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Video: Giada’s classic lasagna

TODAY recipes
updated 3/3/2009 10:42:57 AM ET 2009-03-03T15:42:57

Recipe: Classic Italian lasagna

Ingredients
  • 1 pound dry lasagna sheets
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 pound ground chuck beef
  • 1 1/2 pounds ricotta cheese
  • 3 large eggs
  • 2 packages (10 ounces each) frozen chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
  • 3 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
Preparation

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

In a large pot, bring to a boil 6 quarts of salted water and 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil. The oil will help prevent the lasagna sheets from sticking together. Cook lasagna until almost al dente, about 6 minutes. You want the center of the pasta to still be somewhat hard so that when you bake the lasagna in the oven, the pasta won't overcook and become soggy. Drain in a colander and rinse under cold water to stop the cooking and help remove any excess starch. Cover lightly with a damp towel to prevent it from drying out and set aside.

In a sauté pan, heat extra-virgin olive oil. When almost smoking, add the ground beef and season with salt and pepper. Brown meat, breaking any large lumps, until it is no longer pink. Remove from heat and drain any excess fat. Set aside and allow to cool completely.

In a medium-sized bowl, thoroughly mix the ricotta and eggs. Season with salt and pepper. Set aside.

Into the bottom of a 13-by-9 inch baking dish, spread 1/3 of the bechamel sauce. Arrange the pasta sheets side by side, covering the bottom of the baking dish. Evenly spread a layer of all the ricotta mixture and then a layer of all the spinach. Arrange another layer of pasta sheets and spread all the ground beef on top. Spread another 1/3 of the bechamel sauce and sprinkle 1/2 cup of the mozzarella cheese. Arrange the final layer of pasta sheets and top with remaining cream sauce, mozzarella cheese and Parmesan cheese.

Line a large baking sheet with aluminum foil. Place lasagna dish on top and put on the middle rack of the oven and bake until top is bubbling, about 45 minutes.

Recipe: Bechamel sauce

Ingredients
  • 5 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 4 cups warm whole milk
  • Pinch of fresh nutmeg
  • 1 1/2 cups tomato sauce (see recipe below)
  • Salt and white pepper
Preparation

In a 2-quart pot, melt the butter over medium heat. When butter has completely melted, add the flour and whisk until smooth, about 2 minutes. Gradually add the warm milk, whisking constantly to prevent any lumps from forming. Continue to simmer and whisk over medium heat until the sauce is thick, smooth and creamy, about 10 minutes. Be careful not to boil the bechamel sauce. Remove from heat and add the nutmeg and tomato sauce. Stir until well combined and check for seasoning. Set aside and allow to cool completely.

Recipe: Basic tomato sauce

Ingredients
  • 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 small onions, finely chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 2 stalks celery, finely chopped
  • 2 carrots, peeled and finely chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt, plus more to taste
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus more to taste
  • 2 (32 ounces each) cans crushed tomatoes
  • 2 dried bay leaves
Preparation

In a large casserole pot, heat the oil over a medium-high flame. Add the onions and garlic and saute until the onions are translucent, about 10 minutes. Add the celery, carrots and 1/2 teaspoon of each salt and pepper.

Saute until all the vegetables are soft, about 10 minutes. Add the tomatoes and bay leaves, and simmer uncovered over low heat until the sauce thickens, about 1 hour. Remove and discard the bay leaf. Season the sauce with more salt and pepper to taste. (The sauce can be made 1 day ahead. Cool, then cover and refrigerate. Rewarm over medium heat before using.)

Serving Size

Makes about 2 quarts; Total cooking time: 1 hour and 20 minutes

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