Hello everyone, this is my first attempt at modifying the Gnome Wiki. I'm not much of a hacker when it comes to code, but I definitely enjoy hacking in the kitchen. Here's my little contribution in the GnomeCookbook project.
Everyone knows this dish, but it is generally overengineered and the use of strong cheese overpowers the taste of the rest of the ingredients. This is a recipe I came up with according to my taste, probably the traditional Bologna (the town in Italy from which Lasagna originates) recipe is somewhat different but hey, that's as good as it gets for me. One last note: every dish is as good as the ingredients out of which it is prepared. For a Sunday dish like this, I like to go with the best.
The sauce is very important as it will be the strongest taste in your dish. It needs to be savory but not overpowering. I like to have my sauce very thick and meaty, while others prefer it looser. It's all about taste, and you're the cook!
Here's the ingredients:
- 1 big tin of italian peeled tomatoes (800g)
- 1 onion
- 1 carrot
- 350g minced beef and/or pork
50g mortadella (or Bologna, as it's known abroad)
- olive oil
- white wine
Dice the onion and the carrot pretty thinly and put the olive oil in a big pot. When the oil is hot, add the veggies and let the onion get golden. At this point, add the minced beef and pork. While the meat cooks a bit, cut mortadella and pancetta in thin stripes and add them to the rest of the ingredients. It's now time to add a bit of white wine: if you use red you'll get a taste that I find too strong. As soon as all the meat looks colored, lower the heat and add the tomatoes straight from the tin. Squash them with a fork, put the lid on and let it simmer for a couple of hours. Stir it from time to time to make sure it does not stick and adjust the salt to your liking. When the sauce is cooked (it will go darker) let it cool down while you prepare the pasta.
You can definitely buy ready lasagna, either dried or fresh pasta. The dry variety doesn't even need to be cooked in advance (but you'll need quite a liquid sauce or it will go dry and it will cook unevenly!) so it's perfectly acceptable, as long as you buy a good brand italian pasta (Barilla and Buitoni come to mind). If, OTOH, you prefer to prepare the pasta on your own, here's a quick recipe for pasta:
500g durum semolina flour
- 5 eggs
Yes, that's it
Put the semolina flour on a board and make a hole in the middle. Crack the eggs and put them in the middle of the flour "volcano" (in italian this is called "fontana", fountain). Now, very gently, work the eggs in the flour until you can form a ball. If the ball sticks to your hands, then it's too wet and you need a bit more flour. If it is too dry and it sheds flakes then add a few drops of water. Be careful though, it's easy to put too much! Work the dough until it is elastic and it does not stick to your hands and neither to the table.
You can use this dough to prepare all sorts of pasta now, just cut it as you like
Now it's time to spread the dough in order to get the "sfoglia": for that you might want to use a rolling pin, but a wine bottle can do the trick just as easily. If you're 1337 like me you might want to get yourself a pastamaker, that will ease the whole process. I have a Marcato.
Spread some flour on the board and on the rolling pin and roll the pasta until you obtain sheets of pasta less than 1mm thin. You can now move on to the next step.
To prepare bechamel on your own it's a matter of minutes. The ingredients are:
- 50g butter
- 100g white flour
- 200ml milk
These ratios are flexible. I generally start from random amounts and adjust it while it cooks until I get the right consistency. Put the butter in a pot and let it melt. Lower the heat and add the flour. Stir the flour in the butter until you obtain a homogeneous thick paste. At this point add the milk slowly while keeping on stirring (you can obviously use an immersion mixer). You will have the dangerous feeling that the sauce is not thickening at all: don't trust that, because it will thicken very quickly as soon as it reaches the right temperature. Keep on stirring and grate some fresh nutmeg in the sauce. Again, adjust the salt and the general flavour to your taste.
It is now time to assemble your lasagna. Lay some bechamel and some sauce on the bottom of an oven proof dish, sprinkle some freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese (please note it's not Parmesan or some other cheap imitation) and cover with pasta. More bechamel, sauce, cheese, pasta and so on until you make three pasta layers: it's a good idea not to make it thicker because otherwise it cooks unevenly! On top of the last layer of pasta go crazy with bechamel and sauce and cheese, since it will have to get nice and golden in the oven. At this point let it sit there for a while and when it's cool you can freeze it for another day or put it into the oven for about one hour, or until you see the cheese on top that has gone golden and delicious. Serve with a good glass of red wine with character (Barolo, Amarone, Barbera) and enjoy it!