Baked Lasagna is one of my absolute favorite dishes.
There are very few places that make lasagna correctly. Yes every region in Italy has a version of it but there’s also a technique involved.
I cringe when I see what comes out of most restaurant doors and what some people accept as a proper lasagne. The minute I see ripple edging on pasta sheets I want to run away as fast as I can.
This lasagne is made with a meat sauce mixed with bechamel and layered with cheeses that include: Fontina, Mozzarella di Bufala (sliced and patted dried), and Parmigiano.
It’s a melt in your mouth sort of creamy meal.
If you’ve never made fresh pasta sheets before then I urge you to buy the fresh ones to start with.
Get the sauces and the layering technique down first. Then try making your own pasta next time so you have some familiarity with this dish.
1 Recipe of Bolognese Meat Sauce
Cheeses for layering:
1/2 lb of Fontina Cheese (Ask for the fontina with a soft texture -don’t purchase the aged hard fontina)
1/2 lb of Mozzarella di Bufala (pat dry with paper towels to get rid of the moisture, this gives it more flavor)
1 cup of Parmigiano Cheese ( I like Reggiano)
1 lb of Fresh Lasagna Pasta Sheets or 1 Recipe (see below) of Egg Pasta Sheets made by hand (I use a pasta machine)
Note: To purchase fresh Lasagna sheets you can find them in the refrigerated cheese section at the following stores: Central Market, Wholefoods, and HEB.
You can use the dried pasta but it will be thicker. I like thinner sheets. That’s why I prefer making them myself. If I am in a pinch I buy the fresh sheets located in the refrigerated section of the grocery store.
Bechamel Sauce Recipe Ingredients:
3 cups of Milk
1 Bay Leaf
1/2 cup of butter
3/4 cup of flour
1 tsp of nutmeg
salt and pepper to taste
1. Make the meat sauce and then set aside.
2. Butter a large rectangle or square shallow baking dish
3. Make the Bechamel Sauce by heating up a the milk in a sauce pan with the bay leaf. Next add the butter and continue to stir with a wire whisk. Next add the flour and continue to whisk while bringing the mixture to a boil. Once the mixture is thick like a gravy and smooth. Season with salt and pepper and 1 tsp of nutmeg.
4. Now mix in your bechamel with the meat sauce. Only mix enough of the bechamel until it becomes a light red sort of orange color.
5. Next make your egg pasta (recipe noted below) Or use 1lb of store bought fresh pasta.
6. If you are making your own egg pasta you will need to boil it in water for 1 minute (see egg pasta directions below). If you are using store bought fresh pasta you can use it directly without boiling it.
Assembling the Lasagna
Note: Set oven to bake at 375 Degrees
Now to assemble the lasagna you will need the following ready to go: baking dish, meat sauce mixed with bechamel, Fontina Cheese, Parmigiano and Mozzarella di Bufala all sliced, and your pasta sheets.
1. Spread one large spoonful of the sauce over the bottom of the dish.
2. Arrange a layer of pasta sheets to cover the dish cutting with a knife so that it fits the space.
3. Cover with another layer of sauce then a few slices of fontina spread out and sprinkle with parmigiano.
Technique Tip: When layering only put a thin layer of the sauce. We don’t want the pasta sheets to be swimming in the sauce, just make sure they are all covered lightly.
4. Next arrange another layer of the pasta sheets and cover with a light layer of sauce. Then cover with a few slices of Mozzarella di Bufala spread out and sprinkle with parmigiano cheese.
5. Cover with another layer of pasta sheets and spread a thin layer of sauce and repeat with the fontina cheese in step 3.
6. Continue with step 3 and 4 until you are out of room or run out.
7. Make sure the very last layer is pasta sealing it all in. Sprinkle the top with parmigiano cheese.
8. Bake at 375 degrees in the oven for about 25 minutes or until the top is a nice light brown. Let it set for 5 minutes before serving. Or you can freeze it for another day.
Serve directly from the baking dish cutting into squares.
If you decide to make your own pasta here is a recipe
Handmade Egg Pasta Recipe:
You will need: 3 Eggs, 1 1/2 cups of flour and 1 tsp of salt.
1. Place the flour in the center of a clean smooth surface and make a well in the middle. Bread the eggs into the well and add a touch of salt.
2. With a fork start beating the eggs while bringing the flour into the center of the well.
3. As the paste starts to thicken start to use your hands to make a mass ball.
4. If it is sticking to your hands add a bit more flour. Set the dough aside and let it rest. Meanwhile clean your work surface and hands.
5. With a pasta machine set the rollers at their widest setting (1), and pull off a piece of dough about the size of a lemon.
6. Feed the dough through the rollers folding it in half end to end and feed it through about 6 to 7 times.
7. It it starts to stick to the machine then dust with flour.
8. Lay each layer out onto a clean surface or a dish towel and repeat with the remaining dough.
9. Adjust the machine to the next line setting 2 and feeding the sheets through it again. You will continue this process with the different settings for your desired thickness. For lasagna I like to go to setting 7.
10. If the strips get too long to manage you cut them into shorter strips (usually happens around the 5th setting).
11. When you are done rolling the sheets you will need to boil them for a minute and cool them down in water for use.
12. Bring a pot of water to a boil, and begin adding a few sheets to boil for just a minute and then take them out and put into a bowl of cold water. Once you have the first round of them cool you can start the layering process of the lasagna.
Note: You can make this lasagna ahead of time and freeze it. I’ve made several trays at one time and used them throughout the month for gatherings and dinner parties.