November 24, 2015 — Dinner Party
‘… Watery, tasteless, soggy, dry, burnt, bland, waste of time. Lasagne should be none of these things, only absolutely delicious. Make it properly and people will be talking about it for years, that’s not a joke!’
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For the lasagne
8 sheets of dried egg lasagne
For the ragu
500g minced beef, beef and pork mixed, or lamb – or leftover roast meat
1 large onion
1 large carrot
2 sticks celery
150ml red wine (optional – use extra stock and 2tbs vinegar)
300ml chicken stock
400g tomato passata – or tin of chopped tomatoes
1tbs tomato puree (optional)
2 bay leaves
2 tsp oregano
1 tbs butter
Salt and pepper
For the bechamel
800ml semi-skimmed milk
50g unsalted butter
50g plain white flour
1/4tsp grated nutmeg
1 bay leaf
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Lasagne – a special WDC family tradition
Lasagne has always been an important part of our family’s culinary tradition. But these days making your own lasagne may seem rather quaint. Why bother? You can microwave a ‘ready meal’ version in minutes.
But don’t give up on the idea making your own lasagne. A homemade lasagne will always be special and reward both cook and diners alike.
Lasagne has the wonderful ability to impress with elegance and formality, yet also comfort and assure with casual accessibility. This means it will suit most social gatherings; whether a celebratory event, special occasion or just a weekend family meal. Vegetarian versions are straightforward and satisfying and it’s easy to accessorise, requiring only a big green salad, plenty of fresh crusty bread – and perhaps a good bottle of red wine.
Call your lasagne ‘al forno’
This will lend a traditional and authentic note to the dish, conjuring impressions of Italian bakers’ ovens stacked high with locals’ lasagne. Al forno also hints at other prestigious oven-cooked pasta creations, such as the timbale, which are proudly and ceremoniously paraded at the table.
The ultimate ‘slow food’
Much of lasagne’s appeal is in the recognition of the sustained effort invested in its preparation. Indeed, lasagne is a classic example of the benefits of slow food. If you decide to make lasagne you will need to adapt to its demands. It will need large amounts of time and energy; all the surfaces in your kitchen and most of your cooking equipment and utensils. Further, left in its wake will appear a long trail of dirty pots and pans, tea towels and soiled sundry items.
But don’t we love it for this very reason? Something this special deserves our time and attention – and when we are so well gratified, who cares about a bit of washing up?
Quantity: It’s a good idea to double the quantities for this lasagne and make two – one can be frozen.
Pasta: I use DeCecco dried egg pasta. Marcella Hazan in ‘The Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking’ says the only suitable pasta is paper-thin dough made at home. I can vouch for this, but there is enough work here already; so just use a good brand of dried lasagne.
Cooking the pasta: I ‘parboil’ my lasagne sheets of pasta before assembling the lasagne. You can use dried sheets during the assembly, but this will require a wetter ragu. You can also ‘parboil’ until almost cooked, but risks a soggy lasagne. Use a rule of thumb: not too under-cooked and not too over-cooked – the results will be fine.
Cooking bechamel: The rule is to either put cool milk into a cool roux or hot milk into a heated roux. In the recipe below I add heated milk to a heated roux. The initial mixing is done off the heat. Then it is cooked slowly for ten minutes to ‘cook-out’ the flour.
My trick: Don’t lay out the pasta on tea towels after cooking. Keep it in a bowl of cold water and dry each sheet individually.
1. Make the ragu
2. Make the béchamel
3. Pre-cook the lasagne
4. Make the lasagne
A perfect winter warmer – Cassoulet!
Try Dad’s loaded low-fat salsa quesadillas with The Laughing Cow Lightest x8 cheese.
An excellent way to turn a popular Italian slow food standard into an easy and quicker family classic.
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