Lasagna Bolognese

 

 

Terry, my wife learned from her mother, la Signora Danila Occhiali, to make this delightful Lasagna alla Bolognese.
At Joe’s of Avenue U, the Focacceria  Palermitana  this recipe was duplicated very successful to delight our regular customers with this extraordinary dish. The combination of ingredients pasta, sauce and béchamel made this dish well accepted even if it was not classic Sicilian cooking. In fact, the lasagna pasta was light, the sauce was simply delicious and the béchamel was delicate, soft and velvety.
If you have a pasta machine it will simplify the work a great deal, if you roll out the lasagna with a rolling pin, make it very thin, less than 1/8 of an inch thick.
Make the ragu, the meat sauce first, because it needs at least two hours to be ready to use.
The béchamel requires all you attention because it has to be turned continuously to obtain the smooth texture which will complete this exceptional dish.  

                  Lasagna

 

Making the Lasagna Pasta

 

Handmade pasta is a forgotten art, but with patience you can learn how to make it. 
With practice you will succeed and you will be proud for the accomplishment and the chance to offer to yourself and your family something to eat while enjoying fresh, genuine, homemade pasta manufactured with your own hands.
If you don’t have the time to make your own lasagna pasta, you can find it in high quality in gourmet shops and specialty markets.  

 

Ingredients for Pasta:

  • 4 and ½ cups of semolina flour (or all purpose flour or combine half of each), about 2 lb. and 4 oz.
  • 6 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • More flour for dusting

 

  • To Knead Dough

Mound flour on a flat surface and form a well. Break the eggs in the well and add the oil. With a fork beat eggs, start to blend the flour from the inside of the well, and keep incorporating the flour. 
Using your hands, bring all the flour together to form a ball with the dough. Fold and press with the palm of your hands; if dough is sticky, add some more flour, if it is too dry add a little water, to moisten the mixture.
When dough forms into a single mass, set aside. Clean your hand and working surface and discard scraps.
Dust working surface with flour and knead dough by pushing it down firmly to the center, turn dough 90 degrees and press down again: keep kneading until dough is elastic, and has a silky consistency. Knead for 10 minutes, usually no more than 15 minutes or until gluten develops.
Form a ball, cover with plastic and let the dough rest for 25 minutes in the refrigerator before rolling.
Cut dough in 4 pieces, roll one piece at the time, leaving unrolled pieces covered.
Dust working surface with flour and place dough in center; with a rolling pin, flatten the dough to less than 1/8 of an inch thickness.
Dry rolled out dough for a few minutes and cut into strips about 3 inches wide and about the length of the baking pan.
If you use a pasta machine, roll out the dough to less than 1/8 of an inch thickness, then follow above directions.

 

 

The Bolognese Sauce

 

 

Ingredients:

  • 2 tablespoons of olive oil
  • 1 medium onion chopped finely
  • 1 stalk of celery chopped finely
  • 1 slender carrot chopped finely
  • 2 lb. ground beef
  • 1 can 5 oz. tomato paste, diluted into 5 oz. water
  • 2 cups Italian peeled tomatoes, strained
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 piece of lemon peel
  • Salt and pepper to taste

 

 

Preparation

Over medium-high heat, in a 6 quart heavy sauce pot combine the olive oil, the onions, celery and carrot: cook for about 15 minutes until il battuto, the vegetables are light golden in color. This combination of vegetable in French is called “mirepoix”.
Add the ground beef, stirring continuously until it begins to brown, use a wooden spoon to mash any clumps of meat.
Add tomato paste diluted into 5 oz. water (use the can as measuring cup), stir it into the meat a little at a time. Cook it a few minutes and add the strained tomato, bay leaf, lemon peel, salt and pepper to taste.
Sauce should be a little watery, if necessary add some water to cover the meat.
Heat to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 1½ hours, stirring occasionally.
The Bolognese sauce is ready when a layer of the oily part, that enhances the taste of this sauce, floats to the top.
Let it rest a few minutes, then skim off any excess oil.

 

 

The Béchamel

 

Ingredients:

  • ¼ lb. salted butter (1 stick)
  • 6 tablespoons of all purpose flour
  • 6 cups of whole milk

 

Preparation

In a 4 quart heavy saucepan, at a low heat melt the stick of butter and add in the 6 tablespoons of flour, stirring with a wooden spoon until well homogenized. At the same time heat the milk in a separate pot.
Increase heat a little bit and cook the flour and butter for 3 to 4 minutes stirring constantly without letting the mixture stick to the bottom or become brown. Start to add the milk a little at a time, stirring with a wire whisk to avoid lumping.
Continue cooking over a low heat until it thickens and there is no taste of raw flour.   

 

Cooking the Pasta

In a large pot, bring to a boil 6 quarts of water and 2 tablespoons of salt; submerge the lasagna a few pieces at a time in the boiling water and cook al dente, about 2 minute, then drop in a basin with cold water to stop the cooking process. 
When all the lasagna is cooked, drain and place on clean kitchen towels.

 

 

The Assembly

 

Ingredients:

  • 1 tablespoon of butter for greasing
  • 1 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
  • Also a rectangular baking pan 13 X 8 X 2 

 

Set up all ingredients in front of you: the cheese, pasta, sauce and the béchamel. Prepare two ladles to use for the sauce and béchamel.
If béchamel is too thick add some hot milk to make it lighter.
Rub the surface of the baking pan with the butter and spread a ladle of sauce at the bottom of the pan. 
Place a layer of lasagna to cover the bottom of the pan, spread some Bolognese sauce on top to cover, following with the béchamel to coat completely. Sprinkle abundantly with the Parmesan cheese.

 

Continue until you have finished all the ingredients, ending with a layer of béchamel.
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees and bake the lasagna for 40 minutes.

 

  • The Serving

Remove the lasagna from the oven and set aside for a few minutes to settle, making it easy to cut and dish out. Serve in individual portions, with the Parmesan cheese on the side.