April 6, 2018 — Family Food
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6 sheets of lasagne
1/2 medium celeriac
1 medium onion
1 clove garlic
2 bay leaves (optional)
Chopped leaves from one sprig of rosemary (optional)
1 tsp dried oregano
30g fresh basil
1 tin tuna
1/2 small tin anchovies (optional)
2 balls of mozzarella, sliced
400ml ham, chicken, vegetable stock or water
Grated Parmesan cheese – or other hard cheese
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Giorgio Locatelli says there’s no such thing as ‘leftovers’ in Italian kitchens, he says it’s just food that has not yet been eaten (since no Italian cook would dream of wasting any food). After the Easter weekend, I was left with a fridge full of ‘food that had not yet been eaten’. The leftover lamb would need to be cut off the bones, the meat would go in the freezer for a shepherd’s pie or a meaty ragu to go with moist polenta and the bones turned into bone broth. The salami would be quickly cooked with a red chilli sauce to spice up a fried egg, the Parma ham would make a very good addition to a creamy pappardelle with mushrooms. Roasted peppers, carrots, greens and roast potatoes will either bulk out a Spanish tortilla or form the base of rissoles. The olives will be munched on straight from the fridge, or provide a salty accompaniment to avocado on toast. But there was still a bowl of mozzarella and half a tin of anchovies.
Mozzarella is very versatile so there is never any need to waste – however, it will only keep out of its packet for a day. So this had to be used first. In its melted state, mozzarella is wonderful in pizza or a melanzane Parmiagiana or the famous Italian sarni, ‘mozzarella in carrozza’, a fried eggy sandwich made with Parma ham. It can be wrapped in pancetta and baked whole or even cut into chunks for a risotto. In its fresh state it’s likely to be served simply in an anti pasti or served in salads, such as, capresse, tricolor etc.
I decided to use the mozzarella in a pasta bake, but I didn’t have typical baking pasta shape, such as penne, tortiglioni or rigatoni. Then it struck me: lasagne sheets are really just large pieces of flat pasta – why not treat them like any other pasta shape? Which is exactly what I did – I used just six sheets of lasagne aiming to simplify a potential lasagne magnum opus into more modest bake.
I then had the idea of layering pasta with sliced vegetables. I imagined this would make a lighter lasagne, but with the characteristic deep layering. Courgettes and celeriac were sliced into thin strips. The courgettes were thin enough to cook during baking and the celeriac was added to the pasta water when the lasagne sheets were nearly cooked. The ragu was a quick stew of onion, celery, garlic, tomato passata, ham stock, tuna and the leftover anchovies. Mozzarella would add a milky dairy element, so there was no need for a time consuming and rich bechamel. I layered all the elements, just like a lasagne, and finished off with a good grating of Parmesam. It really was very good.
Preheat the oven 180C Gas 4
Cook the pasta sheets. Bring a large pan of salted water to the boil. Add the sheets one at a time and stir to separate. Boil gently for 10 minutes.
Prepare the vegetables. Slice the courgettes lengthwise very thinly, peel and slice the celeriac very thinly.
Pre-cook the celeriac, drain the pasta. Add the celeriac slices to the boiling pasta water after it has been boiling for 10 minutes. Bring back to the boil and boil for 5 minutes. Reserve a cup of cooking water and drain the pasta. Add some cold water to the pasta and celeriac and stir to ensure they do not stick together.
Make the sauce. Chop the onion finely and cook in a pan with a little oil and butter for about 10 minutes until the onion goes soft and transparent. Grate the garlic and add to the onions with the anchovies (if using). Stir for a minute and then add the passata and oregano plus the bay and rosemary if using. Bring the passata to the boil and then add the stock. Bring to a simmer and cook for 5 minutes. Add the tuna and bring back to a simmer. turn off the heat and season with salt and pepper.
Make the lasagne. Ladle a quarter of the sauce onto the bottom of a large baking dish. Add two slices of lasagne, arrange half the courgettes, celeriac, mozzarella and basil over the pasta. Pour over another quarter of the sauce. If it is looking a little dry spoon over some of the pasta cooking water. Repeat with another layer. Add another two sheets of lasagne and finish with the remaining sauce and a generous scattering of Parmesan cheese.
Bake the lasagne. Bake for 30-40 minutes. The top should be golden brown and the lasagne very hot and well-cooked through. Let it rest for 5 minutes and serve with a salad.
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