Thursday, December 15, 2011


"Lasagna is a popular oven-baked pasta dish of fresh egg pasta squares. It is a traditional dish from Bologna in Northern Italy, where the sheets are always green through the addition of spinach or nettles to the egg dough. In Bologna, these home made sheets are layered with small amounts of real Bolognese ragù (made with both beef and pork, very little tomato and no southern herbs like oregano and basil but a little nutmeg instead) and simialrly small amounts of "besciamella" or béchamel sauce in an oven dish."

"There are at least 5 layers of pasta dough, and the layers stay separate and do not "merge" together into a mush. A light sprinkling of Parmigiano-Reggiano , and a few dabs of butter end the dish which is then baked for about half an hour. The use of Mozzarella in place of Béchamel suggests a Neapolitan variation to the original Bologna classic, as does the use of Ricotta."

"Lasagne refers to multiple sheets of pasta; lasagna refers to the dish or to individual sheets of pasta."

"In Italy but especially outside, many lasagna variations exist today. Vegetable lasagna, lasagna without béchamel sauce, lasagna without any sauce [just vegetables and/or meat] or even lasagna without sheets of pasta."

"When assembling a lasagna, start with the main ingredient [ragu, vegetables, seafood, etc.], add a layer of béchamel sauce, then one layer of lasagne pasta sheets and then the main ingredient again. Continue until the oven dish is full. End with a layer of pasta, spread some béchamel sauce on top and sprinkle the cheese over it."

"When it comes to the pasta dough there is, as always, a choice between home-made pasta and store bought sheets of dried pasta. Since dried pasta is made with just water and flour and home made fresh pasta usually includes eggs, there is a distinct difference in flavour and texture. The main difference, however, comes from ease of use. Making pasta from scratch can be a lengthy process and takes some practice to get it right. See the pasta page for a fresh pasta recipe."

"Dried pasta is usually precooked, so it can be put in to the oven dish straight out of the packet."

"In the US, pasta sheets generally have a curvy surface. Outside the US, they are almost always flat."

"Apart from the plain lasagne sheets, the green ones that Bologna favours are also common. These are called lasagne verdi and are flavored with spinach. They work well with white sauces [bechamels] or cream-based sauces and seafood."


From Wikibooks

Lasagna Recipe

2 tbsp olive oil
1 large onion, finely chopped
3lbs [1.5 kilo] Minced beef
4 cloves of garlic, finely chopped or crushed
1 can [400g] quality chopped plum tomatoes
10-15 basil leaves, chopped or torn [or 1 tsp dried basil]
1/2 tsp dried oregano
5 crushed black peppercorns [or to taste]
1 tsp sea salt [or to taste]
1/2 tsp sugar
[Optionally] 5.07.oz [150-200ml]red wine
One pack of lasagne sheets
1.5 pints [850ml] béchamel sauce
Finely grated parmesan

"Equipment: One small pan for the bechemel sauce [preferably non-stick]. One large, deep pan for the ragu. A shallow oven-proof dish."

"Procedure: Heat the olive oil in a heavy base or non-stick pan over a medium-high heat. If the oil browns, turn the heat down. Add the onion and fry until golden brown. Increase heat to high and add the meat and garlic. Fry until brown."

"Minced/ground beef takes some time to cook well. Fry until there is little moisture left in the pan. If necessary, spoon out any excess fat. Add the tomatoes and sugar, cover the pan and lower the heat and simmer for 20 minutes."

"Meanwhile, prepare the béchamel sauce. Pre-heat the oven to 375f/190c. Mix the basil, oregano, salt & pepper in to the ragu. Place a thin layer of ragu in the base of the ovenproof dish and cover with a single layer of pasta sheets. Spread a layer of béchamel sauce over the pasta. Repeat this until you run out of meat, making sure that you have enough bechemel sauce left to cover the top layer of pasta. Sprinkle the grated parmesan over the top. Place the dish in the oven on the top shelf and cook for about 45 minutes, or until the top is lightly browned and the sauce is bubbling."

"Hints & Tips: Get good beef. This is the most important part of the dish. The best beef will produce little fat and a great flavour. Try using goat's cheese and milk for the béchamel sauce. Look for canned tomatoes in 'rich tomato juice'. They're a bit more expensive, but definitely worthwhile. Fresh basil and pepper are a must. Try it with minced lamb."

Text Credits: Wikibooks Wikibooks
Image Credit: Flickr

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