Lasagna or lasagne?
The term lasagna is pronounced lah-sah-ña. The sound of the letters gn is not simple for English-speaking people, so you can refer to the ñ sound of Spanish piñata and check your pronunciation clicking and listening to Lasagna. In Italy, we prefer to use the plural form of lasagna, so we call them lasagne.
Lasagna derives from the Latin lasănum and Ancient Greek lásanon, and indicates a particular dough pasta shape, obtained by cutting a sheet of fresh egg pasta into large squares or rectangles. Lasagne represent the oldest pasta forms produced in Italy, as traces of them can already be found in Greco-Roman times.
How to make authentic Italian lasagna
Despite the common origin, each Italian region (the Italian regions are 20) has its own special recipe for preparing lasagne. Some add aubergines, others add mozzarella cheese. In Emilia-Romagna, they add spinach to the pasta dough to make the green lasagna Bolognese (in Italian: lasagne verdi alla bolognese): the recipe we are following.
How to make green lasagna sheets
To make green lasagna sheets for six to eight, you need:
- 3 eggs
- 300 g of 0 flour
- 40 g spinach (cooked in a saucepan of boiling salted water for 2 minutes. Drained and squeezed dry, then chopped very finely into a paste).
Once you have your ingredients, make a mound of flour on a work surface, create a well in the centre, break the eggs into it and add the spinach paste.
Using a fork, mix the eggs with the spinach, drawing in flour until the mixture becomes thick, then work in the remaining flour with your hands.
Knead the dough for 6 minutes, until it is firm, smooth and not sticky. Add extra flour, if necessary, to correct the consistency.
To make the green pasta sheets, follow the instructions you'll find on the page How to make Italian fresh pasta.
Ingredients for ragù Bolognese
- 60 ml (1/4 cup) extra virgin olive oil
- ½ onion finely chopped
- ½ carrot finely chopped
- 1 stalk of celery finely chopped
- 50 g prosciutto, finely chopped
- 50 g chicken liver, finely chopped
- 500 g lean minced beef
- 60 ml (1/4 cup) dry white wine
- 150 ml milk
- 400 g can chopped tomatoes
- 300 ml beef stock
How to make ragù Bolognese
To prepare ragù
, heat the olive oil in a saucepan, over medium heat, add onion, carrot and celery, and cook for 5 minutes. Add prosciutto, liver and beef, and cook for 3 to 5 minutes or until lightly browned. Add the wine, simmer until evaporated, then add milk and simmer until reduced.
Add now the tomatoes and the stock, and simmer gently for about 1 ½ hours. Let it cool.
Ingredients for Italian béchamel sauce
- 50 g butter
- 50 g (1/3 cup) plain flour
- 750 ml (3 cups) warm milk
- one pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
- 160 g Parmigiano Reggiano, finely grated
How to make Italian béchamel sauce
To make the besciamella
(béchamel in Italian), melt the butter in a saucepan over medium heat, add the flour and stir until slightly grainy.
Remove the pan from the heat and gradually whisk in the warm milk until fully incorporated. Return to the heat and stir continuously until the sauce boils and thickens. Add grated nutmeg, then season.
How to make green lasagna Bolognese
Bring a large saucepan of well-salted water to the boil. Cut the pasta into rectangles, so 4 or 6 will fit over the base of an 8-10 cup ovenproof dish.
Cook pasta, in batches, for 2–3 minutes, then refresh in a sink filled with cold salted water. When the pasta is cool, layer it on a tray between sheets of plastic wrap.
Preheat the oven to 200 ºC (392 °F). To assemble, cover the base of a greased 8-10 cup ovenproof dish with pasta, then top with half the béchamel and scatter with 40 g of Parmesan. Top with another layer of pasta, half the ragù and 40 g of Parmesan.
Repeat layering, finishing with the ragù and the Parmesan.
Cover with foil and bake for 25 minutes or until heated through. Serve.
(Photo from Vogue Australia: "Cucina Luciana" by Sophia Young, recipes Luciana Sampogna, photography Mark Roper, styling David Morgan)
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