From Too Many Chefs -

June 5, 2006
Spring Lasagne Bolognese

lightlasag.jpgIt's been one of those eternally cold and rainy Springs here in Paris. I looked up an old recipe on this site not long ago and found a post where I was complaining about it last year. And here we are again: grateful for a day of watery sunshine and 69 degrees F.

For a cook, this poses something of a dilemma. (For a human being getting dressed in the morning it's not easy either, but this is a food blog.) You want to take advantage of all the lovely fresh produce that should be appearing in the market stalls. But it's all rather slow to appear and in any case there's a real un-Spring-like urge to turn the oven on and heat up the apartment. So I decided to make a lasagna but I tried to make it relatively light, a compromise. I love baked pasta, it's one of my guilty pleasures - whether a pasta souffle or plain old mac-a-chee. But with fresh tomatoes, loads of fresh garlic and soft herbs from the terrace garden this version did turn out a bit lighter. And yet with that fantastic crusty cheese top that makes it all worthwhile.

The Critic said, "It's not how I would have made it." Pause. "But I like it." Whew.

Spring Lasagne Bolognese Serves 3-4

5 ripe tomatoes
2 onion
2 Tbs fresh garlic, slivered (about 3-4 cloves)
1/4 cup fresh oregano, chopped
1/4 cup fresh basil, chopped
250 grams of ground beef
1 Tbs fennel seeds
12 leaves of lasagna
2-4 Tbs olive oil
100 grams ricotta
125 grams mozzarella
1/4 cup or about 75 grams grated Parmesan

Boil a full kettle of water and while you are waiting for it to boil, begin chopping the onion. Cook the onion in the olive oil, stirring from time to time until they are soft. In the meantime, place the tomatoes in a large pot and pour the boiling water over them. This will allow you to remove the skins easily. Leave them for a minute or two and then drain them and rinse them in cold water until they are cool enough to peel. Set them aside.

Rinse out the large pot and fill it again with water. Bring the water to the boil. While you are doing the next steps, cook the pieces of pasta 2-3 at a time in the boiling water. You only need to leave them a few minutes until they soften and then slide them into a bowl of cold water. I find it is much easier to cook lasagna if you only put in a few pieces at a time as otherwise they have a tendency to stick together.

Add the ground beef to the onions and cook over a medium flame, breaking up the meat as you go. Once the meat is cooked through, check how much grease they have given up. If the meat was lean you can move on to the next step but if there is a lot of grease in the pan, drain it. Stir in the fennel seeds and cook for another moment. I like to add fennel because it gives the illusion of including Italian sausage, which is what I would normally include if such a product were easily obtainable in Paris. Peel the tomatoes and chop them. You can remove the bits with the seeds, but I usually don't bother. Add the the herbs and garlic and turn off the heat.

By now you are hopefully done cooking the pasta. Preheat the oven to 350F/180C. In a pan that fits three pasta slices side by side, pour a bit of the sauce in the bottom and spread it around. Lay three slices of pasta on the bottom. Spread 1/4 of the ricotta over the pasta, then add 1/4 of the sauce and 1/4 of the mozzarella, grated or sliced in thin strips. Repeat until you have used up all the pasta, sauce and cheese, finishing with the Parmesan cheese.

Bake for about 45 minutes or until the top is crusty and brown and the filling is bubbling. The kitchen will also smell pretty good.

Wait 15 tantalising minutes before serving so that the cheese cools down a bit and keeps the whole thing hanging together. It's a lot lighter than the lasagna I usually make, but the fresh garlic and herbs added a whole new fresh flavour, perfect on a cold late Spring night.

Posted by Meg in Sussex at June 5, 2006 1:39 PM

Yeah, I always have trouble with the "wait 15 minutes" thing so I'm constantly picking burnt flesh from the roof of my mouth.

Even dogs learn, but not me.

Posted by barrett on June 5, 2006 at 11:59 PM

For some reason, the link to pasta soufle went to a blank page. I'm dying to know about pasta soufle, I've never had it. Is there another link?

Posted by holly on June 6, 2006 at 8:46 AM

Holly, try again. It worked for me when I tried it.

It's a Deborah Madison recipe and works brilliantly.

Posted by barrett on June 6, 2006 at 10:46 AM

Or use the search button on the right column of our site: if you search for Madison and pasta you'll find it. It's a lovely, surprisingly light pasta dish with angel hair pasta and cheese.

Mmmmm....I haven't made it in a while....!

Posted by Meg in Paris on June 6, 2006 at 1:30 PM

I cannot raise the pasta souffle recipe either, just get a blank page. I tried the search option, also looked in the recipe archives under grains, beans, pasta. Any other suggestions??

Posted by kay on June 7, 2006 at 8:01 AM

Try copying and pasting this URL into your browser:

I don't know why it doesn't work for some and does for others!

Posted by Meg in Paris on June 7, 2006 at 9:42 AM

I've just realised that the mac-a-chee link WAS broken and it's now fixed, by the way!

Posted by Meg in Paris on June 7, 2006 at 9:48 AM

I've rebuilt the site. It may fix some of the internal link problems.

Posted by barrett on June 7, 2006 at 11:34 AM

Thanks for reposting the link. After I commented the other day, I did try to do a search for soufle and came up with nothing. Than I realized I was missing an F!

The recipe looks great, I'll have to try it sometime.

Posted by holly on June 8, 2006 at 11:12 AM

I can't, I just can't sit on my hands at let you call this Bolognese. not in the least. In recompense for being the rain-on-the-parader, here's my recipe for an authentic lasagne bolognese, adapted from Montanari et al, La cucina Bolognese:

Ragù alla bolognese

2/3 lbs ground pork (grind the meats youself for best results)
2/3 lbs ground beef
¼ lbs finely chopped or ground pancetta
strongly suggested: 1/3 lbs finely chopped or ground chicken livers
¼ lbs minced prosciutto
1/3 lbs loose sausage
butter and olive oil
1 chopped onion or 4 shallots
1 chopped carrot
1 chopped stalk of celery
1 c red wine
2/3 lbs of peeled chopped tomatoes, tomato sauce, or diluted tomato paste
whole milk
freshly ground nutmeg

Saute the pancetta, celery, carrot and onion in butter and oil. Add the ground meats, brown for a long time, until the meat is browned and slightly crunchy. Add wine, let it evaporate, then add the tomato. Lower the flame as low as possible and continue to cook for at least 3 hours, wetting with broth when it becomes . Towards the end, you canadd some milk, if you like. Correct the seasoning with salt, nutmeg and pepper.
There are infinite variations on this recipe. Try adding dried or fresh sautéed mushrooms, chicken livers, hearts and gizzards.
Serve over tagliatelle with grated parmigiano or in a classic lasagne Bolognese.

Lasagne verde alla bolognese
1 lb flour
¾ lb cooked spinach, squeezed dry and passed through a food processor
3 eggs
1 cup olive oil

ragù alla bolognese
béchamel made with 1L of milk
abundant grated parmigiano

To make the pasta: remember that the quantities depend on the moisture in the flour and the spinach and the size of the eggs. Pour the flour into a large bowl or onto an ample work surface, make a hole in the middle of the flour for the wet ingredients. Carefully add the eggs, oil and spinach, mix them without spilling out of the flour. Incorporate the flour slowly so as not to spill the wet ingredients until the dough is smooth. Allow to rest covered for at least a half hour. Roll out the sheets for the lasagne to fit your pan, making sure not to make them too thin. Cook al dente.
Lightly butter the pan and form a layer with the pasta, cover with a thin veil of béchamel, then ragù, then grated parmigiano. Continue these layers until you’ve exhausted the ingredients, at least 4 to 6 layers of pasta. For the final layer, add a little ragù to the remaining béchamel and cover the pasta, then cover with grated parmigiano. The traditional way to cook the lasagna is covered with a final plain layer of pasta, which is removed after the first 20 minutes of cooking at 325 to 350°F to let the sauce on top brown. The same could be achieved with foil cover. In either case, the lasagna needs another 10 minutes to brown.
Allow to rest 10 minutes before serving.

Posted by lagrassa on June 12, 2006 at 6:09 AM

This was again the second recipe I got hold of. I asked my wife to get this cooked. And I must say the best I had on this bloody cold weather.

Posted by Roma on November 26, 2011 at 5:55 AM