If we can cook it, you can cook it!


        This is emphatically not your 30 minute dinner.  It is one of the great treasures of Italian cuisine.  And despite the length of time it takes, this version is not entirely labor-intensive.  A great part of the time is the slow simmering of the rich meat sauce.  It sits on the stove for 3 hours, requiring only an occasional stir and tasting to make sure its seasonings are correct.  It is even better if you let it rest overnight and allow the flavors to fully develop.  Then the next day, the assembly is actually quite speedy, as long as you have the right kind of pasta. 
        The choice of great sheets of spinach noodles gives the dish its authenticity.   No crinkled-edged strips of dried white noodles here.  The real thing is made with fresh pasta.  It’s not hard to find here in New York; in Little Italy at Piemonte Home Made Ravioli Co., 190 Grand St., New York (212-226-0475) www.piemonteravioli.com , it’s not even expensive—about $6.40 for the two packages this recipe requires.  I would certainly try to find fresh lasagna noodles; they eliminate the need the truly odious part of making lasagna with dry pasta:  blanching of the pasta, then drying it before forming the dish.
           Alternatively, you can use the Ready Bake pasta that Barilla makes and is pretty widely available. But please stay clear of that truly awful thick stuff Ronzoni passes off as lasagna. 
I generally double the recipe for the meat sauce, so I have half of it for the lasagna, freeze the rest and have wonderful meat sauce on hand for a quick weeknight pasta supper. 
The other interesting thing about this recipe is that, unlike many recipes for lasagna, this one has a béchamel or, in Italian, besciamella sauce sprinkled with Parmigiano-reggiano as opposed to great slabs of mozzarella that Italian-American recipes favor.   It’s very rich but very satisfying.  The only change I made to the original recipe is however, very Italian-American.  I just have to have that more tomato taste and so I add 12 ounces of tomato paste.  This thickens the sauce but if you want to be completely authentic, leave it out by all means.  


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