Italian recipe : Lasagna

For a quick, homemade lasagna you will need:

  • about 1 lb. of ground beef or fine strips of filet
  • 1 onion, peeled and diced
  • garlic, peeled and minced
  • mushrooms, sliced (optional)
  • 1 cup of broth
  • 1 tsp. tomato paste
  • a dash of white wine (Italian Chardonnay)
  • fresh herbs and oregano, chopped
  • salt and pepper
  • olive oil
  • a heavy skillet
  • a large baking dish
  • 6 large lasagna noodles
  • frozen spinach, 6 large chunks or several small ones
  • 300 g Béchamel sauce
  • extra milk
  • grated cheese for the topping (optional)

In a heavy skillet heat the olive oil and add the onions and garlic. Cook a few moments, then add the ground beef. Cook until the beef is browned. Add the mushrooms before the meat is quite finished.

Add the salt and pepper, tomato paste, the wine and the broth. Cover the skillet and let simmer for about 15 minutes. Then add the finely chopped herbs and oregano to taste.

Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 180° C. with the middle rack inside.

Prepare the large baking dish with Béchamel sauce spread over the bottom of the dish so the pasta doesn’t stick, add some milk if necessary. Place 3 large leaves of lasagna no-bake pasta side by side into the dish. Sprinkle with little chunks of frozen spinach and place into the oven for a few minutes to thaw. You can also use tomato slices or other cooked vegetables instead.

When the meat ragout is finished, spoon half of it on top of the vegetables. Place another three leaves of lasagna pasta on top. Spoon the other half of the ragout on the pasta. Top off the ragout with the remaining Béchamel sauce, adding milk if too dry. Sprinkle grated cheese over the sauce. Place carefully into the oven and bake for approx. 15-20 min. at 180°.

bake the lasagna until it is crispy on top

Enjoy with a nice Chianti from Italy and perhaps your favorite music!

Special exhibit : Utrecht, Caravaggio and Europe

We met in the somewhat cooler morning to see the special exhibit on Caravaggio in the Alte Pinakothek on Munich’s Museum Mile in Schwabing. The admission fee is at €12 with no reductions, but the works assembled are definitely worth it.

Caravaggio’s real name is Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio, the place his parents were from. Living from 1571 – 1610 in Italy, he is one of the greatest masters of painting light and shadow. Quite often the source of light is a candle or lantern, covered by an arm or shoulder, and giving all the faces around a beautiful golden glow and intensifying facial expressions.

Below is a video detail of Christ’s entombment / Christi Grablegung. This large painting is only given out on loan for a maximum of four weeks. Caravaggio also excelled in painting the muscles of the human body, the difficulties of carrying the heavy corpse to the tomb, the pale tones of the dead, the soft hues of the robes and linen cloths.

The map is one of Rome in the 17th century, the place all aspiring young men wanted to go to. There they could meet and greet other artists and copy their works – a copy was considered an honor in those days, although of course the ensuing work would have its own details, such as in St Peter’s crucifixion where St. Peter lifts his head before hanging upside down, one worker crawling under the cross to lift it on his back, the end of the beam hidden in folds of cloth unlike the original.

Many paintings shown here are by contemporary artists such as Hendrick ter Brugghen, Gerard van Honthorst, Dirck van Barburen, Jusepe de Ribera, Valentin de Boulogne and more.

Below are paintings of Jesus wearing his crown of thorns and the two men who are pushing the crown on with poles and gloves as if this was a regular job.

Above you can see Jesus’ cleansing of the Temple of merchants and money-lenders. Notice the grouping of the bad people to the left and Jesus’ heroic figure on the steps on the right.

Below you see a young lady or a gypsy with a young man, allegedly telling his fortune. Instead she is stroking his hand, a pleasant sensation, which will finally give her his ring off his finger.

The last paintings depict two young boys playing a flute. The right one is carefree with a recorder and loose-fitting clothes. The left one is seen from the back, anonymous, playing a transverse flute in the uniform of a soldier. These two paintings show a sharp contrast between the two situations, which is why the soldier boy is turned away. The flute player loved joyous music before, now he must play marches.

The Caravaggio exhibition really makes you look very much closer at all the details!

Spiaggia della Biodola, Elba Italy

The small island of Elba, once ruled by Napoleon for 300 days, offers all manner of hills for bikers and beaches for sun-lovers. The bay of Biodola, about 8 km of winding road from the ferry town Portoferraio, is a lovely cove with mostly limpid waters and a sand beach. Hotel Biodola has its own section of beach with well-kept sunbeds and parasols.

The hotel has a pool with a view, and tennis and golf can be booked in the neighboring hotel. At the top level there is a large bar terrace and breakfast is one level lower in an outdoor restaurant. The best part are the long and large dinners with 5 to 6 courses accompanied by excellent regional wine and the weekly regional buffet.

Near the beach there is a camping area and several beach restaurants with sandwiches, salads, fruit, inflatable toys, ice cream, drinks. Toward the south, some steps above Biodola Beach boat rental lead to a half-ruined path winding around the cliffs and through a cave to another not too distant cove with a pebble beach.

Biodola is a great place for other excursions to Portoferraio with its churches, forts and Napoleon’s town house, to Napoleon’s Villa di San Martino in the valley, and to Capoliveri, a tiny village high up in the mountains above Porto Azzurro.