The final recipe I tested for my Cookbook Challenge review of the Sweet Basil Cookbook was Duck Lasagna Strapazatta. I picture many readers saying to themselves: “Duck – check. Lasagna – check. Strapa-wha?” In general, I try not to go into long, pedantic descriptions of certain foods, as both the well-informed and the uninterested among us might yawn at a recounting of the conflicts over the definitive elements of cassoulet or the supposed aphrodisiacal properties of oysters. Yet strapazatta is not a term you come across frequently, and even my Google searches neglected to produce a consensus on the definition.
From what I gather, strapazatta literally translates to “bungled” in Italian and is used in cooking to refer to ‘free-form’ dishes. I am copying the spelling directly from the cookbook, though online another recipe title often pops up: uova strapazzate, or scrambled eggs. It seems likely that strapazatta is an Americanization of the word strapazzate and that the general concept is a stirred-up, rustic preparation — here, of lasagna (also known as lasagne: further proof of my theory).
So much for avoiding long-winded explanations… To keep the rest brief: I liked this, I didn’t love it. I think the best translation based on what I put on the table was the first: “bungled”. The port made the sauce quite sweet, and it neglected the strong savory component (oregano? more fontina?) to counter it. In addition, the noodles refused to cooperate — the short lasagna pieces didn’t separate well and I ended up having to place them in the dish in rows, much as I would have with whole lasagna noodles. The texture was phenomenal, however, with the pleasing contrast of rough shredded duck, sheets of smooth pasta, and crusty cheese topping. If I hadn’t been following the recipe so closely, for the purposes of a proper review of the cookbook, I might have thinned out the sauce with some beef stock and added a couple of savory herbs to finish. All told, however, the ragu had real merit as a concept — it just needed a few tweaks and a different pasta to top.
Duck Lasagna Strapazatta, from the Sweet Basil Cookbook [Printable Recipe]
(serves 4 to 6)
4 duck confit legs
2 Tablespoons olive oil
1 carrot, peeled and diced (about 1 cup)
1 Spanish onion, diced (about 1 cup)
2 stalks celery, diced (about 1 cup)
2 cloves garlic, minced (about 2 Tbs.)
10 white mushrooms, quartered (about 2 cups)
2 large portobello mushrooms, stemmed and sliced into 1/2 inch wide strips
1 Tbs. dried porcini mushrooms
2 cups port wine
1 bay leaf
1 tsp. chopped fresh sage
2 Tbs. Worcestershire sauce
1 cup red sauce (use your favorite marinara sauce or follow the recipe below)
Fresh pasta sheets, cut into 3-inch wide strips
2 cups grated fontina cheese
In a large saucepan, heat the olive oil over moderate heat. Add the carrot, onion and celery. Saute the mixture for 5 to 10 minutes, until the ingredients begin to brown. Add the garlic and the white and portobello mushrooms. Continue sauteing for 5 more minutes, until the ingredients begin to caramelize. Add the dried porcini mushrooms, port, bay leaf, and sage. Bring the mixture to a boil, and then add the Worcestershire sauce and the red sauce. Decrease the heat and allow the sauce to stew for 8 to 10 minutes, until all of the flavors have had a chance to get acquainted. Stir the duck in with the sauce and remove from the heat.
Meanwhile, in a large pot, bring 6 quarts of water to a boil. Add a pinch of salt and the pasta, stirring it to keep from sticking. Cook for 1 minute, or until al dente [I used no-boil lasagna noodles and 2 minutes of boiling softened them up, though I would recommend serving this over penne rigate or rigatoni or even pappardelle — adjust cook time accodingly]. Drain thoroughly.
Stir the cooked pasta in with the sauce. Transfer the pasta and sauce to a large casserole dish, sprinkle with the fontina, and bake in the oven [at 350 degrees] until the cheese is bubbling. Serve garnished with parsley.
P.S. — the cookbook also suggests that subbing in sliced eggplant for the duck would make a lovely vegetarian version.
It was tasty!!!!
This looks great, I always order the goat cheese ravioli when I got to sweet basil. I didn’t see the marinara sauce posted, would you mind sharing it?