THE WRITER’S KITCHENETTE
BY PANCHAMEE HEWAVISSENTI
HOMEMADE ITALIAN LASAGNA
Lasagna is a popular dish all over the world which originated in Italy, during the Middle Ages and the first lasagna recipe is said to have been recorded in the 14th century. Since then, the recipe for lasagna has been evolving and today, large varieties of lasagna are available in restaurants around the world.
Many are reluctant to prepare lasagna at home due to the amount of time it takes to prepare the sauces required. It takes, approximately, 5 hours to prepare lasagna if you prepare the sauces at home as well. However, Béchamel and Bolognese sauces are available in supermarkets if you feel like you need to save the time. However, making sauces at home is always recommended, because homemade fresh sauces give an enhanced and authentic flavour to your homemade lasagna.
If you resolve to make sauces at home, you need to keep them ready before baking lasagna. So, let's start with Bolognese sauce!
INGREDIENTS NEEDED TO MAKE
lOlive oil- 50 ml
lOnion - 1 small, diced
lCarrot - 1, chopped
lCelery - ½ stalk, chopped
lGround beef – 450 g
lWhite wine- 100ml
lTomato puree - 800g or more if you prefer
lGround nutmeg – Pinch
lMilk - 75ml
Heat a large sauce pan over a medium heat and add butter and olive oil. Then add onion, celery, carrot and pinch of salt and sauté about 5 minutes until the onions become translucent.
Season the ground beef with salt, pepper and nutmeg. Add ground beef into the vegetable mix and stir well and cook for about five minutes until the pink hue of the meat disappears. Pour milk into the vegetable and ground beef mix and bring to a simmer. Cook the mix for about 5 minutes stirring constantly until most of the milk is evaporated.
Add white wine into the mix and stir well and cook the mix for about 5 minutes until most of the wine is evaporated. Add tomato puree and bring to simmer. Reduce the heat to low and let the mix simmer while stirring often. Cook the mix for about three hours until you get a thick sauce. This sauce can be cooked in less than three hours but if you want an enhanced flavour in the sauce, it should be cooked for about 3 to 4 hours.
Béchamel is a white sauce made of flour, butter and milk and is gluey in consistency. It is one of the main sauces of France and is used as the base for many sauces. Although béchamel sauce is a popular and one of the chief sauces found in France, the sauce was believed to have originated in Tuscany and was brought by the chefs of the Italian noblewoman, Catherine de Medici in 1533 when she became the Queen of France, the consort of King Henry II.
Béchamel sauce was known in the language of Tuscany as Salsa Colla or Colletta" ("gluey sauce").This white sauce of Tuscany was named after Luis De Béchameil Marquis de Nointel (1630-1703) a French financier and patron of the arts who was the honorary Chief Steward to the King Louis XIV.
INGREDIENTS NEEDED TO PREPARE
lUnsalted butter- 50g
lRefined flour- 50 g
PREPARATION OF BÉCHAMEL SAUCE
First, the butter should be softened. You may soften butter in many different ways such as cutting the butter into small chunks and then pounding with a rolling pin or setting the butter over a warm water bath. Then add the softened butter into the refined flour and knead. Heat a pan in medium high flame and add the butter and flour dough to make the roux. The roux shouldn't be cooked more than a minute.
The easiest way is to melt the butter in a saucepan over a medium high heat and add flour in to it. You can do adopt either way to make the roux. Then add milk into the roux, little at a time stirring well to avoid forming lumps. Bring this mix to boil while stirring for about 15 minutes. Add salt and pepper.
INGREDIENTS FOR LASAGNA
lBéchamel sauce – 4 cups
lBolognese sauce - 4 cups
lParmesan cheese - 2 cups, freshly grated
(approximately 200 g)
Heat the oven to 3500 F. Grease a baking dish and spread ¼ of the Béchamel sauce at the bottom. Add a layer of lasagna sheets. When adding the lasagna sheets, break them to fit the surface and cover it as much as possible. Spread béchamel sauce on top of pasta (lasagna) sheets and spread Bolognese sauce on top of it coveting the pasta sheets. Spread grated Parmesan cheese over the Bolognese sauce.
Repeat the process and add three more layers. Finally, add a layer of lasagna sheets top it with the remaining Béchamel and Parmesan cheese.
Bake this for about 30 minutes or leave it for about 10 more minutes if the crust doesn't appear golden brown.
Take the tray out of oven and leave for about 30 minutes to get cooled.
Tip: Make sure to spread plenty of sauce and to cover every inch of the tray to avoid cracker-crunchy spots and ends on your lasagna. When making Italian lasagna, you should always remember to use high quality cheese and ground beef as well as fresh vegetables.
Make lasagna at home instead of buying from restaurant and surprise your loved ones with an authentic Italian taste!
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