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  #1  
Old 12-29-2006, 04:10 PM
Zsofia Zsofia is offline
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How do you make real authentic Italian lasagna?

I know how to make regular American lasagna - my mom makes a good one. This is a horse of an entirely extremely different color. When I was in Florence we went to a very homestyle restaurant (La Galleria, near the Ponte Vecchio - Pino and his wife are the owners, cooks, and greeters) and had lasagna. Twice, it was so good.

It was a completely different dish altogether than what we make here - I mean, it was pasta and meat and cheese tomato sauce layered together, but the whole package was nothing like my mom's. I know a lot of it was that they had homemade pasta, and it was quite thin. There wasn't a whole lot of anything, really - not a lot of meat, not a lot of sauce, not a lot of cheese. Just perfect in proportion and altogether wonderful.

So does anybody have a recipe for such an animal? Besides homemade pasta and possibly more kinds of meat in the meat (I thought maybe they use veal or something, I dunno) how do you think it was different? More to the point, how can I duplicate it in my kitchen? I've never made pasta from scratch before, but I can try.
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  #2  
Old 12-29-2006, 04:21 PM
Annie Annie is offline
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Before making pasta from scratch, try buying sheets of fresh pasta (should be where they keep the fresh linguine noodles in the cooler) and roll them out even thinner with a rolling pin. I haven't tried that myself, but I've made pasta with a machine and the thinner with the rolling, the yummier. After that, you're on your own.
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  #3  
Old 12-29-2006, 04:35 PM
Bryan Ekers Bryan Ekers is online now
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First you chop up some Italians....
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  #4  
Old 12-29-2006, 04:54 PM
Zsofia Zsofia is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Annie
Before making pasta from scratch, try buying sheets of fresh pasta (should be where they keep the fresh linguine noodles in the cooler) and roll them out even thinner with a rolling pin. I haven't tried that myself, but I've made pasta with a machine and the thinner with the rolling, the yummier. After that, you're on your own.
Uh, I live in Columbia, South Carolina. The grocery choice is a lot better than it used to be, but we don't have sheets of fresh pasta just lying around next to the refrigerated tortellini.
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  #5  
Old 12-29-2006, 04:56 PM
Qadgop the Mercotan Qadgop the Mercotan is offline
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There are as many different real italian lasagna recipes as there are cooks in Italy, I suspect.
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  #6  
Old 12-29-2006, 05:23 PM
Queen Bruin Queen Bruin is offline
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Get thee a copy of this. This book is practically the Betty Crocker cookbook of Italy (or so a favorite foodie friend of mine tells me).

Make sure you are getting an English edition - unless you read Italian, of course (the one I linked to is I think the latest English edition - printed in 1969). I haven't made any the lasagna recipes, but Ada Boni hasn't failed me yet.
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  #7  
Old 12-29-2006, 05:51 PM
Lynn Bodoni Lynn Bodoni is offline
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Cottage cheese and Cheddar cheese have no place in lasagna. I frequently put ground pork, or bulk pork sausage, in my lasagna. Getting the really GOOD cheeses (ricotta, mozzarella, parmasen, romano, and provolone) makes a huge difference. I usually have at least one whole milk cheese, generally whole milk ricotta.

As for other ingredients...I saute the meat with bell pepper, onion, mushroom, and garlic until everything's cooked through. I use a commercially prepared marinara sauce, because that's what my family likes.

I've also been known to cook up pasta twirls or wagon wheels and mix up an Italian casserole from the lasagna ingredients. I find it easier to make and eat than lasagna, while having the same basic taste.
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  #8  
Old 12-29-2006, 05:55 PM
Gadarene Gadarene is offline
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Quote:
Cottage cheese and Cheddar cheese have no place in lasagna.
Some people put cottage cheese and cheddar cheese in lasagna??
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  #9  
Old 12-29-2006, 05:59 PM
Queen Bruin Queen Bruin is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Gadarene
Some people put cottage cheese and cheddar cheese in lasagna??
There was a thread some time ago wherein we had people insisting that cottage cheese went into lasagna. It made me weep for the future.
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  #10  
Old 12-29-2006, 06:21 PM
The Big Cheese The Big Cheese is offline
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I have had cottage cheese in lasagne when I was on a diet or health kick or something. It was awful. The moisture separated and the noodles and stuff were sitting in a ton of liquid. Don't ever try this at home!

Try incanestrata cheese too....but I know they won't have that in SC.
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  #11  
Old 12-29-2006, 06:23 PM
The Big Cheese The Big Cheese is offline
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Oh, and I forgot to point out that I'm ...um, Italian. Cottage cheese....
I'll ask my aunt for hers, and a friend who lives near Milan for her mothers (She doesn't cook!) but they eat mostly risotto up there.
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  #12  
Old 12-29-2006, 06:43 PM
John Mace John Mace is online now
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Qadgop the Mercotan
There are as many different real italian lasagna recipes as there are cooks in Italy, I suspect.
Reginal cooking varies a great deal. I'm sure a Tuscany style dish (per the OP) would be considerably different from a Sicilian style dish, for example.

I'd also suspect that the mozzarella cheese the OP had in Italy is made from water buffalo milk, made within a day or two of using it. Most of what you find in grocery stores in the US is absolute crap-- reduced fat cow's milk mozzarella. Yuk... it might as well be rubber. Your food is only going to be as good as the ingredience that go into it.
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  #13  
Old 12-29-2006, 06:55 PM
Sapo Sapo is offline
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John makes the vital point. Italian food is all about the quality of the ingredients.

That said, basic differences between italian and american lasagna: italian lasagna is less saucy, more meaty, more pasta to sauce (i.e. drier). Often some pork in the meat sauce. My mom's lasagna would somehow shrink in the mold and get crispy edges that I just can't replicate.

Start the sauce with carrots, onions and celery. Don't get carried away with the spices and herbs (say no to italian seasoning!). Keep the ingredient list short.

And yes, thin thin pasta makes a big difference.
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  #14  
Old 12-29-2006, 06:56 PM
Zsofia Zsofia is offline
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Well, we do have some specialty grocery stores. I can get actual mozarella. I just want to know how you actually make the Tuscan dish I had.
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  #15  
Old 12-29-2006, 07:06 PM
John Mace John Mace is online now
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Zsofia
Well, we do have some specialty grocery stores. I can get actual mozarella. I just want to know how you actually make the Tuscan dish I had.
And then you have to figure out the perfect wine to serve with it!
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  #16  
Old 12-29-2006, 07:07 PM
Gut Gut is offline
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Big Bad Voodoo Lou has a killer lasagna recipe. linky . I have no idea if it's authentic Italian but I dig it.
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  #17  
Old 12-29-2006, 07:45 PM
jjimm jjimm is offline
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To add to John's comments, I said this recently about pizza in Italy too: less is more. And only fresh ingredients.

Less cream/bechamel, less meat, thinner pasta. Use unprocessed fresh leaf herbs, proper buffalo mozarella (the stuff that comes balled up in brine) in thin slices, use fresh plum rather than canned tomatoes, or at least sieved pomodoro from a bottle, and extra virgin olive oil.

One other tip I've got from an Italian recipe book for the meat: fry the ground beef in olive oil, and when it is browned, stir in a glass of milk and boil it off; then do the same with a glass of red wine; then add the pomodoro.

Also on the "less" tip, while US lasagna (while delicious) is usually a big solid/sloppy block, in Italy, the stuff that I've had is more like a loose and delicate pile of open ravioli.
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  #18  
Old 12-29-2006, 08:51 PM
Zsofia Zsofia is offline
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That's exactly what it was - loose and delicate pile of ravioli!

And we had no problem picking a wine in Florence - you had the Chianti Classico or you had the Chianti Classico or maybe you had the Chianti Classico...
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  #19  
Old 12-30-2006, 12:19 AM
pulykamell pulykamell is offline
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I'll tell you briefly what goes into mine, but I don't have the full recipe handy. I learned the recipe from an old issue of Saveur (I want to say in the year 2000), so you can go digging back there if you like.

I make a fresh spinach pasta and roll it out into sheets. Basically, just spinach, flour, eggs, salt. I don't know the proportions, but I just get a bunch of flour, add a bunch of finely chopped/pureed spinach and add eggs until it makes a smooth, pliable dough.

Second, I make a bolognese sauce. This takes about 3 hours at least. It's a standard ragu bolognese that incorporates beef, milk, white wine, prosciutto, one or two chicken livers, onions. Absolutely no garlic in this dish. As far as I understand it, a traditional ragu bolognese starts with a garlic-less battuto (the herbs and vegetables that start the dish...in this case, onions, celery, and carrot).

Aha! I managed to find the exact recipe here. Do not brown the meat for a bolognese. Cook it gently. Browning it imparts the wrong texture.

The last portion is a bechamel, aka besciamella. Very simply white sauce made with butter, flour, milk, nutmeg, salt. Plenty of recipes on the web if you need them.

The original Saveur recipe calls for cooking the fresh pasta before layering, and I used to do this, but I've since found out there's more than enough moisture to cook it when layered raw. So, it's one layer pasta, a layer meat sauce, a layer bechamel, pasta, meat, pasta, bechamel, pasta, meat, pasta. Sprinkle each bechamel and meat layer generously with freshly grated Parmesan or Romano (or similar dry, sharply flavored cheese. For the love of all that is good do not use the sawdust that comes in a green can.)

That's all there is to it. Lasagnas with ricotta-based white layers are fine, but I much prefer this simple version. It's delicious and I've discovered a potent aphrodisiac for anyone you happen to be wooing.
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  #20  
Old 12-30-2006, 12:22 AM
pulykamell pulykamell is offline
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The internet is a wonderful thing (WARNING: pdf file). That's a link to the recipe for lasagna that I've adapted. It's got everything on there except the bechamel sauce recipe, which is easy enough to find if you don't already know how to make one.
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  #21  
Old 12-30-2006, 07:46 AM
Stranger On A Train Stranger On A Train is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Qadgop the Mercotan
There are as many different real italian lasagna recipes as there are cooks in Italy, I suspect.
This is absolutely true; lasagna is the Italian equivilent of a casserole. But there are definitely wrong ways to make a lasagna, includingg the use of cottage cheese, hamburger, dry noodles, et cetera. I have a great recipe (based on that from Angeli Caffe) but it'll have to wait until I return to home base.

The basics: make a roux and use it to make a bechamel sauce into which you mix the ricotta or (preferably) marscapone cheese. If you have to use mozzarella cheese, use it sparingly and preferablly fresh (the balls in liquid) rather than aged. Make your own pasta (cheap and easy) or buy fresh pasta sheets rather than dried pasta. (Dried pasta is fine for spaghetti but terrible for thick noodles.) Make the sauce fresh--again, so easy it's almost trivial, and both better tasting and more healthy than anything in a can--and if you want a meat lasagna, try making a proper rag¨ (not Rag˙TM, which isn't a bloody rag¨ at all!) to get the flavor and consistancy. I prefer vegetable lasagnas myself, but don't just dump a pound of ground beef in the middle and call it good. AND NO SERVING THE LASAGNA WITH GARLIC BREAD! It already has one starch in it; you don't need another one.

And now I'm torn between wanting to make a lasagna and all the weight I need to lose from this holiday's largess of calories. Damnit.

Stranger
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  #22  
Old 12-30-2006, 11:55 AM
Quartz Quartz is offline
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Paging Angua. IIRC she has a killer lasagna recipe.
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  #23  
Old 12-30-2006, 04:12 PM
USCDiver USCDiver is online now
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Zsofia
Uh, I live in Columbia, South Carolina. The grocery choice is a lot better than it used to be, but we don't have sheets of fresh pasta just lying around next to the refrigerated tortellini.
Have you looked at Earthworks on Rosewood? They might have some fresh pasta there. Other possibilites: The Gourmet Shop in 5-Points or La Cucina in the Vista.
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  #24  
Old 12-30-2006, 04:25 PM
USCDiver USCDiver is online now
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Originally Posted by USCDiver
Have you looked at Earthworks on Rosewood? They might have some fresh pasta there. Other possibilites: The Gourmet Shop in 5-Points or La Cucina in the Vista.
Oops, been a few years since I lived there. The market on Rosewood is called Rosewood Market (imagine that). But there is also a 'health food' market on Devine ST (across from Dreher HS next to CVS pharmacy) that's called something like 'Earthworks'.
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  #25  
Old 12-30-2006, 04:42 PM
jjimm jjimm is offline
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Well damn this thread. I was in Tesco's supermarket earlier, and my wife came up the aisle clutching a "Tesco's Finest Traditional Lasagne" ready meal. "Hand placed ruffled pasta. Minced beef. Pancetta. White wine. Parmigiano from Emilia-Romagna."

I bought the fucker and we just ate it. So much for the post-Christmas dieting. It was pretty damned good, and quite like the one described in the OP.
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  #26  
Old 12-30-2006, 05:23 PM
Zsofia Zsofia is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by USCDiver
Oops, been a few years since I lived there. The market on Rosewood is called Rosewood Market (imagine that). But there is also a 'health food' market on Devine ST (across from Dreher HS next to CVS pharmacy) that's called something like 'Earthworks'.
Earthfare, across from Dreher. La Cucina's been gone for ages. There's also the Fresh Market. I don't know about Earthfare or Rosewood Market, but the Fresh Market doesn't have pasta sheets (although they do have a good cheese selection) and the Gourmet Shop has an even better cheese selection but is extremely inconvenient.
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