Lasagna – A Christmas Day Tradition
For many families Lasagna is a Christmas day tradition. It is an interlude from Christmas Eve dinner of fish and Santo Stefano, the 26th, of Abbacchio or Cappone. Abbacchio is lamb and Cappone is a castrated rooster. Northern Italian lasagna has little to do with the lasagna we find here in the US. It is not difficult to prepare and is definitely worth while preparing fresh pasta for this dish.
You will need a large, deep casserole dish. I use a heavy aluminum pan but the lasagna must be removed from the pan immediately after dinner because the acid in the tomatoes will react with the aluminum base. A ceramic or glass dish will also work well. I prefer the ceramic because it retains less heat. Both the glass and ceramic dishes can be used to store the lasagna for several days in the fridge. There are also throw away tin pans you can buy at any supermarket but I feel that the heavier dishes work better as the thin metal pans can burn the pasta on the sides and bottom.
You may also prepare this dish several days before and place in the freezer. Do not cook the lasagna before freezing and allow to come to room temperature before placing in the oven.
Lasagna is a great dish to prepare with several people. Each one can have a specific responsibility and be part of the preparation without requiring concentration. This will allow all to chat, drink a glass of wine and have a great time being together.
Ingredients for a large casserole dish (4-6 people):
1 lb fresh pasta (400 grams of flour-4 eggs) rolled as thin as possible
2 lt Besciamella (twice the amount in the recipe listed here)
6 cups David’s Meat sauce
2 cups Grated Parmesan Cheese
1-2 glasses of wine for each individual involved in the preparation, chilled to about 65 degrees. Since this will most likely be the morning I suggest the traditional “Bianchino” from Friuli. This would be a Pinot Grigio. A good wine that you can find easily here would be a “Livio Felluga - Pinot Grigio”. Another good solution, although not Friulano, would be “Mezzacorona Pinot Grigio from Alto Adige [you can find the 1.5 liter bottle for about 12 $]. I suggest this solution because Mezzacorona started using a composite cork in 2004. Since the wines imported often are not properly stored the wines with a traditional cork risk being contaminated by the cork itself. Throwing away any bottle of wine is a sin so this is a good solution.
Butter the casserole dish on the bottom and sides.
Fill a large pot, a stock pot would be good, with water and add 4 hands of medium or large grain salt (if using regular table salt reduce to 3 handfuls). This is more than traditional pasta water because you will be using the water many times. Bring to a strong boil.
Have a glass of wine.
Place a ladle of sauce in the bottom of the pan avoiding the meat. Place 3 pieces of pasta in the hot water and boil for 3 minutes (if you are using commercial dried pasta increase to 7 minutes). Lift the pasta out of the water with tongs and place on a plate. Before adding to the dish dry both sides with a towel. Place the sheet of pasta in the casserole dish, use the other pieces of pasta to create a base of pasta. This is your floor. Each layer should be complete with open spaces.
Add 2 ladles of sauce and spread evenly. Spread about 2 hands of Parmesan cheese.
Have some wine.
Get another 3 sheets of pasta and boil, dry and cover the sauce completely. This time two ladles of Besciamella and more Parmesan. Continue for about 5 layers. Continue alternating layers of sauce and Besciamella until you arrive about ½ inch from the top of the pan. Do not fill to the top. The lasagna will expand during cooking.
Top with Besciamella and finally spread Parmesan cheese liberally.
If you do not intend to cook immediately, cover with aluminum foil and place in the fridge.
About 45 minutes before serving, remove the foil, preheat the oven to 400 degrees and cook for 20 minutes. This will create a crusty top. If you prefer a soft top, use 300 degrees for 35 minutes.
This will be our Christmas dinner this year. If you try this please let me know your thoughts and Merry Christmas to all.
Tags: Lasagne Italian Recipes Food and Wine Travel Italy