• What about this? (Anson Smart)Source: Anson Smart
We deconstruct this Italian classic that’s often subject to delicious debate.
By
Rachel Bartholomeusz

6 Sep 2013 - 9:37 AM  UPDATED 26 Apr 2017 - 1:48 PM

The cheese
This dish traditionally calls for Parmigiano-Reggiano, although many recipes call for a combination of parmesan and mozzarella, and some, even ricotta. For an extra-rich lasagne, add buffalo mozzarella.

The bechamel
For this rich white sauce made with butter, flour, milk and salt, we used a ratio of 1:1:10, that is 150g of butter, 150g of plain flour and 1.5 litres of milk. Variations include using cream and adding nutmeg. Then, there is the age-old question of whether or not the béchamel should be the base layer of the dish, rather than the pasta.

The pasta
“The only pasta suitable for lasagne is paper-thin dough freshly made at home,” writes Marcella Hazan in The Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking. If you’re following her orthodox approach, the pasta should be partially boiled, then plunged in cold water, rinsed, wrung and dried, before using. Of course, if you’re short on time, store-bought fresh or dried lasagna sheets will obviously speed up the preparation time for this dish.

The ragu
The famed Bolognese ragù is subject to the greatest debate, from the meats that should be used, to how the ragù should be cooked. We like a mixture of minced pork and veal, in equal amounts, although Italian cooking expert Marcella Hazan swears by minced chuck steak (beef). To cook the ragù, start by preparing the soffrito: the traditional Italian base of ingredients that includes gently fried onion, carrot and celery. Most recipes also call for cured pork, usually pancetta, but you could use speck, bacon or prosciutto, too. While the variety of pork is debatable, most agree that it shouldn’t be too lean. Traditional cooks add milk to render the meat, then red wine and tomatoes. We cooked our ragù, covered, for two hours, then simmered it, uncovered, for another hour. Dried porcini mushrooms and fresh basil also make nice, but non-essential additions.

 

Photography by Anson Smart. Food preparation by Olivia Andrews.

Have we got your attention and your tastebuds? This week, The Chefs' Line is all about Italian food and culture. Tune in 6pm weeknights to SBS and check out the program page for episode guides, cuisine lowdowns, recipes and more.

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