Since posting about this dish on another thread several hours ago, I have had several requests for the recipe. That follows...
Lasagna al Forno - Baked Lasagna
Adapted from a Recipe by Beth Alon’s truly excellent reference work,“The Big Book of Pasta”
1/2 kilo fresh egg pasta for lasagna
For the ragout:
1/2 cup olive oil
1 large onion, chopped finely
1 large carrot, chopped finely
1 small celery root, chopped finely
2 cloves garlic, minced
leaves of about 10 sprigs parsley, chopped finely
450 gr. lean beef, ground
125 gr. chicken livers, chopped
1 cup dry white wine
1 cup beef stock, ideally home made
1 small can tomato paste, diluted with 1/2 cup water
1 kilo very ripe fresh tomatoes, skinned, seeded and chopped
2 bay leaves
salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
freshly grated nutmeg to taste
leaves from 4 sprigs of oregano (fresh), chopped
1 small bunch basil leaves, chopped
For the Bechamel (Balsamella) Sauce:
12 Tbsp. unsalted butter
1/2 cup all purpose flour
4 cups milk
generous pinch of salt
Prepare the ragout: In a deep heavy caserole combine the olive oil, onion, carrot, celery, garlic and parsley. Saute over a medium flame for 10 – 12 minutes. Add the ground beef and chicken livers, mashing gently into the simmering vegetables to make sure the meat breaks up completely.
When the meat has lost its red tint (after about 5 minutes of cooking), add the wine and turn up the heat. Let the wine boil gently until it is reduced by about half (about 20 minutes), stirring occasionally and making sure nothing sticks to the bottom of the casserole. Add the meat stock and tomato paste and continue to cook of a moderately high heat until the liquids are again reduced by half. Taste for seasoning, add salt and a generous amount of black pepper and about 1/2 tsp. of nutmeg.
Add the tomatoes and bay leaves. When the sauce begins to boil, turn the flame down to a minimum, cover and simmer gently for about 3 hours, stirring occasionally again taking care to scrape the bottom of the casserole. Add the chopped oregano and basil and cook for 5 minutes longer, stirring. Correct the seasoning with salt and fresh pepper to taste, keeping in mind that the ragout should be highly seasoned.
Bring a large pan of water to the boil with a heaping Tbsp. of salt. Lower to a simmer and in this cook the pasta leaves, a few at a time just until they are pliable. Remove with a slotted spoon and plunge them immediately into a bowl of cold water. Lay them on a dry cloth and continue until all of the pasta has been cooked.
Make the Bechamel sauce: Melt the butter in a heavy saucepan over a low heat. When the butter has reached the frothing point ad the flour, mixing constantly with a wooden spoon, and then let cook until the color is golden brown and at the consistency of thick cream. If the sauce is too thick dilute with a bit of stock or water. If too thin to hold its shape across the pasta cook a little while longer to thicken (stirring almost constantly). Remove from the heat and let stand 10 – 15 minutes.
To assemble the lasagna, skim a bit of ragu from the top and spread it over the bottom of the lasagna pan. Line the bottom of the pan with a layer of pasta, just barely overlapping each pasta sheet with the next so that the pasta completely covers the bottom but does not (!) crawl up the sides. On this spread a thin layer of ragut, and on that a layer of bechamel. Sprinkle the bechamel with a bit of dried oregano.
Continue building layers like this. The final layers should be of ragout which will be covered again with a final layer of pasta and then spread with bechamel and oregano. Sprinkle the top of the dish generously with paprika and then place in an oven that has been pre-heated to 190 degrees Celsius (375 Fahrenheit) and bake until the top layer is rich golden brown and the sauce is bubbling (about 20 minutes).Let stand for 5 – 10 minutes before serving. (Serves 8 - 10).
Note: The dish can be prepared a day in advance by assembling it but not baking it, wrapping it in plastic wrap and refrigerating. When ready, unwrap and place it in a preheated 200 degrees Celsius oven for about 35 minutes. Leftovers can be reheated in the oven but never !!!! in a microwave oven.