Vincigrassi di Marches

On this very first day of 2011 I wanted to share one of my favorite winter dishes, this is a rich and creamy lamb and veal lasagna dish from Marches region of Italy, and is perfect for warming your soul during the short days of winter.

On this very first day of 2011 I wanted to share one of my favorite winter dishes, this is a rich and creamy lamb and veal lasagna dish from Marches region of Italy, and is perfect for warming your soul during the short days of winter.

Serves 6


½ oz truffle oil

1 ounce dried porcini mushrooms

1 ½ cups boiling water if using dried mushrooms

2 sprigs flat-leaf parsley chopped

Meat Sauce

3 tbl spoons olive oil

3 oz pancetta, chopped

2 cloves garlic, chopped

1 onion, chopped

1 carrot, peeled and finely chopped

8 oz ground veal

8 oz ground lamb

½ cup dry white wine (suggestion is Verdicchio)

1 cup beef broth (reduced sodium if possible)

1 cup tomato purée

1 bay leaf

pinch of fresh ground cinnamon

pinch of freshly grated nutmeg

salt and freshly ground black pepper

6 oz fresh white mushrooms cut into ¼-inch slices

6 oz chicken livers, trimmed and chopped (optional, however it makes for a richer dish)

Béchmel Sauce:

3 cups whole milk

½ cup unsalted butter

½ cup all-purpose flour

12 oz dried or fresh lasagna noodles

1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

1 cup freshly grated pecorino romano cheese

Making the magic happen:

Put dried porcini mushrooms in a small bowl and pour the boiling water over them, and soak for 30 min until soft. Remove from water rinse under cold water and chop finely and set aside. Carefully pour 1 cup f the soaking liquid into a measuring cup and set aside.

To make the meat sauce heat the olive oil over medium heat in a large heavy-bottomed saucepan.  Add the pancetta, garlic, onions, and carrot and coo, stirring, until the pancetta begins to brown, approx 5 minutes. Add the veal and lamb, raise the heat to medium, and cook, breaking meats with a wooden spoon, until they are lightly browned, approx 5 minutes. Pour in the wine and cook until it has almost evaporated. Add the beef broth, tomato purée, bay leaf, cinnamon, and nutmeg and season with salt and pepper.  Stir ingredients well, reduce the heat to low, and simmer gently for 45 minutes.  Add the reserved porcini, sliced fresh mushrooms, and chicken livers.  Cook for 15 minutes longer and then remove from heat.

To make the Béchmel Sauce in a small saucepan, heat milk over medium-low heat until bubbles form around the edges of the pan.  In a medium saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat. Gradually whisk in the flour and continue to whisk until the mixture turns golden in color, about 3 minutes. Now gradually whisk the hot milk into the flour mixture until smooth.  Add the reserved porcini mushroom liquid and continue to whisk until the mixture thickens aprox 8 to 10 minutes. Cover and remove from heat.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.  Oil a 9 by 13 inch baking dish.

Fill a large pot with salted water to a boil.  Add the pasta, stir well, and cook the noodles until al dente, about 8 minutes.  Meanwhile, in a bowl mix together the 2 cheeses.

Drain the pasta, lay the sheets on a damp kitchen towel, and lay another damp towel over them.  Pour a thin layer of béchmel sauce on the bottom of the baking dish.  Arrange a single layer of the noodles on top. Scatter one-third of the cheese over the noodles.  Pour one-third of the meat sauce over the cheese layer and top with a thin layer of béchmel sauce.  Repeat twice more, finishing with a layer of béchmel sauce (very important not to leave the top dry).

Bake the lasagna until the top has browned slightly about 25 minutes.  Remove from the oven and let sit for 10 minutes to set before cutting into squares to serve. Finish by drizzling truffle oil over the Vincigrassi and garnishing  with chopped flat leaf parsley

Wine pairing suggestion:

This is one of my favorite Italian dishes, for winter, so I choose three Italian wines that I thought would do this recipe justice.  Since this is a creamy rich meal with lots of flavor it needs a wine that brings some good acid and rich flavors of its own. I have selected one white and one red from the Veneto region and one red from the Piedmont region that I feel would be a good pairing.  Both the Veneto and Piedmont regions are located in northern Italy and I selected three of my favorite producers known for crafting world-class wines:

Gini Soave Classico DOC 2008

This wine is made from 100% Garganega, from Italy’s Veneto regions, this grape typically makes a richly fruited, soft, medium bodied white wine redolent of melon, green plum, and citrus fruits expressed in a distinctly fruity aroma.

Zenato Ripassa Superiore DOC 2008

Zenato gives the name “Ripassa” to this wine, which shares many of the characteristics of Amarone by virtue that Valpolicella wine is allowed to ferment a second time on the pomace of the grapes that are left over after the Amarone wine is done fermenting.  This process increases the alcoholic content and gives the wine deeper color, increased extract, and more complex aromas and flavors.
The resulting wine has  a rounded, velvety-textured with rich, complex aromas of berries and a lengthy finish that seems to linger forever.

La Spinetta Barbera d’Asti “Ca di Pian” 2007

This wine is made from the Barbera grape variety. It is produced in the hilly areas of the provinces of Asti located in the Piedmont region. The wine is very typical of the modern style with ruby-red color and purple reflections and offers intense aromas of red cherry, blueberry and cassis. The palate is laden with fresh fruit  of cherry and cassis, and offers nice acidity, that are balanced by structured tannins.

Would love to hear your thoughts on the recipe and what you might recommend as a good wine to pair with this dish.

Remember wine is about the journey of discovery, not just the destination of an empty bottle!

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