Lasagna: an indefatigable classic
Lasagna is an indefatigable classic—sure, we could quibble over styles (think of the variations between cheeses: cottage or ricotta or the complete absence of either), but the traditional combination of pasta sheets, tomato-based sauce, and some sort of dairy or cheese—all baked together in a savory stratification—make for a hearty, family-style dish that’s difficult to beat no matter the permutation.
An old cooking chum once shared a story with me that his grandmother, in addition to red tomato and white cottage, employed a layer of spinach to her lasagna as a nod to the Italian flag—red, white, and green, of course. I can appreciate those familial and familiar version, but with this week’s recipe I’ve included two elements that will be exercise for your cooking chops—Bolognese and white sauce.
The Bolognese (also called a ragu) is a mix of aromatic vegetables and chopped or ground meat, and the white sauce is a basic béchamel (one of the five leading or “mother” sauces) with an addition of two types of cheese. And al forno is just a term that denotes a softened pasta noodle achieved through baking.
Clint Smith is an honors graduate of The Cooking and Hospitality Institute of Chicago, Le Cordon Bleu, and is currently a culinary arts instructor at Central Nine Career Center in Greenwood. To read more about techniques and recipes, visit www.cookingwithclint.com.
Classic lasagna al forno
Serves 4 -6
1. Preheat oven to 350° F. In wide-bottomed, high-sided sauté pan or sautoir, heat small amount of olive oil over medium-high heat. Add onions and carrots, reduce heat slightly; sweat veg several minutes before adding garlic; continue till veg are translucent and fragrant. Add in minced steak and ground pork; lightly season with salt and pepper; add dry herbs, bay leaf. Using a wooden spoon, add tomato sauce; incorporate and reduce slightly; add crushed tomatoes, Worcestershire. Pour in red wine and reduce until syrupy. Remove from heat, stir in milk. Reserve warm.
2. In a high-sided saucepan over medium heat, add flour and butter, allowing butter to melt to form a paste. Whisk in 1/3 of milk, removing any lumps by stirring. Add in another 1/3 of milk along with pinch nutmeg. Add last 1/3 of milk, bring to gentle boil. Remove from heat, add in grated cheese in small installments; whisk in parmesan, season with salt and pepper.
3. Evenly spread 1/3 of meat mixture to a 8-inch by 11 ½ -inch by 2-inch casserole dish (or 2 quart baking dish). Line with three sheets of oven-ready lasagna; spread out 1/3 of cheese sauce and top with another 1/3 of meat mixture; add three more sheets of lasagna. Pour out remaining 1/3 of meat mixture, spread evenly before applying final amount of cheese mix. Top with additional parm; cover with aluminum foil, bake at 350° F for 30 minutes. After removing, allow lasagna to rest for 15 minutes before slicing and serving. Top with extra parmesan.
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