Traditional Lasagne

LasagneLasagne, like most Italian food, is often imitated poorly. But unfortunately for the Italians, because of the combination of cheese, meat and carbs, even poor imitations are still really tasty. So people mightn’t bother following an authentic recipe or going to an authentic restaurant for the real deal. That is, I reckon, until they try the real deal. I think what separates an authentic lasagne from the dodgy pub-grub version is a really good ragu. Traditionally it’s a lot drier than I previously thought of bolognese sauce and it’s important not to use just any old beef mince from the supermarket. The kind where you don’t know the fat content or what cut of beef was minced. Go to the butcher and ask for minced chuck steak. Sounds fancy but really isn’t. Chuck is a working cut so should be a lot cheaper than the fancy stuff. That’s because working cuts contain connective tissue that takes longer to render than fat, so unless they are cooked for long periods of time, they will be tough as old boots. The chuck for this recipe needs a little frying before 2 hours of low-and-slow cooking, more than enough to render the connective tissue and impart a delicious beefy flavour.

I know it might seem like lasagne needs a lot of cooking. That’s because it does. But you can always make the ragu the night before, then whip up the béchamel and assemble just before baking. Lasagne also freezes really well. Just take out to thaw the night before.

Traditional Lasagne

Ingredients

    For the Bolognese:
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 30 g unsalted butter
  • 100 g unsmoked pancetta lardons
  • 1 onion,finely chopped
  • 1 carrot, finely chopped
  • 1 stick of celery, finely chopped
  • 5 cloves of garlic, finely minced
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 400g minced chuck steak
  • 3 tbsp tomato puree
  • 150 ml red wine
  • 150 ml chicken stock
  • 1 pinch of sea salt flakes
  • half a tsp of black pepper
  • a small grating of nutmeg
  • For the Béchamel:
  • 75 g unsalted butter
  • 60 g plain flour
  • 750 ml cold milk
  • a pinch of sea salt flakes
  • a pinch of black pepper
  • a generous grating of nutmeg
  • For the Lasagne:
  • 1 tbsp sea salt flakes
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 250 g dried lasagne sheets
  • 1 knob of butter
  • 75 g finely grated parmesan
  • 15 g unsalted butter

Instructions

    For the Bolognese:
  1. Heat the butter and oil in a large pot. Once foaming, add the pancetta and cook over a high heat for 2 minutes, stirring continuously.
  2. Add the onion and cook for a few minutes until beginning to soften.
  3. Add the carrot, celery, garlic and bay leaves, turn the heat down to medium and allow to cook for 10 minutes stirring frequently.
  4. Add the beef, turn the heat up to high and try to break up the mince as best you can with a wooden spoon.
  5. After a few minutes mix in the tomato puree and cook for another 2 minutes.
  6. Add the wine and cook until it has evaporated off.
  7. Remove the bay leaves and add the chicken stock. Season with salt, pepper and nutmeg and mix it in well.
  8. Turn the heat down to low and allow to simmer, uncovered for 2 hours, stirring occasionally.
  9. For the Béchamel:
  10. Melt the butter in a pan and whisk in the flour.
  11. Add the milk, 250 ml at a time, whisking it in before adding more.
  12. Season with salt, pepper and nutmeg and cook until thickened and almost boiling. Set aside.
  13. For the Lasagne:
  14. Fill a wide frying pan with water, add the salt and oil and bring to the boil.
  15. Par-boil the pasta sheets for just a couple of minutes, 5 sheets at a time. Then plunge them into a pot of cold water to stop the cooking. Lay them on a clean tea towel and continue cooking the rest of the sheets.
  16. Spread the knob of butter on the base and sides of a deep oven-proof dish, 20x30cm roughly.
  17. Add a little of the ragu to the base and cover with lasagne sheets.
  18. Add more rage and top with a few tbsp of the béchamel. Sprinkle a little of the parmesan over the Béchamel and cover with another layer of lasagne sheets.
  19. Continue building the layers of ragu, béchamel, parmesan and pasta until out of ingredients but you must end with a thick layer of béchamel topped with the remaining parmesan.
  20. Dot the top with the unsalted buttered either freeze for another day or bake now at 220 degrees Celsius for 20 minutes.
  21. Allow it to cool for 5minutes and serve.
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