This is what I’m talking about! I could spout sonnets about how very most especially lovely this challgenge was, but you might get bored and then you’d stop looking at the pictures and wouldn’t get inspired to try it yourself!
Anyway. It really was just fantastic. The March 2009 challenge is hosted by Mary of Beans and Caviar, Melinda of Melbourne Larder and Enza of Io Da Grande. They have chosen Lasagne of Emilia-Romagna from The Splendid Table by Lynne Rossetto Kasper as the challenge.
I’m telling you dear reader, this is absolutely something worth trying.
To be honest, I wasn’t all that hot about the bechamel/ragu combination and in the future would probably just go for my regular marinara and cheese combination, but the NOODLES! Oh, the noodles! C’est magnifique!
There I go again. Sorry about that.
Anyway, I’ve always wanted to make homemade pasta, and this was SUCH a wonderful opportunity. For anyone who feels iffy about spinach, let me also tell you that this pasta DOES NOT taste like spinach. It gets a beautiful color, but doesn’t taste like spinach at all. I actually think next time I make it, I might also add in a bit of chopped basil…ooh la la. If you’re nervous about large pieces of spinach in your dough, you could puree the spinach before you start (which I might try next time…)
The recipe is a bit longish, but enjoy nonetheless. If anyone wonders about bechamel or ragu recipes, let me know. Basically, I used my red pepper tomato marinara sauce with Italian sausage for the ragu and made a basic bechamel. You can check out The Daring Kitchen website and see the complete recipe under the recipe archive for more information, but I’ll just leave you with directions for the spinach pasta.
For anyone who thinks they could never make their own pasta because they don’t have a pasta machine or attachment, that is a sorry excuse. I made this pasta with a rolling pin on my teensie tiny counter without a problem. If I can do it, you can do it.
3 large eggs (or 2 jumbo. My market didn’t have jumbo)
10 ounces fresh spinach, rinsed dry, and finely chopped;
3&1/2 cups all purpose unbleached flour
Water as needed
Mound the flour 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.
If your dough is being impossible, you can add a few tablespoons of water to help things come together. 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. Do not shortcut this step. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap, and let it relax at room temperature 30 minutes to 3 hours. See? Everything came together.
I loved this recipe.
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.
Stretch and even out the center of the disc. 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. You want this dough incredibly thin.They say that for lasagna, the sheet should be so thin that you can clearly see your hand through it and see colors. Mine really couldn’t get THAT thin, and it was great, so again, don’t panic. Cut into rectangles about 4 by 8 inches. Repeat with each section of dough.
Dry the pasta at room temperature and store in a sealed container or bag. To cook it, bring a huge pot of water to a boil. Salt the water with a small handful of salt. Cook 4 sheets at a time. For fresh pasta, cook about 2 minutes. For dry pasta, cook about 4 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.
To assemble a lasagna, layer pasta, bechamel, ragu, bechamel, cheese and then repeat layers.