Thursday, April 12, 2012

Cucina of Le Marche: Lasagna Vincisgrassi







While lasagna is a traditional dish from Romagna, Vincisgrassi is one of the signature dishes from Le Marche in central Italy, and is also the Italian name of the Austrian general, Prince Windischgratz, who was commander of the Austrian Forces stationed in the Marches in 1799. The dish was allegedly created for the prince by a local chef. A classic Italian recipe for pasta baked with parma ham, mushrooms, tomato and cream, the recipe remains one of the most traditional and delicious Italian pasta dishes handed down from the picturesque hilltown of Macerata in Le Marche.






Chef Fabio Trabocchi's cookbook, Cucina of Le Marche: 
A Chef's Treasury of Recipes from Italy's Last Culinary Frontier


I discovered this delicious recipe for Vincisgrassi in Chef Fabio Trabocchi's cookbook, Cucina of Le Marche: A Chef's Treasury of Recipes from Italy's Last Culinary Frontier, one of my latest cookbook acquisitions. A native son of Le Marche, Fabio grew up in the small town of Santo Stefano. Equidistant from Rome and Florence, Le Marche is on the Adriatic coast, bordered to the north by Emilia-Romagna, to the west by Tuscany and Umbria, and to the south by Lazio and Abruzzo.


The region of Le Marche


The region's unique geography accounts for the rich variety of Le Marche's food traditions, assimilating recipes, ingredients, and techniques over the ages, from visiting mariners from Greece and North Africa. In his first cookbook, Trabocchi showcases his signature style of Marchegian cooking by combining traditional elements of Italian cuisine with a contemporary European sensibility that draws on the many flavours he's experienced throughout his extensive travels and techniques honed at restaurants around the world.



Chef Fabio Trabocchi


Trabocchi launched his newest restaurant Fiola last year, a modern trattoria located in the heart of the Penn Quarter neighbourhood of Washington DC., serving traditional Italian dishes with a progressive twist, for which Trabocchi is known. One of the signature dishes on Fiola's menu is his Vincisgrassi, a wonderfully rich and intense baked pasta with an elegant rusticity. His recipe for Lasagna Vincisgrassi is a delicious showcase of earthy flavours — porcini, prosciutto, truffles and parmigiano — capturing the essence of traditional Le Marche cuisine by one of it's native sons.





Lasagna Vincisgrassi
Serves 6-8
Adapted from Fabio Trabocchi

8 tbsp unsalted butter, melted
1 slice prosciutto di parma, 1/4- inch thick, about 6 ounces, diced
3 cups finely diced onions
1 cup finely diced celery
1 cup finely diced carrots
1 tbsp tomato paste
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
2 1/2 pounds boneless veal shoulder, trimmed, in 1/4-inch dice
3 cups dry Marsala
2 cups veal stock
6 cups chicken stock
3 whole cloves
1 bay leaf, 1 sprig rosemary, 1 sprig thyme, tied together
Salt and black pepper
1 oz dried porcini
4 cups heavy cream
1 large egg
1 pound cremini mushrooms, finely chopped
5 sheets fresh pasta for lasagna, each about 9 by 12 inches
2 cups freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
Shaved truffles for garnish


Place 3 tablespoons butter in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add prosciutto and sauté until starting to brown. Lower heat to medium-low and add onions, celery and carrots. Cook until soft but not brown. Stir in tomato paste and cook 2 minutes.

Heat 4 tablespoons butter with 2 tablespoons olive oil in a large sauté pan. Add veal and sauté over medium-high heat until meat starts to brown. Transfer veal to the saucepan, draining it well.

Discard fat in sauté pan. Return pan to medium-high heat, add Marsala and boil, loosening the residue in the pan with a wooden spoon. Cook until reduced to 2 cups. Pour into saucepan. Add veal stock, 2 cups of chicken stock, cloves and herbs. Partly cover and simmer 2 hours. Season with salt and pepper then set aside.

Place porcini in warm water to cover and soak. Meanwhile, make the bèchamel sauce by combining the cream and remaining 4 cups chicken stock in a large saucepan. Bring to a simmer and cook about 1 hour, until thickened and reduced to 2 cups. Pour into a blender and process on low, then higher speed. Add egg and process briefly. Taste and season with salt and pepper, strain into a bowl and set aside to cool.

Squeeze porcini dry and chop. Add remaining olive oil to a skillet, add all mushrooms and sauté until cremini have started browning. Fold into the veal mixture — the ragù — and set aside.

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Have a large bowl of salted ice water ready. Line a large baking sheet with kitchen towels. Add pasta sheets to boiling water one at a time, cook each 2 minutes then place in ice water. Drain pasta sheets and spread on towels to dry.

Preheat oven to 350°F. Brush a 9-by-13-inch lasagna pan with remaining butter. Lay a sheet of pasta in pan. Sprinkle with 1/3 cup cheese. Spread about 1/4 of the ragù over cheese. Spread on 1/2 cup cream sauce. Continue layering until covered with last sheet of pasta. Spread with remaining cream sauce, then remaining cheese.

Bake 25 minutes, until bubbling. Increase heat to 400°F and bake about 5 minutes more to brown the top. Remove from the oven and let stand 20 minutes before cutting into squares and serving. Garnish with shaved black truffle if you're feeling decadent.