Monday, June 30, 2014

Lasagna alla Bolognese made with Moose Meat

Since returning from Florence, Italy, I have been craving Lasagna alla Bolognese which is a traditional Tuscan dish. It was one of my favorite indulgences while I was there attending culinary school. It's made with layers of homemade pasta, béchamel, Bolognese sauce and Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese. I replaced the beef with - you guessed it - naturally wild, organic moose meat. The finished result was buono! It takes awhile to prepare but like all good things, it's totally worth the effort. I chose to make my lasagna pasta with all purpose flour(rather than semolina) which is more commonly used in northern Italy. But you can certainly use boxed pasta if you don't want to make it from scratch - just a side note: Barilla is the most commonly used boxed pasta in the local stores in Tuscany - who knew? ~Patti
Ingredients: for the Bolognese sauce 
5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 medium white onion, diced small
1 carrot, diced fine
1 celery stalk, diced fine
1 garlic clove, chopped 
1 pound high-quality pork, ground
1 pound moose meat (or beef sirloin, ground)
1/2 pound pancetta
3 ounces tomato paste
1 cup whole milk
1 cup dry white wine

Ingredients: for the Bechamel
5 tablespoons unsalted butter
5 tablespoons flour
3 cups whole milk
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeat (fresh if you can)

Ingredients: for the Lasagna pasta
4 large eggs
3 1/2 cups all purpose flour, plus 1/2 cup for dusting work surface

8 ounces Parmigiano-Reggiano, grated
sea salt and fresh ground pepper to taste

Step 1: Make the Bolognese sauce. Heat olive oil and butter in a medium sized pot and add onion, carrot, celery and garlic. Sweat until translucent, about 10-12 minutes. Add moose, pork, and pancetta to the veggies. Cook for about 20 minutes, until meat is nicely browned. Then add tomato paste, milk and wine, simmer over medium-low heat for about 2 hours. Stir occasionally to prevent sticking. This is supposed to be a thick meat sauce with a bit of creaminess to it. You can add a bit more wine if you feel it's too thick but be careful not to make it too saucy.  

 Step 2: Make your pasta. Place flour in a bowl or on clean work service. Make a little well in the center and add eggs (you can beat them slightly first if you want). Use your hands and slowly incorporate the flour into the eggs, working in more flour from the edges as needed. Dough will be crumbly at first but with persistent kneading, the dough will turn pliable and smooth. Knead for about 5-6 min. Wrap in plastic and let rest for 30 minutes.

 Portion dough into apricot-sized pieces. Roll out with pasta machine. I rolled these sheets to the second thinnest setting on my pasta machine. Hang to dry while you prepare the béchamel.

Step 3: Make the béchamel. In a medium saucepan, melt the butter. Add flour and stir with a whisk to make a roux. In about 6-7 minutes the roux will be slightly golden, smooth and thick. Meanwhile, in a separate pot, bring the milk almost to a boil. It's important to add hot milk to the roux for the béchamel to turn out like it should. Start adding hot milk to the roux, one cup at a time, and whisk continuously. It should be very smooth, thick and creamy and able to coat the back of a spoon without dripping. Season with salt, pepper and nutmeg. Make sure you taste as you go - it's amazing how the flavor changes with the right amount of seasoning! Take off heat, put a lid on it and set aside.

When your Bolognese sauce is done cooking and you have everything else finished, you're ready to assemble the dish.

Make sure you have all your ducks in a row:
Pot of hot Bolognese sauce, check. 
Pot of warm béchamel, check. 
Pot of wicked hot boiling salted water, check. 
Ice bath, check. 
Colander, check.
9 x 13 pan to bake all this goodness in, check.

Boil your pasta (1 sheet at a time) in your rapidly boiling water. Only boil a few seconds then remove with big slotted spoon or ladle and drop into ice bath to stop the cooking. Repeat until all your pasta is finished. Remove from ice bath and drain in colander but be ready to work with them right away. If they sit too long they stick to each other.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. 
Start assembling by layering Bolognese sauce, a sprinkle of Parmigiano-Reggiano, pasta sheets, and béchamel. Repeat as many times as your ingredients allow. Top layer should end with pasta and béchamel, and a sprinkling of the Parmigiano-Reggiano.

Homemade pasta sheets are more bendy and they are thin so you can kind of scrunch them up. Plus this adds interest and a beautiful finished dish.

Bake for about 45 minutes. Remove from oven once all the edges are browned and the sauce is bubbling. Allow to rest for about 15 minutes before serving. This allows the lasagna to set up nicely and not fall apart when you cut into it. 

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