Saturday, September 17, 2011

Venetian / Belgian Bar Lasagna [Zack]

I had some leftover ragu bolognese   I was wondering what to do with it when an idea struck.  It would make an interesting lasagna!   Since I was already far from traditional lasagna with the cinnamon, I decided to add one more twist. There is a small Belgian bar that only bothers to make spaghetti bolognese as their entire food "menu." They add swiss Gruyere cheese to the top of it and it's really tasty.  A good amount of the cheese will take your lasagna to the next level!

This lasagna recipe is inspired by both a beautiful tagliatelle ragu that we ate in Venice and a simple bowl of spaghetti bolognese served at a bar. From this juxtaposition of influences, a fun and tasty lasagna was born.


Start by preparing the ragu rolognese. Brown the ground beef and pork in 2 T of olive oil in a stock pot over medium heat. Make sure to do this in batches so you don’t over-crowd the pan and boil the meat. Take out the browned meat and put on a plate and sweat the veggies in the same pot until they become translucent and then develop color. Add the meat back in and add the can of crushed tomatoes, red wine, and cinnamon and let simmer for an hour or 2. Once you have reduced the sauce until it’s mostly just meat and veggies, add in the milk and stir. It should provide nice depth and sheen.

Alternatively, you can buy a quality jar of ragu and add cinnamon (and wine if it needs it).

Make pasta dough according to these instructions (or you can use store-bought lasagna sheets). While your dough is out of the fridge and resting, start the Bechamel sauce.
Add the butter for the bechamel sauce to a sauce pan and let it melt. Add in the equal part of flour to the pan and whisk until it looks like a paste. Cook gently on low until it’s toasty and brown and smells great. You just made a simple brown roux!

Once this is done, slowly whisk in the whole milk until you have a uniform but thick sauce that coats the back of a spoon. Then stir in your grated parmesan reg and take off the heat.

Start a large pot of water boiling and roll out your pasta into long sheets and cut them to the size of your lasagna dish. Flour both sides of the pasta and pile them up to save space. You have to cook the pasta before you put it in the lasagna, or else the pasta will be crunchy and not that fun. 

Set up an ice bath before you start boiling the pasta. Quickly add the sheets one by one to make sure they are separated into salted boiling water. Since the pasta is fresh, you only have to cook it for 1 minute (if you are using dried pasta, cook to al dente according to the back of the box).

Strain into a colander and then place in an ice bath for 1 minute to stop the cooking. Strain again and toss with some olive oil so the sheets don’t stick together.

In your lasagna dish, put a layer of both sauces on the bottom, then put a layer of pasta.

Next, add sauce, then add lots of grated Swiss cheese, a handful of parmesan reggiano, then the pasta.

Repeat until the top layer. Only add the b├ęchamel and plenty of Swiss cheese so it can brown nicely in the oven. Put it into a pre-heated oven at 200C/400F and bake uncovered until it’s browned and bubbly. Cut and serve!


Venetian Ragu Bolognese: (yields a lot!)
1 lb ~90% Ground Beef
1 lb Ground Pork
¼ cup Diced Carrots
½ cup diced onions
¼ cup diced celery
1 T cinnamon powder or 2 cinnamon sticks (extract sticks when finished)
1 28 oz can crushed tomatoes
1 glass red wine
½ cup whole milk

Fresh pasta:
3 eggs
Sea salt

Bechamel Sauce:
3T butter
3T flour
1 cup whole milk
½ cup grated parmesan reggiano

2 cups grated swiss cheese
1 cup grated parmesan reggiano

Song:  D'Angelo - Smooth

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