During my travels around the world, I have had the chance (and I still do) to have delicious meals in in international and local restaurants, bistro’, kitchens, and bakeries. Needless to say that everywhere I went, I found some local version of Italian dishes; only second to “spaghetti with meatballs” (which is very hard to find in Italy, probably because it is not part of the Italian cuisine), and “fettuccine Alfredo” (even harder to find since in Italy they do not exist!), I found lasagne. None of the lasagne I saw abroad were even close to the original recipe, so I have decided to make traditional lasagne this Christmas so everybody will finally have access to the real recipe.
This dish is typical of a region in the north part of Italy called Emilia-Romagna, and it is mostly cooked for the holidays. This dish has strong roots in the Italian traditional cuisine and there are basically two versions: lasagne with basic “sfoglia” which is simple egg pasta, and lasagne with green sfoglia, which is egg pasta with spinach. Here, I give you the version we make in my home town, Modena: lasagne with green sfoglia.
Three are the main ingredients for the lasagne: the sfoglia, the ragu’, and the bechamel sauce.
For the sfoglia you need:
4 whole eggs (room temperature), 400g of all purpose flour -basically 1 egg for every 100g of flour- , and 150g boiled and finely chopped spinach.
If you have made sfoglia before, work directly on the table, but if you are a beginner and afraid of making a mess, use a wide bowl. Form a “volcano crater” with the flour and put the eggs in the middle. With the help of a fork start mixing the two and when the eggs are partially mixed, add the spinach and continue to mix.
If you see that the mix is too soft, add more flour. Remember that you will have to flatten the sfoglia and if it is too soft or wet, you will not be able to do it. Keep always some additional flour, just in case. Continue to mix using the palm of your hands till you obtain a homogeneous “ball” of sfoglia.
300g of ground pork and 300g of ground veal, 600g of tomato sauce, 1/2 white onion, 4 carrots, 3 stems of celery, extra virgin olive oil, salt, pepper and basil leaves (optional).
Finely chop the onion, celery, and carrots and place them in a large non stick pot where you have previously heated some olive oil. Let the vegetable “swet” on medium fire till they became soft. Do not let the onion brown. If you see it happens, add some oil. Then add the meat, mix it well with the mix of veggies, and let it cook for about 10 min then add the tomato sauce and season with salt and pepper. Lower the fire to the minimum, cover with a lid and let it cook for about 3 hours, stirring every once in a while.
For the bechamel sauce you need:
50g of butter, 50g of flour, 500ml of milk, nutmeg (fresh to grate or powder), and Parmigian cheese (optional).
Warm the milk till it almost boils and set it aside. In a large pot, melt the butter on medium fire, add the flour with the help of a sift and once mixed, gradually add the milk continuing to stir with a whisk. Add some nutmeg. Within a few minutes the mix should get thicker and you can turn off the fire. Add some cheese if you’d like and stir well. Let it cool down then combine with the ragu’.
Now it is finally time to compose our lasagne!
In a large pot, boil some water and next to it keep another pot with cold water. Take the strips of pasta you made, put them in boiling water for about 30 seconds, then in cold water for 15-20 and lay them on a kitchen towel so they won’t stick.
In a baking pan (I used an aluminum one) spread some olive oil on the bottom and start making the layers. Start with pasta then the bechamel and ragu’ mix and again pasta and so on. I made four layers, and considering how heavy and delicious this dish is, you should not make more than 4 layers, 3 is probably better.
Cover with aluminum foil and place in the oven at 180C (375F) for about 1 hour. Remove the aluminum foil during the last 15 min so the top will get crunchy. If you have a larger baking pan, cook the lasagne for 1.5 hours. Here you go! The lasagne are done!
MERRY CHRISTMAS EVERYONE!