Lasagna With Caramelized Radicchio, Onions & Crispy Pancetta


We visited the seaside in Le Marche a while back and although we ate a lot of wonderful seafood dishes, one dish we tasted and really enjoyed was this lasagna made simply with caramelized onions, radicchio lettuce and crispy bits of pancetta all nestled between sheets of fresh pasta and layered with a creamy béchamel sauce and bits of cheese. The bitterness of the radicchio was tempered with the sweetness of the onions and the salty bits of crisp pancetta just made the dish a perfect flavor combination.

Not knowing what cheese was used, I used Fontina which is a great melting cheese for baked pasta dishes along with some grated Pecorino cheese. You could also use mozzarella in place of the Fontina, or even Taleggio would be divine. I always like to make my own fresh pasta noodles, but if you have a source for fresh lasagna noodles feel free to use those. The ingredients listed are for a lasagna in a 13 X 9 inch deep baking or lasagna pan, but you can easily make it smaller or larger. I like to cook all the ingredients separately and then line them up in bowls while I prepare the lasagna to ensure everything gets spread through the lasagna evenly.

Buon Appetito!
Deborah Mele 2011

Lasagna With Caramelized Radicchio, Onions & Crispy Pancetta

A unique flavored lasagna that combines sweet caramelized onions with bitter radicchio and salty pancetta between layers of egg noodles and creamy béchamel sauce.

Ingredients:

Bechamel Sauce:

  • 6 Tablespoons Of Butter
  • 1/3 Cup All-Purpose Flour
  • 4 Cups Milk
  • Salt
  • White Pepper
  • Nutmeg

Lasagna Noodles:

  • 4 Cups Unbleached Flour
  • 5 Extra Large Eggs
  • Pinch of Salt

Lasagna Filling:

  • 3 Medium Large Onions
  • 1 Medium Head Radicchio Lettuce
  • 2 1/2 Cups Diced Pancetta
  • 3 Tablespoons Olive Oil
  • 3 Cups Fontina Cheese Cut Into 1/2 Inch Dice
  • 1 1/2 Cups Grated Pecorino Cheese
  • Ground Black Pepper

Directions:

  1. To make the béchamel sauce, melt the butter in a heavy saucepan over low heat, and once it is completely melted and bubbling, add the flour and mix well with a wooden spoon.
  2. Cook for a minute or two until the flour just begins to take on some color, then slowly start adding the milk, whisking continuously to prevent lumps from forming.
  3. Continue to simmer until the sauce begins to thicken, stirring often.
  4. Season with a pinch of salt, white pepper and nutmeg, and set aside until you are ready to use, by pouring the sauce into a glass bowl and covering with a buttered sheet of plastic wrap.
  5. To make the pasta, mound your flour on a large pastry board, or the counter and make a well in the center.
  6. Break the eggs into this well, and start to scramble each egg with a fork as it is being added, and start to incorporate the eggs and flour by slowly bringing more flour in from the inside edges of the well.
  7. Continue adding the flour to the eggs until they are no longer runny.
  8. Using your hands now, bring the outside edges in, forming a large mass on your board. (Use only the amount of flour needed to form a soft ball.)
  9. Begin to knead the ball of dough as you would bread, pushing it down with the heel of your hand.
  10. Continue kneading until the dough is smooth and satiny, for about 8 minutes.
  11. Wrap the prepared dough in plastic wrap, and let it sit for about 30 minutes.
  12. Use a pasta roller or roll by hand to make long sheets of pasta 1/4 thick. (I use my Kitchen Aide table mixer with the pasta attachment and roll my past to the third last position.)
  13. After rolling, cut into 12 inch long strips, and precook in boiling water for 30 seconds, then place in ice water.
  14. Dry and set aside on clean kitchen towels.
  15. For the filling, peel and thinly slice the onions.
  16. Core the lettuce and shred with a sharp knife.
  17. In a heavy frying pan, heat the olive oil and cook the onions over slow heat until soft and golden brown, about 45 minutes.
  18. Remove the onions to a bowl and cook the radicchio in the same pan until it has wilted and begun to brown, about 5 to 10 minutes.
  19. Remove to a separate bowl.
  20. Cook the pancetta in the same pan until crisp.
  21. To assemble the lasagna, first scoop a ladleful of the sauce and spread across the bottom of the pan.
  22. Add a layer of noodles and then thinly cover these with more sauce.
  23. Sprinkle some of the onions, radicchio and pancetta on top of the sauce and then add another layer of the lasagna noodles.
  24. On top of this layer first add some of the sauce, and then sprinkle some of the diced cheese on top.
  25. Sprinkle with some of the grated cheese and some black pepper.
  26. Continue to layer twice more in the same manner, covering the top layer with sauce and cheese, and remaining pancetta.
  27. Bake in a preheated 375 degrees F oven for about 40 minutes or until bubbly and lightly browned on top.
  28. Let the lasagna rest 10 to 15 minutes before cutting and serving.