In the old days when I first started cooking I cooked exclusively from cookbooks and I never looked for “easy” recipes or quick recipes—especially on weekends—as I reveled in the all-day affair of cooking. I would look for a particularly involved recipe and I would test myself by following its intricate instructions.
Frankly, that’s a better way to learn how to cook than going the easy route. One such dish I haven’t made in about 20 years is this braised veal and cabbage lasagna dish I first thought up on a cold winter’s Sunday when I lived in Massachusetts. Although this recipe involves multiple steps it is worth the effort. In Italy, it is served as a piatto unico, a one-pot meal. A shoulder roast of veal is not a terribly expensive cut and it makes a very nice family dinner. The use of the pig’s ear or pork skin is for flavoring, and although I thought about making that ingredient optional, I came to the conclusion the taste is subtly different enough to ask you to use it. You’ll probably have to ask the supermarket butcher for these items, or even order them, but they do freeze well and are used in many kinds of stews. Pork skin can also be sliced off a piece of salt pork too. As for the lasagna, you don’t have to boil the lasagna when using instant lasagna, just layer them dry. This is a delicious dinner and kept everyone in my family happy.
Braised Veal and Cabbage Lasagna
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
One 3-pound veal shoulder roast, tied with kitchen twine
3/4 cup dry red wine
4 cups tomato sauce
One 2 1/2-pound green cabbage
1/2 pound pork skin or 1 pig’s ear
Salt to taste
2 cups chicken broth
2 ounces pancetta, chopped
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
10 ounces lasagna (instant no-boil)
1 1/2 cups (about 3 ounces) freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
4 large garlic cloves, finely chopped
1. In a flameproof casserole, melt the butter with 1 tablespoon olive oil over medium-high heat, then brown the veal roast on all sides, about 5 minutes. Pour in the wine and reduce until it is nearly evaporated, about 3 minutes. Reduce the heat to low, add the tomato sauce, partially cover, and simmer for 4 hours, turning the roast occasionally. Transfer the roast to a serving platter and remove the butcher’s twine.
2. While the veal is roasting, prepare the lasagna. Bring a pot of lightly salted water to the boil and cook the cabbage for 10 minutes. Remove the cabbage and when cool enough to handle core the center out and separate the leaves and set aside.
3. Layer the bottom of the pot you boiled the cabbage in with the pig skin or pig’s ears. Layer the cabbage leaves on top with a light sprinkle of salt. Lay a pork skin or pig ear on top, pour in the chicken broth, cover, and cook on a medium heat for 45 minutes. Drain, discard the pig skin or ears.
4. Place the pancetta in a small frying pan and cook over medium heat until slightly crispy and rendered of some fat, stirring occasionally, about 6 minutes. Set aside.
5. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
6. Spread some olive oil on the bottom of a 12 x 9-inch or similarly sized baking casserole and cover with lasagna, cabbage, pancetta, salt and pepper, a drizzle of olive oil, cheese, and garlic, in that order. Continue in this order until you run out of ingredients, ending with a layer of lasagna, cheese, and a drizzle of olive oil. Cover with aluminum foil and bake 40 minutes.
7. Slice the veal and lay lengthwise on top of the lasagna. Spoon a few ladlefuls of sauce over the meat and serve.
Makes 6 servings