By Sharon Sanders
Lasagne alla Bolognese (Bolognese-style lasagna) is a dish that embodies the allure of slow food. It has only four components but each deserves attention.
Little language lesson:
Lasagna (singular) is one sheet of pasta.
Lasagne (plural) is more than one sheet of pasta.
The Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese is the ingredient that takes the most time to produce—an average of two years. Luckily for us, the fine cheese makers of the Consorzio del Formaggio Parmigiano-Reggiano shoulder that task.
The salsa besciamella (béchamel) can be whipped up on the stovetop in 10 minutes. I enrich my besciamella with grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese (salsa alla Parmigiana) which makes it technically a Mornay sauce.
The fresh spinach pasta isn’t difficult but requires time for rolling and resting before it is blanched.
- Click on gallery images to expand.
Ragù alla Bolognese is the key flavoring element and, as might be expected, requires the longest cooking time. Note that I said time, not effort. I like to simmer a potful of sauce on a weekend afternoon when I’m home and doing other things. I’ll cool it and either refrigerate it or freeze it for later use.
Another good approach, especially if you plan to serve the dish to guests, is to assemble the lasagne and freeze it. Layer the ingredients in a freezer-to-ovenproof baking dish and cover tightly with aluminum foil. Freeze for up to three weeks. Bake as directed in the recipe.
|Lasagna alla Bolognese|| |
- 1 recipe ragù alla Bolognese
- 1 recipe pasta verde
- 1 recipe salsa alla Parmigiana
- 4 ounces Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
- Unsalted butter
- Prepare the ragù alla Bolognese. This can be done several days in advance. Store the ragù in an airtight container in the refrigerator.
- Preheat the oven to 350° F. Coat a deep lasagne dish with butter.
- Prepare the pasta verde; while the dough is resting, prepare the salsa alla parmigiana and grate the Parmigiano-Reggiano.
- To assemble the lasagne: Spread some salsa alla parmigiana and ragù over the bottom of the prepared baking dish. The sauces will not completely cover the bottom; there will be bare patches. Cover with a single layer of pasta sheets, overlapping slightly if needed. Trim pasta sheets with kitchen shears to fit the dish, if needed. Spread on salsa alla parmigiana and ragù. Continue layering; there will be 5 layers of pasta sheets in all. End by topping the fifth layer of pasta sheets with salsa alla parmigiana, ragù, and Parmigiano-Reggiano.
- Cover the dish tightly with aluminum foil making sure the foil does not touch the top of the lasagne. Bake for 50 to 55 minutes, or until the sauces are bubbling at the sides of the dish. Carefully remove the foil. Broil 6 inches from the heat source for 3 to 4 minutes or until the top is golden. Remove and let stand for 5 to 10 minutes before serving.
|Ragù alla Bolognese (Bolognese-style Meat Sauce)|| |
- 2 ounces pancetta, finely chopped
- 1 tablespoon butter
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 cup finely chopped celery
- 1 cup finely chopped onion
- ½ cup finely chopped carrot
- 8 ounces ground pork
- 8 ounces ground beef
- ½ cup dry white Italian wine
- 1 cup beef or chicken broth
- 1 cup unseasoned tomato purée
- 2 dried bay leaves
- Pinch of nutmeg
- ½ cup whole milk or half-and-half
- 2 tablespoons minced fresh flat-leaf parsley
- Ground black pepper
- In a large heavy pot, combine the pancetta, butter, and oil. Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally with a wooden spoon for 5 minutes, or until the pancetta starts to render its fat.
- Stir in the celery, onion, and carrot. Cover and cook, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes. Uncover and stir; cook for about 5 minutes, or until softened. Reduce the heat if the vegetables start to brown. Remove the vegetables to a bowl; set aside.
- Crumble the pork and beef into the pot. Season lightly with salt. Cook over medium-high heat for about 5 minutes without stirring so the meats start to brown on the bottom. Turn the meats with a spatula. Reduce the heat slightly and continue cooking for about 6 minutes, or until the meat juices evaporate and start to form a brown glaze on the pot bottom. Watch closely as the browning develops and turn down the heat if it starts to burn.
- Return the reserved vegetables to the pot. Add the wine and scrape the pot bottom to dissolve the brown glaze. Cook over high heat about 5 minutes, or until the mixture no longer smells of alcohol. Add the broth, tomato purée, bay leaves, and nutmeg. Heat to almost boiling but do not allow to boil.
- Reduce the heat to low or medium-low so the sauce bubbles occasionally in the center. Cook for 1 hour, stirring occasionally. Stir in the milk and parsley. Cook about 1 hour and 15 minutes, stirring occasionally, or until the mixture is thickened. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Remove and discard the bay leaves.
- To refrigerate the sauce: Cool to room temperature. Spoon into an airtight container and cover. Refrigerate for up to 4 days. Reheat in a saucepan or in the microwave oven.
- To freeze the sauce, cool to room temperature. Cover and refrigerate for several hours. Spoon into plastic freezer containers. Store in the freezer for up to 3 months. To use, thaw for a day in refrigerator. Reheat in a saucepan or in the microwave oven.
|Pasta Verde (fresh egg spinach pasta)|| |
- 1 bag (6 ounces) washed baby spinach, stems removed
- 2 large eggs, at room temperature
- 2½ to 3 cups all-purpose flour
- Semolina flour for dusting
- Place the spinach in a large skillet. Cover and cook over high heat for about 3 minutes, or until wilted. Drain and set aside to cool. Squeeze the spinach dry then chop as finely as possible.
- To prepare by hand: With a fork, beat the eggs and spinach in a large mixing bowl. Gradually add 2 to 2¼ cups of flour, stirring to make a soft dough. One tablespoon at a time, gradually add flour from the remaining ¾ cup, until the dough starts to clump together.
- Spread the remaining flour on a work surface, pushing most of it to the side. With a pastry scraper, turn the dough onto the work surface. Sprinkle lightly with some of the flour. Start kneading the dough, using the pastry scraper in one hand.
- Knead, adding scant amounts of flour as needed, about 5 minutes, or until the dough is as smooth as Play-Doh. All the flour may not be needed. Check the dough for air bubbles, lumps, or streaks of flour by cutting it in half with a sharp knife. Shape it into a ball, dust lightly with flour, and cover with a ceramic bowl for 30 minutes.
- To prepare the dough in a food processor: In the bowl of a food processor fitted with the metal blade, process the eggs and spinach until smooth. Add 2¼ cups of flour, processing until smooth. With the machine running, add 1 tablespoon of flour at a time from the remaining ¾ cup of flour. Process until the dough forms a ball. Spread the remaining flour on a work surface, pushing most of it to the side. Turn the dough onto the work surface. Proceed with hand kneading (above).
- To roll the pasta: Cut the dough into 6 pieces. Work with one piece at a time while keeping the others covered. Set the pasta rollers at the widest opening. Press the dough with your palm to flatten. Dust lightly with flour. Run through the rollers. Dust lightly. Fold one short side of the dough strip two-thirds over. Fold the other short end over the first fold. Feed the narrow end through the widest roller setting. Dust lightly. Continue rolling, closing the rollers one notch at a time and dusting with flour as needed. Roll to the narrowest setting, until the pasta sheet is about 4 inches wide and 1/16-inch thick.
- Lay the pasta sheets on cotton kitchen towels dusted with semolina flour. Sprinkle semolina flour on top. Cover with towels. Allow to sit for 30 to 60 minutes.
- Set a covered large pot of salted water over high heat. Set up a large bowl filled with ice water close to the cooking pot.
- When the water boils, add 1 tablespoon salt. Dust the flour from the pasta sheets and gently add half of the pasta sheets. Stir gently with a wooden fork. When the water returns to the boil, use a large skimmer to carefully remove the pasta to a large bowl of ice water. Continue cooking the remaining pasta. Transfer to ice water. Carefully remove pasta sheets and spread flat on damp cotton kitchen towels spread out on a work surface.
|Salsa alla Parmigiana|| |
- 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
- ¼ cup all-purpose flour
- 3 cups whole milk
- White or black pepper
- 1 ounce Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, grated
- In a saucepan, melt the butter over medium-low heat. Sprinkle in the flour whisking constantly until the butter absorbs the flour and there are no lumps. Gradually pour in the milk, whisking constantly. Cook, whisking constantly for about 4 minutes, or until thickened. Lower the heat and continue to cook, whisking, for 2 to 3 minutes to cook off the raw taste of the flour. Remove from the heat. Season to taste with salt, pepper, and a slight pinch of nutmeg. Add the Parmigiano-Reggiano and whisk until blended.