Sunday, November 9, 2008

Lasagna alla Bolognese

My roots are Veneto from my father's side and Abruzzese from my mother's side. So most of the food I enjoyed as a child was Abruzzese. When I went to Italy as a young teenager, my father's mother cooked her bolognese sauce for me and I absolutely loved it. I also enjoyed lasagna alla bolognese at a relative's home near Vicenza. So Lasagna alla Bolognese became my all time favourite lasagna recipe.

Lasagna alla Bolognese


An 8 ounce can minced plum tomatoes
1/2 pound ground beef
1/2 an onion, minced
A small carrot, minced
A 6-inch stalk of celery, minced
A few leaves of basil (if it’s in season), and a small bunch of parsley, minced
1/4 cup unsalted butter
1/2 cup dry red wine
1 cup beef broth
2 cups grated Parmigiano
2 cups milk
2 1/2 tablespoons of flour
Olive oil
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
Nutmeg, salt, and pepper to taste
A pound of store-bought lasagne, either fresh or dried

Preparation:To make the meat sauce, start by mincing the onion, carrot, and celery. Sauté the mixture in two tablespoons of olive oil in a heavy bottomed pan till the onion’s translucent, then add the meat and continue cooking till it’s browned. Add the parsley, basil, salt, pepper, and a pinch of nutmeg, red wine, and broth. Simmer over a low flame till the wine’s evaporated. Then thicken the sauce with a half tablespoon of flour, let cook for a few minutes, and add the canned tomatoes. Check the seasoning and simmer the sugo over a low flame, for at least a half hour.

Make a béchamel sauce by melting the butter and adding the remaining flour, stirring to keep lumps from forming. Cook until the flour begins to brown, then add the milk, a few drops at a time, stirring briskly to keep lumps from forming. Should they form anyways, remove the pot from the flames and stir them out before adding more milk. Add a pinch of grated nutmeg (optional) and continue cooking over a low flame till the sauce thickens somewhat. Set it aside.

Meanwhile, bring a pot of lightly salted water to boil, adding a tablespoon of oil to it to keep the sheets of pasta from sticking to each other. Butter an oven-proof dish while the first few sheets of pasta are cooking. Remove the pasta with a slotted strainer when it’s a little bit al dente. Drain it well and add some more sheets to the water. Meanwhile, preheat your oven to 385 F (190 C).

Lay the first layer of pasta in the dish, following it with a layer of meat sauce, another layer of pasta, a layer of béchamel with cheese, and so on, till the pasta, sauce, and béchamel are used up. Go easy on the Parmigiano with the top layer, because it can become bitter as it browns. Heat the lasagne through in the oven and serve with more grated Parmigiano on the side.
Yield: 4-6 servings

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