Make lasagne the way Italians make it
Growing up in an Italian-American family, I ate my share of great pasta dishes, but none better than Moms Lasagne. Springy sheets of pasta oozing with rich layers of sausage-laden tomato sauce, creamy ricotta and melted mozzarella; it was heaven in a casserole pan, and always saved for the most special of occasions.When I started cooking for myself, I ate lasagne all the time, so it slowly lost its magic. I needed a new infusion of lasagne inspiration to reclaim the favorite dish of my youth.True inspiration came years later on a culinary pilgrimage to Italy where I learned that all Italian lasagnes were not like Moms; they varied from region to region. The southern Italian version taught to her by my great grandmother was just one among many wonderful styles in this gastronomic paradise.In Bologna, I discovered the amazing Lasagne Bolognese made with spinach pasta, Bchamela, Parmigiano-Reggiano, and the local meat sauce, Ragu Bolognese. Later in Milano, I was treated to a luxurious seafood version made with spinach pasta, fresh shellfish, rich Bchamela and no cheese. I returned to the states with my Lasagne Mojo recharged and went to work recreating these regional works of art.Keep in mind, the foods in Italy are superior to most Italian foods in this country for one reason: The Italians are fanatical about the quality of ingredients they use. Only the best textured pasta, the most flavorful homemade sauces and the finest of meats and cheese will do. Think like an Italian and all the flavors coming out of your kitchen will improve.This week Im sharing the pasta, sauce and assembly recipes I use to make two traditional Italian lasagnes. Use them as a guideline to create your own versions, or follow them exactly but dont skimp on ingredients! Chef Mick Rosacci, Tonys Meats & Specialty FoodsItalian PastaThis pasta can be made by hand, or with a stand mixer. Then it can be rolled out by hand or with a pasta machine.31⁄2 cups flourmore flour for kneading and rolling4 large eggs plus one yolkSift flour into a mound on a clean countertop and shape into a large, round well. Lightly beat eggs with a fork and add to empty well. Using a fork, slowly incorporate flour from the sides of the well into the dough.When you can no longer mix with a fork, use your hands to mix in remaining flour until it is no longer sticky. Form into a ball, cover with a damp towel and set aside. Clean and dry table, sprinkling with more flour.Uncover dough and knead with the heel of your hand, adding flour as needed, until smooth, at least 5 minutes (dont skimp on kneading time, this is what gives good pasta its texture). Cover with a damp towel and set aside.Cut off a small piece of dough and flatten it so it will fit through the widest setting of a pasta machine. Run through rollers 3 or 4 times, dusting with flour and folding and turning as needed. Reduce thickness of rollers one notch at a time and roll as thin as desired. Best if made earlier in the day; refrigerate until ready to use.Boil pasta in well-salted water just until it floats, usually less than one minute. Spinach Pasta(Essential for classic Lasagne Bolognese)10 oz. fresh spinach2 large eggs31⁄2 cups (14 oz.) flourRinse and stem spinach (stemming not required with baby spinach), cook in boiling salted water to wilt, remove. When cool enough to handle, squeeze out water well and chop finely.Prepare pasta as above, adding chopped spinach with the eggs. Bchamela5 TBS Butter1 medium onion, chopped1 TBS black peppercorns, crushed4 whole cloves, cracked3 large bay leaves, broken3 large cloves garlic, crushed41⁄2 TBS flour41⁄2 cups milk1⁄4 cup heavy cream1 tsp. fresh thyme leavesSet a 4-quart saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the butter, onion, pepper, cloves, bay, and garlic and saut and stir 4 minutes, or until very aromatic. Blend in the flour and cook, stirring 3 minutes, or until frothy. Gradually stir in the milk until smooth and keep stirring until it boils. Lower the heat so the sauce simmers and cook, uncovered, 8 minutes or until the sauce is thick enough to coat a spoon and has no raw flour taste.Pour through a fine strainer into a bowl, stirring and pressing on the ingredients to extract every bit of flavor. Stir in the cream and thyme. Use immediately or lay a sheet of plastic wrap over the top and store in the refrigerator until ready to use. -The Italian Country Table, Lynne Rosetto KasperRagu alla Bolognese2 TBS butter3 TBS olive oil1 celery stalk, minced1 carrot, minced1 onion, chopped6 oz. pancetta, diced6 oz. ground pork6 oz. ground veal1⁄2 cup dry red wine1 cup beef or chicken stock14 oz. can tomatoes, crushed1⁄4 tsp. grated nutmeggrated peel of 1 lemonsalt and pepper2 TBS-plus creamMelt butter and olive oil in a deep saucepan. Add celery, onion and carrot and saut until soft. Add pancetta and lightly brown. Add the ground meats, chopping finely until cooked. Add the wine and 1⁄2 cup broth and cook until the liquid has been absorbed. Add the remaining broth and reduce again. Add tomatoes, nutmeg, lemon peel, and salt and pepper to taste. Cook over medium low heat, covered, for about 2 hours. Slowly stir in the cream to taste and serve.Lasagne Bolognese al Forno2 TBS butterSalted waterSpinach PastaRagu alla BologneseBchamela SauceParmigiano-ReggianoGrease a ceramic casserole with butter and set aside. Boil fresh spinach pasta sheets in salted water for 10-20 seconds, until it floats. Plunge into iced water to stop cooking and layer pasta without touching on damp towels. If using dry pasta, cook according to package directions. Arrange pasta into a single layer in prepared pan, cutting and patching to fit as needed. Carefully top with a thin layer of ragu (about 1 cup). Sprinkle with Parmigiano. Arrange another layer of pasta on top, covering with a layer of Bchamela (about 1 cup) and sprinkle with Parmigiano. Repeat until you have 3 layers of ragu and 2 layers of Bchamela. Reserve any extra meat or pasta for another use.Roast in a 400-degree oven until hot and bubbling, about 15-20 minutes do not overcook! If lasagne is chilled before roasting, reduce heat to 325 degrees and cook until heated through. Remove from oven and rest 5-10 minutes before serving.Seafood Lasagne MilaneseA delicately flavored and rich lasagne inspired by a meal in Milano. Italians do not use cheeses with seafood as it can overpower I encourage you to resist the urge and savor the delicate flavor of the seafood.4-5 TBS butter1-2 cloves garlic, finely minced2-3 cups raw fresh seafood: scallops, shrimp, lobster, crab, or boneless whitefishBchamelaFresh Spinach Pasta, cooked1) Slice or chop seafood into bite-sized pieces, making sure there is no shell or bone. If using crabmeat, set aside until step two. Melt half of the butter in a 12-inch stick-free skillet over medium heat. Add garlic and seafood and saut for 1-2 minutes, only cooking seafood about half way do not overcook!2) Use remaining butter to grease a casserole pan, then drizzle pan with a thin layer of Bchamela. Position sheets of cooked pasta in a single layer to cover bottom of pan. Sprinkle with 25 percent of the seafood, then drizzle with a moistening layer of Bchamela. Repeat forming four thin layers, finishing with seafood topped with Bchamela.3) Immediately roast in a 350-degree oven until bubbling hot, about 15 minutes. Rest 10 minutes and serve.
Riff Pinot Grigio, Italy, $11: A light, easy-drinking white wine with soft, yet sophisticated flavors harmonizes perfectly with my creamy Seafood Lasagne Milanese. A great wine value!Mauro Molino Dolcetto dAlba, Italy, $12: A soft, easy-drinking light red wine with bright berry flavors and tempered tannins. Pairs seamlessly with my Lasagne Bolognese, and an ideal quaff with light dishes from spaghetti and meatballs to chicken. A best buy!
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