Lasagna con carne
As many times as I’ve made fresh pasta and meat sauce and béchamel, I never made a proper lasagna until last weekend. I had two days to cook before a dinner party, so there was no excuse not to.
The night before dinner I made the meat sauce, a modified version of Lidia’s. I let that simmer for about three hours, until the meat was silky and completely incorporated. You don’t need a recipe for that sauce so much as you need a method and an order: vegetables, meat, wine, tomatoes. As long as you have the time to cook it and you keep the heat low, you can’t go wrong.
I rolled out the pasta the morning of. One of the great benefits of lasagna is that it takes no time at all to roll out the sheets. You don’t have to fumble with the crank, moving it from one hole to the next to make other kinds of noodles. I made one batch of green pasta and one of egg pasta (I threw two extra green noodles on top of the dish and under some sliced mozzarella, but now I think they look sloppy and I regret having done that).
The béchamel was the last and easiest step. I did it about two hours before the guests were expected and then baked the lasagna for about 90 minutes, followed by an essential 30-minute rest period, which made portioning a cinch.
My roasting pan, as you can see, is enormous, and all of the individual recipes here may need to be adjusted. With the pasta and sauce, you might as well make extra. If you don’t use all of it, you can freeze it or make a simple dinner the following day. The béchamel can be augmented quickly if you run low.
The spinach pasta
- 1 cup all-purpose or doppio zero flour
- 2 large eggs
- A bunch of spinach leaves, cooked, cooled, dried completely (squeeze them repeatedly between paper towels), and chopped very finely
- Pinch of salt
- 2 teaspoons olive oil
(For egg pasta, omit the spinach, and use 1.5 cups flour and 4 eggs.) Add the ingredients to the bowl of a food processor in the order listed above. Pulse until they form a ball, adding flour as necessary if the dough is too sticky. Scrape the dough onto a floured surface and knead for five minutes, adding more flour as necessary to prevent stickiness. Once the dough is soft and silky, cut it in half, wrap it in plastic, and refrigerate it for thirty minutes. Roll it out in sheets to fit your pan (I used the fourth setting on my pasta roller, which is about halfway between the thickest and thinnest).
- 1/2 cup butter
- 1/2 cup flour
- 4 cups milk, or more to achieve desired thickness
- Salt, pepper, nutmeg
Add the butter and flour to a sauce pan and cook until lightly browned. Whisk in the milk, bring to a boil, and turn down the heat. Season well, and either cover the surface with plastic wrap or dot it with butter until ready to use.