Lasagne al Forno
My first lasagne recipe is clearly in need of an update and that's simply because we are now able to buy more authentic ingredients.
I have also discovered from an Italian friend that the long, slow cooking of the ragu really does develop all the flavours in a wonderful way. Lasagne has suffered greatly from being anglicised, factory made and served as cheap nosh, its authenticity obliterated - all the more reason to reinvent this great classic dish in all its original glory.
You can now watch how to make Lasagne al Forno in our Cookery School Video, click the image to play.
This recipe is from Delia's Complete How to Cook. Serves 6
First of all take a large frying pan and heat 1 tablespoon of the olive oil over a medium heat and gently fry the onion for about 10 minutes, moving it around from time to time.
While the onion is softening, chop the pancetta: the best way to do this after opening the pack is to roll the contents into a sausage shape, then using a sharp knife, slice it lengthways into 4, then slice the lengths across as finely as possible. After 10 minutes, add this to the pan to join the onion, add the garlic and continue cooking the whole lot for about 5 minutes. Now transfer this mixture to the casserole.
Then add a dessertspoon of oil to the frying pan, turn up the heat to it highest then add the minced beef and brown it, breaking it up and moving it round in the pan. Either with a wooden fork or a balloon whisk is really helpful here. When the beef is browned tip it into the casserole to join the onions, then heat another dessertspoon of oil and do exactly the same with the minced pork. When the pork is browned, transfer that to the casserole.
Pre-heat the oven to 140°C, gas mark 1.
Next place the casserole over the direct heat and give everything a really good stir, then add the tomatoes, sundried tomato paste, red wine and a really good seasoning of salt, pepper and a good grating of nutmeg and finally a rounded tablespoon of chopped basil. More stirring now, then allow this to come up to simmering point. Then cover with a tight fitting lid and place the casserole in the centre of the oven and leave it to cook for 2 hours, removing the lid halfway through. What you should end up with is a thick, reduced concentrated sauce with only a trace of liquid left in it, taste to check the seasoning then stir in the remaining basil.
Now to make the cream sauce, place the milk, butter and sauce flour and some seasoning in a medium thick-based saucepan. Place this over a gentle heat and whisk continuously with a balloon whisk until the sauce comes to simmering point and thickens. Then, with the heat as low as possible, continue to cook the sauce for about 10 minutes. After that remove from the heat, add some seasoning and grate in another quarter of the whole nutmeg, then whisk in the cream. Reserve two ladlefuls of sauce for the top of the lasagne. Now spread about a quarter of the ragù over the base of the prepared dish. Cover this with a quarter of the remaining cream sauce, followed by a quarter of the diced mozzarella, then arrange a single layer of the lasagne over the top, which you can cut to fit the dish. Repeat this process, finishing with a final layer of pasta followed by the reserved cream sauce.
Then cover the whole lot with the grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese – and the lasagne is ready for the oven.
All this preparation can be done well in advance (you can keep it covered in the fridge for a few days or freeze it.) Then when you're ready to bake the lasagne pop it into a pre-heated oven at 180°C, gas mark 4 on a high-ish shelf for 45-50 minutes or until it's bubbling and turning slightly golden on top.
Leave it to settle for 5 -10 minutes before serving.
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More Italian recipes
Today I made the Chocolate Ricotta Cheesecake and tomorrow I plan to make a lasagna.