Monthly Archives: November 2012
A new recipe came to me while at a friend’s wedding in Sicily back in September 2009. Over the course of an amazing trip on the east coast of the island, our visit centred in Taormina and the wedding party enjoyed a journey in Sicilian food and culture.
I was lucky enough to have friends from just up the road in Messina who knew some of the best places to eat on the island. One lunchtime we went to Angelo’s pizzeria on Corso Umberto towards the Messina end. We were the only ones having lasagne in a pizzeria but for good reason. The decor and service was drab and only brightened up when our locals started chatting. On the walls pictures of the 1972 ‘The Godfather’ film stars at the restaurant, their tired wall looked older than the ruined amphitheatre outside. Our lunch came out and for Italians, Lasagne is really only for lunch. So, I enjoyed lasagne the Sicilian way(with Ricotta cheese).
Notice from the top picture, how perfectly formed it is and how it sits on the middle of the plate, this was the way it was served in Angelo’s. Wonderfully tasty without being too heavy either. Its made with a rich sugo, minced veal/pork, wine and the ricotta cheese through the sauce. Pecorino cheese, olive oil and season. So much lighter than we are used to.
When I came home, like many other trips I was inspired to make something. I created the following recipe because it felt right. I was also far enough away from Sicily hopefully not ‘to sleep with the fishes’. After realising my version worked, I put it to test like most other recipes at my delicatessen. Well, it didn’t take long for it to be hit. Something about the simple way its made, the light texture and the flavour combinations just really worked. I still haven’t seen lasagne done this way anywhere. Surprising because Scotland has the biggest Italian community in the UK. I had worked in Italian restaurants previously and never seen it either. However, most Scottish Italian’s come from between Rome and Naples or Tuscany. Italy’s food culture is so regional.
I decided to use Italian sausages because they were closer to the Sicilian way and I knew a good producer in Glasgow. You will see from the above picture the Ricotta is on top. I preferred this because I found that through the sauce (as in top pic), it made the whole dish a little grainy and diluted the rich flavour.
It went into the deli’s weekly special menu almost immediately afterwards. This menu was already populated with customers favourite recipes, so a bit of a risk. We only put this on one day a week but sold-out usually 40/50 portions. Frequently requested for family gatherings, people started asking me to buy trays of the stuff. So here it is.
Your lasagne recipe will never be the same again, no more thick, heavy bechamel sauce (never understood this carb on carb combo)
Notes: I made by the tray (8 portions, it will disappear, or can be frozen). This recipe is only a guideline, I frequently changed it. The pictures are not great, I’m a cook not a photographer!
- 2 packs of egg lasagne pasta sheets 250g (free range organic if you can)
- passata sauce 750ml (splash of vinegar/teaspoon sugar)
- 6 large fresh Italian sausages (usually pork)
- splash of red wine (and glass for chef)
- tub of Ricotta cheese (250g)
- single cream (300g)
- Pecorino or other cheese you prefer
- an onion
- handful of basil
- nutmeg to grate
First, take the skin off the sausages and cook in a large pan with oil, chopped onion and red wine. Mix and cut up sausage with scissors until a fine mince. Once meat nearly all cooked, add passata with sugar/vinegar( I do as default for Italian recipes, gives a zing). If you like a deeper colour add some tomato paste. Let it reduce, put on a lid and lower heat.
Organise a deep tray ( I use 15inch x 9inch approx) wipe with oiled kitchen roll. Cut your lasagne sheets to fit tray and start to build layers. Remember to leave gaps at edges for the pasta to expand. I add a layer with just the cream, black pepper and grated nutmeg -keeping a little cream for the top, likewise chopped basil and add a little olive oil as you go. Once at the top spread a little red sauce and the rest of cream. Dollop the Ricotta cheese evenly, some more nutmeg, chopped basil, drizzle of olive oil and into the oven for 20/30 mintues at 180c. Leave to cool if portioning.
That’s it, so easy. One day at the delicatessen, some dancers from Scottish Ballet HQ, hearing about my special lasagne, called their friend, a Sicilian. He came over straight away, I was a bit nervous. “Who is making Sicilian Lasagne?” said an accusing voice. By now the shop was full, so thankfully he liked it. So much so, he requested a text service of when it was on because it reminded him of home. Can’t get better than that!
I’ve added the spicy Italian sausage with added chilli flakes in the sauce to for requests which is also very good. If you swap the sausage for haggis, then its the best haggis lasagne you will ever taste, I promise. Also, swap the meat for some roast veggies makes a delicious vegetarian lasagne. I made variations of all for groups who always asked for it.
If anyone ever asks me, “Whats Italian for lunch?” I always say “Lasagne!!”
Wine pairing – Sicilian Nero d’Avola of course!
It wasn’t the only recipe I discovered on this trip, more may follow.