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Seriously......light lasagne! (No Swimming!)

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A couple of weeks ago, I briefly described my one-day cooking class near Assisi at Letizia's agriturismo, alla Madonna del Piatto. We learned to make a remarkable, light lasagne, several simple appetizers and a luscious dessert. ("Light" lasagne is my description, by the way, not Letizia's, and while I don't have a calorie count, the fact that each layer is kept thin made it taste very light!)

To emphasize the idea of keeping the lasagne layers very light, Letizia warned us (frequently!) against putting too much sauce or cheese in each layer -- none should be "swimming" in any ingredient.

We had a wonderful time and a fantastic meal at the end of all of our hard work (and the best part, we didn't have to do dishes!) By we, I mean four Americans staying at the agriturismo and me, which comprised the class. Letizia and her assistant were stuck with the cleanup while we feasted. Which is a shame -- why must everything end in dirty dishes?

But back to happier topics -- food! Rain on this day forced us to eat indoors, but last year when I took a cooking class with Letizia, we were able to dine outside on her lovely terrace, looking across a deep valley to the Basilica di San Francesco in Assisi. My photo, top, was taken just before the rain began and doesn't do justice to the beauty of the setting.

Inside, the five of us spread out as seen in the second photo above: on the left, Terry and his wife Linda from San Raphael; at the centre, or top of the table, Terry's cousin Gene and beside him his wife Audrey, who are from Nevada, and at the far right, grinning foolishly, me.

Anyway, on to the lasagne! I'm passing on Letizia's recipe, but I think the secret lies in laying down many light layers and in using good tomatos (sez Letizia -- if using tinned tomatos, buy nothing with salt or sugar or, horrors, vinegar which may be added to mask poor-qualilty tomatos.)

While the meat sauce simmered, Letizia got Gene started on whipping cream for the dessert.

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In making the lasagne, Letizia emphasized the importance of keeping each layer light (remember: No Swimming!) To remind myself of this, I took several photos of how each layer looked -- a few sheets of pre-cooked lasagne sheets, just enough to cover the bottom of the pan or the previous layer; a few tablespoons of ragout sauce; a few tablespoons of bechamel; a sprinkling of finely chopped mozzarella; a sprinkling of thinly sliced ham; then the next layer. Amounts were small enough to keep any one ingredient from covering any other.

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Here's the actual recipe:

LASAGNE
500 gr./ 1 pound fresh pasta sheets
200 ml/ ¾ cup bechamel sauce (white sauce)
200 gr./ 7 ounces ham shredded
400 gr./14 ounces fresh mozzarella finely cubed
3 cans diced tomato
300 gr./ 10 ounces good pork meat
1 onion
1 bay leaf
white wine

Ragout sauce:
Soften the onion in a covered heavy pan in olive oil over slow fire. Increase the fire and add the minced meat stirring quickly until light brown. Deglaze with wine; add the tomatoes, the bay and cook covered over very slow fire for at least three hours. Season with salt and black pepper.

Precook the lasagne sheets in hot salted water for 1 minute if fresh, 3 min if dry.
Build up the lasagne layer starting with a good ladleful of sauce on the bottom of the pan and alternating pasta, mozzarella, ham, bechamel, ragout sauce (everything in small amounts). Spread the top layer evenly with sauce and sprinkle with Parmesan and another tiny bit of bechamel.

Cook in moderate oven (200° C) for 1/2 hour.
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We also made several simple appetizers: a wonderful frittata, slow-cooked in a heavy iron skillet on the stovetop while we built the lasagne; olive pate, spread on toasted bread; roasted peppers; and a wonderful zucchini dish, with thin strips of the vegetable marinated in a bit of good olive oil and lemon with almonds. Wonderful!

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And for dessert, a honeyed ricotta mousse served with marinated figs from Letizia's trees.

The dessert was so simple:
500 grams (or 1 pound) of ricotta cheese
3 tablespoons of icing sugar
1/2 cup (100 ml) of whipping cream
a teaspoon of good honey

Whip the cream, then whisk the sugar into the ricotta and add carefully to the cream. Cover and keep refrigerated for at least one hour. To serve, spoon the ricotta mousse on a plate, drizzle with honey and add a few tablespoons of fruit topping at the side of the ricotta.


Comments (8)

Kathy (Trekcapri):

Hi Sandra, thanks for sharing all of your great photos, the lasagna recipe and also writing about your cooking class experiences. It sounds like it was a lot of fun and Letizia sounds like a really great cooking class instructor.

Thanks you for sharing and writing this entry.

Wonderful post and I love seeing all the photos. That really sounds like a lot of fun. "No swimming" is a great thing to remember (and very different from most American lasagna recipes). The zucchini look really good to me too. I can't wait to have some real Italian food!

sandrac:

Hi Kathy, thanks for your comments. Letizia is a great teacher, loads of fun and very practical!

Annie, I have to try this lasagne at home (I've been back almost a week but haven't yet been doing much cooking.) I hope you have an Italy trip in the planning stages, so you can have a good taste of authentic Italian, soon!

It sounds like you had a wonderful and delicious time! My mom used to make a similar lasagna. The dessert looks very interesting.

I do! I must have posted this while you were gone, but I'm returning to Venice December 3-13!

It's basically the same trip I took last year. I put some serious thought into going to Rome instead (or in addition) after reading about your experiences there last January. But when it came time to buy a ticket, I just wanted to go to Venice and Venice alone. And my plane ticket only cost a little bit more than it did last winter!

sandrac:

Hi Girasoli, your Mom's lasagne must have been delicious. I don't eat much lasagne here because so often it's really heavy and even greasy. I suppose that's why this style (with thin layers) so impressed me!

Annie, that's wonderful news, congratulations! I wonder what Venice is like in December -- I imagine beautiful, a bit more calm than in high season. I'm curious to hear more of your plans -- I'll go look through your blog archives. Are you planning to go back to the apartment you rented last time?

And I'm glad to hear that you were able to find a good airfare, that's half the battle!

Thanks Sandra! I'm pretty excited. Venice in early December is magical. Quiet but with the beginnings of holiday decorations and cheer. No crowds anywhere, and cold but not unbearably so.

I'm going to stay at the B&B (Locanda Orseolo) where I stayed last year. I've stayed twice in an apt. I love in Santa Croce, but both times I was traveling with a friend. I'm going solo this year and when I do that, I really prefer to stay in a B&B where there will be people to talk to. Plus I love the family that owns this place and can't wait to see them again!

Anonymous:

Annie, I'm sure Venice will be magical then -- you might even see a dusting of snow!

I've often looked at the Locanda Orseolo, it seems lovely and gets great reviews. And since I almost always travel solo, I know what you mean -- it's nice to have people around to talk to and if you know the family there, that's a bonus.

I can't wait to hear more about your trip!

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