Region: Italy, Emilia-Romagna
Difficulty: Easy but labor intensive
The Italian name of this dish usually refers to lasagna from Emilia-Romagna, Lombardy or the Piedmont that combines meat ragù and Béchamel sauce and topped with breadcrumbs that are baked golden. Some cooks add chopped chicken giblets to the sauce. In Umbria, they make a similar lasagne with prosciutto, fresh porcini mushrooms, and fresh white truffles added to the sauce.
[photo: Clifford A. Wright]
Yield: Makes 6 servings
Preparation Time: 2 hours
1 recipe Homemade White Flour and Egg Lasagna or 1 pound commercial lasagne
1 recipe Béchamel sauce (see below)
1 ounce dried mushrooms
6 tablespoons unsalted butter
6 fresh sage leaves
1 garlic clove, crushed
3/4 pound ground beef
1 large egg
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/4 pound cooked ham, chopped
1/2 cup dry white wine
1 cup Beef Broth (see below)
1 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
1 pound fresh mozzarella, diced tiny
1/2 cup fresh breadcrumbs
1. Prepare the lasagna.
2. Prepare the Béchamel sauce.
3. Soak the dried mushrooms in warm water for 30 minutes. Drain, chop, and set aside. In a butter warmer, melt 4 tablespoons of butter with the sage and garlic.
4. In a bowl, knead together the ground beef, egg, salt and pepper. Form the meat into small balls the size of a walnut. Place the meatballs in a lightly oiled skillet and cook over medium heat until browned on all sides, about 5 minutes. Remove and set aside.
5. In a large skillet, melt the remaining 2 tablespoons butter over medium heat, then cook the ham and mushrooms until soft, about 10 minutes. Add the meatballs and cook for 2 minutes. Pour in the wine and when it has reduced significantly, about 4 minutes, pour in the beef broth. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Reduce the heat to low and simmer, shaking the pan occasionally, for 30 minutes. Mix this sauce into the Béchamel sauce. If the sauce is too liquid, reduce over medium-high heat, stirring frequently for 8 minutes.
6. Bring a large pot of water to a rolling boil. Salt abundantly and drop the pasta in gradually. Drain the lasagne when less than half-cooked and transfer to a pot of cold water until needed so they don’t stick together. (Skip this step if using fresh homemade lasagne or instant no-boil lasagne).
7. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
8. Remove the garlic and sage from the melted butter and discard them; use ¼ of the butter to coat the bottom of a 12 x 9 x 2-inch (approximately) baking casserole. Cover the bottom with a layer of lasagna, then a sprinkle of Parmigiano-Reggiano, mozzarella, and finally sauce. Continue in this order, finishing with sauce. Cover the sauce with the breadcrumbs and drizzle with the remaining melted butter. Bake for 30 minutes or until the breadcrumb topping begins to turn a dark brown.
You can save some of the mushroom soaking liquid to add to the sauce if you like.