Thursday, September 13, 2007

Classic Italian Lasagna


Bechamel Sauce

5 tablespoons unsalted butter, plus 2 tablespoons for the lasagna
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
4 cups whole milk at room temperature
Pinch freshly grated nutmeg
1 1/2 cups tomato sauce, recipe follows
Salt and white pepper

1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 pound ground chuck beef
Salt and pepper
1 1/2 pounds ricotta cheese
3 large eggs
1 pound lasagna sheets, cooked al dente
2 packages (10 ounces each) frozen chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
3 cups shredded mozzarella
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan


Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

Bechamel sauce:

In a 2-quart pot, melt 5 tablespoons of butter over medium heat. When
butter has completely melted, add the flour and whisk until smooth,
about 2 minutes. Gradually add the milk, whisking constantly to
prevent any lumps from forming. Continue to simmer and whisk over
medium heat until the sauce is thick, smooth and creamy, about 10
minutes. The sauce should be thick enough to coat the back of wooden
spoon. Remove from heat and add the nutmeg and tomato sauce. Stir
until well combined and check for seasoning. Set aside and allow to
cool completely.

In a saute pan, heat extra-virgin olive oil. When almost smoking, add
the ground beef and season with salt and pepper. Brown meat, breaking
any large lumps, until it is no longer pink. Remove from heat and
drain any excess fat. Set aside and allow to cool completely.

In a medium sized bowl, thoroughly mix the ricotta and eggs. Season
with salt and pepper. Set aside.

Into the bottom of a 13 by 9-inch baking dish, spread 1/3 of the
bechamel sauce. Arrange the pasta sheets side by side, covering the
bottom of the baking dish. Evenly spread a layer of all the ricotta
mixture and then a layer of all the spinach. Arrange another layer of
pasta sheets and spread all the ground beef on top. Sprinkle 1/2 the
mozzarella cheese on top of the beef. Spread another 1/3 of the
bechamel sauce. Arrange the final layer of pasta sheets and top with
remaining bechamel, mozzarella and Parmesan cheeses. Cut the remaining
2 tablespoons of butter into 1/4-inch cubes and top lasagna.

Line a large baking sheet with aluminum foil. Place lasagna dish on
top, cover and put on the middle rack of the oven and bake until top
is bubbling, about 30 minutes. Remove cover and continue to bake for
about 15 minutes.

Simple tomato sauce

Yield: 6 cups
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 1 hour and 20 minutes
Ease of Preparation: Easy

1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 small onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 stalk celery, chopped
1 carrot, chopped
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 (32-ounce) cans crushed tomatoes
2 dried bay leaves
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, optional

In a large casserole pot or Dutch over, heat oil over medium high
heat. Add onion and garlic and saute until soft and translucent, about
5 to 10 minutes. Add celery and carrots and season with salt and
pepper. Saute until all the vegetables are soft, about 5 to 10
minutes. Add tomatoes and bay leaves and simmer uncovered on low heat
for 1 hour or until thick. Remove bay leaves and check for seasoning.
If sauce still tastes acidic, add unsalted butter, 1 tablespoon at a
time to round out the flavors.

Add 1/2 the tomato sauce into the bowl of a food processor. Process
until smooth. Continue with remaining tomato sauce.

If not using all the sauce, allow it to cool completely and pour 1 to
2 cup portions into freezer plastic bags. This will freeze up to 6

From: food network

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