For some reason I find myself channeling my inner Italian grandmother (I am in no way Italian) with my cooking as of late. Gone are the attempts at making foams and jus and fiddly dishes; it’s been all about the rustic, homey and big flavors recently. One of the most quintessential Nonna dishes must be the traditional lasagna from Bologna. Not only does it take some time to cook, but its star component, the bolognese sauce, is a slow cooking stalwart. Having recently learned Italian, I figured the best place to find a no nonsense authentic recipe would be on an Italian cooking site, and as recommended by my tutor, the website Giallo Zafferano does not disappoint. Sure, having just a portion of the calorific beast can decrease your life expectancy by a couple of weeks, but I assure you, it’s all worth it. This is definitely right up there with the best lasagne I’ve ever tried.
Makes a big lasagna enough for 6-8 portions
A lasagna is basically a vehicle through which 4 different components are combined to create a cohesive dish. The componets are:
500g of pasta dough rolled into thin sheets and cut into uniform 12x12cm (approx) squares. The recipe for making the pasta is here
1kg of bechamel sauce. Make sure the bechamel is on the thicker end of the scale. The recipe of the world’s bechamel can be conveniently found here as well.
200g of freshly grated Parmesan cheese
A few mini mozzarella balls (optional)
750ish g of traditional Bolognese sauce, the recipe is below:
250g of ground beef
250g of ground pork (can be replaced with more beef)
50g of beef speck or 100g of Pancetta diced
1 carrot finely diced
1 celery stalk finely diced
1 onion (medium) finelty diced
1 cup of good quality red wine
1 cup of full cream milk
250g of good quality beef stock
45g of tomato paste
1 tablespoon of butter
Olive oil, salt and pepper
In a large pot on a medium high heat, melt the butter along with a couple of lugs of olive oil, and once hot, add the celery, onion and carrot and sweat out until the onion starts to become translucent (about 7mins). Add the meats and cook and stir until everything is browned and the fat has rendered from the speck or pancetta (another 10mins). Add the tomato pasts and cook for another 2-3mins and then add the wine and reduce for about 5mins before adding the beef stock. Once the beef stock is added, lower the heat to a low simmer and leave to cook for at least 1 1/2 hours. Season with salt and pepper after cooking by about an hour. Check the the sauce occasional, make sure it’s happily bubbling away, and if it gets too dry, top up with a bit of water. After 1 1/2 hours add the milk, taste and adjust the seasoning and then leave to cook for at least another 30mins. By now every taste should be pure ecstasy, now you’re ready to use the sauce.
To assemble the lasagna, preheat the oven to 160C and lightly butter a large lasagna baking pan. Add a ladelful of bolognese at the bottom of the pan and spread with a spoon, this is necessary to keep the bottom layer of the pasta moist. Place the first layer of pasta squares with very minimal overlap. Ladle enough bechamel to amply cover the pasta, and then add some bolognese over the bechamel, covering that with a generous sprinkling of the Parmesan. Repeat until the ingredients run out (you’ll probably make 3 layers of pasta) and remember that the top layer is bechamel, bolognese and cheese, not pasta. Add the mini mozzarella balls if you so desire (cutting them in twos) and place the pan in the oven.
You’ll need to leave it in the oven for about 50-60mins, then remove the pan from the oven, set aside for about 10mins and then serve. This will be epic. Hope you enjoy!