Lasagna (from scratch)

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(click on pic to enlarge)

As you can see, I’m not a dainty cook. I serve what I call generous Tudor portions (i.e. Henry the 8th activity). If I could, I would have an ancient Tudor kitchen complete with a big fireplace and a pit. My favorite cooking includes slow cooking meats on a hardwood fire. In my kitchen would be baskets of fresh produce and herbs and lots of preparation tables. And since the kitchen would be hot from the fire, I might even employ a lady or two to walk around topless. Now don’t laugh, I read that his kitchens were so hot Henry the 8th had to give orders that the scullions (kitchen servants that do menial work) “should stop going about ‘naked’”.  The Little Woman would not approve much (actually, at all) of any naked scullions hanging around – so fear not.

Back to the food: I like sauces, gravies, soups, gumbos and salsas. I think food should rest in its natural juice. I don’t care much for a piece of meat garnished with a side of something, usually a dry lump of something. To me, that’s like a drink with a paper umbrella.

I like dark ale to a pale lager, a Cabernet to a Pinot Noir and anchovies over sardines. That would make me Mediterranean. So, I lean more toward food from Italy, France, Spain and Sardinia; which, I’m still petitioning to change its name from Sardinia to Anchovianini. Hey, it could happen. Oh, and I like classical guitar music over rock-n-roll.

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Everyone has a favorite lasagna recipe. Mine does not come out of a box and is not crusty or hard. Mine is made with soft fresh pasta, a light turkey Ragù – Roman style and a savory cheesy Béchamel sauce.

A few tips to consider.

Bacon: Typically Roman Ragù calls for prosciutto. The challenge is locating prosciutto thickly cut. Most is cut thinly for Antipasto. Prosciutto has a tendency to be a salty pork flavor rather than sweet.  Instead, I find a lean cut of bacon hardwood smoked. I boil water; turn off the heat and let the bacon soak in the water 8 minutes. This cuts down the smoky flavor. Then I drain and chop the bacon.

Peeling tomatoes: The best way to do this is boil water, then with a sharp knife cut an “X” into the top and bottom of the tomato. Let the tomato boil for 8 minutes. Remove and cool under cold water and peel the skin starting at the “X”. This makes it real easy.

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Preparation: It is far easier to prepare this dish in stages rather than rush all at once.  I rely heavily on a large and small food processor.

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Ingredients:

Lasagna: (“Are a wide, flat pasta shape, and possibly one of the oldest types of pasta”)

1 ¼ cups flour
2 eggs
1 TBSP olive oil
(Extra flour for rolling board)

Turkey Ragù – Roman Style:

2 strips bacon, soaked in water 8 minutes, finely chopped
1 Lb. ground turkey
½ onion – finely chopped
1 medium carrot – finely chopped
1 celery stalk – finely chopped
1 garlic clove – thinly sliced
3 TBSP olive oil
3 TBSP tomato paste
¾ cup dry red wine
3 Roma tomatoes – peeled and chopped
Salt and pepper

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Cheesy Béchamel Sauce:

5 TBSP butter
5 TBSP flour
½ onion – finely chopped
2 cups milk
1 bay leaf
½ cup Italian Five Cheese mix – shredded
Parmesan cheese – grated

1) Pasta: In a food processor add flour, one egg and olive oil.

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Start the mixer and then add the 2nd egg. Allow to spin until the dough forms into a thick round ball.

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Place dough on a floured board and shape into a thick pancake. Use a pastry cutter and cut into 1 inch by 1 inch strips. Roll out to the desired shape and then cut the ends. Continue this until the dough has been completely rolled. The entire dough will be needed.

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Place the pasta on tray and let stand while the other dishes are started.

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2) Turkey Ragù – Roman Style: Use the 8-8-8 rule. Cook these stages in 8 minutes. Heat the olive oil and with a wood spoon sauté the onion, carrot and celery mix 8 minutes. Add the turkey and bacon and cook on high for 8 minutes until it browns. Add the wine and tomato paste, reduce heat and cook until the wine evaporates – 8 minutes.  Salt and pepper to taste. Add the tomatoes and sliced garlic and cook on low for 30 minutes. Allow as much of the liquid to evaporate naturally.

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3) Béchamel Sauce: Heat a 2 quart sauce pan and place in the butter then the flour. Use a heat resistant baking spatula and mix the “white roux”. Add the onions on medium heat and allow the flour to cook about 5 minutes. Then add ½ cup milk and mix into a thick paste. Add another ½ cup and mix. Add another ½ cup and mix. Add the final cup of milk and mix making sure the sauce stays thick but not runny. Mix in the cheese and the bay leaf and leave on a warm heat setting. You want the sauce smooth and creamy, not dry or over cooked. Go slow and mix and cook in stages.

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4) Pasta: Boil water in the very large pot. Set a large bowl with cold water next to it. Place three pasta sheets in the boiling water. Boil 2 minutes, remove the pasta with tongs and place in the cold water. Remove and set aside. Continue this process until all the pasta is cooked.

5) Build the dish: In a heat proof dish with a lid, ladle in some Béchamel sauce, then layer pasta, add some Ragù, layer pasta, then Béchamel sauce, then pasta, some Ragù, pasta, and finish with Béchamel sauce. Then sprinkle with grated Parmesan cheese.

6) Bake in 350° oven 30 to 45 minutes. Serve.

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Or, send me a check and I will mail you some leftovers. 🙂

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