Monday, November 8, 2010

Giada's Classic Italian Lasagna

***Have you ever had one of those days where you knew exactly what you were going to make for dinner that night, and you couldn't wait to get into the kitchen?  Well, that was me today.  This lasagna has been in my head all day long.  One of my little sisters, Maranne, asked me for a good lasagna recipe recently.  I thought about THIS RECIPE for "Lasagna of Emilia-Romagna" that I posted back in March of last year.  It was a Daring Bakers recipe, which called for made-from-scratch pasta!  Needless to say, it's not the easiest lasagna recipe out there, although it was amazing.

After a little searching, I came across this recipe by Giada de Laurentiis.  It sounded delicious, and I adore homemade bechamel sauce.  My little sister has been on a baking/cooking phase lately, and I'm loving it!  She's constantly texting me photos of her latest successes in the kitchen.  I'm so proud of her....She's making some major progress in the kitchen, and her repertoire of homemade goodies is growing by leaps and bounds.  You might even say she's taking after her older sister.  ;-)

 Now, I just need to convince her to start a food blog.  After all, she's finally realized the powers of a KitchenAid Stand Mixer, which she wants for Christmas...That's one of the signs of a true foodie/baker, don't ya think?  

When Maranne made this lasagna a few weeks ago, she got RAVE reviews.  My dad even declared that it was some of the BEST lasagna he'd ever had.  So, I was naturally excited about making it too.  The results were just as fabulous as I had dreamed about all day!  While this recipe isn't complicated, it takes a little bit of time to put everything together.  Once it's in the oven, it only needs 30 minutes to bake up into a bubbly, cheesy, decadently delicious dish of lasagna.  The flavors are incredible, and the spinach adds the perfect layer which isn't too heavy.  Pair this with a fresh side salad and Italian bread, and you're in business!

Make this soon...I KNOW you'll love this recipe!***

Fresh out of the oven...

Classic Italian Lasagna
Source:  Giada de Laurentiis


Bechamel Sauce:

  • 5 tablespoons unsalted butter, plus 2 tablespoons for the lasagna
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 4 cups whole milk at room temperature
  • Pinch freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1 1/2 cups tomato sauce, recipe follows
  • Salt and white pepper
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 pound ground chuck beef
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 1/2 pounds ricotta cheese
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 pound lasagna sheets, cooked al dente
  • 2 packages (10 ounces each) frozen chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
  • 3 cups shredded mozzarella
  • 1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

Bechamel sauce:
In a 2-quart pot, melt 5 tablespoons of butter over medium heat. When butter has completely melted, add the flour and whisk until smooth, about 2 minutes. Gradually add the milk, whisking constantly to prevent any lumps from forming. Continue to simmer and whisk over medium heat until the sauce is thick, smooth and creamy, about 10 minutes. The sauce should be thick enough to coat the back of wooden spoon. Remove from heat and add the nutmeg and tomato sauce. Stir until well combined and check for seasoning. Set aside and allow to cool completely.

In a saute pan, heat extra-virgin olive oil. When almost smoking, add the ground beef and season with salt and pepper. Brown meat, breaking any large lumps, until it is no longer pink. Remove from heat and drain any excess fat. Set aside and allow to cool completely.
In a medium sized bowl, thoroughly mix the ricotta and eggs. Season with salt and pepper. Set aside.

Into the bottom of a 13 by 9-inch baking dish, spread 1/3 of the bechamel sauce. Arrange the pasta sheets side by side, covering the bottom of the baking dish. Evenly spread a layer of all the ricotta mixture and then a layer of all the spinach. Arrange another layer of pasta sheets and spread all the ground beef on top. Sprinkle 1/2 the mozzarella cheese on top of the beef. Spread another 1/3 of the bechamel sauce. Arrange the final layer of pasta sheets and top with remaining bechamel, mozzarella and Parmesan cheeses. Cut the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter into 1/4-inch cubes and top lasagna.

Line a large baking sheet with aluminum foil. Place lasagna dish on top, cover and put on the middle rack of the oven and bake until top is bubbling, about 30 minutes. Remove cover and continue to bake for about 15 minutes.

Simple Tomato Sauce:

  • 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 stalk celery, chopped
  • 1 carrot, chopped
  • Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 (32-ounce) cans crushed tomatoes
  • 2 dried bay leaves
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, optional
In a large casserole pot or Dutch over, heat oil over medium high heat. Add onion and garlic and saute until soft and translucent, about 5 to 10 minutes. Add celery and carrots and season with salt and pepper. Saute until all the vegetables are soft, about 5 to 10 minutes. Add tomatoes and bay leaves and simmer uncovered on low heat for 1 hour or until thick. Remove bay leaves and check for seasoning. If sauce still tastes acidic, add unsalted butter, 1 tablespoon at a time to round out the flavors.

Add 1/2 the tomato sauce into the bowl of a food processor. Process until smooth. Continue with remaining tomato sauce.

If not using all the sauce, allow it to cool completely and pour 1 to 2 cup portions into freezer plastic bags. This will freeze up to 6 months.


Evan B said...

I'm for sure going to try this! We were in the grocery the other day and my boyfriend tried to buy a frozen lasagna.. I dont think so! This sounds delicious

Ashley's Cooking Adventures said...

Yum, looks so comforting and cheesy!