In our family, lasagne means a special occasion. Usually Christmas or Easter, sometimes a birthday too. Lasagne is all of our favourite meal that Nonna would cook, so now that my wonderful Nonna isn’t around anymore we’ve pooled our knowledge of the process to try to attempt it ourselves.
One thing you’ll notice about this recipe is that there is no measurements. Italian’s generally don’t cook with specific measurements, it’s all done by taste and feel. Give it a go and I’m sure you’ll pleasantly surprise yourself as to how well it turns out.
Another thing about this recipe is that it’s not one to do after work, or on a Sunday afternoon. This process took us about 7 hours in total so you’d be smart to set an entire day aside and buy the ingredients in bulk and do a really big batch to freeze.
- Sugo (sauce)
- crushed tomatoes
- herbs (we chose oregano & mixed Italian herbs)
- mince – beef and pork (you could also use veal and pork)
- olive oil
- beef or pork bones
- plain flour
- 2x cheeses- parmesan and mozzarella
- start by chopping and beginning to sauté the onions in a generous amount of olive oil, add in some herbs as they begin to cook through.
2. Add in your mince. Once your mince has browned through add further herbs and salt to taste.
3. Add in your sauce, and tomatoes. We are very blessed that Nonna had a stockpile of sauce left for us to enjoy. You could most likely do this with a store-brought sauce, or if you have a favourite recipe use that.
4. Next, add in your bones to the sauce and bring to the boil. Once your sauce is boiling lower the heat to a steady simmer and allow to cook for 5-8 hours- the longer the better your sauce will taste!
5. While your sauce is simmering away, begin making your pasta by tipping about a half bag of flour onto the bench, beginning with about 5 eggs and a decent pinch of salt. Pasta should be made by feel, as you begin mixing you will notice if your mixture is too wet or dry. If it is dry begin adding small amounts of water.
6. Once your pasta has combined to a dough, you will begin to kneed until smooth and soft. Be mindful not to over-kneed the pasta as it will dry and become tough. Break your dough into smaller pieces (about 4), wrap in glad wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes.
Credits to Irene for being our mentor and model.
7. You will need a pasta maker for the rolling process. Keep the standard attachment on and begin by taking small pieces from your dough and running them through on the thickest setting, slowly adjusting the settings until you reach a nice thin consistency. Lay out the completed pieces to dry for as little or as long as you like. Ideally for at least 1 hour.
8. At this stage your sauce has been simmering away for quite some time. Check if the meat is falling from the bones and remove the bones at this point (leaving the meat in the sauce). Allow your sauce to continue to simmer. If it reduces too far, add some water. At this point you will also need to get a large saucepan and fill it with water, add a small amount of salt, a tiny pinch of olive oil and begin to boil ready to cook your pasta.
You should be continually tasting your sauce and adding salt, or herbs to your taste.
9. While your water is starting to boil, begin to clean your working area and set up a production line to assemble the lasagne. You will need your sauce, an empty bowl to put the cooked lasagne sheets in, and your cheese.
Before boiling the pasta, cut to the size of the trays you will be using.
10. Begin cooking the pasta by submerging in boiling water for approximately 2 minutes. Remember that this will cook again in the oven so it does not need to be cooked through entirely.
11. Assemble the lasagne in layers, adding pasta and sauce on each, and a small amount of cheese in every second. You should aim to get at least 6 layers. Once you reach the top of the tray, add a small amount of sauce to dampen the pasta. This is where you can really go crazy on the cheese and add as much as you like!
12. Once assembled you can choose to freeze uncooked, or cook covered with foil on for 30 minutes, followed by cooking uncovered for 10 minutes to get a delicious crispy top layer.
One thing i’ve learnt through the process is that it is truly a labour of love. We will never be able to perfectly replicate my Nonna’s famous lasagne, but the fun of the process, and the enjoyment of eating something that she would create for us with such love is perfect enough.