the ‘ultimate’ 4-braised & shredded meats lasagnathe ‘ultimate’ 4-braised & shredded meats lasagnathe ‘ultimate’ 4-braised & shredded meats lasagnathe ‘ultimate’ 4-braised & shredded meats lasagnathe ‘ultimate’ 4-braised & shredded meats lasagnathe ‘ultimate’ 4-braised & shredded meats lasagnathe ‘ultimate’ 4-braised & shredded meats lasagnathe ‘ultimate’ 4-braised & shredded meats lasagnathe ‘ultimate’ 4-braised & shredded meats lasagnathe ‘ultimate’ 4-braised & shredded meats lasagnathe ‘ultimate’ 4-braised & shredded meats lasagnathe ‘ultimate’ 4-braised & shredded meats lasagnathe ‘ultimate’ 4-braised & shredded meats lasagnathe ‘ultimate’ 4-braised & shredded meats lasagnathe ‘ultimate’ 4-braised & shredded meats lasagnathe ‘ultimate’ 4-braised & shredded meats lasagnathe ‘ultimate’ 4-braised & shredded meats lasagnathe ‘ultimate’ 4-braised & shredded meats lasagnathe ‘ultimate’ 4-braised & shredded meats lasagnathe ‘ultimate’ 4-braised & shredded meats lasagnathe ‘ultimate’ 4-braised & shredded meats lasagnathe ‘ultimate’ 4-braised & shredded meats lasagnathe ‘ultimate’ 4-braised & shredded meats lasagnathe ‘ultimate’ 4-braised & shredded meats lasagnathe ‘ultimate’ 4-braised & shredded meats lasagnathe ‘ultimate’ 4-braised & shredded meats lasagnathe ‘ultimate’ 4-braised & shredded meats lasagna

This "L-A-S-A-G-N-A" may be ultimately DECADENT & SHAMELESS in its creation, and perhaps INDECENT & SHAMEFUL in its consumption … but for me, the 2-week holiday period begins on December 24th until January 1st and ends on January 7th (my birthday and the Orthodox Christmas). I end the holiday season with this CARNIVOROUS recipe but starting next week, I’ll be much more VEGETARIAN and begin my DETOX period ! Promises, promises ...

This assembly is composed of a total of 7 layers of fresh, thin hand-made pasta, 6 layers of meat sauce, 7 layers of freshly grated parmesan cheese, 8 layers of béchamel sauce, 1 layer of shredded mozzarella on top (as part of the top layer with the béchamel and parmesan) and a decorative crowning of fresh whole sage leaves, crushed pink peppercorns and a drizzle of olive oil … it’s a lot !

There exist so many versions of LASAGNA. From the humblest, quite elegant and most discrete version composed of countless thin layers of pasta, with just some meat sauce nestled in between the layers and a smear of béchamel with a sprinkling of parmesan on top to a more contemporary version with less layers but thicker pasta and more meat sauce, béchamel sauce and cheeses within the layers to the overly hefty versions with large pieces of vegetables, chunky sausages, meatballs, hard-boiled eggs, ricotta, mozzarella and parmesan everywhere ! Usually, lasagna was considered to be an entrée or a light starter. Today, it’s the whole meal (with or without some salad).

My attempt here is to play with all these aspects (old and new) but also to pursue this "quest" like it could be the last meaty lasagna I ever make and/or experiment with and/or eat. 

I want it to be a lasagna that I will be proud of and remember fondly. Instead of a typical “bolognese ragu sauce” that takes at least 6 hours to make (see my recipe here), I combine different meats that are braised for 3 hours (this is not your active work time, just waiting time) and then hand-shredded and the final sauce with tomatoes is prepared and assembled in under 1 hour. The pasta is homemade, the béchamel sauce is homemade and I add just a touch of mozzarella on top (which is undeniably more North-American of me and less European, but I’m all of these things and from both of these worlds).

There is some GUILT involved here. I eat way too much meat, which lately has been making me feel not very responsible nor healthy nor very eco-planet-friendly. Despite this guilt experience, the awareness of the presence of meats here, does makes me thankful, respectful of and humbled by every sacrificial and singular gram of meat I use and consume. I never forget nor ignore.

In this self-imposed retaliation and to make up for the error of my ways (and perhaps clogged arteries), expect a lot more vegetarian recipes in the future (or at least 1 vegetarian recipe for each carnivorous recipe that I publish and for each recipe with red meat, I’ll also publish a white meat (poultry, fish and/or seafood) recipe to counterbalance all of that. 

This ULTIMATELY EXCESSIVE DISH that I love, has become the CATALYST & my self-designated ULTIMATUM to become healthier and more wholesome in the future, thus less meats (at least the red ones) and much more vegetables for the rest of 2019.

Thank goodness that DESSERTS HAVE NO MEAT IN THEM . . . :)

the ‘ultimate’ 4-braised & shredded meats lasagna

05.01.2019

8

ingredients

meat & tomato sauce (makes 12 cups for 2 lasagnas for 8 people each) :

braised meats (makes 1250 grams or 9-10 cups) :

*all meat weights include the bones, fat and skin

  • 750 grams beef belly slices
  • 750 grams pork belly slices (or use veal)
  • 500 grams lamb belly slices
  • 500 grams chicken thighs with legs 
  • 50 grams (3 ½ tbsp) butter
  • 50 grams (3 ½ tbsp) olive oil
  • 15 grams (1 tbsp) salt
  • 2 grams (½ tsp) ground pepper
  • 150 grams (2 medium) onions (cut in half)
  • 150 grams (1 large) carrot (cut in half)
  • 150 grams celery (3 stalks) cut in long segments
  • 150 grams (4 extra large) mushrooms (cut in half)
  • 150 grams (1 medium) red bell pepper (quartered)
  • 30 grams (4 large) crushed garlic cloves 
  • 2 grams (2-3) anchovy filets (packed in oil)
  • 10 grams (4 branches) flat-leaf parsley
  • 2 grams (4) fresh bay leaves
  • 3 grams (12) fresh sage leaves
  • 4 grams (4 branches) fresh thyme 
  • 4 grams (2 tsp) dried oregano leaves
  • 500 ml - 750 ml (2-3 cups) red wine

meat & tomato sauce (makes 2750 grams or 12 cups for 2 lasagnas for 8 people) :

  • 1250 grams  (9-10 cups) braised & shredded meats (after the bones, extra fat and skins/rinds removed)
  • 125 grams (½ cup) strained braising liquid/broth
  • 125 grams (½ cup) heavy cream (30%)
  • 400 grams (1 ¾ cups) finely chopped or pureed vegetables (from the braised meats)
  • 400 grams (1 ½ cups) tomato paste
  • 800 grams (3 ½ cups) crushed tomatoes (you may add 200-400 grams extra crushed tomatoes for a thinner sauce, if too thick)
  • 10 grams (2 tsp) salt
  • 5 ml (1 tsp) balsamic vinegar
  • 2 grams (½ tsp) ground pepper
  • 2 grams (½ tsp) smoked paprika
  • optional : an extra 5 grams (2 tsp) of dried herbs or 2 tbsp fresh herbs if necessary (oregano, thyme, sage, parsley)
  • optional : an extra 5 grams (1 tsp) of crushed garlic (if necessary)

pasta sheets (for 1 lasagna) :

  • 250 grams (2 cups) all-purpose flour or typo 00 italian pasta & pizza dough flour (or my flour mix of 100 grams all-purpose flour + 100 grams cake & pastry flour + 25 grams whole wheat flour + 25 grams extra fine durum wheat flour)
  • 2,5 grams (½ tsp) salt
  • 120 grams (½ cup or 2 extra large) eggs            
  • 30 grams (2 tbsp) water*
  • *or for yellower pasta, replace the 30 grams (2 tbsp) water with 1 extra large egg yolk (20 grams) + 10 grams (2 tsp) water 

béchamel sauce (for 1 lasagna) :

  • 1 liter (4 cups + 2 ½ tbsp) whole milk
  • 2 grams (2-3) fresh bay leaves
  • 2 grams (4-5) fresh sage leaves
  • 85 grams (6 tbsp) butter
  • 50 grams (6 tbsp) all-purpose flour
  • 7,5 grams (1 ½ tsp) fine sea salt
  • 1 gram (¼ tsp) ground pepper
  • 1 gram (¼ tsp) ground nutmeg
  • 1 gram (¼ tsp) ground allspice
  • 1 gram (¼ tsp) garlic powder

cheeses (for 1 lasagna) :

  • 175-200 grams (2 cups loosely packed) freshly grated parmesan cheese
  • optional : 120 grams (½ cup) shredded & strained mozzarella cheese

extra toppings (for 1 lasagna) :

  • 8 fresh sage leaves
  • 8-12 pink peppercorns (slightly crushed)
  • 10 ml (2 tsp) olive oil (for drizzling)

instructions

braised meats with vegetables :

  • preheat the oven to 180°C
  • heat up the butter and oil until very hot in a large casserole (I used a 5-liter metal dutch oven with a glass lid), add the mashed anchovies (if using them) and sear all meats (with bones, fat, skin) separately until browned on each side (about 2 minutes each side), remove and set aside
  • chop all the vegetables in half or quarters (large pieces are best for easy removal & separation later from the meats and remaining broth) and prepare all the herbs and spices and flavorings
  • place the meats and vegetables and herbs and spices in layers, back inside the large casserole
  • add the red wine until everything is almost covered, press down and cover with a lid
  • bake in the oven at 180°C (covered with a lid) for 3 hours minimum, then turn off and let cool down in the oven (with the lid)
  • when cool enough to the touch, separate the meats from the vegetables, remove and discard the herb stalks and large bones and strain the cooked vegetables (about 2-3 cups) and reserve the braising liquid/broth (about ¾ cup) 
  • using clean hands, separate the meat from any large and small bones, remove all tougher pieces, skins and other non-meat solids and discard 
  • using 2 forks or preferably your fingers, separate the meat into thinner strands and try to feel if any very small bones remain and remove them
  • very finely chop or purée (as I did) the braised vegetables until smooth like tomato paste
  • prepare the crushed tomatoes, heavy cream and tomato paste, extra herbs and crushed garlic (to be added if necessary, after tasting)
  • place the shredded meat (about 9-10 cups) back inside the large casserole, heat up (at medium-high heat) with the ½ cup of broth/braising liquid and stir for several minutes until absorbed and drier, then add the heavy cream and stir and cook until drier for several minutes, then add the pureed vegetables and tomato paste and stir and cook for 5 minutes, and finally add the crushed tomatoes and stir and simmer at medium heat for another 10 minutes until well combined and smoother, turn off the heat, cover and keep warm or let cool down completely (adjust to your taste with extra spices and flavorings if necessary)
  • note : this will make 12 cups of tomato & meat sauce but you will use 6 cups or ½ of the total for 1 lasagna baked in a 34 cm x 24 cm x 5,5 cm baking dish), reserve the remaining sauce in the refrigerator for 1 week maximum or in the freezer for longer, for the next lasagna …

fresh pasta sheets (makes 400 grams for 1 lasagna) :

  • combine the flour(s) and salt in one larger bowl and the eggs and water in another smaller bowl
  • create a well in the bowl with the dry ingredients, pour the liquid mixture in the middle and stir until combined, then knead until all flour is absorbed and you have a ball of smoother dough
  • wrap up the ball of dough in plastic film and let it sit and hydrate in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour (or even overnight), remove from the fridge 15 minutes before flattening and rolling out the pasta ball into sheets
  • prepare your large work surface and pasta machine and extra flour for dusting and large sheets of baking paper (to avoid sticking)
  • cut the ball of dough into 4 equal pieces and then again in half or 8 pieces (it’s easier to work with smaller volumes), roll them into balls again and flatten and dust or simply rub with floured hands
  • pass each flattened ball of dough through the pasta machine, starting at the 0 setting, and then rubbing each flattened shape with floured hands and place on sheets of baking paper
  • once all 8 have been flattened and floured, switch the machine to setting number 1 and repeat and continue each time until setting number 7 (which is a good thickness to work with) or up to setting 8 (even thinner but more fragile) and I never go up to setting 9 which makes an almost transparent sheet of pasta close to filo dough but very fragile
  • cut the sheets into workable and easily handled squares or rectangles (I cut each to be ½ the length and ½ the width of the inside of the baking dish to end up with 4 pieces per layer or up to 6 pieces if thinner) and reserve the rounder end pieces to patch up or thicken the area where pasta sheets will meet up
  • note : it doesn’t matter if the pasta sheets are irregular or different sizes because after partly boiling them, you will create a patchwork of lasagna sheets per layer and cut them further if necessary …
  • prepare a large pot for boiling the water and a large baking dish (I used the same one that I baked the pasta in) or use a large salad bowl, filled with cold water and several ice cubes
  • bring about 4 liters of water to a boil with 2 tbsp of salt and drop 4-6 sheets of fresh pasta in at a time and boil for 90 seconds minimum or up to 2 minutes (please use a digital timer)
  • use a slotted spoon or a spider strainer with handle to scoop them out and place immediately in the ice water
  • lift each pasta sheet out and shake of excess water and lay out flat on a baking sheet
  • continue with the next set of pasta sheets to boil, cool down, lift out and lay on the baking sheets (you will repeat this at least 7 times and up to 10 times for thinner pasta sheets) and simply leave on the counter while you prepare the rest

béchamel sauce (makes 1065 grams or 4 cups for 1 lasagna) :

  • heat up half of the milk with the bay leaves and sage leaves until it simmers and becomes more fragrant, then remove from heat, add the rest of the milk (to cool it down but still slightly warm), add the salt and pepper and spices
  • melt the butter at high heat in a large casserole, when it bubbles add the flour and whisk until it continues bubbling and smells more like butter than flour
  • pour in the milk in 4 additions while whisking in between until smooth and thicker (but not too thick so you can still pour it) and let it cool down to room temperature
  • note : I prefer assembling my lasagna with all the ingredients and layers at room temperature and baking it later …

toppings (for 1 lasagna) :

  • prepare the grated parmesan cheese for inside the layers and the topping as well as the shredded mozzarella and sage leaves and peppercorns (only for the final layer and topping) and set aside

final assembly :

  • note : the total assembly is composed of 7 layers of cooked pasta, 6 layers of meat sauce (6 inside layers x 1 cup / 230 grams each), 8 layers of béchamel sauce (6 inside layers x ½ cup / 133 grams + 1 layer of ¼ cup /67 grams for the bottom + 1 layer of ¾ cup / 200 grams for the topping), 7 layers of grated parmesan cheese (6 inside layers x ¼ cup / 25 grams each + 1 layer of ½ cup / 50 grams for topping), 1 layer of shredded mozzarella (½ cup / 120 grams on top, added to the top layer of the béchamel sauce, grated parmesan cheese and sage leaves and peppercorns on top) …
  • brush the inside of your baking dish with olive oil, especially on the sides
  • spread out ¼ cup or up to 6 tbsp of béchamel on the bottom
  • arrange the first layer of partly-boiled (al dente) pasta sheets in a patchwork style, with some overlapping
  • add and spread out 1 cup of tomato meat sauce on the pasta layer, then pour ½ cup of béchamel sauce on top and finally ¼ cup of grated parmesan cheese 
  • repeat this until you’ve completed 6 inner layers of meat sauce, béchamel sauce and parmesan cheese
  • cover with 1 last layer of pasta sheets, pour ½ cup of the béchamel on top and ¼ cup of parmesan, add the shredded mozzarella and the remaining ¼ cup of béchamel sauce and the 8 sage leaves and peppercorns and sprinkle with the remaining ¼ cup of parmesan cheese and a drizzle of olive oil
  • note : you can leave the assembled lasagna at room temperature for several hours or cover and store in the refrigerator for up to 24 hours before baking but let it sit at room temperature for 1 hour before baking …
  • when ready to bake, preheat the oven to 200°C (or for slower and more gentle baking, lower to 180°C)
  • bake the lasagna for 45-60 minutes until the top is golden-brown and slightly bubbling
  • remove from the oven and let it sit at least for 15-20 minutes before slicing and serve into 8 large pieces
  • note : the lasagna can be made 1 day ahead and refrigerated before baking or could be frozen (if you make 2 lasagnas, 1 for eating now and 1 for later); to reheat a baked lsagna, loosely cover with aluminum foil and heat up gently at 180°C for 25-30 minutes …