Thursday, August 23, 2012

100 Layer Lasagna

This year for my husbands birthday dinner he requested a lasagna like the one he had in Milan. I wasn't with him in Milan, so he had to describe it to me - lots of layers he said, really thin pasta he said, meat like a paste - didn't sound so great but I knew he was talking about a wonderful dish - a classic lasagna bolognese...with home made pasta and a meat ragu and a white sauce. Very different from my standard take on lasagna, with store bought pasta and ricotta and mozzarella filling. So I looked it up, found lots of references to a 100 layer lasagna featured in a NYC restaurant, but not much in terms of recipes. Turned to the Silver Spoon, my go to book for Italian cooking, got some more ideas - and ended up making something he loved and I was quite pleased with. Didn't take a picture of the whole thing, maybe next time...

The secret to this dish is to use very thin layers of filling and lots of pasta layers (maybe not quite 100!)

Lasagne Bolognese

You need a meat sauce, a white sauce, a tomato sauce and fresh thinly rolled pasta sheets

For Meat Sauce

  • 1 onion finely chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic chopped 
  • 1 sweet italian pork sausage
  • 1 hot italian port sausage
  • 1/2 cup tomato sauce
  • 2 tbs tomato paste

Cook sausage (casings removed) in a little olive oil until no longer pink. Break up the sausage with a fork as you cook it. Add onion and garlic and cook until softened. Drain fat. Add tomato sauce and paste and simmer for a bit.

For Pasta

  • 2 cups Semolina Pasta flour
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp olive oil
  • 1/3 cup warm water if needed

In a standing mixer with dough hook add flour and make a well in the middle, add eggs and beat on low speed until moistened, add olive oil and salt and increase mixer speed and beat until a ball forms leaving sides of mixer bowl clean - if dough is too sticky add water 1 Tbs at a time. Once ball forms beat for about 10 mins to knead. Wrap dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 1 hour and up to 24 hours.

For White Sauce (Bechamel)

  • 6 Tbs unsalted butter
  • 3.5 Tbs unbleached flour
  • 2 cups milk, warmed - not boiled
  • fresh nutmeg
  • 1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese

Melt butter in a heavy bottomed saucepan, do not let brown. Add flour all at once and stir, mixture will look crumbly at first. Cook for a few minutes, stirring constantly - the goal here is to not let it brown, the roux is not meant to get a lot of color. Add milk, a little at a time and whisk with a wire whisk. Continue to whisk and cook until sauce thickens. Use whole milk for a thicker sauce.  Add about 1/4 cup of grated parmesan cheese and 1/4 tsp of freshly grated nutmeg, stir to incorporate.

For Tomato Sauce (or use high quality canned or jarred)

  • 10 ripe tomatoes
  • 2 Tbs olive oil
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic finely chopped
  • 1/4 cup tomato paste
  • 1/2 cup fresh basil, chopped

Saute onion in oilve oil, add peeled diced seeded tomatoes, cook for about 30 minutes, add tomato paste, add 1/2 cup chopped basil and salt and pepper to taste. Process with immersion blender.
To peel, seed and dice tomatoes: make a x in the bottom of each tomato and submerge in boiling water for 30 seconds, drain into a bowl of cold water and skins should come off readily. Cut in half and squeeze out seeds and juice. Chop.

To Assemble and Cook Lasagna

Make the meat sauce and then process in a food processor - not to a paste! but just to medium fine crumbly texture, you want to be able to spread it fairly thin. Make the pasta and roll in pasta roller to thinnest setting, cut into large rectangles and cook for about 2 mins in boiling salted water. Can rinse in cold water to cool so you can handle them, then lay sheets out on waxed paper on kitchen towels. Make the white sauce.

Prepare a pan (8x8x2 for 4 servings, larger if you want to double pasta and roll lots more). Butter pan -
layer a thin layer of white sauce over the bottom of the pan. Lay down one layer of pasta, overlap a little if necessary. Spread a thin layer of meat sauce over pasta. Lay down another layer of pasta, spread with white sauce and a Tbs or two of tomato sauce, another layer of pasta, a layer of meat sauce and just keep going pressing down on each layer of pasta. The goal is to create as many layers as possible to use all your fresh pasta and make sure to keep the meat sauce and white sauce layers very thin!! End with a layer of pasta, top with more white sauce and the remaining 1/4 cup grated parmesan.

At this point you can cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for up to 24 hours or just cover with foil and bake right away. Bake covered at 350 F for 30 mins, remove foil and continue to bake for another 15 mins or until lasagna is heated though and top browns a bit. You can sprinkle some grated mozzarella on top if you desire after taking foil off.

Let this stand for a few minutes to facilitate cutting, it holds together beautifully. This dish is really spectacular and I served it with a caprese salad, and some garlic bread. For dessert we had a blueberry rhubarb birthday pie...

I wrote a cookbook!! Its called Elegant Everyday Cooking Support independent publishing: Buy this book on Lulu.

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