Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Traditional Lasagna (Lasagne Tradizionali)... DIY From Scratch

Pin It Now!

The stuff of legends and Fat Cat dreams.

A centuries old recipe that in the last few decades has evolved.  From spinach noodles to cottage cheese; vegetable to seafood; Chicken to Lamb... I even saw one that layers potato slices and leaves out the noodles (conveniently enough called lasagna noodles).  Seems you can slap payers of about anything into a 9X13 pan and call it lasagna.  Some day I may tackle "52 Lasagnas", but I am a believer that you don't know where you can go without knowing where you have been.  Meaning before you start monkeying with a recipe you ought to know the basic traditional.

So, I tackled the traditional.

Basically, you need the noodles.  Sure, store bought is fine, but why not MAKE YOUR OWN FRESH PASTA.  The flat noodle you need is the easiest to make.  You can even make them without a pasta machine, just a rolling pin to get them thin, thin, thin.

And of course you need a great sauce.

As I posted yesterday, traditional Italians make a FESTIVAL SAUCE, LOADED with meat, soffritto (vegetables) and the tomato sauce.  Sure, a jarred sauce and a pound of hamburger will work, but this is so much more with the vegetables sauteed along with the meat so all the meat drippings become a part of the sauce.  Simply loaded with flavor.

A Traditional Lasagna calls for a a Bechamel Sauce, one of the CLASSIC sauces of French cuisine (adopted by the Italians (some Italians say stolen by the French, but I digress... ).  Often called a white sauce, it is thickened milk (thickened with a roux (equal parts butter and flour)). Seasoned with Onion, Nutmeg and a Bay Leaf.

There is considered an Italian version of cooking the sauce which differs slightly from the classic French version.  The French Chefs will make the roux and add milk and heat.  Italians will heat the milk and then add the already made roux.  I tried this for the first time and it worked perfect.  It cut the time of making the sauce, it thickened fast and was ready to use in about half the time.  I also made an Onion Bechamel for this.

Onion Bechamel Sauce

  • 1 Quart Whole Milk
  • 1 Small Onion, Minced
  • 1 Whole Bay Leaf (to be removed when the Roux is added)
  • A Big Pinch Nutmeg
  • A Big Pinch Salt
  • Several Turns of a Pepper Grinder
  • 6 TBS Butter
  • 6 TBS Flour
  • 1 TBS Whole Milk, more as needed
Cooking Directions
  1. In a large sauce pan, over medium high heat, bring the milk to a slow simmer, add the onion, bay leaf, nutmeg, salt and pepper.
  2. Meanwhile, make your Roux, in a small saute pan, melt the butter over medium heat.
  3. Add the flour and whisk until combined. This is a white sauce, so cook only until well combined. Do not brown the butter or roux. Whisk, whisk, whisk continually for 2 minutes.
  4. Add the Roux to the gently simmering milk and whisk to combine.
  5. Add additional milk a TBS at a time to thin as needed. For a lasagna, the sauce should be the consistency of soft serve yogurt after it has been left out room temperature for a few minutes... soft soft serve.
  6. Use in many many dishes and ENJOY!
OK, once you have all of the ingredients, it is a matter of assembly.  Really Really old school, you can make this without any additional cheese.  I used some grated mozzarella in mine.

I Like Cheese...

Here's what I did...

Traditional Lasagna 
(Lasagne Tradizionali)

  • 18 Sheets of Fresh Pasta
  • 1 Quart Bechamel Sauce
  • 1 Gallon Festival Ragu Sauce
  • 1 Pound Mozzarella Cheese, Grated
  • 1/4 Cup finely grated Parmesan
  • Slivers of fresh basil For Garnish
Cooking Directions
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
  2. First, have all of the sauces ready. The Ragu is best if it simmers in it's own juices for at least an hour or two. The Bechamel is best made fresh right before it is to be used. If you make it more than 5 minutes before use, cover the top with a sheet of plastic wrap to keep a skin from forming.
  3. Have the pasta made, but wait to cook until right before assembly. You are going to bake this dish, so be sure to cook the pasta al Dente. If you are using dry pasta cook for 2 minutes laess than what the package recommends. If you are using fresh made, 2 minutes in boiling salt water is fine.
  4. And now, assemble your layers...
  5. Little Ragu, single layer of Pasta, Little bechamel, Little Mozzarella, Little Parmesan
  6. Repeat making 4 layers, ending with the Ragu. Top the final layer of Mozzarella in batches so the red shines through making a patchwork look.
  7. Bake for 40 minutes until the cheese is slightly browning and the sauce is bubbly.
  8. Allow to cool for 20 minutes or longer before cooking. Longer you wiat the better the layers hold together when you serve.
  9. Serve WARM AND ENJOY!!!


Everything old is new again, I have eaten so many "Specialty" Lasagnas over the last few years I feel like I have forgotten the original, the classic comfort food.  The component that is probably most ignored in newer versions would be the bechamel sauce.  But the nutmeg and creamy sauce mixing with the thick meaty ragu really sets this apart.  And remember that ragu is loaded with the Italian vegetable Soffritto (Onions, Carrots and Celery) that add a sweet Earthy flavor.

All in All, this is your Italian Grandmother's Lasagne!

My fresh thin lasagna noodles absorb the liquids as the dish bakes, making them grow and thicken.  And of course the cheese that melds into the ragu that melds into the bechamel just makes this traditional, original, the BEST!


So,  I am pleased to list this as one of my Growing list of  "52 Authentic Italian Recipes"!!!

Well over 52 recipes actually as I just can't stop. The world's most popular cuisine, authentic, natural, organic, Farm to Table... the Italians started, perfected or embraced it before it became a fad. This page is a guide to Italian Cooking... For the home cook!  So, Cin Cin (toast) and Buon Appetito (Enjoy your Meal) to you all and let's Cook authentic Italian!


Come and find me on Pinterest... Any of my "52 Ways to cook" Boards are worth following.  If you like this post, please take a second and "Pin" this to your own boards... Better yet, if you are part of a foodie group board please take a second and add this post to your group pins... best way to show your Love!

And BTW, if you are not yet part of a group board, drop me an email at and request to be added to my group board... FAVORITE FOOD BLOGGERS! (be sure to include your pinterest ID when you write)  Once you are added, any pins you add will be seen by 10s of THOUSANDS of followers of the board (and growing daily).

Rules, only 2... 
  1. In order to join you need to start following the group board as well as at least one of my boards.
  2. And you must ONLY pin original sources, posts from food related bloggers only.  If you are a blogger, this is a great way to have thousands of potential readers see your work,  If you are a fan of bloggers, a great way to share your favorites...
    Come and be a part of ... FAVORITE FOOD BLOGGERS! on Pinterest

No comments:

Post a Comment