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Lasagna Lasagne

06/08/08 | by JAdP | Categories: Food and Drink

For her birthday, Mom asked for lasagna and cheesecake, as she's somewhat fanatical about both. I had a meeting in Palo Alto on Friday, so picking up a tiramisu cheesecake from The Cheesecake Factory was a no brainer, as I knew I wouldn't have time to shop and prepare both things.

The Americanized lasagna with which I grew up, and that will make my Mom the happiest is cooked from dried, curly-edged pasta layered with a ricotta and cheese mixture and tomato-meat sauce. I would prefer a more traditional lasagne, as made by Gianugo Rabellino. But, I also want to make a vegetarian lasagne. So, I'm combining the Italian tradition with the Italo-American tradition, and I'll make two lasagne, one meat with a ragù and one vegie with eggplant and portobello mushrooms.

On a recent visit, Gianugo told me that portobello isn't a mushroom's name in Italy, but that there is a portobello orange. Here's the mushroom:

Raw Portobello Mushroom about 4-inches in cap diameter
Click to view original size

I'm also using so-called Italian Eggplants, which are smaller, more slender, less bitter and with fewer seeds than the large, globular Eggplants more commonly sold in the USA.

Italian Eggplant next to Portobello Mushroom
Click to view original size

The cap of the mushroom is about 4-inches (~10 cm) across. I'll make a sauce from these, similar to a ragù, but using the eggplants and mushrooms without any meat.

I'll also be serving some extra sauce on the side, the same as in my post on Abruzzo Polpettine, but with a rack of baby-back pork ribs rather than the veal shank, as my father prefers the ribs.

I'll be using sheets of fresh egg pasta, cut to fit the pans that I'll be using. These sheets don't have curly edges &#59;) After cutting to fit the pans, blanch in salted, boiling water for two minutes and set aside, laying flat or draped over a drying rack.

In addition to the ragù and eggplant-mushroom-tomato sauce, I need enough besciamella sauce for both lasagne.

The tomatoes are cooking down in the wine with a red onion studded with bay leaf and cloves. I've cleaned, sliced and sautéed the mushrooms with garlic, in olive oil, and simmered in red wine. The eggplant was sliced, salted, set aside to drain (necessary with larger eggplants, and a matter of caution with these, to remove the bitter, soapy oil that eggplants have in their seeds) and sautéed in more olive oil and garlic slices. So, while the tomatoes, are cooking, I made the besciamella, and started blogging :p

Béchamel or Besciamella

Fill a greater-than-2-quart crockery bowl with hot water and set aside. I started with 2 sticks (16 tablespoons) of unsalted butter. Melt them over low heat in a large, porcelain coated pain. When the butter is melted and just starting to foam, grind in 16 turns of white peppercorns, and slowly whisk in a cup of unbleached, white wheat flour. Allow the flour to cook for at least three minutes, but don't let it brown. While the flower is cooking, heat in the microwave (or start this earlier if in a pan on the stove) 6 cups of whole milk mixed with one cup of heavy cream. When the flour is cooked, slowly whisk in the warm milk & cream. Cook for five more minutes over medium heat, whisking frequently. Grate a quarter-pound of locatelli romano hard, sharp cheese and whisk into the sauce. Salt to taste. Drain and dry the crockery bowl. Transfer the besciamella into the bowl, cover with a square of buttered parchment paper, and allow to cool for three hours.

Ricotta & Cheese

Now to make the cheese mixture. Start with ricotta. By the way, ricotta isn't a cheese, more of the anti-cheese, as it's made from the whey that is left-over when the curds are made into cheese. For my two lasagne, I'll need four pounds of fresh ricotta, with one egg per pound plus one egg per tray of lasagne, making for six eggs total. Mix in grated cheeses: one-half pound of parmigiano-reggiano, one-half pound of pecerino-toscano, and one-quarter pound of locatelli-romano and a hand-full of chopped Italian (flat-leaf) parsley.

Assemble the Lasagne

  1. In the bottom of two large roasting or lasagna pans, put a ladle of the appropriate tomato sauce (ragù or vegie) and a tablespoon of olive oil. Make sure the bottom and sides of the pans are coated.
  2. Lay a cooked sheet of pasta in the bottom of the pan
  3. Imagine the squares each portion of lasagne will be; in each square put a rounded teaspoon each of
    • basil-garlic-pignoli pesto (note that the pesto for the vegie version also has blanched baby spinach leaves),
    • besciamella,
    • ragù or vegie sauce and
    • ricotta mixture
  4. top with a pasta sheet, squeeze flat, do it again until the pan is full or you're out of materials
  5. top with remaining besciamella

Place the lasagna pans into an oven preheated to 350ºF, and cook for 45 minutes. Check every 15 minutes to makes sure that the besciamella doesn't burn. If it gets very brown, cover with aluminum foil.

Sever with a salad, and the same type of red wine that you used in the sauce. I used Thalia Sangiovese from Viansa.

I've got to get back to cooking. If I have a chance, I'll update with pictures of the finished products.

Update: Finished eating the salad and entrée; here's a picture of the meat lasagne:

Cooked Meat Lasagne
Click to view original size

And here's the vegie lasagne.

Three Vegitarian Lasagne
Click to view original size

I have to go back and get ready for cake, and I already feel like I'm about to explode.

Another Update: Here's Mom blowing out her candles.

Mom at 78 blowing out her candles
Click to view original size

I'm going to go die now. I couldn't even finish my piece of cake.

Enjoy. Happy birthday, Mom.

Updated to correct the spelling to besciamella in all instances - thanks to Gianugo Rabellino

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I'm Joseph A. di Paolantonio and this blog has two main foci: my interest in food, and my interest in the future. This provides a look into my personal life, and is separate from my consulting work…though there will be overlap. I am an independent researcher, working as a strategic consultant and I'm an executive with over 20 years of commercial experience with a technical interest in the intersection of Internet of Things, with advanced data management and analysis methods. I view data science as a team activity, and I feel that the IoT must be viewed as a system. I am leveraging my past activities to understand the adoption and impact of the IoT; first, as a system engineer in aerospace, where I developed Bayesian risk assessment methods for systems within the Space Transportation System (including the Space Shuttle), Extreme Ultraviolet Explorer, Gravity Probe B, and many more, and second, as a enterprise data warehousing, business intelligence and analytics professional. Between my aerospace and IT careers, I indulged my hobby of cooking by starting a food company, Montara Magic, centered around my chocolate sauces. My education combined chemistry, mathematics and philosophy. I performed research into molten salt fuel cells in graduate school, and in photovoltaic materials for a short time in industry. The lure of bringing the human race into space was strong, and when I was offered the chance to combine my chemistry and mathematics skills to develop new risk assessment and system engineering methods for space launch and propulsion systems – I couldn't resist. I perform independent research and strategic consulting to bring value from the Internet of Things, Sensor Analytics Ecosystems and data science teams.I am a caregiver, a lover of science fiction and speculative fantasy, and my passion to learn has led me to a pilot's license, an assistant instructor in SCUBA, nordic and alpine skiing, sea kayaking, and reading everything I can, in as many topics as I can.

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