Lasagna is one of my favorite comfort foods. For my birthday this year, my friends and I decided to run off to Belgium to see my friends band play at this middle of nowhere Belgian dive bar. We rented a van, got a house loaned to us from a friend, drove a few hours and voila! Adventure time!
However, every good adventure needs some solid food to get one through. I decided since I was making all my friends rent a van, get a house, give up their weekend, go to a rock show, the least I could do was make a giant lasagna baby for us to eat when we got there.
The keys to a good lasagna are: make loads of sauce and bechamel and make as many layers as possible. The trick is to put a layer of sauce first in the bottom of the pan and then the pasta on top (I prefer Barilla Lasagne All’uovo). Then sauce, bechamel (you don’t need to spread it all over the place like frost on a cake- you can just make plops of sauce at regular intervals), then you put some cheese (I use parmesan and a little mozzarella). Repeat pressing the layers down with the pasta. Finish the top with everything and some extra cheese. Bake for an hour around 170 degrees.
In case one is unfamiliar with making a bechamel or a simple bolognese sauce here are my recipes for 36x20x10cm pan and will serve 10-12 people:
- 225 g butter
- 120 g flour
- 1 liter of whole milk
- salt, pepper, nutmeg to taste
Melt the butter over medium heat, whisk in the flour. It is best to let the flour cook a little in the butter before adding the milk. When you add the milk, add it slowly and whisk it constantly. Let it simmer gently for about 20 minutes stirring it occasionally. Remove from heat, season to taste. Sauce too thick? Add more milk. Too runny? Add more butter and flour.
- 4 (400g) cans of peeled tomatoes
- 2 cans of water (the tomato cans)
- 1 onion (fine dice)
- 1 carrot (fine dice)
- salt, pepper, oregano to taste
- 300 g of ground pork/beef mix
So, not rocket science, just about patience. I cook the meat first in a frying pan with some salt and pepper, or you can add your sausage spices if you like ((parsley, fennel, paprika, red pepper flakes, basil, oregano, marjoram, savory, rosemary, sage, coriander)). The Italians I have talked to about Italian food are purists. They believe that in order to have the best food possible you need to be true to that food and not bling it up with complications. Like a tomato sauce is either flavored with onion OR garlic, but not both. However, in Italy, they have access to beautiful produce and foods, not hothouse tomatoes and Chinese garlic. Put the meat aside, drain off any excess fat. In a big pot heat up some baking olive oil and fry your onion and carrot until soft. Then add the tomato and water. Bring to a boil and then simmer. Add the meat after the top of the sauce gets a shimmery look to it and then simmer some more. One hour is usually enough time to get the sauce to the right sweetness, but it never hurts to wait a little longer. Salt and pepper to taste. The Italians say it is ok to add oregano 😉