Lasagna is one of the many Italian dishes that have become famous around the world. Easy to pre-prepare for dinner parties and events, filling, delicious and if you are lucky to have any remaining, great to have as left-overs the next day!
The Artviva cooking class makes a delicious traditional lasagna (with meat sauce or, ‘ragù’). When you don’t however have a chef at hand and a professional kitchen to work with, it takes a long time to make the hand-made pasta, the meat ragù and the béchamel sauce required to make the dish.
One trick is to make the ragù one day, which can be frozen in batches to be thawed out (most Italian houses don’t have microwave ovens though!) so that you only have to make the pasta and béchamel sauce when you do make the dish.
If you don’t have the time or patience to make the pasta, you can buy pre-made pasta sheets from the supermarket or if you are lucky enough to have a pasta store nearby, like the one just a few minutes away from the Artviva office, you can buy freshly-made pasta already done.
There are many variations to the meat sauce used in the traditional version of the lasagna, but one way to make it is to start with soaking 30g of dried porcini mushrooms in water (if you don’t have them, then you can make the sauce without). After around 20-30 minutes, remove the porcini from the water and chop finely. Put 1 large, finely chopped onion, 1-2 sticks of celery finely chopped and 1 large carrot finally chopped, all into a pot together with the porcini. With some oil, lightly fry until softened and the onion is clear. Next, you will need 250 g each of beef and pork mince, as well as 60 g of meat from Italian pork sausages, to be stirred through the vegetable mix. A dash of salt and pepper can also be added in now, along with a glass of red wine. Once the wine has evaporated, throw in 500 g of tomato pulp. Stir and let simmer for 2-3 hours. Ragù will stay good in the fridge for around three days, or can be frozen in batches.
For béchamel sauce, bring 500 ml of milk to the boil then turn off the heat. In a separate, heavy-bottomed pan, melt 4 tablespoons of butter. Then add in slowly ½ cup of plain flour, stirring constantly so that you get a paste. Ladle in the hot milk a little at a time, keeping stirring the whole time. Once you have a smooth mixture, remove from the heat. Add in salt, pepper and some freshly grated nutmeg.
To save some time, you can mix most of the béchamel into the ragù and then layer it between the pasta sheets, with some grated parmesan cheese in between each layer. Save a little of the béchamel for the top layer. Cook in the oven for around 20 minutes. If you’d like to add a bit of grated cheese on the top, don’t do so until the last 5 minutes or so of cooking or the cheese will burn in the oven.
An alternative version is to make the lasagna with traditional basil Pesto. Instead of layering the pasta and béchamel with ragù, use pesto. We won’t bombard you with too many recipes today though! You can find the pesto recipe in the next post!