02 May 2013

Lasagne and Sangiovese - A Classic Food and Wine Pairing



Comfort food, Italian style. Everyone I know loves lasagne, and I used to make it quite often. So when I perused my Recipes index page to decide what to post next, I was shocked to discover that lasagne wasn't on the list. Then I learned I'd not even put my recipe where I've been putting them for the last five years, so that means I haven't made lasagne in at least five years. That's just crazy!

So why now? Well, I had this lovely bottle of sangiovese that was just crying out for lasagne! Not that it's a wine only for red sauce. It also pairs well with fish in a rich sauce, grilled meats and vegetables, all sorts of things. But I was craving lasagne, so nothing else would do. Know what I mean? Anyway ...

Castello di Amorosa Sangiovese 2009 Napa Valley* is a medium-bodied red wine with a nice balance of fruit and oak. Its dryness and excellent acidity make it very food-friendly and a perfect match for the tomatoey meat sauce. Poured a glass, swirled, smelled, tasted, liked it. Reminded me of tart cherries. Waited 10 or 15 minutes to let it "breathe" a bit, tasted again, liked it even more. Juicy. Then I tried it with the lasagne. Too often with such dishes, I've just gone with a lighter-bodied red I happened to have on hand. Never again!  

But back to the lasagne. I think it's always better when assembled the day before it's baked and served. Since it's not going into the oven right away, I like to completely cool the meat sauce before assembling the dish. If you want to really make it ahead, cover the unbaked lasagne with plastic wrap and then with aluminum foil to freeze for up to a month. Then thaw it completely before baking uncovered.


Lasagne with Meat Sauce

(Serves 6)

The Meat Sauce

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1/2 cup chopped onion
1 or 2 cloves garlic, minced
1 pound extra lean ground beef
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 28-ounce can diced tomatoes
1 8-ounce can tomato sauce
1/2 cup drinkable dry red wine or water
1 tablespoon parsley flakes
1 1/2 teaspoons oregano
1 1/2 teaspoons basil
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper
1/8 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1 bay leaf

The Cheese Filling

1 15-ounce container ricotta
3 ounces shredded Parmesan
1 large egg
1 tablespoon parsley flakes
1/4 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 cup milk

The Rest

Enough lasagne for 4 layers, cooked according to package directions
12 ounces mozzarella, shredded

1 In large skillet, heat oil and cook chopped onion for about 5 minutes, or until very soft. Stir in minced garlic and cook for about half a minute. Add ground beef and cook, breaking up the meat, until it is well browned. With extra lean ground beef, there will be no excess fat to drain off. Stir in the tomato paste, cooking for a few minutes to "toast" it. Stir in remaining sauce ingredients. Bring to a simmer. Simmer, loosely covered, for about 30 minutes. Remove the bay leaf. Taste and adjust seasoning. Let cool at room temperature for 30 minutes, then cover and refrigerate for at least one, or up to several, hours.

2 In large pot, bring 4 quarts of salted water to a boil. Cook pasta according to package directions. Drain and rinse in cold water. I leave the noodles in a bowl of cold water as I'm assembling the dish. 

3 In 1-quart bowl, combine ricotta, Parmesan, egg, parsley, nutmeg and milk. The milk is just to give the filling a spreadable consistency so you have even layers of filling instead of big blobs.

4 Lightly oil a 13-by-9-by-2-inch baking dish. Spread 1/4 cup or so of sauce over the bottom of the dish. Lay on a layer of lasagne, the number of noodles will vary with different brands. With my favorite brand, Bionaturae organic whole wheat lasagne, 4 noodles laid widthwise cover the pan. Spread with 1/3 of the cheese filling, 1/4 of the shredded mozzarella, then with 1/4 of the sauce. Repeat twice for three layers. Add a fourth layer of lasagne. Cover the top layer with the remaining 1/4 of sauce and mozzarella. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until an hour before serving time.

(It goes: just a little sauce, lasagne, filling, mozzarella, sauce, lasagne, filling, mozzarella, sauce, lasagne, filling, mozzarella, sauce, lasagne, sauce, mozzarella.)

5 Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Bake at 375 degrees for about 45 minutes, or until crusty and bubbly. Let stand for 20 minutes before slicing and serving.

* Disclaimer: The wine was sent to me free of charge for sample purposes. All opinions are my own.

Note: You'll want a nice crusty, chewy artisan bread to with the lasagna!

18 comments:

Charles said...

Hi Jean, I must admit I make my lasagna a little differently to you. We had some lasagna made by an Italian person one day which wasn't entirely to my tastes, but my wife thought it was the best she'd ever had. My tastes are bit "off", lasagne-wise apparently :D.

Love a good glass of red with pasta dishes though. It's the perfect pairing!

Jean | Delightful Repast said...

No, your tastes aren't "off." There are all kinds of lasagna. Sometimes I like the kind with béchamel instead of ricotta filling, sometimes vegetables instead of meat. At an Italian restaurant in London I had a lasagne that was extremely wet - lots of tomato sauce. I prefer to make a thick sauce and have a fairly "dry" lasagna.

Cranberry Morning said...

Sounds like a terrific pairing! And of course your photos are stunning, Jean. My problem with lasagne is that it doesn't have edges, making it one of those more 'dangerous' entrees. :-)

Jean | Delightful Repast said...

Thanks, Judy, you're so funny! I used to think a pan of lasagne that size should serve 8, now I say 6!

Thomas "Sully" Sullivan said...

Ah, another siren call into the land of…? Can’t put my taste buds on what it is I’m missing, but I lack the ability to distinguish the essential difference between things like spaghetti, cannelloni, lasagna, et al. They are all essentially noodles of the macaroni variety whether Chinese or Italian or Kraft-istan. Funny thing is I almost always like everything that goes with/in the variously configured noodles. No matter how it’s packaged – tubes, packets, little stars in soup – it just gets radioed to my alleged brain as carbo/starch. When I’m done eating all the sideshows that come with it, my plate looks like a tannery of leftover skins. I shall take out a classified ad looking for someone of the opposite tastes, who eats only the rubbery stuff and leaves the sauces and fillings. Object: lunch.

Jean | Delightful Repast said...

Well, again, I'm your dining ideal - I prefer the pasta and the cupcake; you can have the meat and the frosting!

Julia | JuliasAlbum.com said...

Lasagne, one of my most favorite comfort foods. Relatively easy to make, it disappears very quickly from the table, as people tend to ask for seconds. I usually make mine with bechamel sauce and mozzarella. And always serve it with a glass of red wine - it's a must !

Jean | Delightful Repast said...

I make it with béchamel once in a while, but usually with ricotta because I need all the protein I can get!

Privet and Holly said...

Thanks for your
recent visit to
my blog, Jean,
via Jane Austen's
World! I enjoyed
reading past posts
and am off to pin
recipes, now!

Happy Sunday,
Suzanne

Jean | Delightful Repast said...

Thank you, Suzanne! I just recently signed up for Pinterest, haven't quite figured it all out, but I at least know enough to know what you meant by "pin."

Jenn said...

Looks fantastic, Jean!! There truly is nothing more comforting than a large piece of lasagna in my eyes! And, oh how it reminds me of my childhood. Lasagna was our traditional meal on New Year's.

Jean | Delightful Repast said...

Jenn, thanks! And I love hearing about people's food traditions. First I've heard of lasagne for New Year's.

Susan J Meyerott, M.S. said...

Yummmm, Jean. I haven't fixed lasagna in so long. There IS something so comforting about it. It is my husband's favorite. Love the spices you put in the sauce....just needs one more for my taste fennel seed....or alternatively italian sausage in place of ground beef. Did I tell you I made your buttermilk bucuits? Lovely.

Jean | Delightful Repast said...

Thanks, Susan! A touch of fennel would definitely be tasty! Glad you liked my biscuits.

Inside a British Mum's Kitchen said...

What a perfect dinner - your lasagne sounds delicious and a lovely glass of wine - a great dinner!
Mary x

Jean | Delightful Repast said...

Thanks, Mary! Wish I had a pan of it in the freezer. Love to cook ahead for busy days.

Pauline Wiles said...

I've never met a lasagne I didn't like, but I'm lazy about making it. This one sounds fabulous.

Jean | Delightful Repast said...

Thanks, Pauline. I feel the same way! Would love to be having some today, but just couldn't manage it!

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