I really wanted to name this blog post Des-Pasticco. Like the song Despacito. The original version by Luis Fonsi was all over the radio before we left Italy. When I arrived here and heard the version by Justin Bieber I was all kinds of confused. Dad jokes aside, let’s get back to Pasticco.
Pasticco is basically lasagna, just not the version we typically expect in America. There is no mozzarella, no ricotta, and no tomato sauce. The pasta does not feature the familiar ruffle on the edge (I’ll link the one I used below), and this version does not have any beef, though veal is commonly used. It is worth noting that I also saw this dish referred to as lasagna al forno, pasta al forno, and other iterations throughout Italy. For the most part in our region, it was commonly called pasticco.
I originally asked my neigbor Giulia how Pasticco is made. She outlined the ingredients for me. Start with sofrito, the Italian word for the classic combination of carrots, onions and celery, in olive oil. Add Pancetta and other meats. A little white wine. Some milk. This is your ragu. Make basciamella (in the US this classic white sauce is called a bechemel) with butter, flour, milk and nutmeg. Layer with pasta and bake.
Armed with Giulia’s ingredient list, I searched the Internet for recipe. I found a few that used the ingredients Giulia mentioned and cobbled together my own recipe from there.
I find this recipe is easier to make that than your average American lasagna. Or at least faster because this sauce doesn’t need to simmer all day. Though the ragu’ recipe typically calls for pancetta, I was only able to find prosciutto locally. Though pancetta and prosciutto are not the same, the prosciutto worked out. If you aren’t able to source either in your area, you could give bacon a try. I would dice it and when you start your ragu’ do not fry the bacon until crisp, just render the fat a little bit. If you do this, please let me know how it works out!
This is easily my husband’s favorite dish from our time in Italy, he often ordered two servings when we went out to dinner. Now back stateside, this is also a meal my toddler eats with gusto. It has become a regular in our weekly rotation, and I think the next time I will make a double batch, because it freezes really well.
Forget what you think you know about lasagna, and give Pasticco a try! You will not be disappointed.
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 3 tablespoons butter
- 1 carrot, diced
- 1 celery stalk, diced
- 1 yellow or white onion, diced
- 1 clove garlic, finely diced (or 1 teaspoon pre-chopped garlic from a jar, I like both)
- 4 ounces pancetta (or prosciutto) diced
- 1 pound ground pork
- 2 bay leaves
- 1/2 cup whole milk
- 1 cup chicken broth (or vegetable,whichever you have on hand)
- 6 ounces tomato paste
- 1/2 cup dry white wine
- black pepper
- 5 tablespoons butter
- 4 tablespoons flour
- 3 cups milk (I used whole milk)
- black pepper
- a few shakes of nutmeg (It is recommended you freshly grind your own, I used the pre-ground nutmeg, I already had it in my pantry. One day I will be the kind of person that grinds their own spices, but today is not that day.)
- Lasagna noodles
- Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, for grating (I have found my local grocery stores carry both chunks and pre-grated versions for sale. Just please do not use the kind that comes in a can in the pasta aisle! Treat yo’self.)
Preheat your oven to 375°F. In a large pot or dutch oven, warm your butter and olive oil over medium/high heat. Once the butter has melted, through in your garlic, carrots, celery, and onions, and pancetta/prosciutto. Saute’ until your veggies are translucent and the fat has begun to render out. Add your ground pork and cook through. Add your white wine and scrape the bottom of the pan to get all of the tasty bits from the bottom of the pot. Add your tomato paste, milk, bay leaves and chicken broth. Stir to combine, then turn the heat down to low and let your sauce simmer for 1.5 to 2 hours.
When you are ready to prepare your pasticco, make your basciamella. In a large pan, melt 5 tablespoons of butter. Once melted, whisk in your flour. Cook for a few minutes, until your flour/butter mixture (roux) is a golden brown. Gradually begin to add your milk, whisking to combine. If you add your milk too quickly, your basciamella will not be thick, so go slowly! It is way easier to thin, than thicken. Once you have added all of your milk, add nutmeg, salt and pepper , to taste.
The noodles I used did not require me to boil them before making my pasticco. If you use wavy lasagna noodles, please follow your package directions for noodle prep, then follow the directions below. If you use homemade noodles, follow the directions below.
In a 9×13 pan, spread a thin layer of ragu’ on the bottom of the pan. Sprinkle some parmiagiano-reggiano. On top of that, lay three sheets of pasta. (Or follow your package directions). It is okay if the pasta does not touch the sides of the pan. As it cooks, it will expand. On top of the pasta, add a layer of bascimella, then cheese, and repeat. I had three layers of pasta, topped with a layer of basciamella and cheese. Cover with foil and bake for 45-60 minutes (or however long your pasta suggests). For the last 10 minutes, I removed the aluminum foil to allow the top to brown.