This lasagne recipe comes from my Grandma, who lives south of Italy.
She says of her lasagna, ‘To be a proper lasagna bolognese there should be at least five layers of pasta!’.
- 4 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
- 3 celery sticks, finely diced
- 2 carrots, finely diced
- 1 onion, finely diced
- 5 oz unsmoked pancetta
- 1 lb 2 oz ground beef
- 1 lb 2 oz ground pork
- 2½ fl oz white wine
- 1 lb 8 oz tomatoes passata
- 14 oz/3⅓ cups 00 flour or plain (all-purpose) flour
- 4 eggs
- 2 oz butter
- 2 oz plain (all-purpose) flour
- 34 fl oz/4 cups) milk
- freshly grated nutmeg (to taste)
- salt and pepper
- a lot grated parmigiano reggiano
Resting time: 30 minutes
1. For the ragù, heat the olive oil in a pan over a medium heat and add the celery, carrots and onion. Fry gently until the onion is translucent and the vegetables begin to soften.
2. Dice the pancetta into a rough paste. Add this to the vegetables, followed by the ground beef, ground pork and wine. Season with a good pinch of salt. Cook for a few minutes, stirring and breaking up the mince with a wooden spoon, until the wine has evaporated.
3. Add the passata and leave the ragu to simmer slowly for 2 hours, stirring every so often. At the end of cooking, the ragu should be dark and thick; the tomato flavour will have lost its acidity and turned sweet.
4. While the ragù is cooking, make the pasta dough. Tip the flour onto your board in a heap. Use your fingers to make a well in the centre and pour the eggs into the well. Take a fork (or use your fingers) and scramble the eggs together thoroughly. Incorporate the flour by scraping your fork round the inside of the flour wall, so a small quantity of flour falls into the egg mixture. Whisk in the flour, smooshing any lumps, so you gradually create a batter. Repeat until you have used all the flour and create a dough.If it is sticky, add a tablespoon of flour and knead it in. The dough should feel soft and pillowy, but not too sticky.
Alternatively, instead of using a fork and board, you can beat the egg and flour together in a bowl, or with a food mixer.
5. Knead the dough for 10 minutes minimum (kneading develops the gluten and elasticity of the dough), working briskly to avoid the dough drying out. If the pasta feels too dry, damp your hands with water to put moisture back into the dough. You can also use a dough hook on your food mixer to knead. Your dough should feel silky and smooth – when you press your thumb into the dough, it should bounce back.
6. Place the dough in a bowl covered with a lid or cling film and cover it to stop it from drying out. Leave the dough at room temperature for 30 minutes, which relaxes the gluten and makes it easier to roll out.
7. Roll out the dough to a thickness of 1 mm. Cut the dough into manageable rectangles, which are about one-third to a half of the size of your baking dish – which should be about 40 cm × 30 cm × 7 cm (16 × 12 × 3 inch).
8. For the bechamel, melt the butter in a saucepan. Add the flour, whisking continuously, to form a roux and cook for 2 minutes. Slowly, a little at a time, pour in the milk, continuing to whisk to avoid any lumps. When all the milk is used, bring the mixture to the boil, whisking constantly, until it has turned in to a thickish sauce, like custard. Season with nutmeg, salt and pepper to taste, and set aside.
9. When the ragù is ready, cook the pasta. Bring a large pan of salted water to the boil. Have a large pot of cold water on standby. Carefully drop 2 or 3 sheets of pasta into the boiling water for a couple of minutes, remove with a slotted spoon and immediately dunk in the cold water to stop them cooking further. Transfer the cooked sheets to a clean tea towel and pat dry.
10. Preheat the oven to 350˚F. To assemble the lasagna, ladle a thin layer of ragù on the bottom of the baking dish. Top with a layer of pasta – you may need to trim some of the sheets to form one single layer so as not to overlap them too much. Follow this with another layer of ragù – be more generous this time, using the back of the spoon push it right to the edge. Follow with a layer of bechamel then sprinkle over a generous handful of grated cheese. Repeat these steps (pasta, ragù, bechamel and cheese) to use up both sauces and the pasta. There should be at least 5 layers of pasta and the top should be sprinkled with cheese.
11. Cook the lasagna for 40 minutes. Remove from the oven and leave to stand for at least 15 minutes before slicing up for serving.
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