Lasagna

2016 Recipe No. 41

Lasagna is a birthday tradition in Deanna’s family, and that’s a tradition that I wouldn’t wanna mess with.

I didn’t get to make her some on her actual birthday but that’s cause we kept eating all day. So, Tuesday night, I got busy.

Lasagna is a tricky dish once you’ve been to Bologna. You realize how different the American interpretation of it is, but figuring out how they get their ragú that savory and creamy is a puzzle in and of itself.

My go to methods? A slow cooker. Add some milk. And white wine to break everything down. Sometimes a red wine gets too fruity. Toss in a bit of pancetta fat. And grate or process the veggies. That way you get a smoother filling.

Oh and homemade noodles. Those are a must.

Thing I Learned #1 – Many bolognese recipes will call for a red wine… almost every time I’ve had a bolognese made with red wine, it’s come out with a bitter taste that seems a bit off. Despite our association of lasagna with the color red, go ahead and use these two things: milk and white wine. A true Italian ragu is meant to be a bit creamy!

The Process

Making lasagna the Italian homemade way is quite a process that starts the day before… the positive tradeoff is that I usually make enough of it to have leftovers for the rest of the week.

The day before, I make the pasta noodles. The noodles come about using my simple pasta recipe of salt, flour, eggs, and water. I mix this all by hand and crank it out using a basic pasta roller.

The morning of, in a slow cooker, I make the ragu. I dice up bacon, onions, celery, and carrots, and add them to a slow cooker. I then add ground beef and pork sausage, plus tomato sauce, white wine, and milk. I have it cooking all day, pretty much. At least six hours. I also cut out the pasta sheets.

Just before dinner time, I make the bechamel. Flour, milk, cheese (not typically in a bechamel), butter, salt, and pepper are all heated up to make a white sauce.

Then I layer everything. Noodles. Ragu. Béchamel. Noodles. Ragu. Béchamel. Noodles. Ragu. Béchamel. You get it.

I top it off with some shredded parmesan reggiano.

I’ll put this in the oven for about half an hour. I’m mainly looking for the cheese to turn golden brown.

Ingredients

For the lasagna noodles

3 cups of flour
2 eggs
1 cup of water
1 teaspoon of salt

For the Ragu

2/3 pounds of pork sausage
2/3 pounds of ground beef
2 cups of tomato sauce
1/2 cup of white wine
2/3 cups of milk
1/4 cup of bacon
1/2 onion
2 stalks of celery
1 large carrot
2 teaspoons of salt
2 teaspoons of pepper
2 teaspoons of oregano
A small handful of basil leaves

For the Cheesy Béchamel

1/2 cup of shredded parmesan reggiano
4 tablespoons of butter
3 tablespoons of flour
1 cup of milk
1 teaspoon of salt
1 teaspoon of pepper

Also
Shredded Parmesean Reggiano

Thing I Learned #2 – Bologna is considered the birthplace of lasagna and the capital of great Italian food. One of the city’s nicknames is Il Grosso, the fat one. It’s also known as Il Dottoro, because of its universities and Il Rosso, because of its red buildings.

Step-By-Step

The Day Before

  1. Combine flour and eggs in a mixing bowl
  2. Slowly introduce water to form dough
  3. Roll out dough into sheets
  4. Allow sheets to dry somewhere

The Morning Of

  1. Dice the onions, celery, and bacon, grate the carrots
  2. Add diced bacon and veggies to slow cooker
  3. Add tomato sauce, milk, and white wine
  4. Add basil, salt, pepper, and oregano
  5. Cut lasagna sheets into small squares to fit the baking container
  6. Cook on low for five to six hours, or until the sauce is thick and meaty

An Hour or So Before Dinner

  1. In a saucepan, heat up butter, flour, milk, cheese, salt, and pepper to make bechamel
  2. Cook until you reach a thick and even consistency
  3. Start layering components- pasta sheets, ragu, bechamel, repeat and repeat
  4. At the very top, add a layer of béchamel and a sprinkle of parmesan reggiano
  5. Bake for 25-30 minutes or until the cheese on top is golden brown
Thing I Learned #3 – Pastelón may be one of the most interesting international takes on a lasagna… the Puerto Rican dish layers plantains instead of flat pasta noodles.

Serving This Sucker

Welp, there’s only so many ways to serve up lasagna, and it’s hard to go wrong. It’s not exactly easy to get lasagna to look pretty, but the taste more than makes up for it.

In The Future

This will happen again, over and over again. Lasagna is a family favorite and it’ll stay that way with no end in sight.

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