Lasagna with beef and béchamel – Slow Food heaven.

Traditional lasagna – slow food heaven!

Make this dish for someone you love. If you can, make it with someone you love. Plan ahead. Don’t do this in a rush. So many recipes on the Internet catch our attention with titles that say, “easy”, “quick”, “in less than an hour.” Throw those quick and easy ideas to the wind and embrace the slow, rewarding process of making something wonderful that can’t be done on the run. Then take the time to share this together. Tell the world to stop. Yes. Tell it to stop while you share this meal. You’ll be oh so glad you did.

My daughter and I slowly put this dish together over three days. Not that we had to or that we planned it that way. We just kept being busy with other chores and not having enough time to make this dish all at once and do it the way we wanted – making everything from scratch.

We all can get in a rush, have “so many things to do,” be too tired to cook, etc. But I’ve learned that such a busy life doesn’t mean we can’t do some things that require time and patience. Allz you need to do is look ahead and “do a bit right now,” and, “do a bit a little later.” That’s what we did with this luscious lasagna.

Timeline:

  • Sunday evening: Made a double batch of beef ragù – Mom’s recipe
    • for fettuccini Sunday evening (reserve leftover in the fridge)
    • for Lasagna… sometime later, not sure when, but soon-ish
  • Monday evening: Make the lasagna noodles……. let dry overnight
  • Tuesday morning – today’s the day !!!
    • 6:30 AM take the ragù from the fridge; adjust by adding bay leaves, red wine, a bit more salt. let simmer for 2.5 hours with uncovered lid
    • While the ragù is simmering, begin making grape jelly before the bees eat all of the grapes. 11:15 AM – make béchamel
    • 11:30 AM – Assemble the lasagne and put in the oven
    • Lunch at 1 PM

RECIPES AND PROCES

Handmade pasta

Ingredients for Pasta (For a medium-size lasagna)

  • 400 g AP Flour
  • 4 eggs + 1 egg yolk (for structure)
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil

Method: We did this in a large bowl just to keep things from getting too messy. We cracked and mixed the eggs in a separate bowl and then poured them into the flour. Mix by hand. Add oil as needed to respond to wet/dry ratio coming from egg size and flour quality. I have always found that using olive helps to create a wonderful pasta dough, easy to manage in a hand-crank machine, supple and sturdy.

RAGÙ – family recipe (not quite typical). No quantities are given here. My daughter was in charge of this while I was elsewhere. Truth be told, quantities are not very important. Follow you instincts and the size of your pot.

Ingredients for “our ragù” – It’s all about flavor and texture that pleases you.

  • ground beef
  • fresh tomatoes from the garden that needed to be used before going bad (blanched and peeled) and canned tomatoes (whole or diced)
  • tomato paste (no more than a tablespoon)
  • aubergines (diced)/ eggplant
  • mushrooms (your favorite ones; make it earthy)
  • basil, thyme, bay leaf (2 or3)
  • red wine (enough for body and flavor, not for volume)
  • salt …….. NO PEPPER (Can you believe that? No pepper? My daughter insisted. Results were amazing.)

Method: Begin on medium high heat.Brown the ground beef. Then add the diced eggplant and mushrooms. Allow these to loose water and soften. Then add the herbs and let them warm up. Next, get those tomatoes in there with all their juice. Lastly, heat the wine to get rid of the alcohol then add it to the mix. Turn the heat down LOW. Leave the LID OFF and allow the ragù to slowly melt together, thicken and bring the flavors together. Yes. Easily 2 hours. AS WE DID, this can be made 1 or 2 days in advance if that works best with your schedule. TEXTURE: This ragù was quite chunky. Great for spaghetti or tagliatelle, but not for a multilayered lasagna. So, I took an old fashioned potato masher and mashed big time. This allowed for thin, even layers of ragù between each layer of pasta.

BÉCHAMEL

Ingredients:

  • 35 g butter
  • 35 g AP flour
  • 1/2 liter (2 cups) milk
  • nutmeg (a very generous pinch)
  • salt to taste

Method:

Melt the butter the add the flour and stir using a whisk. Allow the mixture to bubble and to change a yellowish color, a minute or two. Begin pouring in milk a little bit a a time followed by vigorous whisking. Keep the sauce on the stove at a low heat, stirring occasionally, allowing it to thicken. When the sauces reaches an almost lumpy consistency, remove it from the fire and cover it until ready to use..

Assembly

  • Spray your container with oil
  • Cover the bottom of your container with a thin layer of ragù.
  • Then make the following repetitive layers until all ragù and béchamel is used.
    • pasta
    • ragù
    • béchamel
    • pasta, etc.
  • TOPPING – Be sparing with the sauce at each layer. Cover the pasta completely, but thinly. The top should receive a generous layer of béchamel PLUS some other melting cheese. Mozzarella is the most traditional choice. We didn’t have any on hand and substituted emmenthal and conté. It was wonderful.

BAKING: Place in an oven at 200 degree Celsius for 35-45 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool for a few minutes before serving.

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