This is a recipe that I have adapted from my original to gluten free. It’s one I’ve made, in its traditional form, for my family for decades. I have updated it to reflect my change in lifestyle. There is a focus on organic, gluten free and fresh ingredients in this new recipe.
I learned how to make the Bolognese sauce by watching and, later, helping my father and his friend Duncan Chisholm (Uncle Dunc) in the kitchen. (The only thing I don’t add, which they did, is chopped sweet green peppers.) Both men were WW2 veterans. They had grown up in the same area of Toronto ( Rosedale) and renewed their friendship when they came home from the war on the same troop ship, The Qeen Mary. My sister and I always gave Dunc the honorary title “uncle” because of his close friendship with our father. Dad and Uncle Dunc would spend hours together making the sauce just so. Naturally, it benefitted from the occasional splash of a good red wine as the bottle was being passed around. These are very fond memories from my childhood.
It really is best to make the sauce over two days. It allows the flavours to mature and the sauce to become rich and thick. If you have Fibromyalgia and arthritis, as I do, making the sauce over two days also helps to pace the work load associated with this dish. It is labour intensive and time consuming. I make the sauce and ricotta cheese blend on the first day and then tackle the pasta on the second day, just before I assemble the lasagne. I use a ricotta cheese blend instead of béchamel sauce.
I have also tried a new flour blend and pasta recipe for this dish. The pasta is great and does not use any nut meals. This was created at the request of my friend, Karen, who’s allergic to tree nuts. Like all gluten free pasta, it is more delicate and needs gentle handling. I keep the noodles short (from 8 to 12 inches long), by cutting them into manageable pieces, to prevent them from tearing. The taste and texture are excellent. I used a hint from Rebecca Reilly of “Living Without” magazine. She quoted Lee Tobin of Whole Foods Market who suggested making gluten free pasta using 2 tablespoons of xantan gum as a binder. Normally, I would use 2 teaspoons. I agree, it does make very nicely textured dough. There is still the problem of the fragility of the pasta. I will continue to work on that problem, but it may simply be the absence of gluten.
I would recommend that you plan to make this dish over a 2 day period. The “gluten eating” members of my family love the taste and texture. However, they usually eat a traditional dish and leave the gluten free food for me. This recipe makes 12 good size servings. When I have finished eating dinner, I allow it to cool to room temperature (about 2 hours), then I cover it with plastic wrap and store it in the refrigerator overnight. The next day I wrap each portion in plastic wrap and then put a couple of parcels in a freezer bag. The lasagne freezes well and is easy to thaw and reheat another day.
I use a large cooking casserole dish. Mine is a Le Creuset stoneware 3L deep dish casserole that measures approximately 15” x 13” x 3”. It is easy to clean up, but quite heavy when filled with lasagne. Sometimes I need help lifting it in and out of the oven. There is no question that this dish requires a lot of time and work, but it is so worth the effort!
Bolognese alla Liana
2 pounds lean, organic ground beef
1 large sweet, organic onion or 2 regular organic onions, chopped
2 – 4 cloves of garlic, crushed
2 – 3 Tbsp fresh thyme, chopped
2 – 3 Tbsp fresh marjoram, chopped
2 – 3 Tbsp fresh basil, chopped
2 – 3 Tbsp fresh parsley, chopped
2 – 3 Tbsp fresh oregano, chopped
3 fresh bay leaves
1 Tbsp honey
2 cans of organic tomatoes (28 oz or 796ml) drained
2 cans of organic tomato paste (5.5 oz or 156 ml)
1/2 pound of cremini mushrooms, sliced
2 Tbsp olive oil
Sea salt and mixed, ground peppercorns to taste
In a large pot, brown the ground beef in the olive oil. Add the chopped onion and continue to sauté. In a blender, liquefy the drained, canned tomatoes and tomato paste. Add the tomato mixture to the ground beef and onions. Mix well. Add the honey, thyme, marjoram, basil, parsley, oregano, bay leaves and crushed garlic. Stir to mix completely. Add a little red wine and a pinch of salt and pepper. Bring to the boil and then reduce the heat to low simmering for several hours. Adjust the seasoning and add more red wine from time to time.
Turn the heat off and allow the sauce to cool for up to 2 hours. Cover and refrigerate overnight. The second day, re-heat the Bolognese sauce in a large pot. Half an hour before assembling the lasagne add the mushrooms and allow them to simmer in the sauce.
Note: This sauce freezes well, so you could make it in advance and add the mushrooms when you re-heat it.
Soft Cheese Layer
1 cup (300 g) soft unripe goat`s milk cheese
1 1/2 cups (450 g) ricotta cheese or dry curd cottage cheese
3 – 4 Tbsp chopped fresh chives
1 egg, beaten
Mash the goat cheese and ricotta cheese together. Stir in the chopped chives, beaten egg and pepper. Mix well. Cover with plastic wrap and set aside in the refrigerator.
1 cup teff flour
1 cup sorghum flour
1 cup quinoa flour
2 Tbsp xanthan gum
2 cups Flour Blend (reserve the rest for making the pasta)
1/2 tsp sea salt
1 Tbsp oil
1 tsp water
3 – 4 eggs
I use a stand mixer, but this can be done by hand. Blend the dry ingredients and mix well. On low speed, using the paddle, gradually add the oil and eggs one at a time. After the addition of the third egg, check the mixture. If it is dry, add a tsp of water. At this point it should form pliable dough which pulls away from the edge of the bowl and clings to the paddle. If it is extremely dry, you may have to add the 4th egg. (It will depend on the size of the eggs and the humidity in the air.) This takes about 2 minutes. Change the flat paddle for the dough paddle and knead the pasta dough for 4 or 5 minutes until the dough is soft and not sticky. Dust a clean, flat surface with millet flour. Turn the dough out and knead it by hand for 2 to 3 minutes, adding more flour if necessary. When the dough has become pliable and slightly elastic, form it into a ball, dust it with flour and cover it with plastic wrap. Place it in the refrigerator to rest for 30 minutes.
When the pasta dough has rested, it can be cut into 4 pieces and rolled out into lasagne pasta sheets. Cook the pasta noodles in hot water for 2 to 3 minutes and drain on paper towel. For more detailed information, check “The Pasta Primer” article in “Food Facts”.
Grated Cheese Layer
300 gm grated mozzarella cheese
150 gm grate Asiago cheese
150 gm grated Romano cheese
Assembling the Lasagne
Use a large, deep, rectangular, over proof casserole dish. Rub the inside of the dish with butter. Cover the bottom of the container with a thin layer of Bolognese sauce. Add a single layer of cooked lasagne noodles. Spread a layer of the ricotta cheese mixture over the noodles. Add a layer of Bolognese sauce on top of the ricotta cheese mixture. Repeat the process with 2 more layers of noodles, cheese mixture and sauce. Add a final layer of noodles, cheese and sauce. Cover this final layer with the grated Mozzarella cheese. Sprinkle the Asiago and Romano cheeses on top and finish with the remaining Mozzarella cheese. Bake in the oven at 350F for 40 to 45 minutes tented with foil. Remove the foil and broil the top until it is golden brown (5 – 10 minutes). Allow to rest for 10 minutes before cutting and serving.