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The Simple Things

Passport & Plate - Nonna Manzoni's Lasagna

Italy | Friday, 6 March 2015 | 5 photos

• Fresh noodles (see recipe below)
• 2 cups of fresh mozzarella, grated
• 1/2 cup parmesan cheese, freshly grated
• 1/3 lb. each extra lean ground beef, ground veal & ground pork
• 1x 64 oz. can of organic diced tomatoes
• 1x 8 oz. can of organic tomato paste
• 1 medium onion, diced
• 4x garlic cloves, minced
• 1 ½ tsp. oregano
• 1 ½ tsp. basil
• 1 ½ tsp. thyme
• 1 tbsp. parsley
• 2 tbsp. organic cane sugar
• 1 cinnamon quill
• 1 bay leaf
• 1 cup of parmesan béchamel (recipe below)
• Salt and pepper to taste
• 2 tbsp. of butter for frying

For the noodles:
• 2 1/3 cups organic unbleached flour
• 2 eggs
• 1/3 cup water
• 1 tsp. olive oil + additional for cooking
• 1 tsp. salt

For the béchamel:
• 3 tbsp. butter
• 3 tbsp. organic unbleached flour
• 2 cup milk
• 2 tbsp. fresh parmesan
• 2 tbsp. fresh parsley (optional)

How to prepare this recipe
1. Sauté onions in butter over med. heat with 2 cloves of the garlic. Add the meat and S+P. Cook thoroughly.
2. In a separate pot, add the tomatoes, tomato paste, garlic, oregano, basil, thyme, parsley, organic cane, cinnamon, and bay leaf. Bring to a boil over med-high heat.
3. Once the sauce begins to lightly bubble use an immersion blender to break everything down.
4. Return the sauce to the pot; add in the meat mixture, cinnamon stick & bay leaf. Turn the heat to low and simmer for an hour. Remove the cinnamon quill and bay leaf. Use the blender again to break down the meat further.
5. Cook noodles (see below).
6. Using a 9x11 pan, ladle a little bit of sauce into the bottom of the pan.
7. Place a layer of noodles down, followed by a scoop of sauce, then a sprinkle of cheese. Alternate these layers until you finish off with noodles on the top.
8. Top the lasagna with the béchamel sauce (see below)
9. Place a piece of parchment paper over the lasagna and then cover with tinfoil.
10. Bake the lasagna for 40 minutes. Let sit for 10 minutes.

1. In a large bowl, sift 2 cups of the flour and the salt. Make a well in the centre.
2. Beat together the eggs, water, and oil. Add to the flour mixture and stir.
3. Sprinkle remaining flour on a work surface. Knead dough until smooth.
4. Feed dough through pasta maker.
5. Allow pasta to dry for about 20 minutes and cut to desired length.
6. Bring a large pot of water to boil with salt and a little bit of oil.
7. Add the noodles and cook for 2 minutes.
8. Gently pour noodles into a colander to drain and immediately rinse with cool water.
9. Drizzle with olive oil to prevent sticking.

1. Whisk together butter and flour and to cook for a few mins.
2. Add the milk and bring to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring constantly.
3. Once the sauce as boil and thickened, turn the heat to low. After it’s stopped boiling mix in the parmesan cheese, S+P to taste, and a few sprinkles of parsley.

The story behind this recipe
I like to say I'm adopted Italian. My mom remarried when I was eight and my new dad and his Italian family immediately became my own. Eventually, so did the tradition of making Nonna's lasagna.

Every Sunday we got to slice our fork through 15 layers of the soul warming dish Nonna had created for us. I think it was the only time during the week when my three brothers and I were quiet. We savoured every bite and always asked for seconds.

Several years ago my Nonna passed away. It became my quest to figure out her recipe and put a smile back on my Nonno's face. I found out from one of my brothers that Nonna had taught him her recipe (thanks for telling me), so I got him to write it out.

It was time to test my recipe out on the experts. I went to my parents’ house one Sunday, when my Nonno was visiting, and made the lasagna for dinner. I had my Nonno come and smell the sauce while it was simmering to see if the aroma matched up. "Yes good," in his thick Italian accent and a wink.

About a year later, my Nonno passed away. The same home they lived in for over forty years after coming over from Italy, was now being prepared to be sold. My parents called, my now husband and I, and asked if we would be interested in buying my grandparents’ home. Two months later, and after pulling up that rose-coloured Italian carpet, we moved in.

With the house, I inherited my Nonna's pasta maker, pots & pans, and stove. I now had everything I needed to make Nonna's lasagna. So every time I make her recipe I pull out her pasta maker to make the noodles, her saucepot simmers on her stove, and Nonna's lasagna pan waits patiently on the counter.

While I spend my Sunday making my Nonna's recipe, I know she is standing behind me watching as I cook. I catch myself talking to her as if she was there. I know it will never be 100% the same, but I hope my Nonna is proud of my 90% version. As Nonno would say, “Salute!”

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