Thursday, 8 March 2012

Recipe - Lasagne, Carbonara

Hey, I have an actual food-related story to relay! How exciting. So I was making lasagne for a previous lasagne-flaker, the photographer of the new blog banner picture, someone who willingly handed over some stuff that had taken them probably several hours of hard work to compile and some others but it went a bit awry. I was roughly using Delia's recipe but then got waylaid by the great weather and went for a walk instead which left me not enough time to do it. And then it transpired that I didn't have enough lasagne sheets for even two layers, let alone the three that I was envisaging. So I thought 'quick, improvise!' and decided to make it lasagne meets ragu pasta bake. Then proceeded to throw the uncooked, dry pasta into the remaining ragu before remembering that you pre-cook pasta. So this was kind of an experiment/gamble but it all turned out OK. It did take double the time that I thought it would to cook but none of the guests really seemed to mind. I call it 'potentially fatally flawed in both concept and execution lasagne vs. ragu pasta bake experiment' but people seemed to prefer the name 'AJ' for some weird, untold reason. (For those who are not in on this in-joke, that name is actually being bandied around at the moment for the sole purpose of mocking me and making me feel awkward so I'm trying to reclaim it. Or something.) The lasagne recipe was initially supposed to be strictly followed since I'd decided to try a bit of traditional(ish) Italian stuff without making mistakes/making it my own. That made me even more determined to make carbonara PROPER, like the Italians would, without screwing up. Unfortunately, I couldn't find any guanciale. Alas.
Lasagne (kind of) (for 4 - 6)
For the ragu...
Olive oil
1 large carrot, finely chopped
1 onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
6 rashers smoked streaky bacon, cut into lardons
250g beef mince
250g pork mince
1 large glass red wine
1 tbsp tomato puree
1 can plum tomatoes
Salt and pepper

Preheat the oven to 180.
Fry the onion, garlic and carrot on a medium heat in a large, heavy based pan for about ten minutes, being careful not to colour.
Add the bacon pieces and cook until browned.
Remove the vegetables and bacon and set aside.
Turn the heat up to high and add all the mince to the pan and brown. Sprinkle salt over the mince.
Re-add the vegetables and bacon to the pan and lower the heat to medium-high. Mix thoroughly.
Add the wine and let the alcohol evaporate away for a minute.
Add the puree and tomatoes then mix and season well.
Put in the oven, uncovered for an hour and a half.

For the cheese sauce...
75g butter
75g flour
300ml milk
300g cheddar cheese, grated
Pinch of ground nutmeg
Black pepper

Melt the butter over a medium heat. Stir in the flour to make a roux.
Add the milk, stirring constantly, to make a smooth sauce. Simmer for about 10 minutes on a low heat to thicken.
Add the cheese, stirring to ensure it all melts and combines. Add a touch more milk to loosen if necessary.
Add the nutmeg and black pepper.

For the assembly...
Enough lasagne sheets for 1 layer.
250g macaroni
1 ball mozzarella, diced
3 kabanossi sausages (smoked Polish cured sausages), finely chopped

Place half of the ragu at the bottom of a lasagne dish.
Place a layer of lasagne sheets on top.
Add half of the cheese sauce evenly over the top of the lasagne sheets.
Scatter half of the sausages on top of the layer of cheese sauce.
Combine the remaining ragu with the macaroni and make that the next layer.
Add the remaining cheese sauce above the layer of ragu-macaroni, making sure every bit is thoroughly covered.
Scatter with the remaining sausages and mozzarella.
Place in the oven, covered with foil, at 200 for 45 minutes.
After 45 minutes, mix the mozzarella layer at the top, the cheese sauce layer underneath that and the macaroni-ragu layer underneath that to combine, being careful not to disturb the lasagne-proper layers underneath that.
Return to the oven, still covered for another 25 minutes.
Remove foil and return to the oven for a further 20 minutes.
Carbonara (for 2)
250g pasta
3 egg yolks and 1 egg
50g pecorino, grated
Smoked bacon lardons (best I could find in the absence of guanciale and pancetta)
1 clove garlic, peeled

Fry the bacon with the whole garlic clove. Get rid of the garlic clove.
Beat the eggs, add a pinch of salt and the cheese and stir.
Cook the pasta in boiling, salted water until al dente.
Drain the pasta, add the egg mixture immediately and stir.
Add the bacon. Season with black pepper and stir again.

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