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S01E02 The one with the lasagna. Part 1.

The first food „item” that appears in Friends is in the second episode, where Rachel loses her engagement ring in the lasagna Monica made for her parents visit. I've only made lasagna once and it was the easier version, it was Jamie's spring lasagna. And I say it was easier because it didn't involve the laborious making of the ragu al bolognese. That is, if you ask me (and people that know better), the most important part in a good lasagna and the one that takes the longest. I have been trying to experience the making of a traditional lasagna for a while now, but as usual, I kept postponing it. Well, not anymore! First things first: I'm the realest. No. Wait. It's not that.

Since I don't plan on making lasagna every week, I decided to go for the Large Size Lasagna. L.S.L. I like to call it. It makes it sound official, and kind of dangerous, but in a good way. So, the L.S.L. has 3 glorious components: the ragu al bolognese, the bechamel sauce and the lasagna sheets.

And in the beginning she created The Ragu. You will need a thick bottom pot. The ragu needs to simmer for at least 2 hours. For that to work successfully and not have the meat stick to the bottom of the pot, I strongly recommend this. If you don't have it, there is another method (that I had to use when I lacked a proper-bottomed pot). Instead of adding all your liquid at once and then being able to mostly move on with your life, you will basically add one or two ladles at a time and stir. And stir. And add. And stir. You get the idea. You basically have to treat it like a baby, you can't really leave it alone, 'cause it will do something stupid.

1. Ingredients and quantities

  • 500 gr.minced pork
  • 500 gr.minced beef
  • 1 large onion
  • 1 celery stick
  • 2 carrots
  • 5 garlic cloves
  • 2 tablespoons of tomato puree
  • 350 ml. red wine
  • 4 tablespoons of olive oil
  • 400 ml. beef stock/2 Beef Stock pots
  • 600 ml. water
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 3-4 sprigs of thyme
  • salt
  • pepper
  • 1 cup of milk

I made the ragu the day before, for two reasons: first of all, the flavors in the ragu get better with time and second, because I know myself, and if I get overwhelmed I stop enjoying it and then freak out, melt down, become a panic-driven-desperate version of myself. So, yeah, I try to avoid that.

2. The Process

Mince the onion, carrots and celery. The finer the better, they need to get lost in the sauce. You don't need to know they were once there, you can smell them, maybe taste them, but never see them. Mincing takes time. I used my little food processor and, even though I want to work on my knife skills, cause they're crap, I much appreciated the help. Did the same thing with the garlic and then I put the pot on the stove to get the party started. Get the olive oil in there, wait for it to heat up a little bit (not too much, we don't want it to burn) and then get the lovely things you or your processor minced, and stir. Give it like a minute alone in there, and then add the meat combo. This is where the work begins. You need to stir, to work the meat, to separate it until it starts looking kinda like this.

The meat IS the sauce. Your strong stirring and the long time on the stove will transform this from chunks of meat into a smooth operator, in charge of saucy business. What we are doing here is we're getting the water out of the meat. Add tomato paste. When there is no more liquid in the mixture, add wine and reduce it, so that it evaporates and you don't actually feel it in the ragu, it just helps flavor the meat. Then I added about two ladles of tomato sauce, that I had left from some tuna pasta I made. I like adding the tomato sauce because it results in a prettier looking bolognese and it makes it less heavy. A little goes a long way. I made a simple sauce from canned tomatoes, olive oil, 1 clove of garlic and some basil. I know this doesn't sound very specific. That's because it isn't. If you want a specific recipe for a tomato sauce there will be one in the next episode of Friends Food when we're making spaghetti. Stay tuned!

Next step: the beef stock. I used a beef stock-pot and 500 ml of water. Add sprigs of thyme and bay leaves, lightly salt and pepper. This is how it looked at this point.

The recipe I made is a combo of various recipes that I checked out. Now, some of them used less water that I ended up needing. Let me explain myself. So, I added the stock pot with 500 ml of water, turned the heat down, and let it slowly cook. I stirred once in a while. 1. Because I couldn't help it, I have trust issues. And 2. Because I didn't know this pot very well, was my first time using it, didn't want to risk it sticking to the bottom. And a good idea that was, because if I wouldn't have been there, stirring suspiciously in it, I would have ended up with ragu al burn-ognese. After about an hour, the 500 ml of water I added almost vanished, so I, trusting my eye sight and half decent brain, decided to add more water. I got zealous and added another stock pot and another 500 ml of water. 10 min into this daring ( some might say stupid) decision, I regretted it. I started saying things like: "I ruined it, I ruined it! I got cocky and I ruined it. Why? Why such stupidity? WHY add soooo much water?! Why not try half? And then, if needed, IF NEEDED! another half!”. By the time I was done being a dick to myself, I noticed that the sauce was actually fine, the water seemed to be fitting in just fine. Well, what do you know, I might actually pull this off. Cancel the shaming parade! Everything's alright!

After another hour, the meat was smooth, the texture was completely different. The point is for it to melt in your mouth, no chunks, no tough bits!

Final step, I followed the traditional old school recipe that adds milk. If you find this weird or unsettling in any way, avoid it, pretend I didn't say anything. However, I used about one cup, mixed it well into the sauce, tasted it for salt and pepper and that was that! Almost 2 hours and half later, I had ragu al bolognese.

Leave it to cool and then refrigerate. And then sleep, it's 12 a clock at night cause you foolishly (some might say stupidly) started doing this at 9 pm! First mission of the L.S.L. mission, accomplished.