Lasagne Verde Alla Bolognese: An Italian pasta maestra's secret weapon recipe
“The lasagna that all others aspire (and fail) to be” can now be yours thanks to this new cookbook
With its luxe layers of melted cheese and rich, bubbling sauce, lasagna is a comfort food Hall of Fame-r to be sure. But this recipe — a close-kept secret of Italian pasta maestra, Alessandra Spisni, and which comes to us via Evan Funke and Katie Parla’s new cookbook American Sfoglino — pushes the dish to even dreamier heights. Loaded with creamy béchamel and a red meat ragu, this lasagna uses a fresh spinach pasta dough* to really up the ante. Though, if you’re strapped for time you could always sub in dried (or fresh) sheets from the store. See below to learn more about the origins of this mouth-watering dish, then scroll down for the full recipe.
Lasagne Verde Alla Bolognese
By Evan Funke with Katie Parla
There are as many lasagna recipes as there are cooks in Italy, yet, with so much variation, there is one regional tradition that stands out among all the others: Bologna’s lasagna. It is the lasagna that all others aspire (and fail) to be. This particular incarnation of Italy’s famous recipe features sheets of spinach pasta layered with meat ragù and béchamel. My version is straight out of Maestra Alessandra’s playbook and it’s a dish that graces her table — and mine — every time she invites an honoured guest for Sunday lunch.
I feel particularly protective of this recipe and it really bonds me to the maestra. In all the time Alessandra has had La Vecchia Scuola, she never let any student build her lasagna. The dish is so sacred to her that even her daughter wasn’t allowed to touch it. One day, about three months into my tenure there, she nonchalantly asked me to roll out a sfoglia verde, then brought ragù, béchamel, and a pan over to my counter and said, “fai” — make it. It was one of the proudest days of my professional life.
Making lasagna requires several components, so be sure each is ready before you start the assembly. You’ll need a pot at least 16 inches wide for blanching the pasta sheets. You can also halve the sheets crosswise and use a smaller pot at least 8 inches wide.
- Unsalted butter, for greasing
- 1 recipe Sfoglia Verde Agli Spinaci* (see link to recipe above), at room temperature
- “00” flour, for dusting
- Kosher salt
- ½ recipe Ragù Della Vecchia Scuola (see below)
- 1 recipe Besciamella (see below)
- 6 cups finely grated parmigiano-reggiano, plus more for sprinkling
- 8 tbsp unsalted butter
- 1 cup “00” flour
- 1 qt whole milk
- 1 tsp kosher salt
- 5 small pinches of ground nutmeg, preferably freshly grated
Ragù Della Vecchia Scuola:
- 2 ¼ lb beef chuck, cut into 1-inch cubes
- ½ lb pork shoulder, cut into 1-inch cubes
- 5 oz pancetta, cut into 1-inch cubes
- 5 oz prosciutto di parma, cut into 1-inch cubes
- 5 oz mortadella, cut into 1-inch cubes
- 4 celery stalks, roughly chopped
- 1 carrot, roughly chopped
- 1 large yellow onion, roughly chopped
- 5 oz strutto
- Kosher salt
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 1 ½ cups dry, fruity red wine (I like Sangiovese)
- 2 cups passata di pomodoro
- 2 cups brodo di carne, or low-sodium chicken broth
- 2 tbsp unsalted butter
Preheat the oven to 375°F. Lightly grease a 15 x 9.5-inch baking dish with unsalted butter.
Roll one dough ball to a thickness of 9 Post-it® Notes on a lightly floured surface. Using a sharp knife, cut the sfoglia into 3 pieces measuring about 16 x 8 inches. Lightly flour another surface and set the pieces on it to dry, uncovered, for about 15 minutes, flipping midway through the drying time. Reserve the scraps, which you may need to fill in any gaps when assembling the lasagna.
Meanwhile, repeat the process with the remaining dough ball.
Line two baking sheets with parchment paper and set aside. Bring a large pot of water to a boil over high heat. Season the water with salt. When the salt dissolves, add 1 pasta sheet and blanch for 30 seconds. Using a spider, transfer the pasta to the prepared baking sheet to cool. Once the pasta is cool enough to handle, smooth it out. Repeat with the remaining 5 pasta sheets.
Spread about 1 cup of ragù in the prepared baking dish, distributing it evenly. Spread ½ cup of the besciamella over the ragù, distributing it evenly. Place one blanched pasta sheet over the sauce and besciamella layer. Spread about 1 cup of ragù over the blanched pasta, distributing it evenly, followed by ½ cup of the besciamella, distributing it evenly. Dust with about 1 cup of Parmigiano-Reggiano. Continue to layer the pasta with the remaining ragù, besciamella, and Parmigiano-Reggiano, ending with the Parmigiano-Reggiano.
Cover the baking dish with aluminum foil and bake for 30 minutes. Remove the foil and bake until the pasta is cooked through and the edges are crispy and browned, about 30 minutes more. Let the lasagna rest for 10 to 15 minutes to firm up before serving. Serve immediately with more Parmigiano-Reggiano on the side.
The cooked lasagna will keep, refrigerated and tightly covered, for up to 5 days or frozen for up to 3 months.
In a medium sauté pan or skillet over medium heat, melt the butter until frothy and golden. Whisking vigorously, slowly “rain in” the flour. Once all the flour is added, whisk continuously for 3 minutes more. The mixture should appear crumbly, but smell sweet and toasted.
Still whisking continuously, add the milk in a steady stream, whisking until the mixture is very smooth. Season with the salt and nutmeg and whisk to combine. Increase the heat to medium-high and cook the mixture until it is thick enough to coat the back of a wooden spoon, about 2 ½ minutes. Use now or refrigerate.
The béchamel will keep, refrigerated in an airtight container with plastic wrap laid over the surface, for up to 5 days. To reheat, transfer to a medium sauté pan or skillet and add warm water, as needed, whisking constantly to avoid clumping as the béchamel warms.
Ragù Della Vecchia Scuola:
Using a meat grinder, or a grinder attachment, fitted with a large die, grind the beef into a large bowl. Without cleaning the grinder, grind the pork shoulder into the same bowl. Set aside. Without cleaning the grinder, grind the pancetta, prosciutto, and mortadella twice into a medium bowl. Set aside. Pass the celery, carrots, and onions through the grinder into another large bowl and set aside.
In a large heavy-bottomed pot over medium-high heat, melt the strutto. Add the ground prosciutto and pancetta and cook until the fat has rendered, about 4 minutes. Add the ground vegetables. Cook, stirring frequently, until they are golden brown and softened, about 15 minutes.
Add the ground beef and pork and generously season with salt and a small amount of pepper. Using a wooden spoon, gently mix the meat and vegetables, stirring from the bottom of the pot. Cook until the meat releases its juices, 6 to 8 minutes. Stir in the wine and cook until the contents of the pan begin to steam. Add the passata and brodo, stir to combine, and turn the heat to low.
Cook the sauce at a bare simmer, stirring occasionally, until the meat is tender and the sauce is concentrated, 5 to 7 hours. Begin tasting for tenderness and seasoning after 5 hours. (If you’re using grass-fed beef, it will take a lot more time to cook than conventionally raised beef.)
Transfer 6 cups of the sauce to a large pot. (Store the extra sauce according to the instructions following.) Place the pan over medium heat. Bring the sauce to a rapid simmer and cook until the sauce reduces slightly, about 3 minutes. Add the butter and swirl to emulsify. Set the sauce aside.
The sauce will keep, refrigerated in an airtight container, for up to 5 days, or frozen for up to 6 months.
Yield: Makes one 15 x 9.5-inch lasagna, serving 6
Excerpted from American Sfoglino. (©) 2019 by Evan Funke Katie Parla, and photographer, Eric Wolfinger. Reproduced by permission of Chronicle. All rights reserved.