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Brazilian Lasagna

Brazilian lasagna with white sauce and layers of ham

White Lasagna Recipe with Ham

Brazilians love Italian food, and lasagna is no exception. There are a few key differences to Brazilian lasagna, however. In addition to the familiar ingredients of ground beef, tomatoes, and mozzarella, today’s recipe incorporates a white sauce and shaved ham. We will also forgo the ricotta in favor of more mozzarella (sliced, not shredded). 

Italian Food in Brazil

Italians have been present in Brazil in some capacity since the sixteenth century. Genoese sailors, for example, were among the first to settle there during the colonial period. However, the largest wave of Italian immigrants arrived in Brazil between 1880 and 1900. Over 1 million Italians came during this 20-year period, primarily to work in the coffee fields. 

Today, the Italian government estimates that over 30 million Brazilians have Italian heritage, including four of the country’s presidents: Pascoal Ranieri Mazzili, Itamar Franco, Emilio Garrastazu Medici, and Jair Messias Boisonaro. São Paulo has the highest population of Italians outside of Italy itself. 

With so many individuals of Italian descent, it is no surprise that Brazilians adore Italian cuisine. Of course, they put their own spin on it (just like they do with Brazilian pizza). Ham is, perhaps, the most unexpected ingredient; but this is also not surprising, considering the nation’s strong ties to Portugal (a country famous for its smoky jamon). 

White vs Red Lasagna

Our lasagna today uses a white sauce, which is a classic bechamel made using butter, flour milk, salt, pepper, and a pinch of nutmeg. You can certainly opt for the more traditional marinara sauce, if you prefer. However, the creamy white sauce does pair nicely with both the ham and ground beef, since it is milder in flavor than garlicky marinara. 

What Kind of Ham to Use for Brazilian Lasagna?

Our recipe for Brazilian lasagna uses thinly sliced, or shaved, ham. It makes for easy layering and you get a nice bite of ham in every forkful. You could certainly use cubed ham, though. Just add it to the beef mixture instead of layering it on top. 

Is There Veggie Lasagna in Brazil?

Of course! Brazilians may be famous for their churrasco, but that doesn’t mean you can’t find vegetarian options. If you want to omit the beef and ham from this recipe, go right ahead. You can substitute a variety of sauteed veggies. Brazilians like carrots, peas, green olives, and tomatoes (okay, the last two are, technically fruit, but you get the idea). 

Brazilian Lasagna Recipe


For the sauce:

2 tablespoons unsalted butter
3 tablespoons all purpose flour
1 cup whole milk
Pinch of ground nutmeg
1.5 tsp salt
Freshly ground black pepper

For the filling:

Extra virgin olive oil
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 medium yellow onion, minced
1 can diced tomatoes
1 tsp oregano
8 oz lean ground beef
1 lb lasagna noodles
8 oz sliced mozzarella cheese
8 oz shaved ham
2.5 tsp salt
½ cup grated parmesan or Asiago


  1. Heat a medium saucepan over medium heat. Melt the two tablespoons of butter, then stir in your flour. Cook for two minutes, stirring constantly. Add in 1.5 tsp of salt and a few twists of freshly ground black pepper. Whisk in the cup of milk slowly. When the mixture has thickened and is smooth, whisk in your pinch of nutmeg. Set the pot aside.
  2. Heat another skillet over medium high heat. Add in a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil. Put the minced onions in the pan and cook them until they are softened (2-3 minutes). Then add the garlic and ground beef. Cook until the beef is browned. Strain off any excess grease. 
  3. Add in your tomatoes, 2.5 tsp of salt, and oregano. Let the mixture simmer for a few minutes.
  4. While the beef simmers, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Cook the lasagna noodles until they are al dente (flexible, but still firm). Strain the noodles and return them to the pot.
  5. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
  6. Now we are ready to start layering (we will have four layers total). In a casserole dish, layer a few spoonfuls of the meat mixture. Cover the meat with a layer of lasagna noodles. Then put another layer of meat, followed by mozzarella, followed by ham. Repeat until you have four complete layers, then cover the whole dish with the bechamel sauce. Top with your parmesan or asiago cheese. 
  7. Cover the dish with aluminum foil and bake in the oven for 20-25 minutes, until the cheese is melted and the mixture is bubbling. Bake for an additional five minutes uncovered to let the cheese crisp up a little, if you want. 
  8. Serve with crusty bread and a fresh salad. Enjoy!

More Great Brazilian Dishes to Try:


Lebanese Meat Pies (Esfihah com Carne)

esfihas: traditional Lebanese meat pies

With over 7 million citizens claiming Lebanese heritage, it is no surprise that many of Lebanon’s traditional dishes are popular among Brazilians. One particular favorite is esfiha, or Lebanese meat pies. These are a bakery staple and also very popular at parties. They can be eaten any time of day and with a variety of fillings. 

Esfiha in Brazil

Esfiha meat pies or, traditionally, sfiha, are found not only in traditional Lebanese cuisine, but also other countries of what is known as the Levantine Region of the Middle East. This includes Syria, Palestine, Israel, Jordan, and most of Turkey. 

The traditional Lebanese meat pie dish incorporates ground mutton or lamb stewed with various spices eaten on top of flatbread. Flatbreads are an integral part of Levantine cuisine, with the earliest versions being attributed to the area. Bread crumbs found near the Black Desert in Jordan were dated to 12,400 BC, with analysis showing they were likely used to make a kind of flatbread. Evidence of ancient flatbread consumption has also been found in Egypt, Iraq, and Pakistan. 

Flatbread is so-called because it traditionally used no leavening agent, such as yeast, to help it rise. However, modern recipes often call for the use of yeast or baking powder, and Brazilian esfihas are kneaded and left to rise in much the same way as pizza dough. 

Manakish vs Lebanese Meat Pies

The esfiha meat pies are quite similar to another Lebanese favorite: manakish (or manousheh, in the singular). Manakish is often called “Lebanese pizza,” since it involves a flatbread base that is finished with a variety of toppings. The toppings can include za’atar spice mix, olives, cheese, meat, pickles, and yogurt, among other things.

So what is the difference between Lebanese meat pies and Lebanese pizza? Well, in most cases, esfiha is considered a kind of manousheh. The term is simply used to describe a manousheh topped with minced lamb. 

What Meat to Use in Lebanese Meat Pies

Again, the traditional meat of choice for Lebanese meat pies is minced lamb. However, lamb can easily be substituted for lean ground beef, which takes on the earthy spices nearly as well. 

If you are looking for a vegetarian alternative, you can make a mixture of diced eggplant and chickpeas stewed with the same spices and herbs as the remainder of the recipe. 

Lebanese Meat Pie Recipe with Beef


For the flat bread:

  • 3 cups all purpose flour
  • 8 oz lukewarm water
  • 0.25 oz active dry yeast (one packet)
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 2 tsp sugar
  • 2 oz extra virgin olive oil

For the Beef Topping:

  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 lbs lean ground beef
  • ½ yellow onion, diced
  • 1 can diced, stewed tomatoes
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 tsp salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tsp ground sumac
  • ¼ tsp cinnamon
  • ½ tsp cumin
  • ½ tsp ground coriander
  • Pinch of ground cloves


  1. In a small bowl, mix together the active dry yeast, 2 tsp sugar, and water. In another bowl, add the flour and salt. When the yeast mixture is bubbling (in about 5 minutes or so), pour it into the flour and salt mixture and mix to combine.  
  2. Now, pour in the olive oil and knead it into the dough with your hands. The mixture should be smooth and a little sticky, but not enough for any to come off on your hands.
  3. Cover the dough and set it aside in a warm spot. Let it rise for at least one hour, preferably 90 minutes.
  4. Meanwhile, make your beef topping. Heat a skillet over medium heat and add in a drizzle of olive oil. Add in your yellow onion and cook until it is fragrant and translucent (about 2 minutes).
  5. Add in the ground beef and minced garlic. Cook until the ground beef is browned through.
  6. Now, add in your stewed tomatoes and all the spices. 
  7. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees fahrenheit. 
  8. When the dough has risen to twice its size, punch it down and divide it into around ten or so equal portions and roll these into balls. Note: if you want bigger or smaller esfihas, you can portion accordingly. 
  9. Flatten your dough balls to 4” discs, hollowing out the centers a little more than the edges to hold in the filling. You can also use the bottom of a glass to punch down the centers, leaving a crust around the edges.
  10.  Spoon equal amounts of your beef filling into each flatbread, pressing it flat and even. 
  11. Line a baking tray with parchment paper or foil. Place your Lebanese meat pies an inch or so apart on the tray and bake until golden brown, around 20 minutes. 
  12. Garnish with a dollop of plain yogurt , toasted pine nuts, and fresh parsley or mint. 

More Great Brazilian Recipes to Try:

Caramelized Leeks With Balsamic Reduction

Caramelized leeks in a skillet

In the US, we rarely think of leeks as a stand-alone dish. We use them to enhance other dishes, like soups and sauces. In Brazil, however, these sweet vegetables are served in a variety of ways alongside churrasco-style meats. Today’s recipe slowly cooks thin strips of leek in garlic-infused butter, olive oil, and a little sugar to produce a melt-in-your-mouth side dish that pairs well with any main course. Caramelized leeks also make a fantastic alternative to bruschetta when eaten on crusty french bread or toast points. 

However you enjoy them, we are sure of one thing: once you have tasted these caramelized leeks, you will wonder why you’ve never used this unassuming ingredient on its own more often! 

How Do You Caramelize Leeks?

Like onions, leeks are naturally high in sugar. This means they lend very well to slow-browning to bring out that sweetness. The method by which we will caramelize our leeks is quite similar to how you prepare yellow onions for French Onion Soup. The leeks are rinsed and the layers separated. We also recommend cutting the leeks into thinner strips for even cooking (and so they can be easily twirled up onto a fork). 

The leeks are then added to a pan of melted butter and oil, sprinkled with a little sugar, and left to cook slowly for about 20 minutes. You will stir them occasionally to allow for even cooking. The end result is a sweet and savory dish that can be slurped up like vegan pasta. 

How to Make a Balsamic Reduction for Caramelized Leeks

Our caramelized leeks are served with red pepper flakes and a drizzle of balsamic reduction. As the name implies, this sauce is made simply by reducing Balsamic vinegar until it has thickened to syrupy consistency. It is incredibly simple to do. 

Add one cup of good Balsamic vinegar to a small saucepan and bring it to a boil. Then reduce the heat to medium low. Let the liquid simmer until it is reduced by half, stirring frequently. Use it right away or refrigerate it for up to one week. If it thickens too much in the refrigerator, add a little plain Balsamic and mix. 

If you find you use balsamic glaze frequently, you can also buy ready-made bottles of it. 

Caramelized Leeks Recipe


5 large leeks, rinsed and trimmed
3 cloves of garlic, smashed
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
2.5 oz extra virgin olive oil
2 tsp granulated sugar
½ tsp kosher salt
Red pepper flakes


  1. Separate the layers of your rinsed and trimmed leeks. On a cutting board, slice them length-ways into long, thin strips (about one quarter inch wide). 
  2. Heat a large skillet over medium low heat. Add in the butter and oil. When the butter has melted, add in the smashed garlic and simmer until fragrant and softened (1-2 minutes).
  3. Remove the smashed garlic and discard. Put your leeks into the infused butter and oil mixture and sprinkle them with the two tsp of sugar and ½ tsp of salt.
  4. Stir the leek mixture together and cook over medium low heat. If they are browning too quickly, reduce the heat to low. 
  5. Continue cooking and stirring the mixture for about 20 minutes, until the leeks are soft, buttery, and brown. If necessary, add more butter. 
  6. Serve hot with a drizzle of balsamic reduction and a pinch of red pepper flakes. Enjoy!

What to Eat With Your Caramelized Leeks:

Texas de Brazil Online Butcher Shop

Did you know: you can have high quality meats to serve alongside your caramelized leeks delivered right to your door? Hand curated butcher boxes or a la carte options are available to suit every taste. From our world-famous picanha and Brazilian sausages, to premium cuts of lamb and pork, your next barbecue is about to get a massive upgrade. Visit our online Butcher Shop today to get started. 

Peri Peri Chicken

peri peri chicken with french fries, rice, and corn

Peri Peri is a Portuguese condiment that is used to season a variety of dishes. It features as a key ingredient in today’s recipe, which is marinated in a flavorful combination of peri peri, paprika, garlic, and lemon, then seared to perfection on the grill. Peri Peri chicken can also be made by pan searing or even baked, if you prefer. The results are always spiced, tangy and delicious. 

Where Does Peri Peri Chicken Come From?

Peri peri sauce was introduced to South Africans by Portuguese traders, possibly as early as the 16th century. The primary ingredient, the malagueta chili pepper, was sourced from the then-Portuguese colony of Brazil. 

The name “peri peri” is, nonetheless, African in origin. “Pilipili” is Swahili for chili pepper; the name peri peri is specific to the malagueta pepper, which is alternatively known as piri piri in other parts of Southern Africa. 

Today, peri peri chicken is an extremely popular dish in both South America, Portugal, and Southern Africa. Peri peri on its own also acts as a dipping sauce used in much the same way as ketchup or bbq sauce. 

What Does Peri Peri Sauce for Chicken Taste Like?

Peri peri hot sauce has a unique flavor, thanks to the combination of heat, citrus, and garlic. Malagueta peppers themselves have a similar look and taste as thai chilis, or bird’s eye peppers. Malaguetas have a higher heat index, similar to other tabasco peppers. Peri peri hot sauce blends the peppers with ginger, lime juice, garlic, and sugar. The resulting taste is tangy with a hint of sweetness, plenty of fire, and a touch of earthiness from the ginger root. 

What Type of Chicken to Use for Peri Peri Chicken?

The traditional peri peri chicken calls for a whole chicken, bones, skin and all. The chicken is spatchcocked, smothered in zesty peri peri marinade, and grilled over high heat to sear in the juices and crispy up the skin.

You can also use chicken quarters or bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs. You will just need to adjust the grilling time for smaller cuts of meat. Of course, you can use chicken breasts as well, but you will have to be more careful not to overcook the meat. 

Related: When Can I Start Grilling?

How Do You Spatchcock a Chicken for Piri Piri?

Spatchcocking offers several benefits when cooking a whole chicken. The meat cooks more evenly, for one, and in less time. It is also easier to season the meat, ensuring the flavorful marinade permeates every spot. 

With a good pair of kitchen shears, spatchcocking couldn’t be simpler. Place a whole chicken breast-side down on a cutting board. Use the shears to cut along one side of the chicken spine, as close to it as you can. Repeat the same process on the other side, and discard the spine (or save if for stock). 

Flip the chicken over so the breast side is up. Press firmly down to flatten the chicken. You will probably hear a little “crack” of the rib bones. A brutal process, sure, but one that guarantees flavor. 

Store Bought vs Homemade Peri Peri Sauce

You can buy bottled peri peri sauce online or in certain specialty stores. But it is so simple to make, you may as well do it yourself! In the States, you probably won’t be able to locate malagueta peppers. That’s okay! Fresnos or red serranos will work well, and they are readily available in most American super markets. 

Peri Peri Chicken Recipe


For the peri peri sauce:
5 Fresno chilis or red Serrano chilis
1 clove of garlic, minced
1 tbsp fresh ginger
2 oz fresh lime juice
2 tsp granulated sugar
Pinch of salt
1 oz olive oil, or more to achieve desired texture

For the Marinade:
2 tbsp peri peri sauce
1 tbsp paprika
¼ cup fresh cilantro, chopped
2 oz extra virgin olive oil
2 tbsp brown sugar
2 cloves garlic, smashed
Zest and juice of two large lemons

For the Chicken:
1 whole chicken (approximately 5 pounds), spatchcocked


  1. Blend all the ingredients for your peri peri in a blender or food processor until smooth. It should have the consistency of tabasco sauce. Add more oil, if needed. 
  2. Whisk together the marinade ingredients in a small bowl. Place the spatchcocked chicken in a glass or porcelain dish and coat all over with the marinade. Cover and refrigerate for at least two hours (preferably overnight). 
  3. Heat a grill over medium high heat. Brush the grates with plenty of vegetable oil or olive oil.
  4. Place the spatchcocked chicken skin side down and sear for five minutes, until the skin is crisp and golden.
  5. Turn the heat down to low. Flip the chicken over and cover the grill. Cook the chicken on low until it has reached an internal temperature of 165 degrees fahrenheit. This will take about 40-45 minutes, but be sure you are checking the temperature throughout the process to avoid overcooking.
  6. Remove the chicken from the grill and slice into pieces for serving. Serve with additional peri peri sauce for dipping, potato salad, and an ear of corn for a perfect barbecue meal. 

More Great Brazilian Recipes to Try:

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