Rich and delicious, I find there is nothing as tempting than a dish of lasagna. I love pasta of just about any description, but if you forced me to choose just one type of pasta as my all time favorite it would have to be lasagna. Lasagna, also known as “lasagna al forno”, is simply a traditional Italian dish made with alternate layers of pasta, cheese, and often ragù (a meat sauce) or tomato sauce.
I honestly must admit that I have never heard of a lasagna specific to Umbria, but for this recipe I decided to create one that I felt used ingredients commonly found across the region. Pork is the meat of choice in Umbria, so I used my recipe for Umbrian ragù sauce and layered it alternately with creamy béchamel sauce between layers of tender homemade noodles. I can’t imagine lasagna without cheese, so I added some diced mozzarella and grated pecorino cheese since pecorino cheese is more typical than Parmesan here in Umbria. Although the ingredient list may seem a tad intimidating, and the recipe itself may look time intensive, I find it easiest to create this recipe over two days, making my ragù sauce on the first day, and then the fresh pasta and béchamel sauce the next day when I assemble the lasagna. I find this lasagna also freezes well although I find it best to add a little extra sauce to the layers if I am freezing it as the noodles seem to absorb the sauce. You could also simplify this recipe by buying ready-made fresh lasagna noodles if your time was limited.
Deborah Mele 2013
Umbrian Ragu Sauce:
- 1 Carrot, Peeled & Finely Diced
- 2 Celery Stalks, Finely Diced
- 1 Medium Onion, Peeled & Finely Diced
- 4 Garlic Cloves, Peeled And Minced
- 1 Pound Ground Pork
- 4 Ounces Finely Chopped Prosciutto
- 3 Tablespoons Olive Oil
- 2/3 Cup Dry Red Wine
- 2 (14 Ounce) Cans Chopped Tomatoes
- Salt & Pepper
- Dash Red Pepper Flakes
- 1/3 Cup Chopped Fresh Parsley
- 1/3 Cup Chopped Fresh Basil
- 4 Cups Unbleached Flour
- 5 Extra Large Eggs
- Pinch of Salt
- 5 tablespoons Butter
- 4 Tablespoons All-purpose Flour
- 4 Cups Milk
- 1 Teaspoons Salt
- 1/2 Teaspoon Pepper
- 1/2 Teaspoon Freshly Grated Nutmeg
Ingredients To Assemble:
- 3 Cups Finely Diced Mozzarella Cheese
- 1 1/2 Cups Grated Pecorino Cheese
- To make the sauce, Heat the oil in a large heavy saucepan and cook the celery, carrot, and onion over medium heat until tender.
- Add the ground pork and chopped prosciutto and cook until the meat is no longer pink and has begun to brown.
- Add the garlic and cook an additional couple of minutes.
- Next add the wine and cook until it has almost completely evaporated.
- Stir in the tomatoes, parsley, basil, salt and pepper, and bring to a boil.
- Reduce the heat to a simmer and continue to cook for an hour and a half until the sauce has thickened.
- To make the pasta, mound your flour on a large pastry board, or the counter, and make a well in the center.
- Break the eggs into this well, and start to scramble each egg with a fork as it is being added.
- Start to incorporate the eggs and flour by slowly bringing more flour in from the inside edges of the well.
- Continue adding the flour to the eggs until they are no longer runny.
- 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.
- Begin to knead the ball of dough as you would bread, pushing it down with the heel of your hand.
- Continue kneading until the dough is smooth and satiny, for about 8 minutes.
- Wrap the prepared dough in plastic wrap, and let it sit for about 30 minutes.
- 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.)
- After rolling, cut into 12 inch long strips.
- Precook in boiling water for 30 seconds, then place in ice water.
- Dry and set aside on clean kitchen towels.
- To make the bechamel, melt the butter in a heavy saucepan over low heat.
- Once it is completely melted and bubbling, add the flour and mix well with a wooden spoon.
- Cook for a minute or two until the flour just begins to take on some color.
- Slowly start adding the milk, whisking continuously to prevent lumps from forming.
- Continue to simmer until the sauce begins to thicken, stirring often, then season with a pinch of salt, pepper and nutmeg.
- 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.
- To assemble the lasagna, first scoop a ladleful of the béchamel sauce and spread across the bottom of your lasagna (13 x 10 inch)pan.
- Add a layer of noodles and then cover the noodles with a couple of scoops of the ragu sauce.
- Place another layer of noodles on top, then another layer of béchamel sauce.
- Sprinkle some of the diced mozzarella and pecorino cheese on top of the béchamel.
- Continue to layer using up your noodles and alternating the sauces.
- On top of the final layer add a couple of spoonfuls of both sauces and sprinkle with some of both the cheeses.
- Bake in a 375 degree preheated oven for about 40 to 45 minutes, or until the lasagna is bubbly and beginning to brown.
- Let rest 10 minutes before serving.