Help me find my precious lasagna recipe or find a better one.
January 16, 2013 7:29 AM   Subscribe

I need to cook a lasagna by Friday for a large party. But in the great book purge, the cookbook that has the best lasagna recipe got removed! I am prepared to buy it new on Amazon, but I can't remember the title, and my fuzzy memory is supplying only generic terms. Please help me either find this cookbook, or recommend an even more awesome lasagna recipe! Clues follow.

The book was mid-size, maybe nine inches tall and seven inches wide? I am guessing, but those are the rough proportions I remember. The cover was edged in a kind of faded red, and on the cover was a grandmotherly-looking woman, but if memory serves, in kind of old-fashioned clothes and in that kind of old-timey photograph feel. (Not black and white, but maybe in browns?)

Inside, recipes were sorted by type of dish, but each recipe came with a story about the origins of the dish, and the submitter's memory involving the dish. I recall a paella recipe that talked about a big Italian family. I think the majority, if not all, of the dishes went somewhere along the lines of "My parents/grandmother from the old country made it this way."

My fuzzy memory of the title has it as something like "Good Home Cooking" or "Good Home Country" or "Good Old Country Recipes", but I could totally be fudging that and it could be something different but along those lines.

Any awesome lasagna recipes must be for meat-eaters, and preferably, will be so heavy that someone eating a slice will not want to move for some time afterwards.

Help me save this party! I am sadly already committed and promised to provide the best lasagna experience ever, so random recipes off the internet won't do unless I want to commit to eating three lasagnas a day from now until Friday.
posted by corb to Food & Drink (21 answers total) 15 users marked this as a favorite
If you're up for a lasagna challenge, give this one a go!
posted by Kitteh at 7:53 AM on January 16, 2013 [1 favorite]

Best lasagna recipe will involve making your own ragù, your own pasta, and your own bechamel sauce.

1 egg and 3 egg yolks per 1 cup flour plus 3 tbs semolina. Use a pasta roller and make sheets in the thinnest setting. Boil in salted water until al dente (only a minute or two), then drain and set aside.

1 lbs ground pork
1 lbs ground veal
1 carrot
2 celery stalks
1 medium onion
4 garlic cloves
7 tbs butter
4 tbs olive oil
3 1/2 ounces pancetta, chopped
1 cup white wine
2 cups milk
14 ounces canned tomatoes, strained (or chopped, I prefer strained)
1 cup stock (beef or chicken)

Melt butter and oil in wide frying pan on medium heat, add chopped veggies, pancetta, salt them, saute for 10-15 min until softened. Increase heat to high, add meat in batches, stir until water has evaporated. When pan sputters, turn heat to medium and fry the mixture for about 20 minutes. Deglaze with wine. Transfer to sauce pan, add milk, tomatoes, stock, salt and pepper to taste. Cook at a simmer, uncovered, for at least 4 hours until the sauce is thick. The longer you cook this, the better it'll be.


7 tbs butter
3/4 cup + 2tbs flour
grated nutmeg
4 1/4 cup milk

Melt butter, cook flour in it for a minute with a generous grating of nutmeg. Add milk slowly, stirring constantly and allowing it to come back to a boil before each addition of milk.


Preheat oven to 425.

Spread thin layer of ragù on bottom of baking dish. Layer with pasta, sauce, bechamel, and a good sprinkling of grated parmesan. Repeat as many times as you can. The more thin layers the better.

Bake for 40 minutes. Let it cool 15 minutes before cutting and serving.

Eat like glorious, glorious pigs.
posted by lydhre at 7:54 AM on January 16, 2013 [8 favorites]

My favorite version of white pizza involves a garlicky bechamel as a base.

Therefore, the recipe above is missing garlic in the bechamel, and a little ricotta cheese dotted around between the bechamel and the parm - just like my favorite pizza.

Otherwise, that recipe from lydhre is perfection.

Edit: I would also drop the 2nd rib of celery in the ragu, and chop the first really really fine. Carrot gets a fine chop, too. Maybe whiz them together in the cuisinart?

I love celery, but not too much in that particular dish.
posted by jbenben at 8:06 AM on January 16, 2013

Best answer: Lasagne of fiery doom (spicy, but you can make it less so)
posted by mkb at 8:18 AM on January 16, 2013

If you can't find the recipe book you are looking for, Delia Smith's one is a tried and tested home cooking favourite from a bestselling book every third home in Britain owns. It isn't exactly what you are looking for, but it is arguably a British equivalent. Delia is well known for the reliability of her recipes.
posted by MuffinMan at 8:19 AM on January 16, 2013

Also, if you don't want to embark on an epic Lasagne quest, someone else has done it for you
posted by greenish at 8:42 AM on January 16, 2013

This is Mario Batali's recipe for lasagne bolognese which is excellent and time consuming.

I notice a common theme for most of these: home-made ragu, noodles and bechamel sauce.
posted by fiercekitten at 11:44 AM on January 16, 2013

This has been our family/neighborhood winner for over 45 years. It is solid, it is delicious, it is not as complicated as it looks, and -- a plus for me -- you buy all the ingredients pre-made from the grocery store. Seriously, I've made this probably over 300 times, and given the recipe to dozens. It's a winner. I suspect you can freeze leftovers, but have never had the opportunity to find out. A loaf of good bread and a green salad and you're golden.


1 onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, smashed
1 lb ground beef
fresh mushrooms, choppped
1 large can tomato sauce
1 can tomato paste
3/4 C water
1-1/2 t oregano
Simmer 15 minutes.

Cook 12 oz. lasagna noodles
Drain and mix with 1 egg

Mix together:
1 egg
1 bunch spinach, cooked, drained and chopped
1 C ricotta cheese
1/3 C parmesan cheese
1 T oil

In pan layer: half meat sauce;
half lasagna;
all spinach mixture;
remainder of lasagna;
remainder of meat sauce.
Cover and bake at 350 for 45 minutes.

Uncover; top with 8 oz shredded mozarella cheese;
bake 15 minutes more.
posted by kestralwing at 11:55 AM on January 16, 2013 [6 favorites]

Response by poster: This is fascinating already! I had no idea you could even use bechamel sauce in lasagna (so maybe I should avoid it as it involves cooking something entirely new and possibly disastrous? How difficult is it?). The recipe I hearted so involved a mixture of ricotta and some other things.
posted by corb at 12:00 PM on January 16, 2013

Bechamel sauce is pretty easy and a good thing to learn anyway!

There are a few ways it can go wrong:

1. Adding liquid too quickly, so it goes lumpy. Just add it veeery slowly and make sure each bit is fully incorporated before adding the next bit. If it goes lumpy anyway just lay into it with a whisk.

2. Adding too much salt or not enough salt. Put the salt in last and taste as you go!

3. Adding too much liquid so it goes runny. If you're adding the liquid slowly you will be able to tell when to stop.

4. Leaving it on the stove too long so it goes too thick and stodgy. Fixable by adding more liquid very slowly as before. Taste and fix the seasoning when you are done.

If you want to practice it and see how it goes, make yourself cauliflower cheese or macaroni cheese or fish and white sauce one night.
posted by emilyw at 12:14 PM on January 16, 2013 [1 favorite]

Bechamel sauce is easy. As emilyw says you just need to go easy. Add things slowly and don't go wild on the heat under the pan. Because you make it separately to the ragu if you screw it up it's easy to redo it.
posted by MuffinMan at 12:53 PM on January 16, 2013

This is the classic US ricotta lasagna. This is the classic US ricotta and sausage lasagna.

Ricotta lasagna is wonderful. Bechamel lasagna is wonderful. They are not the same.
posted by Sidhedevil at 12:59 PM on January 16, 2013

A ground beef and ricotta lasagna.

This is what I make when I'm making a ricotta lasagna. It has the layers and density and ricotta-ness of the lasagnas of my childhood, but with a slightly tweaked flavor palette.

(The lasagnas of my childhood were probably made from either the Sorrento Cheese recipe or the Hunt's Tomato Sauce recipe.)
posted by Sidhedevil at 1:06 PM on January 16, 2013

Bechamel lasagne is the classic lasagne alla Bolognese, which is what "lasagna" means to most Italian-Italians.

The Italian-American recipe often involves ricotta and plain tomato sauce, but I never developed the palate for it. The texture always feels all wrong, but I recognize that that's a function of growing up with bechamel lasagne as the only acceptable option. :)
posted by lydhre at 1:15 PM on January 16, 2013

Since corb is looking for a recipe like the one from a US "home cooking favorites" cookbook, I think ricotta lasagna recipes are going to be what she wants.

Now I want to have a lasagna party with all different kinds of lasagne!
posted by Sidhedevil at 2:01 PM on January 16, 2013 [1 favorite]

I gave up my mom's lasagne recipe once I found this one. You could replace the turkey sausage with real sausage.
posted by la petite marie at 4:30 PM on January 16, 2013

This is quite a long-shot, but "Taste of Home Best Loved Recipes" has user submitted favorite family recipes, with little notes from the people who submitted them. (It does have some red on the cover, but not the image of the lady; the dimensions are about what you descibe.)

Probably not your lost cookbook (I recently did the same thing, btw: gave away a cookbook without remembering that it has one recipe that I make infrequently, yet regularly, over the years), but at any rate here is one of the lasagna recipes included in the book, and searching the site for lasagna ordered by top-rated recipes might turn up what you are looking for, or close to it, or another possibility.
posted by taz at 1:55 AM on January 17, 2013

Best answer: Was the book maybe Good Old Food by Irena Chalmers?
posted by mon-ma-tron at 5:52 PM on January 17, 2013 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: YES! That is exactly the book. Now I just have to figure out how to either read or photograph the recipe, or get the book itself in the next few hours... Or just substitute one of the other recipes if I can't.

The lasagna needs to be in the oven by 7:30 tonight.
posted by corb at 9:39 AM on January 18, 2013

Yay! — no, I mean — Rats!
We also got rid of our copy, otherwise I'd scan out the recipe and send it to you. Boo.

Maybe they have it at your public library?
posted by mon-ma-tron at 12:04 PM on January 18, 2013

Response by poster: I can't believe I never came back to update! So sorry, and thanks so much guys for aiding in my lasagna emergency! I ended up using the Lasagna of Fiery Doom recipe, modified only by my hazy memories of the Irena Chalmers book. Also, ordering said book to solve in future.

The lasagna turned out great, everyone was very happy, and now I have the precious lasagna for the future. Victory!
posted by corb at 3:29 PM on February 4, 2013

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