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Lasagne al Forno is a delightful thin wide flat sheet pasta covered with the perfect meat tomato sauce, cheese, and bechamel cream within alternating layers and baked in the oven.
Not a dish made every day due to the intense labor that it requires but generally prepared for a special occasion.
Before going any further, I must specify that “Al Forno” means “in the oven”.
In Italy, you can enjoy “lasagne pasta” which refers to the type of pasta alone, it marries well with pesto or any other rich meaty sauce.
So when I say al forno or in the oven, the preparation is a different one. Longer but worthy of every second you spend in the kitchen making this dish.
The Origins of Lasagne.
There are quite a few different theories about the original birth of the lasagne.
During an archeological excavation, evidence pointed to basic tools and ingredients for pasta making. But it wasn’t until the Milled ages that the recipe appeared.
Lasagne originated in Italy in the city of Naples during the Middle Ages in the 14th century. Revered by many and reserved for special events and holidays.
However, Emilia Romagna has claims on it as well
Northern Italy will use fresh pasta to make this dish. However, moving to southern Italy, you will find this dish prepared with dried pasta. Each region has put its own signature in this classic dish by adding porcini mushrooms, prosciutto.
This dish is made in three parts: the sugo or tomato sauce, the homemade pasta, and besciamella or bechamel cream.
Home Made Pasta
Start with a good 00 flour. More refined than your regular all-purpose flour and flour of choice. Bring your eggs to room temperature before cracking them into the flour.
The pasta dough does not need too much work, but it required that the dough rest in between kneading the dough.
If using the pasta machine, start with the dough hook, flour, eggs, salt, and white wine. Knead a couple of times with resting in between and then start the roll-out of the dough process.
Use the widest setting on your pasta rolling attachment, usually setting #1. Fold the dough over to make a perfect rectangle and pass it thru again. Work with a couple of sheets at a time to prevent dryness. You must spread some flour or fine semolina flour if you so wish, to the cutting board or where ever you will leave the pasta sheets to rest in between rolling.
If the pasta starts attaching itself to the rolling pins or starts to break, let it rest another 3-4 minutes before rolling it again.
Once you have the perfect rectangle, move to settings #3 and then #6 however this time only rolling and not folding back. Cut the desired length you want to use. Do remember that when you cook the pasta will swell up.
Start cooking the pasta in a salted pot with abundant water as soon as all the other ingredients are done. Cook the lasagne strips, a few at the time, in boiling salted water and remove with a slotted spoon, and place in a cold water bath.
Sugo or Meat Tomato Sauce
The easiest step to make. One thing that is important and I must mention, once the garlic is golden, toss it. The garlic is used to infuse the oil with its natural juices.
This tomato sauce can be made the day before and brought back to room temperature when ready to assemble your dish.
Beschiamella or Bechamel Cream
A very easy step that the only attention it requires is that you constantly stir as you add the milk slowly and wait in between adding the milk.
You want your cream to thicken prior to adding the next ladle of milk to it.
By slowly adding the milk and whisking you eliminate the lumps to be forming.
Do add the nutmeg and season at the last minute. The nutmeg brings depth to the sauce.
Once all the sugo and the bechamel are done, you can start cooking the pasta a few sheets at a time.
In a large baking dish, roasting dish if you prefer, spread some of the tomato sauce. Add one at the time the lasagne pasta over it, overlapping if need be to cover the whole bottom of the baking dish.
Add a thin layer of bechamel to cover. Sprinkle with the mozzarella and cover with another layer of pasta.
Repeat until all is done and finish up with more mozzarella. Bake in the hot oven.
Bake this dish the day before you will enjoy it you will love how all the sauce and cream sip thru the pasta and give this dish that wonderful rich savory taste.
Enjoy this dish and just know that if you have a question I am only an email away.
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Equipment and ingredients used to make this recipe
Lasagne al Forno - An Italian Tradition
- 3 hrs total
- 2 hrs prep
- 1 hr cook
- serves 6
3 large egg(s)3.00
unbleached all purpose flour
2 cups 00 flour or unbleached all-purpose flour2.00 cups
warm water or white wine1.00 cup
2 pounds ground sirloin2.00 pounds
1 large can of whole tomatoes1.00
3 whole garlic cloves3.00
3 tablespoons unsalted butter3.00 tbsps
unbleached all purpose flour
3/4 cup unbleached all purpose flour0.75 cup
2 cups whole milk2.00 cups
shredded mozzarella1.00 cup
Place the eggs, flour, and salt into the bowl of your mixer fitted with the bread blade. Mix slowly and add water as needed to the dough. Once the dough is well blended, not flaky or too wet (add more flour if this is the case) remove, place it on the cutting board, and cover with a bowl. Let rest for 10 minutes or until ready to use.
In a large pan warm the olive oil and add the garlic. Cook the garlic but ensure that it will not turn brown or burned. Toss the garlic and add the meat and cook until all the meat is cooked on the outside. Cut down any chunks of meat.
Add the tomatoes basil salt and pepper. Cook over medium-low heat for at least 30 to 45 minutes. Taste and rectify flavor if so needed
In a large heavy bottom pan over medium heat melt butter and add the flour. With a whisk mix well until a thick cream is formed.
Add slowly the milk constantly whisking making sure no lumps are formed. Add more milk as the sauce thickens. Add salt, pepper, and grated nutmeg as needed. The sauce should leave a thin layer of sauce on the back of a wooden spoon when it is ready.
In a large pot with salted water and 1 tablespoon of oil cook 6 to 8 strips of pasta at a time. Cook for at least 5-7 minutes; they should be cooked, but not too tender. Remove from water with the assistance of a hand colander and place in a bowl of cold water to stop the cooking process. Repeat this process until all the pasta is cooked.
In a large baking pan cover the bottom with an even thin layer of tomatoes. Remove one at the time the past from the bowl of water, remove any excess water, and place flat on the bottom of the pan.
Cover the bottom of the pan. Add a thin layer of tomatoes sauce and spread evenly. Add a thin layer of Besciamella sauce over it, spread evenly. Add the shredded mozzarella. Cover with another layer of pasta.
Repeat the above process 1 or 2 more layers are made. When all layers are done, spread a thin layer of Besciamella, top it with tomatoes sauce. Spread remaining mozzarella on the top.
Cook in a hot oven set at 350 for 45 minutes or until the top is golden brown and the sides are nice and bubbly.
Let it rest before serving. It can be cooked the day before, rested in the refrigerator, and warmed again for 30 minutes the day after. This will allow the sauce to sip into the pasta and increase the flavor.
Originally published on April 25, 2012. Updated on February 14, 2022
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