Celebrity chef Giada De Laurentiis promises that her classic lasagna recipe will allow you to not only feed a crowd, but also keep you out of the kitchen to enjoy your gathering. Here’s how the Food Network star gets it done.
Giada De Laurentiis’ classic lasagna allows you to feed a crowd and enjoy their company
As the chef says of this tried-and-true recipe in her 2005 cookbook Everyday Italian, lasagna is designed to get a lot of people fed. She adds, however, that what a lot of home cooks miss is the baked pasta dish can be prepared to allow them to be with their guests.
“Lasagna is a dish that can be made ahead and can feed a crowd,” she wrote. “If you make the lasagna ahead of time and serve it family-style with a simple green salad as a side, you can feed a whole crowd while not spending more than five minutes in the kitchen during your party — literally, only five minutes.”
De Laurentiis’ lasagna calls for two flavorful sauces
The Rome-born chef uses both a béchamel sauce and a marinara sauce in her lasagna.
The bechamel sauce is prepared, to start, by melting butter over medium heat. Flour is added and the mixture is whisked smooth. Keep stirring while adding milk, until the mix is “thick enough to coat the back of a spoon.” De Laurentiis says this process should take about 10 minutes. Set it aside from the heat and stir in nutmeg (just a little goes a long way), a half-cup of grated Fontina cheese, salt, and white pepper.
De Laurentiis’ marinara sauce comes together by sauteeing in oil chopped onions and garlic “until translucent.” Chopped celery and carrots are added and the mixture is cooked until soft, for about 10 minutes. Add two 32-ounce cans of crushed tomatoes, bay leaves, and simmer for about an hour. The bay leaf is removed and the sauce is salted and peppered. The chef says the sauce can be made a day ahead of time.
Combining the red and white sauces in this dish infuses it with an extra depth of flavor and creaminess.
De Laurentiis suggests making your next lasagna the night before
Allowing your baked lasagna to sit instead of digging into it right away allows all of the various flavors in the casserole to meld. The chef is right: lasagna just tastes better when it sits a while, as she noted on her food blog Giadzy.
“Allow your lasagna to sit for at least 15 minutes before attempting to cut into it,” De Laurentiis said. “This allows it to have the time to set and come together, otherwise you could end up with slipping and sliding layers. There are restaurants in Italy that even make the lasagna a full day ahead of time, cut a slice to order, and char the individual slice in a pizza oven – not a bad option if you happen to have those resources!”
The best part about making your lasagna a day ahead is when your company arrives, all you need to do is have it reheated, serve it, and enjoy the visit with your guests!