Renaissance Lasagne with Hand-Rolled Pasta

Ellen Silverman

The fresh pasta can be made 24 hours ahead and air dried. The lasagne can be assembled a few hours ahead, but please don’t refrigerate it as it tends to dry out.

We hope this will be a revelation for you. It’s a far cry from that brawny work night stalwart picked up in the frozen food aisle. Consider this the long lost wayward sister of the lasagnes we've known and loved -- glamorous, delicate, ethereal and a little daring around the edges -- it is straight out of Italy’s culinary golden age, the Renaissance.

Here tomato is not a player. Instead, sheer sheets of pasta are layered with a light chicken ragù and sprinklings of nuts, raisins, spices, and cheese, with a touch of cream -- echoing the bewitching mix of savory and sweet you’d taste at Renaissance banquets. Believe it or not, many of Italy’s lasagnes today share this light hand. Serve this when you want to get away from the expected, yet have a dish that’s easily done in advance.

Cook to Cook: When buying dried, boxed lasagne, look for the sheerest sheets. If using boxed pasta, use one less layer of noodles than the recipe dictates.

Wine: This delicate take on lasagne can be overwhelmed by a big, ripe wine, so look within Italy’s borders for a relatively light red like a Barbera, Chianti, Valpolicella or Brunello.

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup golden raisins
  • 10 quarts generously salted water
  • 1 recipe Hand-Rolled Egg Pasta (recipe follows) cut for lasagne or 1 pound imported dried Italian lasagne, the thinner the better
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 recipe Baroque Ragù
  • 3/4 cup heavy cream
  • 6 thin slices Prosciutto di Parma, cut into finger-sized strips
  • 1-1/2 cups (6 ounces) freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
  • 1/2 cup pine nuts, toasted
  • Ground cinnamon
Instructions

1. Soak the raisins: In a small bowl soak the raisins in hot water to cover for about 30 minutes while you prepare the other ingredients.

2. Cook the Pasta: Spread a double thickness of paper towels over a large counter space. Have a large perforated skimmer handy and a large bowl of cold water sitting near the pasta cooking pot. Bring the salted water to a fierce boil. Drop in about 4 pieces of pasta. Cook the fresh pasta for about 2 minutes and cook the dry pasta a bit longer. Taste the pasta, making sure it is only barely tender, as it will cook again in the baking.

3. Lift the sheets from the water with the skimmer and drop them into the cold water to stop cooking. Lift out the cooled pasta sheets and dry them on paper towels. Keep repeating the process until all the pasta is cooked.

4. Assemble the Lasagne: Have the ragu warmed. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Use butter to slather a shallow 3-quart baking dish. Drain the raisins, discarding their liquid. Spread 3 or 4 tablespoons of ragù over the bottom of the baking dish. It should be sparsely covered. Cover the ragù with sheets of cooked pasta, butting them side by side, not overlapping. Spread about a third of the ragù over the pasta.

5. Top with another layer of pasta. Spread the sheets with 3 tablespoons of the cream. Sprinkle with 3 slices of the prosciutto, 6 tablespoons of the cheese, 2 tablespoons of the raisins, and 3 tablespoons of the pine nuts. Sprinkle very lightly with a pinch of cinnamon.

6. Cover with another layer of pasta. Spread another third of the ragù over the pasta sheets and cover the ragù with pasta. Again spread on 3 tablespoons cream, the rest of the prosciutto, 6 tablespoons of cheese, 2 tablespoons of raisins, and the rest of the pine nuts. Dust with a pinch of cinnamon. Cover with a final layer of pasta, and cover it with the remaining ragù .

7. In a medium bowl, blend together the remaining cream, the Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, and the remaining raisins. Stir in a pinch of cinnamon. Spoon this sauce over the ragù , making parallel diagonal stripes atop the lasagne.

8. Cover the dish with foil, taking care not to let it touch the top of the lasagne. Slip it into the oven and bake 45 to 50 minutes, or until a knife inserted in the center comes out very warm or hot.

9. Uncover and bake another 5 minutes. The top should be bubbly and creamy, not dried out or browned. Let the lasagne rest in the turned off oven with the door ajar for about 10 minutes. Cut the lasagne into squares and serve by lifting the pieces out with a spatula. This is not a solid lasagne; it slips a bit as it is cut and placed on a dinner plate.

From The Splendid Table's® How to Eat Weekends: New Recipes, Stories & Opinions from Public Radio's Award-Winning Food Show by Lynne Rossetto Kasper and Sally Swift (Clarkson Potter/Publishers, 2011).

Prep time: 
45 minutes
Cook time: 
30 minutes stove time; 45 minutes oven time
Total time: 
2 hours
Yield: 
6 to 8 servings as a first course, and 4 to 6 as a main dish

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