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La Belle Cuisine
Those of you familiar with LBC know full well that we have many, many
Too many? Of course not!
Be that as it may, we have been on what amounts to a life-long quest for
the (to us) perfect lasagne recipe. I started out, as many of us do, with my
mother's recipe (Gigi's Lasagne). Don't get me wrong - it's great - but I
followed the recipe to the letter only once. Sound familiar? The trouble
is that as the years went by I added, subtracted, tweaked and refined, but
neglected to take notes as I went along. Oh no! How then could I ever
pass along to anyone My Lasagne Recipe? Alas, I could not...
Then along came MamaSteph. It took not more than a minute or two at
most glancing over her blog to discover that she had actually come very
close indeed to meeting my criteria! I loved the idea of Gigi's bechamel/
mornay sauce, as it was one of the things that set her recipe apart. Our
family always raved about it! But I wanted a ricotta layer too, so I came
up with something practically identical to the one you will see below.
Gigi's meat sauce is excellent, but I found it too heavy for lasagne. It
seemed to overpower the whole dish. There's more, but you get the
idea, no? My point is that the next time I make REAL lasagna, my
recipe of choice will be MamaSteph's Way to Make Lasagna!
A Way to Make Lasagna
Recipe courtesy MamaStephf.com
"Sometimes I imagine myself in long-ago Italy, in some dark, earth-
toned kitchen with a big stone hearth and lots of wood on the fire for
baking bread among the embers in terra cotta baking pans. I imagine an
older woman teaching me, with
her long gray hair in a bun on the back
of her head and a long cotton dress with
an apron tied around her waist
and reaching all the way to the floor, how to bake
her kind of bread
and make her kind of lasagna as she speaks to me in her
English, struggling to make the silly American woman understand
she knows instinctively.
When I open my eyes, I’m back in my bright little yellow and white
dark wood floors. I love it here, but I miss the Italy I’ve
never really been to.
And she’s not here; Lucia or Sophia or whatever the lovely old woman’s name
might be. So I reach beyond my little world out in the country on
our three little
acres in East Texas by opening up my laptop, the very
laptop I’m writing these
paragraphs on for you, and try to discover
whispers of her voice:
'This is a way to make lasagna…'
I quickly found that there are many, many recipes for lasagna on various
sites. As a matter of fact, when I Googled 'lasagna recipe,' in .20 of
I received links to 1,460,000 results! Wow, Google, I don’t
have that kind of
time. [Neither do I!]
I went to the Food Network, and Giada De Laurentis, she of gigantic
and often inappropriate cooking attire, but of Italian descent, had
a recipe for
'classic Italian lasagna,' which included a béchamel sauce.
I zeroed in on this,
as I just learned how to make a good béchamel
sauce in cooking class from
Chef Jackson at Edom Bakery.
In this recipe, you make your own tomato sauce from vegetables (car-
celery, onion, and garlic) which you sauté in olive oil, then add to
of crushed tomatoes, and simmer it all for over an hour. I
I was excited to make my own tomato sauce, béchamel sauce,
and put together a real
lasagna. (I confess here and now that my family
likes a Stouffer’s Meat
Lasagna, so I buy those on occasion. I’ve always thought them too sweet,
however, and wanted to make my own.) [YES!]
As I began working through Giada’s recipe, I noticed that there were
missing that I thought should be included. Like herbs! Sheesh,
Giada. No oregano, no basil, nothing? I thought you were Italian?
So let me give you
the recipe that Giada, Lucia or Sophia or whatever
her name might be, and I
came up with together. I thought it was really
delicious, in the end, though I’ll probably continue to tweak it as time
goes by to make it my version of perfect. That’s something different
to everyone, isn’t it?
The MamaSteph Lasagna
a variation of Giada’s recipe,
which can be found
5 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
4 cups whole milk at
Pinch freshly grated nutmeg
Salt and white pepper
In a 2-quart pot, melt 5 tablespoons of butter over medium heat. Do not
allow butter to brown. When butter has completely melted, add the flour
and whisk until smooth, about 2 minutes. Gradually add the milk, whisk-
ing 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 a bit of salt,
to taste. Stir until well combined. Set aside and allow to cool completely.
Yes, I see the lumps. We came to an agreement and they left.
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 pound ground pork or beef
1/2 to 1 pound ground Italian sausage *
Salt and pepper
If you have no Italian sausage but like the flavor of it,
in some fennel seed. That’s what gives Italian
Brown the meat in heated olive oil, season with salt and pepper to taste,
and set aside.
1 1/2 pounds ricotta cheese
3 large eggs
1 cup grated parmesan
Thoroughly mix ricotta, eggs, and parmesan together in a mixing bowl.
Simple tomato sauce:
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 small onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 stalk celery, chopped
1 carrot, chopped
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 (32-ounce) cans crushed tomatoes
(No one seems to sell 32-ounce cans. I
think they’re really 28 ounces or so.)
2 dried bay leaves
Italian seasoning, or oregano, basil, etc.,
dried or fresh [your choice]
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, optional
[The only thing I would add is a pinch,
and I do mean a PINCH, of sugar,
to cut the acidity of the tomatoes.]
In a large soup pot or Dutch oven, heat oil over medium-high heat. Add
onion and garlic and sauté until soft and translucent, about 5 to 10 minutes. Add celery and carrots and season with salt and pepper. Sauté until all the vegetables are soft, about 5 to 10 minutes. Add tomatoes and bay leaves
and simmer uncovered on low heat for 1 hour or until thick. Use Italian seasoning, or, individually, dried or fresh basil and oregano, and stir into sauce. (saving them until near the end of cooking time keeps them from becoming bitter.) 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.
Add 1/2 the tomato sauce into the bowl of a food processor. Process until smooth. Continue with remaining tomato sauce.
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. It’s
entirely up to you how much sauce you end up using. Some families
prefer really saucy dishes, others don’t.
Oh, and let’s not forget the pasta! Giada uses lasagna sheets that you boil before using. I thought, if I’m going to be using all these burners to make these different sauces, I’m not going to have a spare one to boil water for pasta. I decided to try out Skinner’s Oven-Ready pasta sheets.]YES!]
They worked great! I shall never boil lasagna sheets again. I used one
8-ounce box, I believe it was.
Combine the béchamel sauce and pureed tomato sauce. (Giada only adds
1 1/2 cups of tomato sauce. I added several cups. You do it your way!)
It becomes a lovely pink color. Taste it to make sure you’re happy. If
not, add what you think it needs.
Pull out a nice, deep 9×13 pan to
bake in. You can layer this, really, any way that you want to.
I did the following:
Layer of tomato sauce mixture on bottom of pan.
Layer of pasta sheets.
Layer of ricotta mixture.
Layer of meat mixture.
Layer of mozzarella.
Repeat. Finish by topping with mozzarella, and some grated parmesan
you have some left over.
Line a large baking sheet with aluminum foil. Place lasagna dish on top,
cover (I tented with foil) 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. [It's best to allow the lasagne to "rest" for
about 10 to 15minutes before you cut into it or it may be too soupy.]
I think it’s beautiful! I served it, of course, with garlic bread, and every-
in my house enjoyed it!
You can compare the appearance of mine to Giada’s; hers looks different from mine, I think. Maybe it’s that she has a professional photographer working for her?
(Oh, by the way, she used a layer of spinach, as you’ll notice in her pic;
I omitted so the whole family would eat it. You should try that if you’re
a spinach-loving family!) [I was surprised to see that a 'Classic Lasagna'
recipe included spinach! How about you?]
This, of course, was a process that took several hours. I enjoyed it because
it was chilly outside, I was home alone with a football game on t.v., and I
just felt like creating something delicious and hearty. When you’re in that
kind of mood, a frozen $10 lasagna from Walmart just won’t do. If you’re
up for the challenge, do try this..." [YES! Please do yourself and your
family a tremendous favor! It will probably be most therapeutic for all.]
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