Recipe for Lasagne

Recipe for Lasagne

I am about to share with you my family recipe that originated at Angelina’s Restaurant in 1936 and was also served in our other Greenwich Village establishment, La Marionetta Pizzeria when it opened in 1961. Carrying on the tradition, I made and served this same lasagne throughout my professional catering days – including to Gwyneth Paltrow during her sixteenth birthday party aboard the Yacht Mariner III in September of 1988. And I continue to make and serve it today – just ask my kids and their friends who have been eating it for the past week! The photo of lasagne – displayed in the actual stoneware dish it would have been served in at the restaurants – was taken by my son Colin Taylor. Here is the recipe…

Before we begin, there are a few things you need to know about making lasagne.

  1. There are a lot of ingredients and some of them are expensive – so plan ahead and save up!
  2. There are a lot of steps and you will use a lot of pots, pans and utensils – so allow yourself two days preparation and recruit a helper to manage the clean up!
  3. Because of points 1. & 2. – most people don’t make lasagne very often so I suggest making 2 pans – one to serve and eat right away and one to give as a gift or freeze for another meal. For this reason, the recipe I am providing will yield two (2) 13” x 9” X 2 ½” deep pans.

The Pasta:

  • 2 – 1lb. boxes lasagne noodlesI like Rienzi because you can really taste the semolina but feel free to use any brand you like – but dried pasta is preferred.

For the Sauce – yes you are going to make your own fresh sauce!

  • 2 – 16 oz. cans “thick-style” Scalfani crushed tomatoes I like to use Scalfani brand – even though it can be pricey – because it is closest to the crushed tomatoes my grandmother used in the restaurant 
  • 2 – 16 oz. cans crushed tomatoes any brand you like – I usually use whatever is on sale

For the Meat filling:

  • 1lb ground beef85% is fine – you need some fat in there for flavor
  • 1lb ground veal if you don’t do veal you can just use another lb. of ground beef
  • 1lb ground pork I actually substitute sweet Italian sausage – 8 links – the filling squeezed out of its casing

For the Cheese filling and topping: please use the “whole milk” cheese rather than “part-skim” which is too watery and will ruin the lasagne. If you are on a diet – you shouldn’t be eating lasagne!

  • 2 lbs. fresh ricotta cheese from a cheese storeor if a supermarket is your only option use Polly-O
  • 1 ½ lbs. shredded mozzarella cheesethe bagged kind from the supermarket is fine
  • 2 cups grated pecorino Romano cheese – if you can afford to get a block and grate fresh that is the best but if not use the Genuine Locatelli brand
  • 2 jumbo eggs – yolks only

For sautéing and seasoning

  • 1 ½ cups red wine – anything Italian like a Chianti or Valpolicella
  • 1 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 medium sized yellow onion diced
  • 4 cloves of fresh garlic peeled & minced
  • 1 medium sized sweet bell pepper diced – any color okay but I use red or yellow
  • 2 tbs. fresh Italian parsley finely chopped
  • 2 tbs. dried oregano
  • 2 tbs. dried basil
  • 1 tbs. dried crushed red pepper
  • 1 bay leaf
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • salt
  • 2 tsp. granulated sugar (if desired – I add it to help keep my husband from getting heartburn)

PREPARATION DAY 1 (this can be up to 2 days before you actually plan to serve the lasagne):

Step 1 – Season the Ricotta:

  • Place the 2 lbs. Ricotta cheese into a medium sized mixing bowl
  • Separate the 2 eggs and add just the 2 yolks to the ricotta
  • Add the 2 tbs. chopped fresh parsley, 1 tsp. salt & 1 tsp. black pepper and mix well.
  • Cover the Ricotta mixture and place in the refrigerator.

Step 2 – Brown the meats:

  • Before starting to cook mix together the ground beef and ground veal in a bowl – if you are using plain ground pork mix that in too. If you are using sweet sausage, squeeze the filling out of the casings and keep separate from the beef & veal mixture for now.
  • Heat ¼ cup olive oil in a large cast iron skillet over medium flame.
  • Add ½ of the diced onion & ½ of the diced bell pepper, cover and cook until soft – about 2 minutes
  • Uncover and add 2 minced cloves of garlic and continue to sauté the onion, pepper & garlic mixture until the garlic begins to brown being careful not to let these items burn.
  • Add the onion, pepper & garlic mixture to the ground meats and mix well. Then add 1 tbs. dried oregano, 1 tbs. dried basil, 1 tsp. salt & 1 tsp. fresh black pepper and mix well into the meat mixture.
  • If using sausage, let the ground meat mixture sit for a few minutes while you begin to brown the sausage.
  • To brown the sausage, use the same skillet you used for the onions, peppers and garlic. The sausage will be very sticky once out of the casing – pull off little bits and put them into the skillet to brown – I like to make tiny ½ inch balls but it’s time consuming – so just pulling off little bits is fine too. Once all of the sausage is in the skillet continue to cook over medium heat until it is all browned and a little crispy but not burned.
  • Begin to add the ground meat, onion, peppers & garlic mixture to the skillet and continue to cook and stir until all of the meats are nicely browned.
  • Once cooked, put a large strainer into the sink and pour the meat mixture in to drain off any excess liquid. Then put the meat mixture in a large bowl, set aside on the counter uncovered allowing it to cool a bit.

Step 3 – Make the Sauce: please use at least a 12 quart stock pot – the sauce will only fill it half way but it needs the room to simmer without bubbling over.

  • In a 12 quart stock pot, heat ½ cup olive oil over medium flame
  • Add the remaining diced onions & bell pepper, cover and cook until soft – about 2 minutes
  • Uncover, add the remaining 2 minced garlic cloves and sauté uncovered until the garlic begins to brown.
  • Add ½ cup of red wine and continue to sauté for two more minutes.
  • Add all 4 cans of crushed tomatoes and the remaining red wine, stir well.
  • Add the remaining dried oregano and basil and the bay leaf
  • Add the crushed red pepper and the sugar (if desired) and stir well
  • Add salt and pepper to your liking – I personally use two teaspoons of each but use your own judgment and taste preferences.
  • Cover and lower the flame to simmer and cook the sauce for 1 hour, but stirring every 10 minutes – use a timer if you have one – you don’t want the sauce to burn on the bottom.
  • After 1 hour turn off the flame and allow the sauce to remain on the stove, covered where it can cool completely to room temperature – this will take several hours. Once it is at room temperature store overnight in refrigerator.

Step 4 – Combine the meat and cheese mixtures:

  • While the sauce is simmering take the Ricotta from the refrigerator.
  • In a large bowl combine the meat and Ricotta mixtures mixing together very well.
  • Cover and place in the refrigerator overnight.

PREPARATION DAY 2 (the day you plan to serve / eat the lasagne):

 Step 5 – Preparing to Build the Lasagne:

  • Take the sauce and the meat/cheese mixture out of the refrigerator and allow to come to room temperature.
  • In a 12 quart stock pot boil 6 quarts of water.
  • Carefully add 1 box of lasagne to the boiling water as a stack and with tongs gently guide the pasta strips into the water so that they all face the same direction but as they soften gently work to keep them from bending / intertwining. The goal is to have straight pieces that you can work with to build the lasagne.
  • Set the timer for 5 minutes – you are only going to par-cook the pasta – you want the pasta to soften but not be completely soft.
  • While the pasta is cooking line a sheet pan with wax paper and lightly brush it with olive oil.
  • After 5 minutes, using tongs, remove the lasagne one by one and place on the wax paper in strips next to each other. When you have one row, brush each noodle with olive oil, cover with waxpaper and repeat the process – you don’t want the noodles to stick together.
  • Once you have prepared the first box of lasagne in this manner, repeat the steps to cook and prepare the other box of lasagne.
  • Set the pasta aside.
  • Place the 12 quart pot of room temperature sauce on the stove, cover and reheat over a low flame for 30 minutes.
  • Once the sauce is warm, removed from heat and find and remove the bay leaf from the sauce.
  • Add 2 cups of the warm sauce to the room temperature meat/ricotta mixture and stir to combine completely.
  • You are now ready to build your lasagne!

Step 6 – Build the Lasagne:

  • Place the 2 lasagne pans side by side on your counter/work area.
  • Ladle sauce to just lightly cover the bottom of each pan.
  • Cover the bottom of each pan with a row of par-cooked lasagne pasta strips.
  • Ladle and spread a thin layer of sauce over the pasta.
  • Sprinkle some of the grated pecorino Romano cheese all over the sauce.
  • Next is the 1st layer of the meat/ricotta/sauce mixture – make sure there are no gaps – this mixture needs to form a solid 1/2 inch deep layer over the lasagne strips and to the sides of the pan.
  • Place a 2nd row of par-cooked lasagne pasta strips over the meat/ricotta/sauce mixture but in the opposite direction as the first row of noodles – so if you set the bottom row horizontally, do this row vertically.
  • Ladle and spread a thin layer of sauce over the pasta.
  • Sprinkle some of the grated pecorino Romano cheese all over the sauce.
  • Next is the 2nd layer of the meat/ricotta/sauce mixture – make sure there are no gaps – this mixture needs to form a solid 1/2 inch deep layer over the lasagne strips and to the sides of the pan.
  • Place a 3rd row of par-cooked lasagne pasta strips over the meat/ricotta/sauce mixture but in the opposite direction as the previous row of noodles.
  • Ladle and spread a thick layer of sauce over the pasta.
  • Sprinkle ¾ lbs. shredded mozzarella over each pan of lasagne – this should be a nice thick coating that completely covers the pasta across to all 4 sides of the lasagne pans. But you should still have about 1/2 of room from the rim of the pan.
  • Cover tightly with aluminum foil being careful not to let the foil rest on the mozzarella – you don’t want the cheese to stick to the foil.

Step 7 – Baking the Lasagne:

  • Pre-heat oven to 375
  • Place covered lasagne pan in oven and bake for 45 minutes.
  • Remove cover and bake for 15 minutes more or until the mozzarella on top is lightly browned.
  • Remove from oven and let set for 15 minutes before cutting – if you cut too soon it will be runny.

Step 8 – Eat and Enjoy the Lasagne – probably for several days:

  • To have an authentic Angelina’s or La Marionetta dining experience – serve this lasagne with crusty Italian bread and a nice bottle of wine – for those over 21 – or ginger ale!
  • Buon Appetito!

 A few more helpful hints:

  • After you build the lasagne, you should have about a quart of sauce left over – save this to any left-over lasagne before re-heating in the oven or microwave.
  • If you froze one of the pans of lasagne for a later date, let it thaw out before following the “Baking the Lasagne” instructions.


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