season to taste. 

 Béchamel Sauce

4 tbsp butter
4 cups milk
4 tbsp all-purpose flour

Get out 2 pots and place them  over medium heat.  In one pot, melt the butter; in the other, warm up the milk.  Do not brown the butter, once it is melted take it off the heat and add the flour  a little at a time and start whisking.  When the milk is warm start adding it to the butter and flour mixture,  a little at a time.  You should end up with a velvety sauce that is not gloopy.

Now to assemble the lasagna:

Pour a little pasta sauce on the bottom of your pan.  Then add a layer of noodles (uncooked).  Then a layer of sauce with some of the béchamel poured over and a little of the mozzarella.  Keep doing this until you get to the top ending with the tomato sauce.  Sprinkle with a bit more cheese and bake at 375°F for 40 minutes.

Note***If you can get Italian egg lasagna noodles (Riscossa), they are super good.  I do most of my shopping at Bosa, they have everything I need at a good price.

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