Friday, February 12, 2010

Lasagna Verdi al Forno

        This is emphatically not your 30 minute dinner.  It is one of the great treasures of Italian cuisine.  And despite the length of time it takes, this version is not entirely labor-intensive.  A great part of the time is the slow simmering of the rich meat sauce.  It sits on the stove for 3 hours, requiring only an occasional stir and tasting to make sure its seasonings are correct.  It is even better if you let it rest overnight and allow the flavors to fully develop.  Then the next day, the assembly is actually quite speedy, as long as you have the right kind of pasta. 

        The choice of great sheets of spinach noodles gives the dish its authenticity.   No crinkled-edged strips of dried white noodles here.  The real thing is made with fresh pasta.  It’s not hard to find here in New York; in Little Italy at Piemonte Home Made Ravioli Co., 190 Grand St., New York (212-226-0475) , it’s not even expensive—about $6.40 for the two packages this recipe requires.  I would certainly try to find fresh lasagna noodles; they eliminate the need the truly odious part of making lasagna with dry pasta:  blanching of the pasta, then drying it before forming the dish.
Alternatively, you can use the Ready Bake pasta that Barilla makes and is pretty widely available. But please stay clear of that truly awful thick stuff Ronzoni passes off as lasagna. 
I generally double the recipe for the meat sauce, so I have half of it for the lasagna, freeze the rest and have wonderful meat sauce on hand for a quick weeknight pasta supper. 
The other interesting thing about this recipe is that, unlike many recipes for lasagna, this one has a béchamel or, in Italian, besciamella sauce sprinkled with Parmigiano-reggiano as opposed to great slabs of mozzarella that Italian-American recipes favor.   It’s very rich but very satisfying.  The only change I made to the original recipe is however, very Italian-American.  I just have to have that more tomato taste and so I add 12 ounces of tomato paste.  This thickens the sauce but if you want to be completely authentic, leave it out by all means.  

For the Lasagna Verdi Al Forno:

2 tbsp. butter
8 6” x 10” inch sheets of Spinach Pasta
5 cups of Ragu al Bolognese
2 cups Freshly Grated Parmigiano Reggiano
3 cups Italian-style Bechamel Sauce

For the Ragu al Bolognese (Meat Sauce Bolognese)

1/4 cup of extra virgin olive oil
1 small yellow onion - minced
1 rib of celery - minced
1/2 carrot - peeled & minced
2 or 3 slices of prosciutto - finely chopped
1 1/2 lbs. ground chuck
2 chicken livers - finely chopped
Salt & Pepper to taste
1/2 cup of dry white wine
1 cup of hot milk
1 cup of chicken or beef stock
28 oz of pureed San Marzano tomatoes

2 6 oz containers of Tomato Paste (Optional)

  1. Heat oil in a large heavy stockpot over medium high heat. Add onions - Sauté until soft but not browned - 4 - 5 minutes. Add celery and carrot - cook for 3 minutes more. Add prosciutto and chicken livers - stir with wooden spoon until meat is just cooked and still a little pink. Crumble ground chuck into pot - season with salt & pepper to taste. Stir in chuck to break it up and cook about 5 minutes until meat is cooked but slightly pink. Stir in wine and completely evaporate - about 3 minutes.
  2. Reduce heat to medium and add hot milk - stir occasionally until milk is evaporated.
  3. Heat broth and tomatoes in a saucepot until hot - Add them to the meat mixture.
  4. Reduce heat to a simmer and cook gently for 2 1/2 hours - stir occasionally, re-seasoning with salt & pepper to taste.

For the Bechamel Sauce:

5 tbsp. butter
6 tbsp. sifted flour
3 cups hot milk
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

  1. Melt butter in a heavy medium saucepan over medium-low heat.
  2. Add flour and whisk for 1 1/2 minutes (do not allow to brown).
  3. Gradually add hot milk, whisking constantly. Season to taste with salt and pepper and stir constantly with a wooden spoon until sauce is the consistency of thick cream, about 15 minutes.

To assemble and bake the Lasagna:

  1. Set rack in middle of oven and heat to 450 degrees.
  2. Grease a 9" × 12" baking dish with butter and set aside. Line bottom of prepared baking dish with a layer of pasta, trimming sheets with a knife so that they fit in 1 even layer (patch if necessary).
  3. Spread evenly with about 1 cup of the meat sauce, then sprinkle lightly with some of the parmigiano. Add another layer of pasta, evenly spread 1 cup of the 

  4. béchamel sauce on pasta, then sprinkle lightly with parmigiano.
  5. Repeat layers (you will have 5 layers of meat sauce and 3 of béchamel), ending with meat sauce and parmigiano. 
  6. Bake lasagne for 15 minutes. Increase oven temperature to 500° and cook until lasagne is bubbling around the edges and browned on top, 5–7 minutes more. Do not overcook. Cover loosely with foil and allow lasagne to rest for 8–10 minutes before serving.

Serving Suggestions:

This really is a meal all by itself.  A mixed green salad with a spash of Balsamic Vinaigrette, a loaf of rustic bread are perfect accompaniments.
And there's no better dish to serve with a bottle of Montepulciano d'Abruzzo.

1 comment:

  1. A little different than my lasagna but worth a try!