02 Sep Lasagne Verdi al Forno (Baked Green Lasagne)
Lasagne Verdi al Forno (Baked Green Lasagne)
2 September 2020
PREP. TIME: 3 - 4 hours - COOK TIME: 35 MIN - SERVES: 6
Lasagne Verdi alla Bolognese is a popular dish throughout Italy but has its origins from Emilia Romagna. This rich and satisfying dish would often grace the tables of families on a Sunday, holidays or any occasion where a large group of people was assembled for a meal. A small selection of crostini may precede it with an aperitivo. It needs no more than a salad to follow and a selection of seasonal fruit and nuts to finish.
Lasagne Verdi simply translates as lasagne sheets coloured green by incorporating spinach into the pasta dough. I know this may sound like a bother and I delayed ever doing it until recently. It is a game changer though and when passed through the pasta machine until virtually gossamer thin - you are well on your way to creating a standout dish worthy of any occasion. The sheets of pasta are layered with a slowly simmered, flavoursome Bolognese meat ragù. This is combined with a thin but creamy béchamel sauce. Each layer is sprinkled with Parmigiano Reggiano and it all culminates in a beautifully hand-made pasta dish which is one of the most sumptuous of the region.
There is no need to balk at the prep time. All of the components of the dish can be made in advance. The dish can even be assembled one or two days ahead and refrigerated until you are ready to heat and serve it. My friends in Italy often recall with fondness though of waking to the aromas of the ragù gently simmering on the stove on a Sunday morning . The mother or cook would be out of bed well ahead of the rest of the household to attend to the ragù before whipping up a béchamel sauce and then turning her hand to make the lasagne sheets from scratch. It would be slipped into the oven in time to bake and be served for lunch.
No wonder Italian boys are so attached to their mothers!
Click on the links in the Ingredients list for the recipe and notes for each component of the dish.
ingredients for 4 - 6
For the Fresh Pasta Dough with Spinach
2 Cups Unbleached, All Purpose, Organic Flour
3 Extra Large Eggs
2 Tablespoons finely chopped, freshly cooked or frozen spinach, squeezed dry.
1 Recipe Ragù alle Bolognese to step 6. Add the milk and simmer.
1 Cup thin Béchamel Sauce seasoned with salt and pepper and a pinch of nutmeg
1 Cup freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano
2 Tablespoons of Unsalted Butter, cut into small cubes
Scalloped pastry wheel or sharp knife
Large pot to cook the lasagne sheets
Large skimmer or slotted spoon
Large bowl or sink of cold water
Clean Tea Towels
Lasagne Pan approx 30 x 20 x 7cm
Step 1 Make the Pasta Dough
Using the quantities of flour, eggs, and spinach above - prepare the pasta dough in accordance with the recipe on this link.
Roll out the pasta dough using a pasta machine, following the directions in the Pasta Dough recipe. The thinner the pasta the more delectable the dish will be - ideally roll out to a thickness of setting number 7 or 8 on your machine.
Cut the dough to fit into your lasagne dish using a scalloped pastry wheel or a sharp knife.
Step 2 Cook the Lasagne Sheets
Place a large bowl of cold water on the bench close to the stove and arrange some clean tea towels near the bowl.
Bring a large pot of water to the boil, add a handful of salt and 3 - 4 sheets of pasta.
After the pasta comes back to the boil, cook the pasta sheets for no more than 20 - 25 seconds - no more.
Lift the sheets out using a large slotted spoon - taking care not to tear them, and plunge them into the cold water to cool.
Pick up the strips one at a time and rinse under cold running water, rubbing them gently - Marcella Hazen says 'as if you were doing fine hand laundry'. Squeeze each strip gently before arranging in a single layer on a clean tea towel. Cover with another dry tea towel and continue layering the cooked sheets on clean tea towels.
** It is very important to rinse the cooked strips in this manner - it washes off the starch from the pasta surfaces and prevents them sticking to the tea towels.
Cooking the pasta for as few as 20 - 25 seconds keeps it firm and stops it becoming mushy when cooking.
Preheat the Oven to 200C.
Generously grease the bottom and sides of the lasagne dish with butter.
Step 4 - Assembly of the dish
Add the béchamel sauce to the ragù and mix well to combine.
Taste the mixture and add more salt and pepper as needed.
Smear a little of the ragu mixture across the base of the lasagne dish.
Cover with a layer of lasagne sheets, trimming them to fit the pan if necessary (Use the pastry wheel or a small sharp knife to do this).
Spread a thin layer of ragù mixture over the pasta and sprinkle with Parmigiano Reggiano.
Repeat the process - one layer of pasta, a layer of ragù, and a sprinkle of Parmigiano.
You should aim to create 6 - 7 thin layers of pasta sheets and ragù mixture. Take care to reserve enough of the ragù for the very top layer.
Dot the top layer with cubes of butter and sprinkle with a little more parmigiano reggiano.
(You can assemble the dish to this point 1 -2 days in advance. Cover it tightly with clingfilm and keep refrigerated. Remove from the fridge an hour or two before baking).
Place the lasagne on the upper rack of the oven and bake until the top of the lasagne is lightly golden and bubbling - 15 - 20 minutes.
If you are reheating the lasagne - cover the dish with foil and bake in the oven for 20 minutes to warm through.
Remove the lasagne from the oven, remove the foil and sprinkle the lasagne with 2 tablespoons Parmigiano Reggiano.
Return to the oven and proceed as above.
Remove from the oven and let settle for a few minutes before serving.
Step 6 To Serve
Take the lasagne to the table in the dish it was cooked in.
Cut into portions and serve with a salad and a bottle of Chianti or as the Bolognese like to do - with a dry, lightly sparkling Lambrusco of Emilia Romagna.
Recipe by Biba Caggiano, Biba's Taste of Italy; Marcella Hazen, The Essentials of Italian Cooking.
Adapted by Elizabeth Peddey
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