Due to legalities you have to promise you’re 21 or older before proceeding to read this post. Yes, we are talking wine and food. But it’s the wine that’s the tricky part. Thanks!
Nothing could have prepared me for the magic and beauty of Tuscany. Although I’ve read about Tuscany for years, viewed what feels like a million photographs and watched several films, it didn’t even begin to compare to the moment I stepped onto the gloriously beautiful landscape.
Now, never a day goes by that Tuscany doesn’t come to mind. The lovely memories of decadent food and wine, beautiful landscape, warm and hospitable residents and our DaVinci Wine team… seem to linger and cause my heart to long as if I’ve lost a true love.
Sounds dramatic I know. But as my sister said to me after her trip to London – I feel forever changed. Traveling abroad and experiencing life in a new land is an enlightening feeling. Probably because I’ve always been so intrigued by people and their food. Our own food culture here in the states is beautifully diverse as well and possibly some of the most intriguing. But to experience Tuscany was indeed a highlight that makes me feel forever changed.
My trip was full of little surprises – like when Ranger Craig and I were in search of breakfast. Eggs? I think not. A pastry and espresso is found on every corner. Ask for an egg and you just might be tossed out of the pastry shop. Honestly , I didn’t mind. Who wouldn’t mind having a gorgeous pastry and espresso for breakfast. Nothing terribly sweet, just a little something to start the day. Or when my fellow Storyteller, Jim O’Donnell asked for an Americano at a little establishment just outside Monteriggioni. He promptly received a “no”; with an espresso instead. A hilarious moment that you can read all about it here.
While dining at a restaurant in Florence, I was surprised by the lasagna I ordered. Not at all the version we prepare here in the states. Although our Italian American version is divine, this thing of beauty included layers of lush and buttery lasagna pasta sheets with rich béchamel, parmesan, pecorino and rich Bolognese sauce, or as they call it here, sugo.
The absence of ricotta and mozzarella was startling. But I must say it wasn’t missed. So when I arrived home, I simply had to re-create this lovely dish I so vividly remember.
Because this Tuscan Lasagna al Forno was created for my friends at DaVinci Wine, you can find it on the DaVinci Wine Facebook page. To check out the websites of our other two Storytellers, just click on their names… Kristina Laurendi Havens and Leela Cyd.
I wish you all Delicious Wishes and Loads of Love!
Tuscan Lasagna al Forno
For the Sugo:
¾ – 1 lb ground beef or ground Italian sausage
1 red onion, diced
1 carrot, small diced
1 rib of celery, small diced
1-2 cloves garlic, minced
½ cup DaVinci Chianti
2-3 cups tomato sauce
Pinch dried oregano
Pinch of allspice or pumpkin pie spice (I know this seems unusual but a kind Trattoria Chef told me this ingredient is always included in his Sugo for Lasagna al Forno)
Salt and pepper to taste
In a heavy bottom skillet, heat a tablespoon or two of olive oil over medium high heat and sauté the onion, carrot and celery until nicely golden brown, almost caramelized. Add the ground meat and garlic to the soffrito (diced veggies) and cook until done, breaking up any big pieces. The meat should be small and somewhat minced.
Take the skillet off the heat and stir in the wine, scraping up the bits of good stuff (fond) on the bottom of the pan.
Stir in the tomato sauce, oregano and allspice or pumpkin pie spice and a pinch or two of salt and pepper. Put the skillet back on the heat and bring to a low simmer. Let the sauce simmer while you prepare the béchamel.
Bechamel or White Ragu:
6 tablespoons unsalted butter
6 tablespoons flour
3 cups warm whole milk
Pinch of nutmeg
Salt and pepper to taste
In a large sauce pan melt the butter over medium heat. When the butter is melted whisk in the flour. Then slowly whisk in the warm milk.
Continue whisking until your milk comes to a simmer and begins to thicken. Turn the heat down so you don’t burn the sauce and continue whisking until the sauce thickens.
Stir in the pinch of fresh grated nutmeg and season to taste with salt and pepper.
You will want this béchamel (white ragu) thicker than a béchamel that you might toss with pasta. So if it feels heavy or thick that’s ok. It’ll be perfect for the lasagna.
For the Lasagna:
Fresh lasagna sheets, cooked – enough to fill a lasagna baking dish or a 9×13 baking dish. I love a deep baking dish for this lasagna.
3-4 cups Sugo
3-4 cups Béchamel
½ cup grated parmesan
½ cup shaved pecorino Toscana
Chopped fresh Italian parsley for garnish
Pre-heat the oven to 350F.
Ladle a little Sugo in the bottom of the baking dish and line with pasta sheets. Ladle the pasta sheets with béchamel, sprinkle of parmesan and pecorino. Continue alternating the béchamel and Sugo until you’ve created 5-6 layers or used all your pasta sheets. Be sure to save a cup of Sugo for the top of the lasagna.
Sprinkle the lasagna with the remaining cheese, cover with foil and bake for about 15-20 minutes or until the sides are bubbly.
Raise the heat to 400F. Remove the foil and cook the lasagna until the top is toasty and cheese is golden brown, another 10 minutes or so. Sometimes I put it under the broiler for extra color.
Let the lasagna rest for about 10 minutes before slicing. This will allow the béchamel and cheese to firm for slicing.
Serve with a side of extra Vinci sauce and grated parmesan if desired.