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Author Topic: Italian comfort food 101  (Read 762 times)

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Online livo

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Italian comfort food 101
« on: January 09, 2019, 07:58 AM »
Please be patient. As I have time, I'm going to share with you a recipe I've worked on for nearly 20 years. My kids call it "Dad's Lasagne" and while I used to get away with making a single tray for dinner, now that my family is growing and spreading out I usually have to make 3 or 4 at a time. Some to eat on the spot and some to take home.  It dawned on me the other day, when my son's girlfriend wanted to make it for her family, that I should record what I do.

It is never the same twice but always delicious.  I was originally inspired by finding this method as a secondary recipe to a recipe for home-made tomato sauce.  I originally made it from scratch but then realised that all the extra work wasn't really necessary, even though well worth it if you could spare the time.  It isn't really lasagne as it doesn't use lasagne pasta sheets but it could easily use that if you wish. I have done.  It is a pasta bake and I use any form of short pasta.  Shells, spirals, macaroni etc. The thing is that this recipe is so open to personalised variation that you'll never look back.
 
I have to go and finish this one and I'll start writing it up with photos soon.  This comes in at about 2.5 kg and is enough to feed 8 - 10 normal people or about 4 if they're like my 18 year old son and 26 year old son-in-law.
« Last Edit: January 09, 2019, 08:43 AM by livo »
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Online Peripatetic Phil

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Re: Italian comfort food 101
« Reply #1 on: January 09, 2019, 09:32 AM »
I wish I could summon up some enthusiasm for Italian pasta, but I am sorry to say I cannot.  To me, it is just stodge.  Oriental noodles I love — light and delicate — but Italian pasta, and especially lasagne, leaves me completely unmoved.

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Offline Sverige

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Re: Italian comfort food 101
« Reply #2 on: January 09, 2019, 10:15 AM »
Looks good Livo and well proven family favourite recipes are worth their weight in gold so please do share. I have a pretty mean lasagne meat sauce recipe of my own, which I make in batches and use in various different meals.  Will be interesting to compare and see how you make it down under.

Interesting to see you feel you make it differently every time. To me one of the fundamentals of the approach I take to home cooking is keeping notes and updating / adjusting the quantities, times, etc until I have a nailed down version which I can then repeat without variation each time I cook. I just don't like to risk random variations as ingredients are expensive and I prefer to avoid the disappointment which comes when you realise the meal you got spot on last time you cooked it has this time come out too salty, dry or whatever.

Hence I always take a few iterations to zero in on my idea of the "right" recipe for each dish I cook, then use my previous notes to make sure I'm cooking it "right" each time I do it.

Online livo

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Re: Italian comfort food 101
« Reply #3 on: January 09, 2019, 10:17 AM »
Read no further then Phil. Others may find it useful and delicious.

Notes first.
* You will make a mess. 3 large saucepans and a large lasagne tray (38cm X 26 cm X 5 cm).
* Tomato product:- I use nearly 1.0 litre of mixed Pasta Sauce, tinned tomato, Passata and Tomato paste (3x concentrate) and what I use determines the amount of seasoning added to taste. (Tasting it is important). Use whatever tomato based sauce or tinned product to suite your own taste. I vary it all the time depending on what's in the cupboard.
* Four cheeses:- I use for the béchamel sauce grated tasty cheddar, parmesan and (surprise) processed cheddar. The processed cheddar adds a flavour that is just missing when not used. To top the dish I add mozzarella but no processed cheddar.  Again vary this to whatever you have and what you like.
* The dish is cooked in five stages. 1) The meat / tomato sauce which makes a delicious bolognaise sauce, 2) boiled pasta and 3) the cheese bechamel sauce. 4)Parts 2 and 3 are mixed together to make a kind of macaroni cheese and then Stage 5 is the assembly and baking.  The whole process takes about an hour or so depending on how well you multi-task.  I now do it without measure and by instinct having made it many times.

Stage 1 Meat / Tomato Sauce.

1 medium onion finely chopped
2 cloves garlic crushed
2 TBSP oil
500g beef mince
900 ml of mixed tomato sauce / crushed or diced tinned tomato (1/2 cup water to rinse jars, cans etc)
2-3 TBSP Tomato Paste 3X concentrate (optional to taste)
2 tsp Italian Herbs
1 tsp salt

Method:
Fry the onion in hot oil till translucent
Add garlic and fry for further minute or two
Add the beef mince and fry until well browned and fat has liquified and can be drained off
Use a sieve or collander to drain the meat at this point. This is important otherwise you'll have an oily mess.
Return the mince to the pan and add the tomato products using about 1/2 cup of water to rinse the containers.
Add tomato paste if you like it rich or wait till later taste test to decide.
Add Italian Herbs and salt.
Cook this over low heat for 10 - 15 minutes, stirring regularly until the added water is evaporated and you have a relatively dry mix.
Taste and adjust seasonings.
Remove from heat.

Stage 2 (Pretty simple)
Cook 500g of short pasta in salted water with some added oil (or as preferred) till just before al dente
A little bit of firmness is good as it will cook out in the oven.  Overcooked is not good. I use shell or spiral pasta usually.

Stage 3  Béchamel / Cheese sauce
3 TBSP butter
3 TBSP plain flour
3 cups milk
1/2 cup grated tasty cheddar
1/4 cup grated parmesan
2 slices processed cheddar

Method
Melt butter in pan
add flour and cook stirring for 1 minute
add milk and heat to near boil (slightly thickened)
Add cheeses and continue to stir until you have a nice cheese white sauce.

Note: Don't worry if it doesn't thicken right up. It will thicken further in the oven.


Stage 4
Drain the pasta and mix it through with the Cheese Sauce.

Stage 5
Spray you lasagne tray with spray oil or grease it somehow.
Use half the meat tomato mix and spread evenly
Spread half of the pasta cheese mix. It doesn't matter if they mix up a bit.
Repeat using remaining sauces in layers.
Sprinkle the pan with grated Tasty Cheddar, Mozzarella and Parmesan.
Place into a pre-heated 180'C oven for 15 - 20 minutes till the cheese has browned lightly

Done

If your family is like mine (not Phil's) it wont last long at all.

Pictures of tonights cook to follow tomorrow.


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Online livo

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Re: Italian comfort food 101
« Reply #4 on: January 09, 2019, 10:24 AM »
Sverige, it is pretty standard quantities which I know by heart, but I use whatever tomato based pasta sauces and tinned tomatoes and passata combination I have on hand to make up the volume.  I just adjust my seasonings and the amount of concentrated tomato paste to suite what I have in the cupboard.  Sometimes it will be all tinned plain tomato with extra herbs added. Sometimes Napolitano or Bolognaise sauce from the jar and I use less seasoning, etc. Tasting the meat / tomato sauce before assembly is important.  Sometimes the types of cheese will vary as well.

So it is never really exactly the same twice but it is cooked in the same way and variation is minimal.

I have also on occasion included smoked pancetta or streaky bacon in with the onion in the initial fry stage.
« Last Edit: January 09, 2019, 11:50 AM by livo »
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Online Peripatetic Phil

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Re: Italian comfort food 101
« Reply #5 on: January 09, 2019, 10:35 AM »
If your family is like mine (not Phil's) it wont last long at all.
Unwarranted assumption, old chap — I'm sure the wife loves stodge Italian pasta and especially lasagne.  It is I who am the odd one out barbarian.

** Phil.
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Online livo

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Re: Italian comfort food 101
« Reply #6 on: January 09, 2019, 10:41 AM »
Retracted extension by kinship offered Phil.
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Online Peripatetic Phil

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Re: Italian comfort food 101
« Reply #7 on: January 09, 2019, 11:01 AM »
Accepted with alacrity, Captain !
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Online chewytikka

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Re: Italian comfort food 101
« Reply #8 on: January 09, 2019, 01:49 PM »
Dads Pasta Bake, looks tasty, keeping the family happy Livo. ;)

Doing a Ragu with a good red wine and fresh herbs is an art in itself.
Bechamel, needs salt, black pepper and nutmeg.
Fresh Pasta sheets are an extra step but worth it.

Obviously moving on from your 101 recipe, but your photo is a good prompt
as I haven’t had a Lasagne for ages.

cheers Chewy
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Online livo

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Re: Italian comfort food 101
« Reply #9 on: January 09, 2019, 03:52 PM »
I agree with the pepper and nutmeg chewy but there is enough salt in the meat tomato sauce usually to carry into the whole dish. This is one area of being subject to taste and is the point of taste testing at the end of stage 1.. The seasonings added depend upon the brand and included extras in the Tomato products used and preference.

I have made this using fresh lasagne sheets and the dried stuff in the past. If using dried it is necessary to make your meat tomato sauce a bit wetter otherwise the assembled dish dries right out in the oven.  My family has been the reason I now nearly always use short form pasta as they tell me they prefer it. Using the sheets allows for a much more finely layered dish as is traditional but this method gets consumed pretty fast so I don't resist popular demand.

As I mentioned in the Achilles heal thread recently, cooking with red wine is a weakness of mine. Although just yesterday I turned a bottle of cab sav into vino cotto. Now this is something special if you've never tried it. Salad dressing, sauce for cooked meat and ice cream topping syrup all in one.
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