Lasagna al forno – a classic Italian recipe

Before starting the new year’s resolution diets, in Southern Europe there is one more event that closes the winter holidays, corresponding to the arrival of the wise men bearing gifts to the new born baby Jesus, this is known as Epiphany, or the kings (Los Reyes). For the last winter feast with the family, here’s a classic Italian recipe: homemade lasagna al forno (or lasagna alla Bolognese). It’s a favourite throughout the holidays, and a homemade staple when it comes to Sunday lunch all year round. We made it for dinner on Christmas Eve and it was a great success, even though, I must admit, it will never be as good as mamma’s.

Ingredients:
21 lasagna sheets
250g grated parmesan
3 fresh mozzarella chopped in small cubes
For the Bechamel Sauce:
1l milk
100g butter
100g flour
Nutmeg (add to taste, we used ¼tsp)
A pinch of salt
For the Bolognese:
Follow the ingredients and method in our Bolognese Stuffed Pumpkin recipe

Step 1 – Make your Bolognese, possibly a day before you are making your lasagna. I had some in the freezer I had made a few weeks back so I took it out to defrost overnight so it was ready to use.

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Step 2 – On the same day you make your lasagna, start the Bechamel sauce. Place the butter in a saucepan and heat it in the hob at a medium heat. Once it’s melted, add the flour, using a whisk or a wooden spoon to mix it so there are no lumps left.

Step 3 – Add the milk to the saucepan, with the nutmeg and salt, and keep mixing at a low heat, so that the blend becomes a cream. You know when it’s ready when it sticks to your wooden spoon, just like a cream, rather than slipping off like a liquid.

Step 4 – Now that your bechamel is ready, you can pre-cook your lasagna sheets. I would have liked to make homemade pasta for the occasion, but since there was no time, I went to the store and bought some dry lasagna. The box said there was no need to pre-cook them, but I don’t like it when the pasta becomes too crunchy on the edges, so I pre-cooked mine anyways. Simply boil some salted water and with a lot of patience, place the lasagna sheets, one at a time, in the boiling water for 1 minute or less, depending on the texture of the lasagna you bought. Then place the lasagna sheets on a clean tablecloth, or on baking paper.

Step 5 – Now that you have all your ingredients ready you can start layering them into a rectangular oven dish. I usually start from a layer of Bolognese. Then follow with the lasagna sheets. Coat the lasagna again with the Bolognese sauce, and add the mozzarella, sprinkle the parmesan and pour a few spoons of bechamel sauce. Repeat the process until you run out of ingredients, remembering to sprinkle extra parmesan on the final layer. If you run out of space in your dish, use your ingredients by making another mini-lasagna so you don’t waste anything.

Step 6 – Place the lasagna in a hot oven at 200° (or 180° if you have a fan oven) for 30 minutes, or until the top has developed a golden crust. Serve immediately or make sure it stays in the warm oven and serve in a few hours, so that the portions will keep the layering instead of falling apart on your guests’ plate.

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