A Tuscan delight.

This is a classic Tuscan white lasagna. It takes a little time and effort but it’s worth it. This is my favorite lasagna and I get a lot of requests for it from family and friends. The meat sauce by itself can be used over any pasta and the balsamella is a common ingredient so these are 2 good recipes to have in your repertoire.

(In case this video whets your appetite for more Tuscan food, there are still seats available for our March 6th Tuscan Dinner event!)

Pasta

Make the fresh pasta dough recipe. Cut the dough ball into 4 pieces. Form each into a rectangle. Set the pasta machine to the widest roller setting. Pass each dough piece through a pasta machine catching the dough as it passes through the rollers. Fold each piece in thirds. Pass it through the rollers again. Reduce the setting 2 notches and put the strips through the rollers. If the sheets get too long cut them in half. Repeat until you get to the most narrow roller setting. You want to end up with long sheets of pasta about the width of the rollers. Lay the strips out on a well-floured baking sheet or kitchen towel. If you don’t have a pasta machine use a rolling pin. Roll out each piece of dough until it is about 20 inches long and about 10 inches wide. Lay the strips out as above.

Fill a large pot with water and add a tablespoon of sea salt and a tablespoon of EVOO. Bring to a full boil. Cook the strips until they begin to rise to the surface. (The strips will finish cooking in the oven.) Drain the strips when they are very al dente and place in a bowl of ice water. Lay the strips out on a dish towel and cover with a moistened dish towel. Set aside until you assemble the lasagna. Let excess water drain you don’t want wet pasta strips when you assemble the lasagna.

N.B.  You’ll need about 3 tablespoons of butter and some extra grated Ptarmigan Reggiano when you assemble the lasagna.

Meat Sauce

Ingredients

  • 1 ounce dried porcini mushrooms
  • 1 large carrot
  • 1 large red onion
  • 1 celery rib
  • 8 springs Italian flat parsley
  • 1 garlic clove
  • 3 tablespoons of EVOO
  • 1/4 pound ground pork
  • 1/2 pound ground beef
  • 1/2 boneless, skinless chicken breast (you can use ground chicken if you want)
  • 1/2 cup red wine
  • 2 tablespoons of tomato paste
  • 2 cups of chicken broth
  • 1/4 pound prosciutto
  • Salt, freshly ground pepper, and freshly ground nutmeg

Cooking Directions

  1. Soak the porcini in hot water until soft about 10 minutes.
  2. Chop the carrot, onion celery, parsley and garlic very fine and place in a large enamel or heavy bottomed pot with the EVOO and over medium-low heat gently saute until golden brown.
  3. Add the pork, beef and chicken and saute for about 15 minutes more. Be sure to break up the ground meats so no clumps form.
  4. Clear a small patch on the bottom of the pot and add a little EVOO. In this spot add the tomato paste and stir to caramelize the paste a bit. The paste will darken and the oil will turn a golden red.
  5. Add the wine and cook until evaporated about 15 minutes more.
  6. Add 1 cup of broth and reduce about 15 minutes more.
  7. Take out the cooked chicken and chop very fine and return to the pot. (If using ground chicken skip this step.)
  8. Roughly chop the porcini mushrooms and put them and their soaking liquid  in the pot (pour the liquid in slowly so that any sand stays in the bowl) add second cup of broth and reduce for 15 minutes.
  9. Add salt and pepper to taste and reduce until the sauce is quite thick.
  10. Chop the prosciutto very fine and add to the pot.
  11. Close the flame and add grated nutmeg to taste. (It’s strong so don’t use too much it’s just a background flavor.)
  12. Let the sauce cool before making the lasagna.

Balsamella

Ingredients

  • 6 tablespoons butter
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose unbleached flour
  • 3 cups milk
  • Salt and freshly ground nutmeg to taste.

Cooking Directions

  1. Place the milk in a large pan heat until until it is very close to frothing.
  2. While the milk is heating, in a heavy-bottomed pan over very low heat melt the butter.
  3. When the butter starts to froth add the flour and mix well with a whisk or a wooden spoon and cook stirring frequently until it is golden brown.
  4. Add the hot milk and whisk or stir while you’re adding it.
  5. Keep whisking or stirring in the same direction so no lumps form.
  6. When the sauce reaches the boiling point add the salt and a bit of ground nutmeg and gently whisk or stir until the the sauce cooks slowly for about 10 minutes. The sauce should be fairly thick. Cover pot and set aside until you assemble the lasagna.

Cheese Stuffing

Ingredients

  • 8 ounces fresh mozzarella
  • 1 1/2 cups grated Parmigiano Reggiano

Directions

  1. Coarsely grate the mozzarella and place in a bowl.
  2. Add the grated Parmigiano and mix together.
  3. Set aside until you assemble the lasagna.

Assembling the Lasagna

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 375 degrees.
  2. Heavily butter a rectangular baking dish (131/2 x 81/4 inches).
  3. Spread a tablespoon of the meat sauce on the bottom of the dish.
  4. Then fit in a layer of cooked pasta strips to cover the bottom and sides of the dish leaving about an inch to hang over the edge all around.
  5. Spread  the cheese mixture over the pasta layer.
  6. Add another layer of pasta to cover only the inside of the dish.
  7. Spread a layer of the meat sauce.
  8. Cover the inside with another layer of pasta.
  9. Spread a thick layer of the balsamella.
  10. Add another layer of pasta to cover the top of the lasagna.
  11. Fold over the over-hanging pasta onto the top of the lasagna.
  12. Dot the top of the lasagna with a tablespoon of butter and sprinkle lightly with grated Parmigiano.
  13. If you have extra sauces or cheese mixture build another layer.
  14. Put the lasagna in the oven for about 25 minutes or until the top layer is lightly golden brown and crisp.
  15. Remove the lasagna out of the oven and let cool for 15 minutes before serving.