Jonathan Cartu Divulge: Joey Campanaro Family Lasagna Recipe - Jonathan Cartu Restaurant, Baking & Catering Services
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Jonathan Cartu Divulge: Joey Campanaro Family Lasagna Recipe

Bechemel sauce, meat ragu, ricotta, and noodles layer up to make this perfect old-school lasagna.

Jonathan Cartu Divulge: Joey Campanaro Family Lasagna Recipe



Bechemel sauce, meat ragu, ricotta, and noodles layer up to make this perfect old-school lasagna.
(Chronicle Books)

My father loved ricotta cheese. So much so, that even if we were having riga­toni (and pretty much no one puts ricotta on rigatoni), there would always be a little ricotta on the side just for him. He loved ricotta ravioli (especially the frozen kind from P&S Ravioli), ricotta-filled manicotti and of course, lasagna.

Related: 13 Savory Recipes Using Ricotta Cheese

My seat at the dinner table was beside him, followed by my brother Michael, my sister Michele and my brother Louie. My mom sat directly across from him, perched at the other end of the table and I just loved to watch him eat. Sometimes, when all other memories fall away, you are left with a singular memory that sums it all up: My father loved ricotta—and he loved lasagna.

This isn’t any old lasagna recipe, mind you. This recipe comes from Joey Campanaro, all-star chef and owner of Little Owl, Market Table and The Clam in New York City. It recently appeared in his cookbook Big Love Cooking: 75 Recipes for Satisfying, Shareable Comfort Food and it’s one of the best I’ve ever tried.

I say that it’s the perfect family-style meal because it feeds eight, but can easily be frozen to reheat for other dinners later on. And if the below steps seem like a lot, don’t fret. The proper lasagna takes time—and love—but is so worth it in the end.

Up next, find out how much lasagna you need per person, to feed your dinner guests.

Campanaro Family Lasagna

Ingredients

Béchamel Sauce:

  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 small whole yellow onion, unpeeled
  • 7 fresh cloves
  • 6 Tbsp [85 g] butter
  • 6 Tbsp [60 g] all-purpose flour
  • 4 cups [960 ml] whole milk
  • Kosher salt
  • Pinch of dried nutmeg

Ragù :

  • 1 medium carrot, peeled and roughly chopped
  • 1 celery stalk, roughly chopped
  • 1 small onion, ends trimmed, peeled, and roughly chopped
  • 3 Tbsp plus 1 tsp olive oil, plus more for drizzling
  • 5¼ oz [150 g] ground beef
  • 5¼ oz [150 g] ground pork
  • 5¼ oz [150 g] ground veal
  • ¼ tsp cumin
  • Kosher salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 garlic clove minced
  • ¾ cup [180 ml] red wine, such as Chianti
  • One 28 oz [794 g] can whole peeled tomatoes
  • 2 Tbsp finely chopped fresh parsley

Ricotta Mixture:

  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • 32 oz fresh whole-milk ricotta cheese
  • Kosher salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • ½ cup finely grated pecorino cheese
  • ½cup finely grated fresh Parmesan cheese
  • 2 Tbsp finely chopped fresh basil leaves
  • 2 Tbsp finely chopped fresh parsley
  • ¼ tsp red pepper flakes
  • 1 lb [455 g] fresh lasagna, store-bought
  • ½cup [50 g] finely grated fresh Parmesan cheese
Key Tags

Directions

To prepare the béchamel: :

  1. Attach the bay leaves to the onion, using the cloves like pushpins to hold them in place. Set aside.

  1. In a small skillet over medium heat, melt the butter. Add the flour and whisk until absorbed and smooth, about 30 seconds. Transfer to a small bowl and place in your refrigerator to get cold. (Don’t skip this step—it will keep your sauce lump-free once it’s added to the warmed milk.) In a large, deep saucepan over medium-low heat, add the milk and the onion and slowly bring it to a boil. Lower the heat to a simmer and let cook, stirring occasionally with a wooden spoon, about 15 minutes. Remove the onion and discard. Add the cold butter and flour mixture to the hot milk and use a whisk to com¬bine until the milk begins to thicken and can coat the back of a wooden spoon, about 1 minute.

  1. Set a fine-mesh sieve over a heat-proof bowl and strain the béchamel, using your wooden spoon to push it through the strainer and into the bowl. Add a pinch of kosher salt and the nutmeg, and stir to combine. Cover with plastic wrap, pressing it down so that it kisses the top of the sauce, preventing a skin from forming. Set aside to cool to room temperature.

To prepare the ragù::

  1. In the work bowl of a food processor, add the carrot, celery, and onion and pulse until finely chopped. Set aside.

  1. In a large, deep skillet over high heat, warm 3 Tbsp of the olive oil until it shimmers. Add the beef, pork, veal, cumin, a generous pinch of kosher salt, and a few grinds of pepper and cook until the meat is browned, using the back of a wooden spoon to really get in there and break it up, 5 to 6 minutes.

  2. Once the meat is browned, use your wooden spoon to move it to the side of your pan, making an empty spot in the center of your skillet. Add the garlic and cook until lightly toasted, about 30 seconds—it cooks very quickly, so be alert! Right when the garlic starts toasting, add the reserved carrots, celery, and onions and give the whole thing a stir. Stir, stir, continuously moving it around, for about 30 seconds.

  1. Add the red wine, the entire contents of the tomato can, the pars¬ley, and 1 cup [240 ml] of water. Lower the heat to medium and simmer, uncovered, using a wooden spoon to stir it every now and then, until it thickens, about 40 minutes. Taste and season with more salt and pepper if you think it needs it.

  2. Preheat the oven to 350°F [180°C]. Butter the bottom and the sides of a 9 by 13 in [23 by 33 cm] baking dish and set aside. Drizzle a baking sheet with the remaining 1 tsp of olive oil and set aside.

To make the ricotta mixture: :

  1. Crack the egg into a large bowl, add the ricotta, a generous pinch of kosher salt, a few grinds of pepper, the pecorino, Parmesan, basil, parsley, and the red pepper flakes. Use a wooden spoon to mix until smooth and creamy—really take about 1 minute to just mix. Add the cooled, reserved béchamel sauce to this creamy ricotta mixture to make your life of lasagna layering even easier. Set aside.

  1. Bring a large pot of generously salted water to a boil and add the lasagna sheets. Cook according to the package directions, stirring them frequently so that they don’t stick together. Lift them out of the pasta water with tongs (letting excess pasta water drip off) and transfer them to the prepared baking sheet, laying them flat and drizzling with a bit more oil. (There is nothing worse than stuck-together lasagna sheets—except stuck-together crespelle.)

Assemble the Lasagna:

  1. In the prepared baking dish, arrange 4 pasta sheets vertically to cover the entire bottom of the dish and ladle a thin layer of the ricotta-béchamel mixture over the top, followed by a thin layer of ragù. Repeat the layering process with pasta, ricotta-béchamel mixture, and ragù until you have used up all of your components, ending with a final layer of ricotta-béchamel. Spread the top with the Parmesan.

Bake the Lasagna:

  1. Bake the lasagna, uncovered, until beautifully bubbly and brown on top, 45 minutes. Let rest for 30 minutes before serving so that the sauce sets and doesn’t spill out when you slice it and serve it to your dad. Allow any leftover lasagna to cool completely in the baking dish before transferring to an airtight container and stor¬ing in your refrigerator for up to 2 days. Alternatively, if you have a lot of lasagna left over, just leave it in the baking dish and wrap tightly with plastic wrap before storing.

Kitchen Counter

Serves 8.

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