The Dressmaker, by Beryl Bainbridge, is one of the best stories I've read in awhile. The characters don't say much, but their loneliness and fears and pettiness were fascinations that drew me right into their lives. These are grim times. England, during the Second World War, where so much is scarce. Men at war, food rationed, materials hard to come by, daily pleasures a distant hope. The book itself is pretty spare, less than 200 pages, with events taking such a sudden turn at the end I had to go back and re-read the passage more than twice to confirm the twist.
This was Virginia's pick for bookclub and I was surprised when a few people vehemently disliked the novel. Such a brilliant story, such neurotic and pathetic characters, subversive humour, rich metaphor. Oh well, no accounting for taste.
One area our tastes did agree, was the deliciousness of the lasagna. So good we asked for the recipe.
Freezes well. To turn it into a Bolognese sauce, add 1/2 milk or cream along with the wine and stock.
1/4 cup of olive oil
1/2 cup of chopped pancetta
2 cups finely chopped onions
2 cups finely chopped carrots
1/2 cup finely chopped celery
2 tsp chopped garlic
1/4 cup chopped parsley
1 lb (500 grams) ground veal
1 lb (500 grams) ground pork
salt and pepper
1/2 cup of white wine
2 cups beef stock
2 tablespoon of tomato paste
2 28 oz cans of tomatoes, drained and chopped
HEAT oil over medium heat in a large pot. Add the pancetta, and saute for one minute, until it is beginning to soften. Add onion, carrots and celery and cook gently for 15 minutes until vegetables are very soft and beginning to brown.
STIR in garlic and parsley and cook for three minutes. Increase heat to medium high. Add veal and pork, stirring to break up clumps of meat. Saute until meat loses its pinkness, about 5 minutes. Season well with salt and pepper.
ADD wine and cook until it has mostly evaporated and mixture is juicy, about 4 minutes. Stir in stock, tomato paste and tomatoes.. Bring to boil, reduce heat to low and cover. Simmer for one hour.
UNCOVER and cook for 30 more minutes. Taste and adjust seasonings if necessary.
14 lasagna noodles
6 cups of bechamel sauce
8 cups meat sauce
2 cups parmesan cheese
2 Tbsp butter
- Boil lasagna noodles (aboout ten minutes) 10 minutes, then put in a single layer on a tea towel or parchment paper
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees
- Spread a thin layer of the bechamel sauce on the bottom of a 9" x 13" pan, set a layer of noodles and then cover with 1/3 of the bechamel sauce and half of the meat sauce. Sprinkle with 1/2 cup of parmesan.
- Repeat. Layering once, finishing with the meat sauce and 1/2 cup of parmesan. Dot with butter.
- Bake 45 minutes in oven until a crust forms and sauce is bubbling. Cover with foil the last 10 minutes if crust is getting too dark.