>> Friday, March 27, 2009
I was so excited to join the daring bakers! But I became terrified to learn that the first challenge was to make Lasagna, because I never made pasta by myself before, so it was a really challenging.
The March 2009 challenge is hosted by Mary of "Beans And Caviar" (Canada), Melinda of "Melbourne Larder" (Australia) and Enza of "Io Da Grande" (Italy). They have chosen "Lasagne Of Emilia-Romagna" from "The Splendid Table" by Lynne Rossetto Kasper as the challenge.
Making the pasta was fun; I used my mother-in-law’s new pasta machine. My kids helped me find places all over the house, where we could stick the pasta to dry. It was really an adventure!
I can't wait for the next challenge!!!
Lasagne of Emilia-Romagna (Lasagne Verdi al Forno)
(Serves 6 as a main dish)
- 9 litres salted water
- 1 recipe Spinach Pasta cut for lasagna (recipe follows)#1
- 1 recipe Bechamel Sauce (recipe follows)#2
- 1 recipe Country Style Ragu (recipe follows)#3
- 1 cup (4 ounces/125g) freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
The ragu and the béchamel sauce can be made up to three days ahead. The ragu can also be frozen for up to one month. The pasta can be rolled out, cut and dried up to 24 hours before cooking. The assembled lasagne can wait at room temperature (20 degrees Celsius/68 degrees Fahrenheit) about 1 hour before baking. Do not refrigerate it before baking, as the topping of béchamel and cheese will overcook by the time the center is hot.
#1 Spinach Egg Pasta (Pasta Verde)
Preparation: 45 minutes
Makes enough for 6 to 8 first course servings or 4 to 6 main course servings, equivalent to 1 pound (450g) dried boxed pasta.
- 2 jumbo eggs (2 ounces/60g or more)
- 10 ounces (300g) fresh spinach, rinsed dry, and finely chopped; or 6 ounces (170g) frozen chopped spinach, defrosted and squeezed dry
- 3&1/2 cups (14 ounces/400g) all purpose unbleached (plain) flour (organic stone ground preferred)
Working by Hand:
A roomy work surface, 24 to 30 inches deep by 30 to 36 inches (60cm to 77cm deep by 60cm to 92cm). Any smooth surface will do, but marble cools dough slightly, making it less flexible than desired.
A wooden dowel-style rolling pin. In Italy, pasta makers use one about 35 inches long and 2 inches thick (89cm long and 5cm thick). The shorter American-style pin with handles at either end can be used, but the longer it is, the easier it is to roll the pasta.
If you have a pasta maker (which we do) it is much easier and quicker and is likely to produce thinner pasta.
Method for Dough
- Mound the flour in the center of your work surface and make a well in the middle.
- Add the eggs and spinach. Use a wooden spoon to beat together the eggs and spinach.
- Then gradually start incorporating shallow scrapings of flour from the sides of the well into the liquid. As you work more and more flour into the liquid, the well’s sides may collapse.
- Use a pastry scraper to keep the liquids from running off and to incorporate the last bits of flour into the dough. Don’t worry if it looks like a hopelessly rough and messy lump.
- With the aid of the scraper to scoop up unruly pieces, start kneading the dough.
- Once it becomes a cohesive mass, use the scraper to remove any bits of hard flour on the work surface – these will make the dough lumpy.
- Knead the dough for about 3 minutes. Its consistency should be elastic and a little sticky. If it is too sticky to move easily, knead in a few more tablespoons of flour.
- Continue kneading about 10 minutes, or until the dough has become satiny, smooth, and very elastic.
- It will feel alive under your hands. Do not shortcut this step. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap, and let it relax at room temperature 30 minutes to 3 hours.
- If using an extra-long rolling pin work with half the dough at a time. With a regular-length rolling pin, roll out a quarter of the dough at a time and keep the rest of the dough wrapped.
- Lightly sprinkle a large work surface with flour. The idea is to stretch the dough rather than press down and push it.
- Shape it into a ball and begin rolling out to form a circle, frequently turning the disc of dough a quarter turn.
- As it thins outs, start rolling the disc back on the pin a quarter of the way toward the center and stretching it gently sideways by running the palms of your hands over the rolled-up dough from the center of the pin outward.
- Unroll, turn the disc a quarter turn, and repeat. Do twice more.
- Stretch and even out the center of the disc by rolling the dough a quarter of the way back on the pin. Then gently push the rolling pin away from you with one hand while holding the sheet in place on the work surface with the other hand. Repeat three more times, turning the dough a quarter turn each time.
- Repeat the two processes as the disc becomes larger and thinner. The goal is a sheet of even thickness. For lasagne, the sheet should be so thin that you can clearly see your hand through it and see colours. Cut into rectangles to fit your baking dish. Note: Enza says that transparency is a crucial element of lasagne pasta and the dough should be rolled as thinly as possible. She says this is why her housekeeper has such strong arms!
- If using a pasta machine, start on notch one (largest gap for pasta to go through) and roll pasta through. Repeat process changing down one notch at a time, from two to three etc. I took mine pasta down to notch 6 which was almost paper thin.
- Dry the pasta at room temperature if you are not going to use it straight away and store in a sealed container or bag. I prefer to use mine fresh to eliminate pre cooking the pasta.
Preparation Time: 15 minutes
- 4 tablespoons (2 ounces/60g) unsalted butter
- 4 tablespoons (2 ounces/60g) all purpose unbleached (plain) flour, organic stone ground preferred
- 2&2/3 cups (approx 570ml) hot milk
- Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
Method for Bechamel
- Using a medium-sized saucepan, melt the butter over low to medium heat.
- Sift flour into saucepan, whisk until smooth, and then stir (without stopping) for about 3 minutes.
- Whisk in the hot milk a little at a time and keep the mixture smooth.
- Bring to a slow simmer, and stir 3 to 4 minutes, or until the sauce thickens.
- Cook, stirring, for about 5 minutes, until the sauce thickens. Season with salt, pepper.
- Cover with greaseproof paper to prevent a skin forming and place in fridge till ready to use.
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
2 garlic clove
1 medium onion, chopped
12 oz. mushrooms, cleaned and finely chopped
1 can water chestnut chopped
3 Tbsp basil chopped
1/2 cup white cooking wine
1 cup fresh tomato sauce
1 Tbsp butter
1 Teaspoon nut mug
Salt & pepper, to taste
In a saucepan cook the onion and the garlic until light golden. Add the mushrooms and the water chest nut and cook until the juices are released and evaporate, about 10 minutes. Add the wine, tomato sauce and butter, and season with salt and pepper. Reduce the heat to medium and cook another 5 minutes or so, or until somewhat thickened. Set aside.
Spread a thin layer of béchamel over the bottom of the baking dish. Arrange a layer of about four overlapping sheets of pasta over the béchamel. Spread a thin layer of béchamel (about 3 or 4 spoonfuls) over the pasta, and then an equally thin layer of the ragu. Sprinkle with about 1&1/2 tablespoons of the béchamel and about 1/3 cup of the cheese. Repeat the layers until all ingredients are used, finishing with béchamel sauce and topping with a generous dusting of cheese.