Lasagne. You Gotta Problem With Dat?

Lasagne. Hungry?

Lasagne. Hungry?

Well, we certainly don’t. Is there a better dish in the world than good lasagne? Even the word “lasagne” (or is it “lasagna”?) brings a smile to our faces. There is something about a bunch of meat, cheese, béchamel and tomato sauce encased in pasta, and then covered by more cheese, that almost always works. Heck, you can make tasty vegetarian versions of the dish and it will still rock. Hard to go wrong here…as long as you have a good recipe and take your time.

las2las3las8And if there is one drawback to lasagne (beyond expanding waistlines), it does take a little time to make. But not nearly as much as you think. And since you can make a big batch, you can feed your family for a couple of meals. Make lasagne over the weekend and you get an easy night during the week. So you can even view lasagne as a time saver…kinda…sorta. In any event, you get the idea, we think lasagne is a perfect dish to make at home.

las4las6las7The key to a good lasagne is not to accept any short-cuts. You need to make your own meat sauce, béchamel and ricotta mixture. Again, none of these steps are hard, they just take time. You can save some time using “instant”  lasagne noodles, if you like. We have run this experiment enough, and don’t see any difference (unless you use fresh pasta). But one of the secrets is to use as little pasta as possible, just enough to keep everything together. That way you get a big dose of tomato, béchamel, meat and cheese (and that is what you want, and what you need).

las9las10las12The recipe we use is adapted from a 1980 Palo Alto Junior League cookbook. We get a little compulsive about buying and/or collecting cookbooks, particularly local charity cookbooks. Many recipes will be total duds, but a few will be true gems. This recipe is one of the gems. And it has withstood the passing of time. We use more fresh ingredients where we can, but we don’t change all that much.  Good is good, no matter the age of the recipe. But lasagne is a timeless classic anyway, so somehow a 30 year-old recipe just makes it even better.

lasLasagne:

(Adapted from a 1980 Palo Alto Junior League recipe)

Notes Before You Start:

  • You can use “instant” or regular lasagne noodles. If using traditional lasagne noodles, cook them in boiling water until “al dente”. Then drain and keep in cold water until ready to use.
  • The recipe calls for parmesan, mozzarella, teleme and romano cheese. You do need the parm and mozzarella, but you can substitute for the other cheeses, if you like.

What You Get: An awesome dish that almost everyone loves. Leftovers for a few days. A good return on your time investment.

What You Need: No special equipment required.

How Long? A couple of hours, with an hour of active time. None of the work is hard. Have a glass of wine, do your work and enjoy the fruits of your labor. Invite some friends for dinner. Be a hero. Weekend dish.

Ingredients:

(Serves 8-10 as a main dish)

Pasta and Sauce:

  • 1/2 pound instant lasagne noodles
  • 1 pound ground beef chuck
  • 1/2 cup chopped onion
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 3 pounds canned or fresh tomatoes with their juice
  • 2 tablespoons Italian parsley, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons fresh basil, chopped, or 1 teaspoon dried basil
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • Kosher salt

Bechamel:

  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter
  • 4 tablespoons flour
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 1 cup chicken stock
  • Kosher salt

Ricotta Filling:

  • 1 large egg
  • 1/2 pound ricotta cheese
  • 1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
  • 1 pinch freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

Cheeses:

  • 1 cup grated parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 cup grated pecorino romano cheese
  • 8 oz. mozzarella cheese, sliced
  • 4 oz. teleme cheese, sliced
  • Unsalted butter

Assemble:

Pasta and Sauce:

  1. Place a large skillet over medium high heat. When hot, add the olive oil, onion and garlic. Cook until just softening, 1-2 minutes. Add the ground beef and spread it around the skillet, cook until no longer pink, 6-8 minutes.
  2. Add the tomatoes and herbs, lower the heat to a simmer and cook until thick, about 30-40 minutes. Taste and add salt and pepper, as needed. Set aside.
  3. Soak the instant lasagne noodles in warm water for 5 minutes, or until soft.
  4. Meanwhile, place a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 400 degrees.

Bechamel:

  1. Place a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add the butter, and when melted, the flour. Cook, stirring frequently, until a light roux forms, 1-2 minutes.
  2. Slowly add the milk and chicken stock, bring back to a boil. Cook, stirring frequently, until the sauce is thick enough to easily coat a spoon. Taste and add salt, if needed. Remove from the heat and set aside.

Ricotta Filling:

  1. In a medium bowl, beat the egg. Add the ricotta, parmesan, nutmeg and salt. Mix until well combined. Set aside.

Lasagne:

  1. Lightly grease a 9 x 13 inch baking dish. Then layer in the following order: a little of the tomato sauce, half of the noodles, half of the remaining sauce, 1/2 cup béchamel, 1/2 cup parmesan, 1/4 cup romano, half of the mozzarella, teleme and ricotta mixture. Then add the remaining noodles and meat sauce, the remaining béchamel, ricotta mixture and the rest of the cheeses- with the mozzarella and a dusting of parmesan on top. Dot with butter.
  2. Place the lasagne in the oven and cook, uncovered for 30-40 minutes, until bubbly and slightly brown on top. Remove from the oven and allow to cool for 5-10 minutes. Serve.
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37 thoughts on “Lasagne. You Gotta Problem With Dat?

  1. Such a classic, but I never get tired of it. I like throwing a little Italian sausage into my lasagna as well. Great touch with the fresh mozzarella. That adds a whole different texture and subtle flavor to the dish. It’s funny, because most Americans don’t think of bechamel as something that’s in lasagna, but that’s totally a more traditionally Italian approach. Looks great!

    • Thanks. And we often use good Italian sausage as well (our local butcher makes his own and it’s great). But in this case we had some super-flavorful grass fed beef, so we just used that. It stood up pretty well- deeper flavor.

  2. A chef after my own heart – uses Pomi tomatoes.
    From my understanding, Lasagna is the American spelling.
    Lasagne is the Italian spelling and it denotes a plural meaning.
    Yes, this looks like an awesome dish!

    • Thanks. And the Pomi are what we use when we can’t get fresh.

      The spelling is interesting. The recipe we use says “lasagne” so we are using it, but my eldest son’s first comment was that it is misspelled. Thanks for the explanation.

  3. wowza, yum :-) And the food editor in me thinks lasagne is plural, but she’s not entirely sure. Doesn’t matter in the end as you’re right–always tastes good. Carry on the fine work!

      • Didn’t mean to be evil…and we share the muddy egg hunts. We always get late season rain (and we need it) but between the rain and the morning fog/dew, the hunt is often a very soggy affair….the kids don’t mind.

  4. This comfort food … and a true treat, never had ricotta filling – here I can really feel the smell through the screen. Love the moist the photos shows, nothing worst than a dry lasagne. Wonderful … stuff.

  5. The recipe looks great. I always struggle spreading out the ingredients over three layers of pasta. Having two would be a much better plan. I actually just made a vegetarian lasagna/lasagne yesterday.

    • Thanks. The two layers does work. We have some friends who like to limit starches, so we made this in two layers and it worked. Since then, we never changed it…

  6. Lasagne with ricotta is from Naples, with bechamel is from Bologna. Never seen one with both (and never seen bechamel with chicken stock). Great comfort food.
    Lasagna is singular, as in a single sheet of dough. Lasagne is plural, as in multiple sheets (layered with sauce).

    • Thanks. The “e” or “a” has been the source of more than a few comments (and a few smiles).

      The recipe is a bit of a hack, but that is what you get from a 1980’s cookbook. And as is typical from California cooking, the recipe combines a bunch of regions/nations… The chicken stock in the bechamel does add more savory flavor.

  7. I agree when you say there is no shortcut to making lasagne. This one looks marvelous! Out of love for my mother, I must say hers is the best I’ve ever tasted but this recipe looks like a close second.

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