Friday, February 5, 2010

The Worlds Most Perfect Food - Lasagne di Svizzero

While it often said, “Man cannot live by bread alone”', the same cannot be said for Lasagne. Not only is Lasagne one of the architectural wonder of the culinary world, along with Tiramisu, which is also Italian, but it is also one of the world’s perfect foods. Oh yes my friends... The entire food pyramid is contained therein.

ALL in one convenient dish. It contains Dairy (Milk), Vegetables (Chard, Spinach or Arugula), Fruit (Tomato) Protein (Beef, Bison, Cheven, or Pork as well as the Egg), Good Fats (Olive Oil), and Grains (Pasta and Flour). And most importantly... let's face it; ANY food that contains three different cheeses is pure unadulterated heaven.

Now while the Pasta "Lasagne" hails from Emilia-Romagna, I have to be honest with you in regards to the origin of Lasagne as a "dish"....

There is no ONE singular Lasagne recipe. They are many, and the methods of construction are vast. In fact, the "who invented lasagne" debate has been transpiring for eons. But all in all it comes down to 2 basic varieties..... Or at least the way I understand it...

In Northern Italy, it is usually made with a Sugo Bolognese or braised meat and Béchamel. (Very similar to the Greek Pastitsio)

While in Southern Italy, it's made with Marinara and ground meat or sausage; with Ricotta, Mozzarella di Bufala and Parmegiano-Reggiano.

Luckily, I am geographically far removed from all arguments regarding the who, what, where, when, why and how of Lasagne construction. As a result, I have decided to exercise my constitutional right to "Freedom of Lasagne", which, while not listed in the Bill of Rights, I am certain is one of the later amendments.

As a result I have picked the best of both worlds and combined equal amounts of Tomato sauce and Béchamel, as well as simply sauteing the meat with onion; added Swiss Chard (I usually use Arugula or Spinach but I thought the Swiss Chard was more fitting) and included Ricotta and Mozarella di Bufala as well as a healthy dose of Parmegiano-Reggiano. All culminating in a decadently delicious Lasagne concoction with both Northern and Southern influences, but taking neither "side" as to which is the original... Call it the Switzerland of the Lasagne world. ;)

Lasagne di Svizzero

Lasagne Sauce - Balsamella (Béchamel) with Tomato Sauce
6 TB Butter
6 TB AP-Flour
3/4 tsp Salt
1/2 tsp White pepper
3 cup Whole Milk (Warmed to about 110)
Freshly Grated Nutmeg
1 1/2 tsp Red Pepper Flake
3 cups Slow-Cooked Tomato Sauce

Meat Filling:
3 TB Olive Oil
1 small Red Onion, diced
3 cloves Garlic, minced
1 lb Ground Bison (Beef or Cheven works too)
Salt and Pepper

Ricotta Filling:
24 oz Ricotta Cheese
3 eggs
1 TB Dried Marjoram
2 tsp Dried Basil
1 tsp Dried Thyme
1 tsp Dried Oregano
1 tsp dried Rosemary
Salt and Pepper to taste

Layering ingredients:
1 1b Swiss Chard, blanched (Weigh after removing the ribs)
1 LB Pasta Sheets
2 - 7 oz balls of Mozzarella di Bufala; Sliced as thin as possible
3/4 cup freshly shredded Parmigiano-Reggiano
4 – 1 TB slices of butter that have been cut into quarters giving you 16 pieces of butter.

OK, Lets lay down the ground work:
Heat salted water over medium heat.
Rinse Swiss Chard and remove stems and thick ribs, you should have 1 lb after doing this.

When water is boiling, dump in the Swiss chard and blanch for 3 minutes.

Remove from heat and drain, then set aside to cool.

In the meantime, make the Balsamella sauce....
Melt Butter over low heat in sauce pan, let it bubble a little bit to remove some of the water.

Combine flour and seasonings, then add to the butter in the pan.

Cook over low heat until the roux becomes smooth and bubbly.

Remove pan from heat and slowly add the milk while whisking.

Return the pan to the heat and bring just to a boil while stirring constantly.

Reduce to a simmer and whisk continuously until the sauce thickens, then remove from the flame and season with Nutmeg and Red Pepper Flake.

Stir in the Slow-Cooked Tomato Sauce.

Set aside.

While this cools slightly.....

Heat olive oil in a large sauté pan.

Add Onion and saute 2 minutes, then add the garlic and saute for 1 minutes more.

Add the bison and saute until well browned, breaking up any large lumps.

When well browned,

pour the meat out on a dish lined with paper towels to remove the excess fat and let cool. (Completely)

You may need to blot the top side of the meat as well.....

While the meat is cooling.......
In a medium bowl, mix ricotta, eggs, and herbs with the salt & pepper.

Stir until homogeneous.

Squeeze the water from the, now, cooled Swiss chard.

Chop roughly and prepare to build lasagne

ALL the steps above can be performed 24 hours in advance, simply store everything in the refrigerator, tightly covered until you are ready to construct. (I advise against constructing in advance or the pasta is going to absorb all the moisture out of your sauce and the lasagne will be way to dry)

Begin Construction:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
Utilizing a 13x9 baking dish; (although this on is 14x10)

They say "the wise man built his house upon the rock"... I say "the wise man remembers to butter his lasagne pan".....

Spread 1/3 of the Balsamella in the bottom,

Arrange pasta sheets side by side to cover bottom.

Carefully spread 1/2 of the Ricotta mixture over the pasta sheets.

Distribute the Chard evenly over the ricotta

Place another layer of pasta sheets over the Chard.

Spread all of the Bison evenly over the pasta sheets.

Slice 1 of the 7 oz balls of Mozzarella di Bufala and lay the slices on top of the Bison.

Pour 1/2 of the remaining Balsamella over the Mozzarella di Bufala.

Place the last of the pasta sheets over the Balsamella.

Spread the remaining Ricotta mixture over the sheets

Lay down a final layer of Pasta sheets. (which I forgot to take a picture of... Oops)
Top with the remaining Balsamella.

Slice up the remaining 7 oz Ball of Mozzarella di Bufala and lay the slices down on top of the Béchamel.

Sprinkle shredded Parmegiano-Reggiano over the top and dot with the 16 small pieces of butter.

My pan was deep enough to get away with not doing this but I highly suggest that you place the baking dish on a sheet pan that has been covered in foil (Lasagna ALWAYS stews over)

Cover baking dish with additional foil and bake for 30 minutes on the middle rack.

Remove foil and bake for an additional 15 – 20 minutes, or until the top begins to brown and turn bubbly.

Remove from oven and let rest for about 15 minutes before serving to allow the lasagna to firm up a little bit.

Serve in large squares, cause you can NEVER have too much lasagna on your plate... LOL

(I sure did)


DutchBakerGirl said...

Nice!! You always give such a good lesson with your dishes. This one looks awesome---great use of that yummy tomato sauce!

DDpie said...

Garfield, will you marry me? [sigh] Perfection, simply perfection.

Michele said...

This looks fantastic! Someday I will try making it with bechamel. It's not something we did in our house but I imagine it tastes amazing! I love the added greens!

Bob said...

Every time I see a post about lasagna I cry a little. My girlfriend won't touch it so I never get to make it. Yours looks awesome!

Patti T. said...

What a great idea, to use both types of sauce. I never heard of putting the butter on top, but hey, butter on anything has to be good. Your pictures are great as usual. I just love your blog.

Dajana said...

I must say I prefer the Northern variety, with Bolognese Sauce and Bechamel, plus mozzarella (actually scamorza). The southern version is overly heavy. For example in Naples they make it with Tomato sauce or Ragù, meatballs, boiled eggs, salami and lots of cheese (provola usually). That's a real bomb, I'd say.
I've even asked my husband about the use of ricotta sauce in lasagna, and it seems to me that noone uses it here, or perhaps it was substituted completely by bechamel sauce over time.

Katy ~ said...


Unknown said...

first off...i have to say i loev your pan!! lasagna....YUM! Id say it's the perfect dish. Now I need to make some.