Lasagna al forno

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traditional lasagna with bechamel and meat sacue - time consuming but delicious

Preparation time: 3.5 + hours
Cooking time: 2 hours + 50 min.

Serves: 6


Meat Sauce:

30 g (1 oz) butter
1 onion, finely chopped
1 small carrot, finely chopped
1/2 celery stalk, finely chopped
1 garlic clove, crushed
120 g (4.5 oz) pancetta, sliced
500 g (1 lb 2 oz) ground beef
1/4 tsp dried oregano
pinch nutmeg
90 g (3.5 oz) chicken livers, trimmed and finely chopped
75 ml (1/3 cup) dry vermouth or dry white wine
350 ml (12 fl oz) beef stock
1 tbsp tomato paste
2 tbsp thick (double/heavy) cream
1 egg, beaten

Bechamel Sauce:
65 g (2.5 oz) butter
40 g (1.5 oz) all purpose flour
pinch nutmeg
625 ml (2.5 cups) milk
1 bay leaf
125 ml (1/2 cup) thick (heavy/double) cream

6 broad sheets fresh or dried lasagna
150 g (5.5 oz) mozzarella cheese, grated
60 g (2 1/4 oz) parmesan cheese, grated


To make the meat sauce, heat the butter in a frying pan and add the vegetables, garlic and pancetta. Cook over a moderately low heat for 5-6 minutes, or until softened. Add the beef, increase the heat a little and cook for 8 minutes, or until coloured but not browned, stirring to break up the lumps. Add the oregano and nutmeg and season well.

Stir in the chicken livers and cook until they change colour. Pour in the vermouth, increase the heat and cook until it has evaporated. Add the beef stock and tomato paste and simmer for 2 hours. Add a little hot water, if necessary, during this time to keep the mixture moist, but towards the end let all the liquid be absorbed. Stir in the cream, remove from the heat and leave to cool for 15 minutes. Stir in the egg.

To make the bechamel sauce, heat the butter in a saucepan over a low heat. Add the flour and nutmet and cook, stirring, for one minute. Remove from the heat and gradually stir in the milk. Add the bay leaf, return to the heat and simmer, stirring often, until the sauce thickens. Season, cover with plastic wrap to prevent a skin forming, and cool. Discard the bay leaf.

Put the bechamel in a saucepan, heat gently and stir in the cream. Remove from the heat and cool slightly. Preheat the oven to 350F and grease a 22 x 15 x 7 cm (8.5 x 6 x 2.5") ovenproof dish.

If using fresh pasta, cut it into manageable sheets. Cook the pasta in batches in a large saucepan of boiling salted water until al dente. Scoop out each batch with a slotted spoon as it is done and drop into a bowl of cold water. Spread the sheets out in a single layer on a tea towel, turning them over once to blot each side dry. Trim any torn edges.

Spread half the meat sauce in the dish. Scatter with half the mozzarella, then cover with a slightly overlapping layer of pasta sheets. Spread half the bechamel over and and sprinkle with half the parmesan. Repeat the layers, finishing with a layer of bechamel and parmesan.

Bake for about 40 minutes until golden brown and leave to rest for 10 minutes before serving.

From Joanne Glynn's "Slow Cooking: Not So Fast Food".

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