The other day, I stumbled across French Guy Cooking’s (as always) excellent video on 11 essential chef skills, where he demonstrates 11 skills while making lasanga.
Then, last Sunday, I was feeling bored and hungry, and remembered Alex’s video, and decided to try and make lasagne from scratch . But, instead of looking up a recipe, I tried recreating it from memory. One of my favourite past-times is what I’d call “free-form cooking”, where I try making dishes just by feel, without measuring anything if I can get away with it. You really can’t do it with baking, but with almost everything else.
So, I made lasagne from with only the following measurement; “1 egg / 100 grams of flour”, which is the basic recipe for pasta. The recipe that follows is an “as-built” version of what I ended up doing.
The tomato sauce needs to cook for the longest time, so I’ll start with that.
In a large cast iron pot (or whatever 4 liter large pot), fry the following ingredients in around 50 grams of butter and a splash of olive oil;
- 400 grams of minced beef (17% percent fat if you can get it)
- 400 grams of minced pork (high fat content as well)
Season the minced beef and pork with sea salt, freshly ground black pepper and a small splash of soy sauce. Let it fry for a bit and then add the vegetables.
- 1 cup of chopped carrots
- 1 cup of chopped onions
- 1 cup of chopped celery
- Couple of cloves of garlic, finely chopped
I use the term cup loosely, so approximately 1,5 dl of each vegetable.
When everything is nice and golden, add 2 cans of strained tomatoes (yes, canned, they are a lot more flavorful since they are picked at ultimate ripeness) and enough water to wash out the cans (a couple of dl in total)
Add a splash of red wine vinegar (or a bigger splash of red wine), a cube of beef stock (or a splash if you’ve got liquid stock concentrate), and season with oregano and thyme.
This then needs to boil for an hour or so on low heat. Leave the lid slightly cracked so that the sauce reduces properly.
Next we need to make the pasta dough.
Combine 750 grams of wheat flour (durum wheat (aka. semolina) is the best) with 8 eggs (adjust the amounts of eggs down one if you have larger eggs) whisked together with around 3 tablespoons of water. Do the Italian routine with the mound of flour with the eggs poured into the middle.
Knead until you get it into a solid ball, with the dough feeling soft and elastic (when you first get the dough together, it’ll feel more solid and flaky, getting softer and more elastic as you kneed it). Wrap the ball in cling film and refrigerate for 15 min to half an hour.
After refrigeration, shape the dough into 5 sheets (or 4 or 6 depending on the size of your pan) large enough to cover your pan. Get an assistant to do the rolling (either with a machine or with a rolling pin) while you make the béchamel sauce, aka. the white sauce.
Melt around 50 grams of butter in a sauce pan, and add 3 heaped tablespoons of flour (or a bit more if the flour doesn’t absorb all the butter), and cook the roux (that’s what the butter/flour in the pan is called) for a little while. Since we’re making lasange, we’re not too concerned about the texture of the sauce, so cook it until it starts getting ever so slightly yellow. Whisk in enough milk (around half a liter) to the sauce pan until you get a sauce that has a good viscosity, it should pass the spoon test but not be stiff enough for you to stand up the whisk in it.
Then we move on to assembly, put a layer of béchamel on the bottom of your roasting pan, put down a sheet of pasta, heap out the meat sauce into a uniform layer, add some more béchamel and grated cheese on top, add another sheet of pasta and repeat. All the meat sauce should be used in up in the inner layers. After placing the last sheet, coat it with béchamel and a thick layer of grated cheese.
Cook in the over at 180 degrees C (360 degrees F if I remember correctly) for 45 minutes covered with a sheet of aluminium foil. After that, remove the foil and cook for another 15 minutes.