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Recipe Thursday-Classic Italian Lasagna

Posted on January 13th, 2011 | Posted in Casserole, Main Course, Recipes

I’ve been craving lasagna for a while, and more importantly wanted to make my own. So knowing that I would be having company on Wednesday night I decided this was the perfect occasion! I decided to use Giada De Laurentiis’s Classic Italian Lasagna recipe  from Everyday Italian. I had not used this cookbook enough so I wanted to give this recipe a shot. When I told my father that I’d be making lasagna he made sure that I used the “good” ricotta cheese without whey! I used Maggio’s whole milk ricotta which, we sell. I began on Monday making the bechamel sauce, and then made the rest of the recipe on Tuesday night. Everyone enjoyed the lasagna. The dish was indeed very tasty and rich in flavor and had a nice creaminess to it, but was not overly cheesy, which sometimes overwhelms other lasagnas. However with this being said I would make a few alterations to the recipe next time I make it. I’d use a mixture of ground beef and Italian sausage to add some additional flavor. I’d mix the meat mixture with the tomato sauce to juice up that layer and sub the middle bechamel layer with tomato sauce. Lastly, I’d season the spinach with salt, pepper, and lemon juice before putting on that layer. Enjoy!

Classic Italian Lasagna


Yield 8 Servings

Ingredients

Bechamel Sauce:

5 tablespoons unsalted butter, plus 2 tablespoons for the lasagna (880024)

1/2 cup all-purpose flour (991867)

4 cups whole milk at room temperature (HPH004)

pinch ground nutmeg (CQN061)

Lasagna:

1 1/2 cups tomato sauce, recipe follows

Salt and white pepper (CQS030/CQP094)

1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil (992055)

1 pound ground beef (222022)

Salt and pepper (CQS030/CQP065)

1 1/2 pounds ricotta cheese (HPH203)

3 large eggs (EGG011)

1 pound lasagna sheets, cooked al dente (991520)

2 packages (10 ounces each) frozen chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed dry (559613)

3 cups shredded mozzarella (775553)

1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese (775628)

Method

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

Bechamel sauce:

In a 2-quart pot, melt 5 tablespoons of butter over medium heat. When butter has completely melted, add the flour and whisk until smooth, about 2 minutes. Gradually add the milk, whisking constantly to prevent any lumps from forming. Continue to simmer and whisk over medium heat until the sauce is thick, smooth and creamy, about 10 minutes. The sauce should be thick enough to coat the back of wooden spoon. Remove from heat and add the nutmeg and tomato sauce. Stir until well combined and check for seasoning. Set aside and allow to cool completely. The bechamel sauce can be made up to 3 days in advance.

In a saute pan, heat extra-virgin olive oil. When almost smoking, add the ground beef and season with salt and pepper. Brown meat, breaking any large lumps, until it is no longer pink. Remove from heat and drain any excess fat. Set aside and allow to cool completely.

In a medium sized bowl, thoroughly mix the ricotta and eggs. Season with salt and pepper. Set aside.

Into the bottom of a 13 by 9-inch baking dish, spread 1/3 of the bechamel sauce. Arrange the pasta sheets side by side, covering the bottom of the baking dish. Evenly spread a layer of all the ricotta mixture and then a layer of all the spinach. Arrange another layer of pasta sheets and spread all the ground beef on top. Sprinkle 1/2 the mozzarella cheese on top of the beef. Spread another 1/3 of the bechamel sauce. Arrange the final layer of pasta sheets and top with remaining bechamel, mozzarella and Parmesan cheeses.

Line a large baking sheet with aluminum foil. Place lasagna dish on top, cover and put on the middle rack of the oven and bake until top is bubbling, about 30 minutes. Remove cover and continue to bake for about 15 minutes.

Simple Tomato Sauce

2 small onions, chopped
3 garlic cloves, chopped (whole 991057/chopped 991058)
2 celery stalks, chopped
2 carrots, peeled and chopped
sea salt (CQS031)
pepper, freshly ground (CQP071)
1 can (32oz) crushed tomatoes (990309)
1 can (32oz) tomato puree (990313)
2 dried bay leaves (CQB011)

In a large casserole pot or Dutch over, heat oil over medium high heat. Add onion and garlic and saute until soft and translucent, about 5 to 10 minutes. Add celery and carrots and season with salt and pepper. Saute until all the vegetables are soft, about 10 minutes. Add tomatoes and bay leaves and simmer uncovered on low heat for 1 hour or until thick. Remove bay leaves and check for seasoning. If sauce still tastes acidic, add unsalted butter, 1 tablespoon at a time to round out the flavors.

If not using all the sauce, allow it to cool completely and pour 1 to 2 cup portions into freezer plastic bags. This will freeze up to 6 months.

Recipe from Everyday Italian Cookbook, by Giada De Laurentiis

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