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Cover: Mamma Mia!

Recipes with bay leaf

14Jun 12

Italian Classics – Lasagne

Lasagne

 

A classic Italian dish known all around the world, there’s no need to wonder why lasagne is so popular… it’s simply delicious! This recipe assumes you have some ready-made Bolognese sauce to hand. So, if you need help with that, look back through my posts for my spaghetti Bolognese recipe, and use that.

This recipe also calls for béchamel sauce, delicious and creamy. You can buy it at the store, but as always, I prefer to make mine from scratch. So the first step in the recipe below explains the method of preparation for the sauce using bay leaf, milk, butter and nutmeg. That is the first part of the recipe, and you´ll want to start with that.

Now the fun bit: assembling your lasagne. I like to imagine I’m laying the strata of rocks and earth in an imaginary edible geological cross-section!

Have a piquant peppery green-leaf salad with your lasagne, a salad with a bit of bite! Oh, and don’t forget, a hearty and robust red wine is an essential accompaniment. I know I should probably recommend an Italian wine, but I love Chateaneuf du Pape, when I can afford it! And afterwards, you can savour this Negroni cocktail, another Italian favourite!

Italian Classics - Lasagne
Author: 
Recipe type: Main
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 4
 
A classic Italian dish known all around the world
Ingredients
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 500ml milk
  • 40g butter
  • 40g flour
  • ½ teaspoonful of freshly grated nutmeg
  • 350ml (i.e. approx 4 servings) of Bolognese sauce
  • 160g dried lasagne sheets*
  • 100g grated Parmesan cheese
  • Salt and pepper
  • * Or you could roll out your pasta dough if you have some you’ve made yourself.
Instructions
  1. To make the béchamel sauce, bring the milk to a simmer in a pan with the bay leaf in it. Take off the heat and stand for 15-20 minutes to infuse the milk with the flavour of the bay leaf. Melt the butter in another pan, over a low heat. Add the flour and stir.
  2. Watch closely and monitor the heat. In a minute or two, the flour and butter mixture will have combined and ‘cooked’. Remove from the heat and slowly and gradually add the infused milk, having first strained it through a sieve to get rid of the bay leaf (and anything else that might make the sauce lumpy!), stirring all the while.
  3. Once it’s all combined and you’re sure it’s mixed smoothly, return to the heat and gently simmer until it thickens, which should only take a minute or two. Add the grated nutmeg and season to taste with salt and pepper.
  4. Next, get started on your pasta. I’m assuming the use of dried pasta sheets for this recipe. Cook them in batches in salted boiling water, until al dente, as usual.
  5. As you take each batch out, drain off excess water, rinse in cold water to refresh, and lay on a kitchen towel or tea towel, to absorb any moisture.
  6. While you’re doing this, you can reheat your Bolognese sauce in a pan or microwave.
  7. In a suitably sized ovenproof dish, start with the Bolognese sauce: go for three layers - you should have the perfect amount of everything enabling you to divide the pasta, Bolognese and béchamel sauces in thirds. So on top of one-third of your meaty sauce, put one-third of the béchamel, then a layer of pasta. Repeat the process two more times, reserving a little béchamel for the top of the last layer of pasta, before finally sprinkling over the Parmesan. We sometimes add small amounts of Parmesan in each layer as well, over the béchamel sauce, for added cheesiness.
  8. Bake at 220ºC until the top turns a beautiful golden brown, which should take 15-20 minutes, and then remove from the oven and let stand for about 5 minutes, before serving.

 

 

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27Apr 12

Paperdelle with Wild Boar

Papperdelle con Cinghiale

You may have noted that you can buy boar either wild or farmed, but nowadays, truly wild boar is less easily had. Boar is such a different beast from the more commonly farmed breeds of domesticated pig; it’s a deliciously strong, earthy flavour, and something everyone should try. (For more gamey recipes, try this potpie of roe deer with root vegetables.)

Ingredients:

  • 2 or 3 tablespoons of olive oil
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 small bunch flatleaf parsley, finely chopped
  • Small sprig of rosemary
  • 2 sage leaves, finely chopped
  • 1 clove of garlic, sliced very finely
  • 1 onion, finely chopped (a red onion if possible)
  • 1 tomato, finely chopped
  • 1 stick of celery, finely chopped
  • 1 large glass of robust red wine
  • 500g wild boar meat, finely chopped or minced
  • 1kg pappardelle
  • Pecorino, grated
  • Salt and pepper

Method:

1 – In the olive oil, gently fry the herbs for several minutes, along with the bay leaf, in a heavy-bottomed frying pan or casserole. Add the chopped vegetables and sauté for 3-5 minutes before adding the garlic. Cook for a couple more minutes and then add the meat.

2 – Pour in the wine. Bring to a simmer, stirring occasionally, and cook until the liquid is almost completely reduced. Season with salt and pepper and simmer gently for a further fifteen minutes.

3 – In a large pan of lightly salted boiling water, cook the pasta till al dente, as per the packet instructions. If you don’t have papardelle, then fettucine, tagliatelle, or even linguine or spaghetti will suffice.

4 – Drain the pasta and serve into large, deep preheated plates, before serving the wild boar sauce. Have a bowl of pecorino on hand so you can sprinkle the wild boar paperdelle liberally with cheese.

Wild boar meat can be very strongly flavoured, so you need a muscular red wine to stand up to it! Rhone valley reds, like the classic Chateauneuf-du-Pape, seem like an obvious option. A good crusty loaf of brown bread and some extra virgin olive oil will go well with this scrumptious meal.

Serves: 2
Total Time: – 1 hour (preparation, 15 minutes; cooking time 45 minutes)

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14Feb 12

Lamb and Linguine Bolognese

Lamb and Linguine BologneseWhilst respecting culinary tradition, we young Italians also enjoy coming up with our own variations of classic themes. I’m a linguine-lover: there’s that little extra bite with linguine, and if you’re crazy about pasta, these small things matter! I also make a salmon linguine dish, but I made this dish with lamb mince and a chili punch.

 

Ingredients:

• 1 tablespoon olive oil
• 15-20g butter
• 1 bay leaf
• 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar (optional)
• 1 teaspoon grated nutmeg (optional)
• 1 finely chopped fiery red chili (seeds removed)
• 1 small (or 1/2 large) onion, chopped finely
• 1 stick of celery, sliced very finely
• 200-250g minced lamb
• 1 large glass robust red wine
• 1 200g tin of chopped tomatoes or 250/300g fresh tomatoes, chopped
Note: for a fuller flavour, use 250/300g fresh tomatoes – blanched in boiled water, peeled, and then pressed through a sieve to remove seeds
• 300ml lamb stock
• 200g linguine
• salt and pepper
• freshly grated Parmesan – as much or as little as you like!

Method

1 – Heat the oil and butter in a large heavy-based pan and add the onion, celery and bay leaf. Stir continuously over low heat for 5-10 minutes until the onions become softened and slightly transparent. Add the meat, season with salt and pepper, and cook gently until all the flesh has browned.

2 – Add the wine (and balsamic vinegar), bring to a boil, and simmer between 10-20 minutes, until the wine has reduced significantly. Add the tomatoes and chilli (and nutmeg). This is the long part: simmer very, very gently between 1-4 hours. Be sure to check regularly, adding the stock as necessary, 50ml or 100ml at a time, to prevent the sauce drying out and sticking to the pan.

3 – As the meat reaches the end of its cooking time, prepare the pasta. Bring the water to the boil, add a pinch of salt, and cook until al dente. Drain the linguine, reserving a small cup of the cooking liquid. Mix the pasta and meat sauce together, adding a little of the pasta liquid to help the sauce coat the linguine nicely. Serve immediately with grated Parmesan and the remains of that robust red wine.

Serves 2

Time Up to 4 hours – 15 mins prep, 1-4 hrs cooking (the longer you can leave the sauce cooking, the richer and better combined the flavours will be.)

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About Gianluca Dievole

My Badge: Assistant

About

Buon' giorno! Welcome to my Italian food blog. I am Italian, and proud of it! Italy has so much going for it: with one foot quite literally in the beautiful Mediterranean, my country’s climate and location give us an amazing cornucopia of ingredients, which is why our culture is steeped in a hearty romantic culinary tradition. My wife and I love our food, so all my recipes are designed for two. If you're cooking for an average sized modern family - perhaps not the traditional extended Italian family - just double the quantities.