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swirl and savor

Lasagne alla Cacciatora

Beth Ribblett

I've been eyeing this recipe from Jamie's Italy for quite sometime, but wasn't sure when I would have the time or the occasion to attempt in. A dinner this weekend at our friend Rachel's house with a group of friends gave me the opportunity to give it a shot and the result was pretty darn fabulous!

While traveling through Italy doing research for his book, Jamie stayed on the Petrolo estate in Tuscany during harvest and cooked lunch for the grape pickers. His Lasagne alla Cacciatora is not a complicated recipe, but as I talked about in my post on Italian cooking and this book, one with many steps that allows you to achieve something really special in a simple dish like lasagna.

This is not something quick that you could throw together with short notice. It takes time and planning and by making it this weekend, I learned a few tips I can share with you that Jamie did not talk about. I've also adapted quite a few things so the recipe is not word for word like his. One thing that is great about it is that it is really three recipes in one, roasted pork, ragu and a white sauce could all be prepared on their own or combined as they are in the complete recipe.

Called Hunter's Stew because it contains a lot of wild game, I chose to use roasted pork instead for the meat. The first recipe is for the pork which can stand alone as a great recipe as well. Roast your pork the day before you are going to make the lasagna.

1. Step One - Day before, roast the pork. Click here to go to the Porchetta Recipe. Once the pork has cooled it needs to be shredded and kept refrigerated until you need it the next day.

2. Step Two - The morning of, make your pasta dough and let rest until you need it later in the afternoon. I used fresh pasta for this as Jamie did in his recipe, but you could use dried noodles as well. Click here to go to the Fresh Pasta recipe.

3. Step Three - While pasta is resting, make the tomato sauce. This can be started anytime during the day. If you are going to wait do it all together you will probably need a good 3 hours in the kitchen before you serve the lasagna. If you make the sauce ahead of time, it will help you with timing later when you are trying to put everything together.

Tomato Sauce Ingredients

-olive oil
-3 cloves of garlic, peeled and sliced
-a sprig of fresh rosemary
-3 bay leaves
-3 14-oz. cans of San Marzano tomatoes
-1lb. 6 oz. roasted shredded Porchetta

Heat a pan with a splash of oil. Slowly fry the garlic until lightly colored, then add the rosemary, bay leaves and tomatoes. Cook gently for 45 minutes with a lid on. Add your shredded meat to the tomato sauce with a little hot water if it is too dry, and season with salt and pepper. Simmer for 20 more minutes, stirring every now and then. Remove the rosemary and bay leaves. Turn off heat and cover until you are read to start preparing the lasagna.

4. Step 4 - Two hours before dinner, make the white sauce. Again this is a beautiful Bechamel style sauce that can be used for other dishes as well, including serving it over pasta.

White Sauce Ingredients
-1-3/4 pints of milk
-a sprig of fresh parsley
-a pinch of nutmeg
-1/2 onion, peeled and sliced
-6 black peppercorns
-6 tablespoons of butter, plus extra for greasing
-1/2 cup all purpose flour
-5-1/2 oz. freshly grated Parmesan cheese
-sea salt and freshly ground pepper

Put the milk, parsley, nutmeg, onion and peppercorns into a pot. Heat to just below the boiling point.

While milk is heating take a deep pan and melt the butter. Begin to slowly add in the flour and stir until it is totally mixed in. By this time your milk should be ready. Take it off of the stove and strain out herbs and onions. Begin adding the strained milk to the butter and flour a ladle full at a time mixing it in completely before you add another. You should have a very smooth white sauce. Bring to a low boil, simmer a few minutes and then take off the heat. Mix in the Parmesan and season.

5. Step 5 - Preheat you oven to 350 degrees F and butter a large baking dish. Put a big pot of salted water with a good glug of oil on the stove for the pasta.

6. Step 6 - Reheat your pork ragu and put your white sauce back on the stove at a very low heat, just to warm it and make it easier to work with.

7. Step 7 - Roll out your pasta dough and prepare lasagna.

Remaining Ingredients
-1 lb fresh egg pasta dough
-Parmesan cheese for grating
-2-5 oz. balls of mozzarella
-a handful of fresh sage leaves
-olive oil

Pasta Directions
My recipe makes 2 lbs of dough so you can either cut the ingredients in half or use the rest for some fettuccine or other type of pasta. You want to roll out strips of pasta that are about 3 x 10 inches. Blanch 2 or 3 strips at a time in the boiling water and cover the bottom of the baking dish with pasta strips, letting them hang over the edges. Put down a layer of meat sauce, then some white sauce and a sprinkling of fresh Parmesan and repeat the layers until you run out of meat. But keep back enough white sauce for a final layer on top.

Fold the over the pasta ends from the edges and top with the white remaining sauce. Sprinkle with Parmesan, tear the mozzarella over the top, scatter your sage leaves and drizzle with olive oil. Bake in the preheated over for 45 minutes or so until golden.

Prepare to "wow" your friends and family...

We served this with our last bottle of the 2001 Poliziano Asinone Vino Nobile di Montepulciano. A fabulous pairing, we're sad to see it go, but have many fond memories of it over the past few years.