This dish is a family favorite for Passover and my sister Simona is the best at making it. It’s put together in a similar way to a typical ‘lasagna’, but uses matzah instead of lasagna sheets. The béchamel is both dairy-free and flour-free to keep the kosher for Passover rules and I make it quite loose so it moistens the matzah, as there is no tomato sauce or other liquid. I usually use a good quality dairy-free spread, potato flour and vegetable stock, however olive oil can also be used instead. I like to use a combination of ground meat, such as beef and veal but you can, of course, use just one if you prefer.
You can also add a vegetable or two for a richer flavor. My favorite addition to the meat mixture are artichokes, either sliced raw or from a jar, quantity to your taste. The lasagna keeps well for a couple of days in the fridge.
This recipes is excerpted with permission from “Jewish Flavours of Italy: A Family Cookbook” by Silvia Nacamulli.
- 4 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- 2 onions, finely chopped
- 2 carrots, finely chopped
- 2 celery sticks, finely chopped
- 2 lb (1 kg) ground meat (can use beef, lamb or veal)
- 1/2 cup (100ml) red wine
- 5½–7oz (150-200g) matzah sheets
- 2 Tbsp freshly chopped parsley
- sea salt and black pepper, to taste
For the non-dairy béchamel sauce:
- 2 ½ Tbsp (40g) dairy free spread or margarine
- 1/3 cup (40g) potato flour
- 3 cups (700ml) vegetable stock – homemade or made with 1 teaspoon vegetable bouillon dissolved in boiling water
- ¼ tsp ground nutmeg
- Heat the 4 tablespoons of olive oil in a large, non-stick frying pan over a low heat and add the onions, carrots and celery with a good pinch of salt and a pinch of pepper. Cook, partially covered, for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until softened and light golden, then add the minced meat. Cover and cook over a medium to high heat for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally and breaking up the mince with a wooden spoon, then remove the lid and add the wine. Stir well and cook, uncovered, for another 5 minutes. The meat should still be a little wet and moist. Remove from the heat, cover and set aside until ready to use.
- While the meat is cooking, prepare the non-dairy béchamel. Heat the dairy-free spread or margarine in a small to medium saucepan over a low heat, then add the potato flour. Stir well with a spatula or wooden spoon and cook for a minute to create a roux. Gradually add the vegetable stock, and start stirring with a handwhisk. Gently bring to the boil, then add the nutmeg, and salt and continue to stir. You may have a few lumps but don’t worry, if you keep on stirring vigorously, any lump will eventually dissolve. Don’t rush this stage, (and don’t give up stirring with the whisk!), as amalgamating these ingredients well is key to a smooth béchamel. The béchamel should be quite loose; when ready remove from the heat and keep covered.
- Preheat the oven to 220°C (200°C fan/425°F/gas mark 7).
- To assemble the matzah lasagne, spread half a ladle of béchamel and half a ladle of the minced meat mixture over the base of the oven dish and mix, then distribute over one layer of the matzah sheets, trimming them to fit the dish. Cover with about two ladles of minced meat, followed by 2 ladles of béchamel and a sprinkle of parsley on top.
- Add a second layer of matzah sheets then another 2 ladles of meat, béchamel and a little parsley. Top with a final layer of matzah and the remaining béchamel, minced meat and parsley. Bake in the oven for 20 minutes.
- Remove from the oven and leave to rest for 5 minutes before serving hot.