Elena’s Lasagne

Elena was the wife of Bruno and sister of Franco, the two men who until recently owned and ran Badia Guest House which is situated on the floor below DeiMori Bed and Breakfast in Florence (incidentally, Badia is now owned by Bruno’s daughter Ricciarda and she ably runs the place now, still assisted by Bruno and occasionally by Franco).  Elena (Ricciarda’s mother) was justifiably proud of her lasagne and her recipe is set out below.  Give it a try, a long slow cook, but worth it I think.  I have made it many times and it never fails to impress – it is the very taste of Tuscany.  Sadly, after years of poor health, Elena died in November 2009.

Ingredients:

  • 2 packets of fresh lasagne sheets
  • About 500ml of `home made’ bechamel – do not go to huge trouble but do not fall into a trap of buying ready made.  It really is easier to make your own than go shopping.
  • Freshly grated Parmesan
  • Smoked bacon – either the Tuscan cubed type or else smoked rashers chopped up
  • A whole head of garlic
  • a few sprigs of rosemary, leaves stripped off and chopped.
  • Zest of a lemon
  • 2 carrots chopped finely
  • 3 sticks of celery – chopped finely.
  • 5 red onions finely chopped
  • 3 bottles of good quality tomato passata (Elena specified the make Mutti)
  • 300 grams of good quality minced beef
  • 200 grams of good quality minced pork\
  • One large Tuscan sausage (or any good quality sausage)
  • Large glass of red wine
  • glass of milk

Method:

  1. Very finely chop the vegetables, garlic, onions, carrot, celery and make a sofritto with olive oil – basically soften them.
  2. Add the bacon and cook, follow this with the meat and spices
  3. Cook on, stirring quite constantly for 40 minutes
  4. Add a large glass of red wine and when that has evaporated, add a glass of milk and then the three bottles of ‘passata’
  5. Cook on for at least 90 minutes stirring very frequently
  6. Using a suitable container start to assemble the lasagne (I like something about 7cms deep)  – I cook the pasta in boiling water for three or four minutes.
  7. Start with a thin layer of the ragu – the bolognaise sauce
  8. Then a layer of pasta – arrange carefully for an evenish layer, then bolognaise, a drizzle of bechemel, carpet with Parmesan and so on
  9. Build up the layers finishing with a layer of bolognaise, bechemel and a good scattering of Parmesan
  10. On no account decorate with naff slices of tomato
  11. I then cover with foil and then cook at about 180 degrees Centigrade for about 45 minutes – until it is hot in the centre.  Do not uncover.
  12. At this point it can be frozen or, left around at room temperature for 24 hours or so.
  13. Prior to serving, again place in the oven at around 180 degrees but this time uncovered
  14. Cook until the centre is hot and the top nicely coloured
  15. I like to serve it in a slice like a cake, preferring it not sloppy.  The secret is I think a fairly solid bolognaise and not too much bechemel.
  16. To me, it just needs a simple green salad.  Certainly in Italy it would not be served with a jacket potato, and never ever chips.

I find that the bolognaise sauce makes one large lasagne and two smaller ones for the freezer.