Lasagne verdi alla modenese

Baked green lasagne

This is the traditional variation made in Modena of the classic baked lasagne, the great speciality of Emilia-Romagna. It is usually made with spinach pasta, but plain egg pasta or even dried egg lasagne can be used instead. However, I advise you to spare the time to make your own pasta. The final result is undoubtedly worth the trouble. If you use the dried lasagne that do not need precooking (which I do not recommend), you will have to make the ragù more liquid and bake the dish for 1 hour.

Ingredients

  • 50 g/ oz/4 tbsp unsalted butter
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 1 small carrot, finely chopped
  • 1 small celery stalk, finely chopped
  • 1 garlic clove, finely chopped
  • 100 g/ oz chestnut (cremini) mushrooms, chopped
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 100 g/ oz unsmoked pancetta, cubed
  • 200 g/7 oz lean minced (ground) pork
  • 200 g/7 oz lean minced (ground) beef
  • 200 ml/7 fl oz/generous ¾ cup red wine
  • 2 tbsp tomato purée (paste) diluted in 4 tbsp water
  • 2 tbsp flat-leaf parsley, chopped
  • 2 tbsp fresh thyme leaves
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 100–150 ml/3½–5½ fl oz/about ½ cup whole milk, heated
  • homemade spinach lasagne made with 350 g/12 oz Italian 00 flour, 3 eggs and 175 g spinach
  • thick béchamel sauce, flavoured with onion and nutmeg
  • 100 g/ oz Parmesan cheese, grated
  • 3 tbsp dried white breadcrumbs

Method

Heat half the butter in a frying pan and gently sauté the onion, carrot, celery and garlic for about 10–15 minutes, until the vegetables have softened. Throw in the mushrooms and continue cooking for about 5 minutes, stirring frequently. Season with salt.

In a separate saucepan, heat the oil and fry the pancetta for 2 minutes. Add the pork and beef and cook over moderately high heat, breaking up the meat with a fork. When the meat is browned all over, pour in the wine and boil until about half has evaporated. Mix in the diluted tomato purée and cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Add the parsley and thyme and then scoop all the fried vegetables and their juices into the meat sauce. Season with salt and pepper, mix thoroughly and cook, uncovered, over very low heat for about 1½–2 hours. Keep an eye on the ragù and add 2 or 3 tablespoons of hot milk whenever the ragù gets too dry. It is impossible to say exactly how much milk you will need: this depends on, among other things, the heat and the pan you are using.

Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F/gas mark 4.

To make the lasagne, follow the instructions here, cutting the dough into rectangles measuring about 20 × 10 cm/8 × 4 inches. Cook the lasagne in boiling salted water (I use a wide sauté pan) a few sheets at a time, moving them around gently with a fork so they do not stick together; they will take no more than 1–2 minutes. Using a fish slice, lift them out and lay them on clean tea towels while you cook the rest.

To assemble the dish, spread 2–3 tablespoons of the béchamel over the bottom of a 30 × 20 cm/12 × 8 inch lasagne dish and cover with a layer of lasagne. Spread over some ragù and 1 or 2 tablespoons of grated Parmesan. Repeat the layers – lasagne, ragù, a little béchamel, Parmesan – until all the ingredients are used up, finishing with a layer of lasagne. Spread the remaining béchamel all over the top and sprinkle with the remaining Parmesan mixed with the breadcrumbs.

Melt the remaining butter, pour it over the lasagne and bake for about 30 minutes, until the top is golden. Take the dish out of the oven and leave to rest for 2–3 minutes before serving.

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