How to Make Homemade Lasagna: Making Lasagna the Italian Way

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After learning how to make gnocchi and fettuccine by hand with a lot of practice, Edoardo’s mamma graduated me to making lasagna by hand in her kitchen. Lasagna alla Franca involves handmade pasta, béchamel sauce, tomato sauce and fresh mozzarella di bufala. It’s labor intensive but the rewards are an amazing pasta al forno that will blow all of your previous tries away, made with love. Keep reading for how to make homemade lasagna by hand—ingredients, recipe and cooking notes.

Ingredients

As with all of Fanca’s recipes (something she has in common with most great cooks), she doesn’t use precise measurements in her lasagna. Everything is un po’ di this and a pinch of that. She’ll sometimes weigh her flour, but the number of eggs in the pasta for example, depends on how big your eggs are and the resulting consistency of the dough. Also, please excuse the lack of pictures in this post. Turns out it's very difficult to both participate in the lasagna-making process and photograph it.

  • Flour (about one kilo or 8 cups)
  • 6 eggs (one per person, 6 will fill a good size casserole dish)
  • Salt
  • Olive oil
  • 1 small onion or shallot
  • 1 stalk of celery (washed)
  • 1 carrot (washed, peeled)
  • 2 liters smooth tomato sauce
  • 1/2 liter of milk
  • Nutmeg
  • 50 g (2 tb) salted butter
  • Fresh-grated, good parmesan reggiano
  • 1 big ball of buffalo mozzarella (or regular)

Tools

  • Cheese grater
  • Glass casserole dish
  • 2 sauce pans
  • Pasta machine with various settings for pasta thickness
  • Clean work surface for pasta making (preferably a marble table top)
  • Tub of cold water

How to make homemade lasagna

Pasta recipe:

  • Put about a kilo of flour on your work surface
  • Create a well in the middle of the flour mound and crack open 1 egg per person into the middle
  • Add a pinch of salt
  • Whisk eggs with fork then kneed together with the flour with hands (be careful not to kneed too much or the pasta will be chewy and tough)
  • Separate the dough into small balls and flatten
  • Using your pasta machine set on #1, feed one portion of dough into the top and roll dough through as many times as it takes until the sheet is thin and flour is well combined
  • Continue rolling each piece of dough through the machine on gradually increasing numbers up to #6 (I was told on no uncertain terms NOT to skip a numbered setting on the machine)
  • When you have various long and thin lasagna sheets, cut them into squares
  • Into a large pot of boiling water (not salted), put 5-10 in and remove when they float to the top
  • Transfer them into into cold water bath
  • Immediately lay on clean dish towels, dab dry and cover

Béchamel Sauce Recipe:

  • To a small saucepan, add 1/2 liter of milk
  • Add a pinch of salt & nutmeg
  • Into the warm milk, add 50 g (2 tb) of salted butter
  • Whisk together until the butter is melted and the sauce is tepid
  • Add 1 large spoonful of freshly-grated parmesan and 1 spoonful of flour
  • The sauce should be creamy and thick. If it’s not thick enough, add more flour by the spoonful

Tomato Sauce Recipe:

  • Heat a tablespoon of olive oil in a medium saucepan
  • Cook one small, diced onion or shallot for a few minutes
  • Add 2L of smooth tomato sauce with the stalk of celery and carrot
  • Add a pinch of salt
  • Check the consistency as the sauce cooks and add water if necessary, as the end product must be fairly liquid.
  • Simmer for at least 15 min on low heat then check flavor/consistency (could take up to 30 minutes)

Assembly

  • Glass dishes
  • Put sauce on bottom, sprinkle with parm
  • Lay one layer of pasta on top
  • Add sauce
  • Layer of mozzarella (regular, cut into pieces)
  • Add parm
  • Pasta
  • Sauce
  • Mozzarella and parm
  • Pasta
  • Sauce, parm and heavy layer of béchamel
  • Cook for 30 minutes, or until sauce bubbles over

This recipe will make one large lasagna dish, or two smaller dishes. If you don't have a pasta maker (a life essential, according to the Italians) you could buy dried lasagna pasta or even try flattening the dough with a rolling pin. You could also sub out the béchamel for a bit more cheese if you didn't want to make so many components. But if you do all of these steps, it's pretty difficult to mess up homemade lasagna, with an end result of saucy, cheesey perfection. It's perfect for special occasions and if you freeze the leftovers, you can have fabulous lasagna even when you're feeling lazy. Let me know how it turns out!