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.
- There are a lot of ingredients and some of them are expensive – so plan ahead and save up!
- 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!
- 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 noodles I 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!
- 6 – 16 oz. cans of crushed San Marzano tomatoes – make sure they are imported from Italy.
- For the meat filling:
- 1 lb ground beef – 85% is fine you need some fat in there for flavor
- 1 lb ground veal – if you don’t do veal you can just use another lb. of ground beef.
- 1 lb ground pork – I actually substitute sweet Italian sausage – 8 links – the filling squeezed out of it’s casing.
- For the cheese filling and topping: please use the “whole milk” cheese rather than “part-skim”. If you are on a diet – you shouldn’t be eating lasagne!
- 2 lbs. fresh ricotta cheese from a cheese store or if a supermarket is your only option use Polly-O
- 1 1/2 lbs. shredded mozzarella cheese the bagged kind from the supermarket is fine.
- 2 cups grated Grana Padano cheese get a block and grate fresh
- 3 jumbo eggs – yolks only
- For sautéing and seasoning:
- 2 cups red wine – anything Italian like a Chianti or Valpolicella
- 1 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 1 medium sized yellow onion diced
- 6 cloves of fresh garlic peeled & minced
- 1 medium sized sweet bell pepper diced any color okay but I use red or yellow
- 10 leaves fresh basil coarsely chopped
- 2 tbs. fresh Italian parsley chopped
- 2 tbs. dried oregano
- 1 tbs. dried crushed red pepper
- 1 bay leaf – fresh if possible
- Freshly ground black pepper and salt to taste
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! 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 3” deep pans.
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 3 eggs and add just
the 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 1/4 cup
olive oil in a large cast iron skillet over medium flame. Add 1/2
of the diced onion & 1/2 of the diced bell pepper, cover and cook
until soft – about 2 minutes. Uncover and add 3 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 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 1/2 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. You will have to do this in batches since
three pounds of meat will not fit into a skillet. 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 1/2 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 3 minced garlic cloves
and sauté uncovered until the garlic begins to brown. Add 1/2
cup of red wine and continue to sauté for two more minutes.
Add all 6 cans of crushed tomatoes, the fresh basil, and the
remaining red wine, stir well. Add salt and pepper to your
liking – I personally use two teaspoons of each but use your
own judgement and taste preferences. Cover and lower the
flame to simmer and cook the sauce for 2 hours but stirring
every 15 minutes – use a timer if you have one – you don’t
want the sauce to burn on the bottom. After 2 hours 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 the 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
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 completely soft. While the pasta is cooking, line a sheet
pan with wax paper. 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, cover with wax paper
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, remove 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 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 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 3/4 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 ½” 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. IF YOU ARE GOING TO FREEZE ONE PAN OF
LASAGNE FOR A LATER DATE DO SO BEFORE COOKING.
Step 7 – Baking the Lasagne: Pre-heat oven to 375 degrees.
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
Step 8 – Eat and Enjoy the Lasagne – probably for several
days: To have an authentic Angelina’s or La Marionette 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 2 quarts of sauce left over – save
this for any left-over lasagne before re-heating in the oven
microwave. If you froze one of the pans of lasagne for a later
date, let it thaw out before following the “Baking the Lasagne”