Monday, February 1, 2010

Lasagne al Ragù

More than three years ago, I joined an online weight-loss group on xanga.com. I had lost a lot of weight, gained it back, lost it again, and then gained it back. Through all of those ups and downs, I also had gained a lot of online buddies. Once I began to stray away from this site, I lost all of those friends...except for one -- Laurian.

Laurian and I have met only once, but she knows me more than most of my friends who live close-by. We have much in common. She is an intelligent, graduate student studying Anthropology in Philadelphia, and I'm glad that we still stay in touch.

About a year ago we briefly had discussed the makings of true, authentic lasagne, and I told her that Italian lasagne usually have besciamella (beh-shyah-MEL-lah) or béchamel, instead of ricotta (ree-COAT-tah) or cottage cheese.
Well, last week, we were chatting with each other on MSN Messenger, and she told me that she was looking at my food blog as usual. I didn't know that she visits my blog regularly, but I was happy to know she does. She asked me why hadn't I made that lasagne for her. I told her that I didn't know that I'd promised to make lasagne for her, and she said, "Well, you didn't." She just wanted me to do it haha.

So, this post is entirely dedicated to my best, virtual friend in the world.
Questo è per la mia migliore amica. Ti voglio bene! I love you!


LASAGNE: Because I was making this dish for my friend, I put in a lot of effort and love into it. I bought fresh herbs and vegetables. Also, I purchased lasagne noodles, parmigiano reggiano, and '00' flour imported from Italy, etc.

I am thankful for knowing so many languages, such as Italian, because I was able to find a close-enough to authentic recipe given in the lovely Italian language. I found this video and recipe on Italianfoodnet. It is a fabulous website that contains a bunch of videos of popular, Italian recipes. There are English subtitles on most (but not all) of the recipes, and there are text versions of all the recipes in English. The video for this dish was in Italian, and I couldn't believe that I had understood about 90% of it! I was shocked!

Anyway, I stuck to the recipe pretty closely. I even made the ragù on the site instead of the one I usually make. I thought that this new version of lasagne wouldn't be seasoned well enough, so I added a bit more ingredients such as extra salt, cream, and Italian seasoning. Interestingly, even though the meat sauce or ragù wasn't seasoned as much as my other standby, its flavor matched perfectly with the other components of this dish. You don't want a meat sauce that overpowers the besciamella, parmigiano grattugiato (grated parmigiano), and lasagne noodles. Everything was perfectly balanced.
Surprisingly, I'm not crazy about lasagne. I've tried lasagne at various restaurants, and I'm never impressed by the taste. However, this particular recipe has changed my perspective completely. The besciamella really boosted up the flavor. The lasagne had a lot of oil on and in it, so I will reduce that the next time I make this, and there WILL be a next time. I also didn't add extra butter on top of the dish as the cook does because it just wasn't necessary. Nevertheless, everything was perfect. Please make this dish soon. You won't regret it.
Ragù alla Bolognese
adapted from Italian Food Net (video)

1 lb 3 oz (600 gr) (21 oz) Ground Beef
2 Litres Tomato Sauce (I used about 52 ounces of Pomì crushed tomatoes; it was more than enough)
1 Tomato Paste Tube (4.5 oz)
1 Big Carrot (½ cup) chopped
1 Celery Rib (½ cup) chopped
1 White Onion (½ cup) chopped
3 Glasses of Red Wine (I used about 8 oz of Fre Red Wine, a non-alcoholic wine!! Yeaa!!)
1/4-1/2 cups heavy cream (optional)
1-2 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce (optional)
1-2 Tbsp Fresh Sage
1-2 Tbsp Fresh Rosemary
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Salt and Black Pepper

Heat a large saucepan. Pour in olive oil. Add celery, carrot, onion, and let them brown over medium heat. Then add sage, rosemary, and cook the mixture for 1-2 minutes.

Add the ground beef, divide it well, and cook until the liquid has evaporated (about 5-10 minutes), then season with salt and black pepper.

After 10 minutes of cooking pour in the red wine, and let it evaporate. Add tomato paste, stir well, and add tomato sauce, cover and let it simmer for 1 ½ hour on a low heat. Make sure you season this sauce well before assembling the lasagne.

La Besciamella
adapted from Italian Food Net (video)

4.2 cups (1 Litre) (33.8 fl oz) Whole Milk
about 1 stick (100 gr) (3.52 oz) Butter
about 1 cup (100 gr) (3.52 oz) 00 Flour (I used '00' flour, but you could use AP flour)
A Pinch of Salt (I used more than a pinch of salt. Season to taste)
Fresh, grated nutmeg

Pour the milk into a large saucepan, add salt, some grated nutmeg, and place the pan on medium heat.

Put the butter into a medium saucepan, and place the pan on medium heat. As soon as the butter melts, add the flour, and let the mixture cook for about 3-4 minutes over medium-low heat whisking constantly. When the mixture is ready, remove the pan from heat and let it rest.

As soon as the milk reaches the boiling point, pour it into the mixture little by little, whisking briskly to avoid lumps from forming. When the milk is incorporated, return the pan over a medium-low heat, and let it cook for 15 minutes whisking continuously.

When your béchamel is ready, remove from heat. If not using the mixture immediately, transfer it to a large bowl. We suggest you let the béchamel cool to room temperature, and place a piece of plastic wrap directly on the surface of the béchamel, to prevent a skin from forming while the sauce cools.

Le Lasagne al Ragù
adapted from Italian Food Net (video in Italian)

20-25 fresh Lasagna pasta sheets (Soak your lasagna sheets in a pot of hot water if they are hard)
about 8 cups (1½ Litres) besciamella (use the sauce you made; you will have more than enough)
8 cups (2 Litres) Ragù (sauce from above; you'll have more than enough)
2-3 cups (250 gr.) (8.81 oz.) Grated parmesan
80 gr (2.82 oz.) Butter (I only used the butter to butter the pan. I didn't add more on top; it was oily enough from the olive oil)
Extra virgin olive oil

Butter the baking tin, spread ragù along the bottom (I forgot to take a photo of that!) , lay lasagna sheets over ragù and press along the rims of the baking tin.

Spread ragù, add besciamella, sprinkle with grated parmesan and extra virgin olive oil.

Repeat layers: Lasagna sheets, ragù, besciamella, parmesan, olive oil until you got to the rim of the pan. Fold Lasagna sheet sides so that they will not burn.

Top with ragù, which must cover all Lasagne. Add a little more besciamella. Sprinkle the top with grated parmesan. Add some knobs of butter (optional) and a little extra virgin olive oil.

Preheat oven to 250 C (482 F). Once you place the dish in the oven, lower the temperature to 180 C (356 F), and bake lasagne for about 20 minutes. Remove lasagne from oven, and let it rest for about 10 minutes before serving.

Enjoy!

23 comments:

  1. Just the presentation itself speaks volume for your talents as a cook and as a photographer! I have never seen such a gorgeous and elegant dish placement, my dear! The homemade bread in the background, the pretty white plate and the colorful and flavorful main course . . . mamma mia!

    While the lasagne recipe itself looks detailed, I appreciate the patience and love you evoke in spelling out the details, and I absolutely adore the results :o)

    Mia figlia, you rock!

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  2. I love lasagne and yours looks divine! What a lucky friend, that you made this lasagne for her :)

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  3. Lovely photos and lasagne.

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  4. I love bechamel. I use it for lasagnas and gratins all the time. Your lasagna is absolutely beautiful! I am sure your friend loved it.

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  5. I love the versitility of lasagna it can have so many variations. I have never made a classic lasagna. You have inspired me to try the results look crave worthy.

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  6. This looks delicious. I wish I had some right now.

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  7. Your pictures look like something that would be in a food magazine -- they're so mouthwatering! Your lasagna recipe looks full of flavor and healthy too!

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  8. My dear dear dear dear friend, I can feel the love in this dish! I am inspired to recreate it. Blog entry duly bookmarked. My saliva glands are primed.

    Please, pass the bread since you've already snapped the photo for Gourmet magazine :) There will not be a crust of bread or nibble of lasagne remaining. I'm so glad I didn't bother to toss a salad. It would have gone to waste.

    Oh the power of the imagination-I love you too!

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  9. That lasagne is oozing with love :) I learnt so much in one post. First, about Italianfoodnet; second about the use of besciamella; and third, that you're one sweet, generous soul.

    And yes, Ree-COAT-tah! :)

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  10. You are sweet to make something so time consuming for your friend! I want to eat my screen now. Seriously. And I just had dinner AND pie!!!

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  11. Thanks, everyone for the beautiful comments. I truly enjoyed making this dish for my friend. I got to reap the benefit of eating it hehehe.

    Sorry, Laurian!! Virtual eating just doesn't compare. You'll have to make this dish. LOL!

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  12. I think you said you were going to make this for me too but you also said you'd be sending it overnite, frozen so I could just pop it into the oven and give it a proper tasting!!! Yes, you did. You said it! :)

    Memoria it looks insanely good.
    ~ingrid

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  13. I think this looks so amazing. Really excellent photographs.

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  14. I don't know how you managed lasagna to look good but you did. It can look so sloppy or overly sauced but this looks perfect. I want!

    Is there any way I can subscribe to your blog via email? I'm currently subscribed through Bloglines but it doesn't update me when you post for some reason. I don't wan tto miss any more of your gorgeous posts!

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  15. I've always wanted to make lasagna with fresh pasta but kept putting it off. No more excuses. This looks so delicious!

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  16. The best pasta I had in a very long time. I am so glad to have come across this recipe as now have a new recipe in my arsenal. I tried making this and it was much better than the local italian restaurant that I frequent. It also went really well with a tall glass of cold coffee made from my new 2 cup coffee maker Thanks!

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  17. Mike, I'm so happy to know that this lasagne turned out so well for you. This dish is definitely one of my favorites and is the best lasagne dish I've EVER tasted.

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  18. memoria... unfortunately cant use alcohol and over here wedont get non alcoholic wine...so umm...any ideas on what i could sub with? grape juice? =D

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  19. Ninu - I don't use alcohol either. You could just use more chicken broth in place of the wine or some grape juice. If using grape juice, I suggest you pour in half the listed amount and add more to taste. Or simply use more chicken broth as I mentioned already. Enjoy! This dish is truly amazing and worth all of the work.

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  20. thanks a lot memoria... gonna go buy all the eingredients today...can hardly wait!! am fastin so this is gonna be the big meal for the night! =)

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  21. hey memoria.. i made this one right after i asked u those questions and it was stupendous... i could never bring myself t buy lasagna from outside since then... i ve prepped everyting to make it now..just had a quick question. in case im too pooped b the time i finsh it.. is it ok to just pop the assembled lasagna in the freezer and bake it up like in a day s time?

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    ReplyDelete

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