Italian Lasagna

11 February, 2013 — Leave a comment


There are three theories on the origin of lasagne, two of which denote an ancient Greek dish.
The main theory is that lasagne comes from Greek λάγανον (laganon), a flat sheet of pasta dough cut into strips. The word λαγάνα (lagana) is still used in Greek to mean a flat thin type of unleavened bread.

Another theory is that the word lasagne comes from the Greek λάσανα (lasana) or λάσανον (lasanon) meaning “trivet or stand for a pot”, “chamber pot”. The Romans borrowed the word as “lasanum”, meaning “cooking pot” in Latin. The Italians used the word to refer to the dish in which lasagne is made.

A third theory proposed that the dish is a development of the 14th century English recipe “Loseyn” as described in The Forme of Cury, a cook book in use during the reign of Richard II. This has similarities to modern lasagne in both its recipe, which features a layering of ingredients between pasta sheets, and its name. However, an important difference is the lack of tomatoes, which did not arrive in Europe until after Columbus reached America in 1492.

Here I present you with a classic Italian lasagna recipe – Enjoy!

What you need:

* 5 tablespoons unsalted butter, plus 2 tablespoons for the lasagna
* 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
* 4 cups whole milk at room temperature
* Pinch freshly grated nutmeg
* 1 1/2 cups tomato sauce (see recipe for simple tomato sauce here)
* 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
* 1 pound ground chuck beef
* 1 1/2 pounds ricotta cheese
* 3 large eggs
* 1 pound lasagna sheets, cooked al dente
* 20 ounces frozen chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
* 3 cups shredded mozzarella
* 1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan

What to do:

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F (Go to Conversion Table for Celsius and Gas Marks)

Make Bechamel sauce:

In a 2-quart pot, melt 5 tablespoons of butter over medium heat. When butter has completely melted, add the flour and whisk until smooth, about 2 minutes. Gradually add the milk, whisking constantly to prevent any lumps from forming. Continue to simmer and whisk over medium heat until the sauce is thick, smooth and creamy, about 10 minutes. The sauce should be thick enough to coat the back of wooden spoon. Remove from heat and add the nutmeg and tomato sauce. Stir until well combined and check for seasoning. Set aside and allow to cool completely.


In a saute pan, heat extra-virgin olive oil. When almost smoking, add the ground beef and season with salt and pepper. Brown meat, breaking any large lumps, until it is no longer pink. Remove from heat and drain any excess fat.
Mix in the tomato sauce. Set aside and allow to cool completely.

In a medium sized bowl, thoroughly mix the ricotta and eggs. Season with salt and pepper. Set aside.

Into the bottom of a 13 by 9-inch baking dish, spread 1/3 of the bechamel sauce. Arrange the pasta sheets side by side, covering the bottom of the baking dish. Evenly spread a layer of all the ricotta mixture and then a layer of all the spinach. Arrange another layer of pasta sheets and spread all the ground beef on top. Sprinkle 1/2 the mozzarella cheese on top of the beef. Spread another 1/3 of the bechamel sauce. Arrange the final layer of pasta sheets and top with remaining bechamel, mozzarella and Parmesan cheeses. Cut the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter into 1/4-inch cubes and top lasagna.

Line a large baking sheet with aluminum foil. Place lasagna dish on top, cover and put on the middle rack of the oven and bake until top is bubbling, about 30 minutes. Remove cover and continue to bake for about 15 minutes.


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