Traditional Italian lasagna recipe,
a classic dish from Bologna
The best Italian lasagna recipe is made with home-made ingredients, including the eggs pasta, meat and bechamel sauces.
It is fundamental to have a great Bolognese sauce, a speciality in Bologna.
This sauce is also delicious with tagliatelle or short pastas such as penne or conchiglie as well as spaghetti.
Ingredients for 6:
For the lasagna:
Egg pasta sheets made with 3 eggs, or 300 g. of dried lasagne
80 g. of Parmesan cheese
30 g. of butter
For the Bolognese sauce:
25 g. of butter
4 tablespoons of olive oil
1 medium onion, finely chopped
25 g, of pancetta or unsmoked bacon, finely chopped
1 carrot, finely sliced
1 stick celery, finely sliced
1 garlic clove, finely chopped
350 g. lean ground beef
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
150 ml. of red wine
125 ml. of milk
1x 400 g. of can plum tomatoes, chopped, with their juice
1 bay leaf
¼ fresh thyme leaves
For the bechamel sauce:
600 ml. of milk
1 bay leaf
3 blades mace
100 g. of butter
65 g. of flour
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
First you need to make the Bolognese sauce.
Heat the butter and oil in a heavy saucepan or earthenware pot. Add the onion, and cook over moderate heat for 3-4 minutes.
Add the pancetta, and cook until the onion is translucent. Stir in the carrot, celery and garlic.
Cook for 3-4 minutes more.
Add the beef, and crumble it into the vegetables with a fork. Stir until the meat loses its red colour. Season with salt and pepper.
Pour in the wine, raise the heat slightly, and cook until the liquid evaporates, 3-4 minutes.
Add the milk, and cook until it evaporates.
Stir in the tomatoes with their juice, and the herbs. Bring the sauce to a boil. Reduce the heat to low, and simmer, uncovered for 1 ½ - 2 hours, stirring occasionally.
Correct the seasoning and set aside once the sauce once prepared. You can make the sauce well in advance. It keeps well in the refrigerator for several days and can also be frozen.
Well done! You've completed the most important step of this Italian lasagna recipe.
And now...let's move on to the lasagna!
Butter a large shallow baking dish, preferably rectangular or square.
Make the bechamel sauce by gently heating the milk with the bay leaf and mace in a small saucepan.
Melt the butter in a medium heavy pan. Add the flour, and mix it in well with a wire whisk.
Cook for 2-3 minutes.
Strain the hot milk into the flour and butter mixture, and combine smoothly with the whisk.
Bring the sauce to a boil, stirring constantly, and cook for 4-5 minutes more. Season with salt and pepper, and set aside.
Make the pasta. Do not let it dry out before cutting it into rectangles approximately 11 cm. in wide and the same length as the baking dish (this will make it easier to assemble).
Preheat the oven to 200°C.
Bring a very large pan of water to a boil. Place a large bowl of cold water near the stove.
Cover a large work surface with a tablecloth. Add salt to the rapidly boiling water.
Drop in 3 or 4 of the egg pasta rectangles. Cook very briefly, about 30 seconds. Remove them from the pan using a slotted spoon, and drop them into the bowl of cold water for about 30 seconds. Pull them out of the water, shaking off the excess water. Lay them out flat without overlapping on the tablecloth. Continue with all the remaining pasta and trimmings.
To assemble the lasagne, have all the elements at hand: the baking dish, béchamel and meat sauces, pasta strips, grated Parmesan and butter. Spread one large spoonful of the meat sauce over the bottom of the dish. Arrange a layer of pasta in the dish, cutting it with a sharp knife so that it fits well inside the dish.
Cover with a thin of meat sauce, then one of béchamel. Sprinkle with a little cheese. Repeat the layers in the same order, ending with a layer of pasta coated with béchamel. Do not make more than about 6 layers of pasta. If you have left overs you can make another small lasagna in a little ovenproof dish.
Use the pasta trimmings to patch any gaps in the pasta.
Sprinkle the top with Parmesan, and dot with butter.
Bake in the preheated oven for 20 minutes or until brown on top. Remove from the oven and allow to stand for 5 minutes before serving. Serve directly from the baking dish, cutting out rectangular or square sections for each helping.
If you are using dried or bought pasta, boil the lasagne in just two batches, and stop the cooking about 4 minutes before the recommended cooking time on the package has elapsed. Rinse in cold water and lay the pasta out the same way as for the egg pasta.
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