Lasagna recipe halfway down this post… This past weekend was very relaxing, but also very refreshing. On Saturday, Allan and I spent most of the day cleaning the apartment, watching a couple movies at home, and playing video games.
Saturday was much needed, as it’s been a while since my entire family got out and did something together. Sure, we usually see each other every week… but it was nice to get out of the house and do activities together.
First, Allan and I stopped by my parent’s house to pick everyone up. My dad’s tulips were out in full force…. reminding me that spring really is here!
Then it was off to the driving range.
It was fun to get together and hit a couple balls… although I ended up trying to teach them the golf swing most of the time, haha. Reminds me how I really need to get back into going to the range regularly before I’m ready to play on full courses again this year.
We then headed to the theatre to watch “Date Night”, Tina Fey and Steve Carell’s new movie. It was funny and endearing, albeit a little strange to watch with my parents. We also stopped at the farmer’s market in Richmond that my parents normally go to, and picked up a couple bags of produce.
Then, it was back to the house where we madly consumed some amazing “leche flans” that my mom makes (it’s kinda like crème caramel)…
Finally, we finished the day at Granville Island where we picked up our weekly groceries and got supplies to make lasagne… Allan has been asking me to make my lasagne for a while now, so I FINALLY got to it. Last night we also watched Food Inc, which was quite the eye-opener, but I’m going to save that for another post.
ALLIE’S “THE BEST LASAGNE EVER” LASAGNA RECIPE
Makes a 9×13 pan of lasagne, enough for 8-10 people
Allan declares this the best lasagna he has ever had (and he’s had quite a few), and quite honestly I would agree. I know that’s not very humble, but seriously, this lasagna will rock your world.
My lasagne recipe has changed a lot over the years. It started with a simple bolognese sauce recipe that I got from my mom when I started cooking after high school. It was always layers of pasta with the meat sauce. In my last year of university, I started using ricotta cheese to make the dish more rich. Finally, when I graduated and traveled to Italy, I had the most AMAZING lasagne and discovered the secret of béchamel sauce, which actually is a more traditional Italian way of making lasagne (or so they say) but not as widely used in North America. Now, several iterations later, I think I’ve managed to put together a pretty darn good lasagne recipe. I use “lasagne” and “lasagna” interchangeably here for my recipe, because I think it combines some good Italian traditions with a bit of a North America twist.
The secret? Fresh pasta, a rich tomato meat sauce, the béchamel sauce (far superior to ricotta in my opinion), and good quality cheeses. I also like a layer of zucchini in there, but of course it’s completely optional. Last night I tried cooking with veal for the first time instead of beef, and I’m totally in love. I realize that this may be a moral/ethical issue for some, so feel free to substitute beef/pork/chicken for the veal. But if you don’t mind, it really is divine and I can’t recommend it enough.
Please use high quality organic, local ingredients whenever possible.
3 Tablespoons olive oil
1 lb ground veal (can substitute beef… but I highly recommend Montreal milk-fed veal from Granville Island or your local market)
1 lb ground pork
4 oz pancetta, chopped
1 Spanish chorizo sausage, chopped
2 red onions
6 cloves of garlic
3 carrots, chopped (if using non-organic carrots just use one large one)
4 celery stalks, chopped
1 zucchini, thinly sliced into rounds (optional)
1 red pepper, diced
1 6 oz can tomato paste
1 medium/large can of Italian tomatoes
1/2 cup strong red Italian wine
1/2 cup of 2% milk for the meat sauce, plus 3 cups milk for the béchamel
2 handfuls of fresh herbs (oregano, basil, thyme, rosemary, and one bay leaf)
5 Tablespoons of unsalted butter
1/4 cup of good quality flour
1/2 teaspoon of freshly grated nutmeg
Pinch of ground chili pepper or paprika/cayenne
About 1 lb of fresh pasta sheets (homemade preferred, but you can also buy from your local market)
1 cup of grated Parmigiano Reggiano
1 cup of freshly grated mozzarella (preferably a Tre Stelle mozza ball.. you can find these at supermarkets or Whole Foods in a pinch)
1 large Bocconcini ball (fresh mozzarella balls), sliced
Salt and pepper
1. Using a large saucepan or dutch oven (e.g. a big Le Creuset or other large pot), heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onions and garlic, stir a couple times, and then add the carrots, celery and cook until translucent approximately 5-7 minutes.
2. Add the meats (veal, pork, pancetta, and sausage) and stir vigorously to break up the meat. Use high heat to brown it. This should take approximately 10 minutes.
3. Now, add the milk and stir in gently. This actually protects the meat from the acidity of the other ingredients so it is very important to add the milk first. Then, add the wine, tomato paste, and hand crush in the tomatoes from the tin. Add half of the tomato sauce from the tin, but set aside the rest for later. Stir for a few minutes, and then add in the fresh herbs. Season with salt, pepper, and a bit of chili pepper and then simmer this over medium heat for about 30-45 minutes until thick. When almost done, stir in the red peppers.
4. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. When the meat sauce is almost ready, you can now prepare the béchamel sauce. Melt the butter in a separate saucepan and then whisk in the flour until very smooth over medium heat. Keep stirring for about6 minutes until the mixture turns golden. Then, bring the 3 cups of milk to a boil in a separate small pot. Add a bit of milk at a time to the butter mixture, whisking the sauce each time to keep it very smooth. When you’ve used all the milk, you’ll want to bring the sauce to a boil, and then turn off the heat and stir in the nutmeg, salt, pepper, and chili pepper for another minute or so. Set this aside off the hot burner.
5. Yay, time to assemble everything! Grease the 9×13 pan with butter. Quickly douse the fresh pasta in cold water and gently squeeze off the excess liquid. Now cover the bottom of the pan with the meat sauce, layer the pasta, then pour half the béchamel mixture in and spread it out. Sprinkle half the parmesan over it, then layer the zucchini in rounds over it. Layer another pasta, then meat sauce, then pasta layer. Now for the last layer: Spread the rest of the meat sauce (should be fairly thin now), then the rest of the béchamel sauce, the rest of the parmesan… now place a couple bocconcini slices around the pan (approx one per “serving” of lasagne), and spread the rest of the grated mozzarella over the entire dish. Lastly, grind a very small amount of salt, and a regular dose of freshly ground pepper over the dish. It’s important to make sure that each layer of pasta is fully covered so that it cooks properly.
6. Bake in the oven for 35-45 minutes, but watch carefully and make sure the top is golden brown. Make sure you let the lasagne cool for about 20 minutes before serving.
7. DIG IN! It’s amazing