Marcella Hazan’s Lasagne – Experiment 1

So why not start with (what I am told is) the bible for authentic Italian cooking. And lets start with something simple. I only just made my version of Spaghetti Bolognese the other night, so how about Lasagne. I’ve never made lasagne before and I would like a good lasagne recipe and its based on her bolognese (ok Ragu) recipe. So that kills 2 birds with one recipe – I get to try the Ragu recipe and the lasagne recipe.

So I took a brief look at the recipe for the Ragu. The bolognese sauce looked pretty simple. So simple that I thought there is no way this is going to taste better than my “make-it-up-as-I-go-with-lots-of-yummy-ingredients” recipe. I mean it just has onion, carrot, celery, mince, white wine (?!) and 1 can of tomatoes.. But anyway, this is an experiment so why not.

Thinking I could get this lasagne done in a few hours between my lunch date with Mum and evening Pilates class, I started. And then realised that the trick to this recipe is that it has to simmer for at LEAST 3 hours. Ok – maybe its tomorrow night’s dinner. The recipe notes that it has to be just simmered for 3 hours – only 1 bubble should be seen appearing on top. The smallest burner was producing a lot of bubbles at its lowest, so I tried Nico’s suggestion when I complained about this problem for another recipe – put something between the pot and the burner. Turns out the wok produces the right result. So, back from Pilates and we have a crumbly Ragu – possibly a little dry, but definitely edible. So I taste it and wow! For such few simple ingredients it tastes amazing!! Maybe less is more…

So a trusty favourite of Soy Salmon was cooked for dinner instead and I aim for lasagne the next night. Ragu goes into fridge (isn’t it supposed to get better with time anyway?) and the next day I decide to get started early. We ARE having lasagne tonight! But, of course I went for a really long walk and only had a couple of hours before my Meditation Class, and then we had PT night at the gym this evening. So I decide to make the green pasta first, thinking its ok if it rests in the fridge a few hours.. [hmmm – maybe this was wrong – could have been the source of my pain]. Come home from Meditation Class with a good 3.5 hours to finish – am thinking there is plenty of time. So I make the Bechamel sauce. Not difficult but of course time-consuming. Comes out perfectly though. Onto the double boiler it goes. Time to roll out the pasta sheets.

Watching My Kitchen Rules the other night I shook my head at the Italian woman whose pasta would not roll through the pasta machine – came out like it went through a grater. Well, that must be cooking karma because exactly the same thing happened to me. I’ve made pasta about 3-4 times now and this has never happened. The recipe calls for spinach to be added to make it green and it did say be careful to squeeze out all the excess water. Maybe I wasn’t vigilant enough about this. Whatever the case, the pasta was too wet. So I stubbornly decided I could fix it. I added a lot of flour, kneading, rolling, finding it wasn’t dry enough, adding more flour, kneading rolling… I split the dough into 4 to make it easier. It meant 4 times as much work. I was sweating after about 2 hours, I had my green lasagne sheets. A couple lessons learned:

  1. Its a lot easier to add flour in the food processor. Make a good decision then.
  2. Given enough kneading, the texture really can become smooth as a babies’ bottom!
  3. Folding the rolled dough into thirds and passing through the alternate way around each time helps to stop those cracked edges forming.

So it wasn’t all bad, and my arms also got a really good workout.

So with 30mins on the clock, I worked like a MKR contestant to cook and wash the lasagne, assemble it and chuck it in the fridge to cook after PT. I did go over time by 3 minutes but it was a good effort.

And the result? AWESOME LASAGNE!! Yay….

Baked Green Lasagne with Meat Sauce, Bolognese Stye

Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking, Marcella Hazan, p.215

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