This month Tatiana gives us a step by step guide to making the perfect family supper dish, lasagne. This recipe serves 4 but the ingredients can easily be doubled up to cater for a crowd.
Mr Marmalade’s Obsession
When I first met Mr Marmalade Cookery School (also known as Dave) I noticed that if we were to go out for dinner and lasagne was on the menu, Dave wouldn’t be able to help himself, he simply had to order it.
After some time and a lot of lasagne disappointments I realised he was on a quest for the perfect dish and decided that it was time for me to give it a try.
We spent months testing some good lasagne and some not so good ones until I reached our version of a perfect lasagne.
ENOUGH FOR 1 LASAGNE FOR 4 PEOPLE
Now I know that you are used to seeing pasta recipes using type “00” flour, but that was one of the biggest lessons we learned in Italy; type “00” is pizza flour and “Semola di grano duro” is the real pasta flour. Italians don’t normally use eggs in their pasta, just water. However, sometimes when they want to make it a bit special they replace the water with eggs and add a tiny bit of good oil as we are doing here.
Ingredients for the pasta:
200g Semola di grano duro flour
2 Large free range eggs
1 Tsp of sea salt, ground
1 Tsp of Extra virgin Olive Oil (optional)
Making the Dough:
Start by pouring the flour into a bowl or onto the work surface, gathering it into a pile, adding the salt, and forming a well in the middle of the flour.
Tip #1: For an authentic Italian pasta use the Semola de grano duro which you can find in Italian delis, or online. However if you can’t find it you can use Type ‘00’ flour.
Tip #2: Because all flours absorb liquid differently I have a little trick to guarantee my pasta will never be too dry. When you measure your flour, reserve 20g. You can add it later if it’s too wet but once it’s in you can’t take it out.
Crack your eggs into the well (pic 1) and add the olive oil (pic 2) . Incorporate the eggs and oil into the flour with a fork. Once the fork teeth become clogged, clean them off and begin using your fingers to do the same thing until it’s all roughly mixed together.
Tip #3: Olive oil is not always present in pasta dough but I love it and think it makes for better pasta.
Once the dough begins to stick together (pic 3), form it into a ball. Now it is time to knead. Use the heel of your hand to push the dough away from you, then fold the flap back towards you and give it a quarter turn. Press down on another section of the dough and do the same thing. The dough will be stiff-textured and hard to work with. If it feels sticky add some of your extra 20g of flour. Knead it for 10 minutes or until the dough is smooth.
Tip #4: If you want to introduce any flavour or colour this is the moment to do it so try blanched and finely chopped spinach for green pasta, squid ink for black or sweet paprika for red.
Resting the Dough:
After you have kneaded your dough and it’s feeling nice and smooth and soft, shape it into a neat ball, cover it with a clean tea-towel or sheet of plastic wrap and let it rest in the fridge for at least 30 minutes.
Tip #5: 1-2 hours is even better. It may not sound important but you must not skip the resting step — it’s crucial!
Rolling the Dough:
After the dough has rested long enough (it should be more pliable and easier to work with), cut the ball of dough into four pieces (pic 4). Put three back under the towel or plastic wrap so they don’t dry out. Flatten the fourth one with your palm or a rolling pin.
Clamp the pasta machine to the edge of a table and set the machine so that its rollers are at their widest setting. Flour your machine well. Feed the flattened ball of dough through the rollers a few times, folding it over each time before you push it through. This will help further knead and smooth the dough.
Tip #6: If you don’t have a pasta machine you can still make fresh pasta, just use a rolling pin, but I must warn you, you are in for a workout.
Then begin to feed the dough through on successively narrower settings until you’ve reached your desired thickness (pic 5).
Tip #7: For lasagne, this will probably be the machine’s penultimate setting as you don’t want your pasta to be too thin.
The dough will get quite long and ribbon like during this process. You may find that you need an extra pair of hands to either “catch” the dough or to turn the handle while you catch it.
Tip #8: Don’t worry if the edges are rough or torn, or if the dough is not perfect (it probably won’t be). You can patch it or fold it over and put it through the machine again to even it out.
Once you have your sheets of pasta (pic 6), lay them down to rest under a tea towel or cling film until you are ready to use them.
Tip #9: Make sure to put plenty of flour in between your sheets of pasta to prevent them from sticking together.
At this stage you can cut your pasta into the shape of your choice, either with the cutting attachment on your pasta machine or with a sharp knife.
Suco de Carne
(Tomato meat sauce)
ENOUGH FOR 1 LASAGNE
Suco de Carne, also known as Bolognese sauce is a corner stone in Italian cuisine and it must be treated with respect. There is no such thing as a quick Bolognese so take your time and you will be repaid.
3 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 Medium onion, finely diced
1 Carrot, finely diced
1/2 Stick celery, finely diced
1 Garlic clove, diced
225g Ground beef, not too lean
60ml Dry white wine
550g Tomatoes, puréed in a blender
Pinch of nutmeg
2 Tablespoons milk
Start making the tomato and meat sauce by placing one tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil and 1 tablespoon of butter in a heavy bottom saucepan, and placing it over a medium heat. Once the butter starts to foam, add the meat and brown it all over. Once coloured remove the meat and reserve it.
Tip #11: Now I know this may seem unnecessary but the meat will caramelise and release its flavour into the fats and you’ll get a deeper flavour.
Add the rest of the olive oil, the butter, diced onion, carrot, celery, and garlic and lower the heat (pic 7). Sauté and stir until everything is soft, this will take about 15 minutes. Add the meat back in and give it all a good stir.
At this point add the wine and turn the heat to high to let the wine evaporate. Once reduced by at least half add the tomato, the nutmeg and the milk.
When the sauce starts boiling, turn the heat right down. Cover the saucepan and simmer slowly for about 1 hour, stirring occasionally.
Once you are happy with your sauce season with salt and pepper (pic 8).
ENOUGH FOR 1 LASAGNE
60g Plain flour
500ml Full fat milk
30g Parmigiano Reggiano, freshly grated
Pinch of nutmeg
Place the butter in a heavy bottom saucepan and turn the heat to low. When the butter is melted, remove the saucepan from the stove.
Sift the flour into the butter (pic 9) a little at a time stirring continuously to combine them. Only when all the flour is incorporated and with no visible lumps (pic 10) can you add the milk a little at a time. Start with just a few drops and work your way up to a continual stream.
Tip #12: If you warm your milk first it will help the incorporation of the liquid and it won’t form as many lumps that you then need to break down.
Put the saucepan back on the stove over a low heat and slowly stir with a wooden spoon, until the sauce starts thickening (pic 11).
Turn the heat off. Add salt, and stir in the grated Parmigiano cheese and a pinch of nutmeg (pic 12).
Suco de carne
Fresh pasta sheets, home-
made or shop bought
1 Teaspoon extra-virgin
180g Parmigiano Reggiano,
Preheat oven to 175C, 350F.
Butter an oven-proof dish approximately 22 x 30 cm and spread 2 to 3 tablespoons of your meat tomato sauce on the bottom.
Tip #13: This will prevent your bottom sheet of pasta from sticking to the bottom of your tray.
Place one layer of pasta on top. Try to cover as much of the area of the tray as possible, spread a layer of the meaty tomato sauce on top followed by a layer of béchamel sauce (pic 13) and a grating of Parmesan cheese.
Repeat the layers in this order until all ingredients are used up, making sure that the last layer is béchamel sauce.
Tip #14: Make sure that all your pasta is covered by the béchamel sauce or the pasta will dry and crisp up.
Sprinkle another bit of Parmesan on top and bake for about 25 to 30 minutes. Remove from the oven and rest it for 15 minutes before cutting into it to allow it to set.
Tip #15: To taste for readiness pierce the lasagne with a fork. When ready the lasagne will be soft.
Lasagne can be conveniently prepared in advance, refrigerated or frozen, to cook at a later date.