Archive | January, 2012

Lasagne alla Bolognese – No Ricotta Required!

25 Jan

Lasagne alla Bolognese Recipe, The Lasagne All Others Aspire To Be
Recipe by

Bologna, the unofficial food capital of Italy within the region of Emilia-Romagna where prosciutto, mortadella, and salami are heavily produced and at one time the home of the legendary Roberto Baggio, amazing the Rossoblù tifosi in the late 90’s. You knew I was gonna get Baggio in here, didn’t you – he was kind of a big deal back then. How he didn’t turn into 500 lbs. with all of the amazing food surrounding him is beyond me and one dish specifically is synonymous with Bologna and increasing your waistline; Lasagne alla Bolognese! The rich and hearty filling of meat, besciamella (béchamel sauce) with grated Grana Padano and Reggiano Parmigiano make this lasagne the ultimate and classic comfort food of not just the region, but for all of Northern Italy. Today I’m sharing my recipe for Lasagne alla Bolognese that includes a touch of Rome (shocking) but stays true to this traditional Bologna classic. Preparing Lasagne alla Bolognese recipe from Paggi Pazzo

By comparison, most American lasagne is filled with heavy ricotta cheese and extra sauce that piles up 2 feet high as if you were building a skyscraper, not the type of lasagne you are likely to find in Italy. The Lasagne alla Bolognese by contrast is compact and filled with hardy goodness! To start it’s important to prepare the Bolognese sauce, also known as Ragù, which consists of ground beef, pancetta (you can add or use ground pork as well), carrots, celery, onion, and tomato sauce. I first add the onions, carrot, and celery and saute them in olive oil before adding pancetta (sliced in little chunks). After 5 minutes of the pancetta cooking with the vegetables, I add the ground beef seasoned with salt and pepper, which I cook for about 10-15 minutes until the beef is almost browned. Then add crushed tomatoes and slow cook for at least 90 minutes to 2 hours (I also reduce the sauce to help the meat absorb the crushed tomatoes).Ragù Bolognese Sauce for Lasagne alla Bolognese from Paggi Pazzo

While the sauce is cooking, you have plenty of time to prepare the lasagne pasta and the besciamella. For the pasta, I use Barilla lasagne pasta and add them to boiling water for about 1-2 minutes to soften (I don’t salt the water because the Grana Padano and Reggiano Parmigiano offer plenty of salt). Feel free to make your own lasagne pasta if you have the time (show-off!) as the authentic recipe calls for spinach lasagne pasta. For the besciamella, which is actually a traditional French sauce found in many Northern Italian cuisines (Viva La Resistance!), add butter to a pan at low heat and then stir in flower with a whisk. In another pan heat milk (I use 2% to keep it healthy and classy at Paggi Pazzo) and once the butter and flower begin to make a paste, add the milk slowly while whisking and adding a little more every time the sauce begins to thicken. Now I’m not a big fan of the besciamella so I actually used 1/2 of the usual amount for the lasagne and substituted the other half with chopped fresh mozzarella, but depending on your taste feel free to exclude the fresh mozzarella.

Now you’re ready to put the Lasagne alla Bolognese together so add a little bit of the sauce to the bottom of a large pan topped with sheets of the lasagne pasta. Then add a healthy heaping layer of the Bolognese Ragù sauce, a light dressing of the besciamella, chopped fresh mozzarella, grated Grana Padano and Reggiano Parmigiano, and repeat once more. The bigger the lasagne my friends (3-4 layers) does not make it better so trust me on this one; the lasagne will taste so much better if it’s not overwhelmed with too much of one ingredient or many. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees and let it cook for 45 minutes before enjoying a Bologna masterpiece!

My wife and I really enjoyed the lasagne and to her credit, she admitted that the more classic Italian lasagne was better than the ricotta filled imitations she’s had in the past. To accompany the Lasagne alla Bolognese I cracked open a bottle of Nobile de Montepulciano, an excellent red from Tuscany but if you want to keep the Bologna theme going, Sangiovese is a popular Emilia-Romagna wine. So there you have it, Lasagne alla Bolognese recipe from Paggi Pazzo, be sure to invite over some friends (or give me a call)!

Bologna Style Lasagne recipe from Paggi Pazzo

Lasagne alla Bolognese Recipe

Prep time: 15 min

Cook time: 2 hours 45 min

Total time: 3 hours

Yield: 10 servings


  • 28 ounces crushed tomatoes (San Marzano)
  • 4 ounces fresh mozzarella
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 10 ounces or 12 sheets lasagne pasta (Barilla)
  • 1/4 cup of flour
  • 1 tablespoon salt and pepper
  • 1/4 pound pancetta
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 3 large carrots
  • 4 celery sticks
  • 1 pound ground beef
  • 1 onion
  • 3/4 cup milk
  • 1 cup Grana Padano
  • 1 cup Reggiano Parmigiano

Cooking Directions

  1. In order to make the sauce, add oil to pan at medium heat for 2 minutes.
  2. Add finely chopped onion, carrots, celery, and fresh bay leaves and saute for 10 minutes
  3. Add pancetta and cook for another 5-7 minutes before adding ground beef. Then season with salt and pepper and cook until meat is slightly browned
  4. Add crushed tomato sauce and cook at low temperature for at least 90 minutes and until most of sauce has evaporated into beef
  5. Boil water in a pan and then add lasagne sheets for 1-2 minutes until softened
  6. For besciamella, heat milk in one pan and in another pan add butter at low heat and once completely melted, add flour with a pinch of salt and whisk
  7. Once butter and flour become a paste, slowly add heated milk and whisk consistently (continue adding milk until it forms a creamy texture – if besciamella becomes too thick, remove from stove)
  8. Preheat oven at 400 degrees and lightly dress bottom of pan with Bolognese Ragù sauce
  9. Grate Grana Padano and Reggiano Parmigiano into a bowl and chop fresh mozzarella
  10. Add 4 lasagne sheets to bottom of pan, then layer with Bolognese Ragù sauce, besciamella, chopped fresh mozzarella, and grated Grana Padano and Reggiano Parmigiano (repeat again for second layer)
  11. For any remaining besciamella and cheeses, use to top lasagne
  12. Cover lasagne with sheet of aluminum foil and place in oven and cook for 45 minutes
  13. Once done, remove from oven and let rest for 10 minutes before slicing and serving and enjoying the splendors of Bologna!

Lasagne alla Bolognese Recipe

5 out of 5
stars based on 8 ratings.

Click here for full Lasagne alla Bolognese Recipe and other Paggi Pazzo recipes.

Pesto alla Genovese – Pesto Palooza, Columbus is Bringing the Basil!

10 Jan

Ligurian Pesto alla Genovese Recipe; Please Pass the Pesto Pronto!
Recipe by

One of the great classic pasta dishes hailing from the northern port city of Genoa within the region of Liguria is Pesto alla Genovese. I’m surprised that Genoa’s own Chris Columbus (yeah, we were on a first-name basis) didn’t share his pesto recipe with the Americas. Maybe he wasn’t interested in bartering the city’s famed pasta dish??? I know chances are that pesto was not around then and I also know that Vespucci saw the Americas first but remember, he was Tuscan and pesto was probably a lot lighter to export for Mr. “Double C” Columbus (like I said, we’re real close) than Grilled Bistecca alla Fiorentina in the Nina, Pinta, and Santa Maria. Perhaps the pesto got lost among the other items and herbs Columbus traded for along the way? Come to think of it, Pecorino Sardo was probably hard to come by in the 1500’s. Today I’m sharing my pesto recipe with you that I personally took back (not the actual pasta and sauce, that would be gross since it’s been a few years) from Liguria, the region and home in Italy where pesto was created!

Presto Pranzo!!! Mr. and Mrs. Paggi Pazzo having lunch in Cinque Terre, Liguria along the Mediterranean sea with the classic and authentic Trofie al Pesto.

Presto Pranzo!!! Mr. and Mrs. Paggi Pazzo having lunch in Cinque Terre, Liguria along the Mediterranean sea with the classic and authentic Trofie al Pesto.

For full disclosure… I am actually not a big pesto fan! Ha-ha, I know, I know….you’re saying, “What you talkin’ about Willis?” But the truth is where my family is from in Rome, pesto is not a common dish or known in the region of Lazio. I do however own a U.C. Sampdoria soccer jersey (shocker!), who are from Genoa compliments of my cousin as a Christmas gift (Grazie Cugino!). But with that said, my wife loves pesto. I mean, looooooooves pesto! So when we were in the beautiful resort towns of Cinque Terre, Liguria, my wife made sure to enjoy pesto at least once a day. I have to say even for a non-crazed pesto fan like myself, it was delicious! The pasta most common served with pesto is known as “trofie“, which resemble little worms and are made without eggs, and considered to be closer to gnocchi than traditional pasta. For the traditional pesto ingredients, there are a simple few, but it’s important to get the most authentic of them to make the pesto taste like Ligurian pesto. For starters, get 3-4 cups of fresh basil and make sure after you clean the basil, it’s dry for the sauce. Then, get garlic cloves, olive oil, Italian or European pine nuts (which can be found at any Italian specialty market or Salumeria), and the most important… Pecorino Sardo and Grana Padano cheese. Both are the authentic and classic cheeses for pesto and they are not always easy to find, so if you must replace, use Reggiano Parmigiano in place of the Padano and Pecorino Romano in place of the Sardo. But, do so at the risk of taste…I’m just sayin’. Preparing Pesto alla Genovese with basil, garlic, pine nuts, Pecorino Sardo and Reggiano Parmigiano from Paggi Pazzo

Once you have all of your ingredients, the true classic preparation for the Pesto alla Genovese is to use a wooden mortar and ground the basil, garlic, and pine nuts together. Now, if you have a few days to do so and nothing else on your plate (unlike myself who has two children under the age of 3), then I would recommend using your food processor to make the pesto (“Double C” has just regretted ever setting foot in America! Wait a second??? He wasn’t looking for us anyway, right?!?!?). But before you do, cook the pine nuts in a pan with olive oil for 5 minutes to give them a light roast flavor. Then take your basil, garlic, and slowly roasted pine nuts with olive oil and add them in your food processor and pulse for about 10-20 seconds. Then add grated Sardo and Padano and purée this time before adding some pepper, and a little more cheese. Once the consistency of the pesto is a light cream, then you’re done! D-U-N, done!!! It is such an easy pasta that my wife is insisting I make it all the time (we’ll see). If trofie pasta is difficult to find, any short pasta will do (we used penne) but be sure to save a little bit of the pasta water after draining the pasta in case your pesto gets a little too thick.

While in Liguria we enjoyed some tremendous wines, which is not surprising since it’s neighbored to Tuscany and Piedmont, the recognized wine King regions of Italy. At every restaurant we enjoyed the house wine and asked for vino specifically from Liguria. One inparticular, the Colli di Luni is an enjoyable red that we had several times and even brought a bottle home that lasted maybe an evening! We also returned with a bottle of Sciacchetra, which I kept calling Shaka-Khan! It was a very sweet dessert wine that you can only find in Cinque Terre and as a matter of fact, we still haven’t cracked that bottle open yet. Whatever wine or pasta you decide with your pesto, I think you’ll find the Pesto alla Genovese recipe from Paggi Pazzo very satisfying, whether you’re in Liguria or at home!

Authentic Ligurian Pesto alla Genovese recipe from Paggi Pazzo

Pesto alla Genovese Recipe

Prep time: 15 min

Cook time: 15 min

Total time: 30 min

Yield: 8 servings


  • 1 pound trofie pasta or penne (Barilla)
  • 3/4 cup olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons pepper
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup grated Pecorino Sardo
  • 3/4 cup grated Grana Padono
  • 3-4 full cups fresh basil
  • 5 garlic cloves
  • 1/2 cup Italian or European pinenuts

Cooking Directions

  1. Grate Pecorino Sardo and Grana Padano into a bowl. If cheeses are not available, substitute with Pecorino Romano and Reggiano Parmigiano
  2. Add tablespoon of olive oil to pan and add pine nuts, cooking for 5 minutes then let sit for another 5 minutes
  3. Add fresh basil into food processor (but make sure basil is not wet after cleaning as the dryer the better for the pesto sauce), pine nuts, garlic, black pepper, salt, and 3/4 cup of olive oil
  4. Use pulse option in Food processor for 10-20 seconds until pesto starts to cream then add grated cheese (but save a handful for after pasta is done), and remaining olive oil and then purée for 10-20 seconds
  5. If pesto begins to take on a creamy consistency, then pesto sauce is ready. If still thick, add a little more olive oil and stir
  6. Bring pot of water to a boil and add your choice of short pasta if trofie is not available or not your preference. If cooking with trofie, once they rise to the top, they are ready (I do not add salt to the water because the sharp cheeses provided carry enough salt flavor for the sauce)
  7. Once pasta is ready, strain but be sure to keep a ladil of pasta water on hand should sauce be too thick
  8. Quickly mix pesto sauce with pasta and add remaining grated cheese
  9. Sing a verse of the Salve Regina hymn and you’re ready to serve!

Pesto alla Genovese Recipe

5 out of 5
stars based on 5 ratings.

Click here for full Pesto alla Genovese with Penne Recipe and other Paggi Pazzo recipes.

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