~ Piazza dell’Erbe: The largest open air market in Verona ~

 

Last summer, while touring Verona, arguably one of the most picturesque small cities in all of Italy,  we wandered off the more tourist driven Piazza Bra in search of a casual spot to linger over lunch.  We found a gem, both in food and wine, at a family run place called Enoteca CanGrande. Despite the absolutely perfect view over a quiet street and excellent wine prices,  the star of this lunch was an airy, delicious individual lasagna that my wife enjoyed.  After the first bite she said, you have to taste this and you have to make this at home! 


Individual Lasagna alla Verona


I take pride in the fact that my recipes are easy to make.  I have no formal culinary training and have learned mostly by watching and speaking to local chefs.  This recipe is no different – actually, it’s very easy – but it does take some pre-planning. The amounts below will yield 4 individual lasagne.
 
2 boxes Vigo No Boil Lasagne Sheets
4 balls Mozzarella Fresca (sliced thinly)
2 cups basic tomato sauce
2 cups Bechamel Sauce (see below) 
4 cups Ragu Bolognese 
Panko Bread Crumbs
Grated Parmigiano Reggiano
Wedge Parmigiano Reggiano for shaving
Rosemary
 
For the Bechamel
 
Bechamel is easy to make. How do I know?  This was the first time I ever made it, and it came out great.  It’s very simple and it makes a delicious sauce. 
 
2 cups milk
2 tablespoons flour
4 tablespoons butter
Salt & Nutmeg
 
In one pot, gently warm the milk but do not boil.  This will take about 5-6 minutes over medium heat.  In a second pot, add the butter and flour and cook together stirring most of the time until the two incorporate and turn a light golden color – about 6 minutes or so over medium heat.  Then slowly pour the milk into the flour and butter mixture.  Whisk over medium heat for 10-15 minutes until it thickens into a sauce.  Season mildly with salt and a pinch of nutmeg. 

 

~ Mis en place:  that’s the Bechamel in the pot ~
The lasagna at CanGrande had several defining characteristics that made it stand out as being special.  First, it was incredibly light and airy.  It relied more on meat than cheese:  there is no ricotta in this recipe.  Secondly, it was studded with tiny bread crumbs throughout that gave it a special, unique texture. Finally, it was not dripping with tomato sauce.  What was in the recipe was present for acidity and moisture only. 
Once you have all the ingredients, this is the perfect dish to make with leftover Bolognese and Tomato Sauce, there’s really nothing to do but assemble the lasagne.  

 

~ The Colosseum on the Piazza Bra,  Verona ~

 

Rub two glass baking dishes with olive oil.  Place one pasta sheet down and begin layering the filling between the pasta sheets as follows: 
Layering
 
Bolognese – Tomato Sauce – Mozzarella – Bechamel – Sprinkle of Panko.  Add another sheet of pasta and continue until each lasagna has 4 sheets.  On the top sheet, spread tomato sauce and bechamel. Then sprinkle with panko and grated Reggiano and you’re done.   Bake at 350 degrees for 35-45 minutes.  I used a convection setting so it was done closer to 40.  If not using convection, add 20% more minutes to the total baking time.

 

~ These are the raw lasagne before baking.  You can see most of the tomato sauce is used on the top pasta sheet so that it’s moisture helps cook the noodle.  You can also see the Bechamel oozing out a bit toward the bottom of the stack ~ 

 

The picture below was taken when the lasagne were almost done.  I pulled them from the oven to check how firm the noodles were. 

 

~ You can see the edges of the top sheet browning.  They were a little crispy, but not underdone ~ 
 
When the lasagne are done, carefully scoop them with a spatula and plate.  Garnish with shaved Reggiano cheese, a few sprigs of Rosemary and a slight drizzle of high quality extra virgin olive oil.   Finally………

 

~ The Chef’s Plate:  Finished Lasagna ~

 

Even I must humbly admit, this was outstanding. The Bechamel adds a richness without contributing weight to the final dish.  The Bolognese is far superior to use than regular cooked ground beef.  You can use the latter if you don’t have Bolognese on hand, but I strongly urge you to wait until you do!  Finally, the Rosemary adds an interesting “lift” to the whole dish.

All that said, this dish was very close to the masterpiece at Enoteca CanGrande – but it still fell short.  Whether it was the view, the weather, my mood or some confluence of it all,  I do not know.  So I will chalk it up to what my friend Larsino has told me many times :  “Everything just tastes better in Italy!”

 

~ This is the original, from Enoteca CanGrande in Verona.  The one main difference is their version used homemade spinach lasagne noodles ~


Salute!

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