Lasagne of Emilia-Romagna

Lasagne of Emilia-Romagna (Lasagne Verdi al Forno)
Recipe by Lynne Rossetto Kasper

Hi All! I'm back from my much needed vacation. I missed all of you very much. Did you miss me? :) What greater way to return than with another Daring Baker's challenge. I had a great time with this month's challenge. I can't wait to experiment with making more fresh pasta. There really is nothing like it. Enjoy!

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.

All recipes below from The Splendid Table: Recipes from Emilia-Romagna, the Heartland of Northern Italian Food by Lynne Rossetto Kasper (published by William Morrow and Company Inc., 1992).

Lasagne of Emilia-Romagna (Lasagne Verdi al Forno)
(Serves 8 to 10 as a first course, 6 to 8 as a main dish)

Preparation Time: 15 minutes to assemble and 40 minutes cooking time

10 quarts (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

Method
Working Ahead:
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.

Assembling the Ingredients:
Have all the sauces, rewarmed gently over a medium heat, and the pasta at hand. Have a large perforated skimmer and a large bowl of cold water next to the stove. Spread a double thickness of paper towels over a large counter space. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit (180 degrees Celsius). Oil or butter a 3 quart (approx 3 litre) shallow baking dish.

Cooking the Pasta:
Bring the salted water to a boil. Drop about four pieces of pasta in the water at a time. Cook about 2 minutes. If you are using dried pasta, cook about 4 minutes, taste, and cook longer if necessary. The pasta will continue cooking during baking, so make sure it is only barely tender. Lift the lasagne from the water with a skimmer, drain, and then slip into the bowl of cold water to stop cooking. When cool, lift out and dry on the paper towels. Repeat until all the pasta is cooked.

Assembling the Lasagne:
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.

Baking and Serving the Lasagne:
Cover the baking dish lightly with foil, taking care not to let it touch the top of the lasagne. Bake 40 minutes, or until almost heated through. Remove the foil and bake another 10 minutes, or until hot in the center (test by inserting a knife – if it comes out very warm, the dish is ready). Take care not to brown the cheese topping. It should be melted, creamy looking and barely tinged with a little gold. Turn off the oven, leave the door ajar and let the lasagne rest for about 10 minutes. Then serve. This is not a solid lasagne, but a moist one that slips a bit when it is cut and served.

#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:

Equipment

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 pastry scraper and a small wooden spoon for blending the dough.

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.
Note: although it is not traditional, Enza has successfully made pasta with a marble rolling pin, and this can be substituted for the wooden pin, if you have one.

Plastic wrap to wrap the resting dough and to cover rolled-out pasta waiting to be filled. It protects the pasta from drying out too quickly.

A sharp chef’s knife for cutting pasta sheets.

Cloth-covered chair backs, broom handles, or specially designed pasta racks found in cookware shops for draping the pasta.

Mixing the 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.

Kneading:
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.

Stretching and Thinning:
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 about 4 by 8 inches (10 x 20 cm). 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!

Dry the pasta at room temperature and store in a sealed container or bag.

#2 Bechamel

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) milk
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
Freshly grated nutmeg to taste

Using a medium-sized saucepan, melt the butter over low to medium heat. Sift over the flour, whisk until smooth, and then stir (without stopping) for about 3 minutes. Whisk in the 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, and a hint of nutmeg.

#3 Country Style Ragu’ (Ragu alla Contadina)

Preparation Time: Ingredient Preparation Time 30 minutes and Cooking time 2 hours

Makes enough sauce for 1 recipe fresh pasta or 1 pound/450g dried pasta)

3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil (45 mL)
2 ounces/60g pancetta, finely chopped
1 medium onion, minced
1 medium stalk celery with leaves, minced
1 small carrot, minced
4 ounces/125g boneless veal shoulder or round
4 ounces/125g pork loin, trimmed of fat, or 4 ounces/125g mild Italian sausage (made without fennel)
8 ounces/250g beef skirt steak, hanging tender, or boneless chuck blade or chuck center cut (in order of preference)
1 ounce/30g thinly sliced Prosciutto di Parma
2/3 cup (5 ounces/160ml) dry red wine
1 &1/2 cups (12 ounces/375ml) chicken or beef stock (homemade if possible)
2 cups (16 ounces/500ml) milk
3 canned plum tomatoes, drained
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Working Ahead:
The ragu can be made 3 days ahead. Cover and refrigerate. It also freezes well for up to 1 month. Skim the fat from the ragu’ before using it.

Browning the Ragu Base:
Heat the olive oil in a 12 inch (30cm) skillet (frying pan) over medium-high heat. Have a large saucepan handy to use once browning is complete. Add the pancetta and minced vegetables and sauté, stirring frequently with a wooden spoon, 10 minutes, or until the onions barely begin to color. Coarsely grind all the meats together, including the prosciutto, in a food processor or meat grinder. Stir into the pan and slowly brown over medium heat. First the meats will give off a liquid and turn dull grey but, as the liquid evaporates, browning will begin. Stir often, scooping under the meats with the wooden spatula. Protect the brown glaze forming on the bottom of the pan by turning the heat down. Cook 15 minutes, or until the meats are a deep brown. Turn the contents of the skillet into a strainer and shake out the fat. Turn them into the saucepan and set over medium heat.

Reducing and Simmering: Add the wine to the skillet, lowering the heat so the sauce bubbles quietly. Stir occasionally until the wine has reduced by half, about 3 minutes. Scrape up the brown glaze as the wine bubbles. Then pour the reduced wine into the saucepan and set the skillet aside.

Stir ½ cup stock into the saucepan and let it bubble slowly, 10 minutes, or until totally evaporated. Repeat with another ½ cup stock. Stir in the last 1/2 cup stock along with the milk. Adjust heat so the liquid bubbles very slowly. Partially cover the pot, and cook 1 hour. Stir frequently to check for sticking.

Add the tomatoes, crushing them as they go into the pot. Cook uncovered, at a very slow bubble for another 45 minutes, or until the sauce resembles a thick, meaty stew. Season with salt and pepper.

52 comments:

Happy cook said...

Oh yes we missed you a lot.
Delicious lasange and welcome back.

Rosa's Yummy Yums said...

Yes, we have missed you a lot, indeed!

Wow, that slice looks clean and perfect! Your lasagne are really appetizing! Very well done!

Cheers,

Rosa

Sara said...

Yum! This looks really tasty! :)

Dawn said...

I missed you!
And what a comeback meal this is! holy smack-a-doodles!

Sara said...

Welcome back! Hope you had a great trip. Your lasagna looks perfect.

janet said...

hope you had a great vacation! your lasagna looks delicious and so colorful!

ice tea: sugar high said...

Welcome back.. and what a great way to come back indeed. Your lasagna look great and very drool-worthy =)

fairy_mi said...

Hi miss dragon
just had to say your lasagne looks really greattt!
dangerous pics to look at in the middle of the night

Lisa Michelle said...

Of course we missed you, especially when you make a lasagna like that! :P You did a great job..it looks awesome! Hope you had a blast on your vacay!

Snooky doodle said...

this lasagne looks so so good :)

Rebecca said...

Wow! Your lasagne is so colorful. Can I have a slice?

Donna-FFW said...

HOw nice to have you back!!! Looks so delicious, your lasagne.. Dee-licious!

Elle said...

Gorgeous lasagna! You pasta looks really thin and the lasagna just the way I like it...crusty and moist at the same time. Yum!

Shelly said...

Wow...your lasagna turned out great! Looks really good! Hope your vacation was nice :) This is my first visit to your blog, and I really like it! I look forward to your future posts.

Lorraine @NotQuiteNigella said...

That looks fantastic-great job on the challenge! I bet you had some very happy diners :)

The Irreverent Cook said...

I'm glad you enjoyed your challenge! I want to hear more about your vacation! =D

marye said...

Oh wow! It looks yummy! Nice job.

Laura said...

Great job too on the lasagnas! They look really jummy!

Lisa said...

groovy looking lasagne! I was too chicken (read: lazy, and feeling uninspired about green food) to do the spinach pasta... but yours looks YUMMY. Well done for motivating to do it on your return from vacation; always takes me ages to get round to doing anything in the kitchen!!

culinarytravelsofakitchengoddess said...

Gorgeous lasagne!! Great job,

Núria said...

Hola Dragon! I've been missing you and everybody else.... I have gone through a lazy/busy time... doesn't make sense does it? Well anyway, I'm glad you are back and hopefully I'll be back too, but I might take it a little bit more easy :D

A break is always good! That Lasaña is just sinful and if on top the pasta is home made... Awesome :D

veggievixen said...

delicious! i saw this on another blogger's site who participated this time around, but yours looks beautiful! i have never made my own pasta, but this really makes me want a pasta maker! *drool*

Debbie said...

Welcome back! Your lasagna looks wonderful like all of your dishes do!!!

Peter M said...

Dragon, nice to see you back...this Emilia lasagna is truly a feast for the eyes and belly...bravo!

Natashya said...

Mmm, looks so warm and inviting - perfect for today when winter is giving us a little nip at the heels. We got a few snowflakes here in the eastern part of the horseshoe.

MaryMary said...

welcome back--and what a way to return. YOur lasagne looks absolutely, posamatively fabulous!

Andreas said...

I like the nice fresh colours of your lasagna.

Lo said...

You certainly came back with a bang, my dear!

I'm a sucker for lasagne -- but this really does look exsquisite. What a treat.

Susan said...

Wow! That is gorgeous, so festive, and it cuts clean. Fabulous.

Lauren said...

Mmm, your lasagne looks awesome!! Great job on this challenge =D.

Audax said...

Great job and I especially love the photo. Hope the holidays went well.

Passionate About Baking said...

Oh welcome back paula. Of course you were missed. Finally made the artisan loaf a few days ago, & thought about you loads.Hope you had a good vacation, & what better way to get back than to do a challenge. How yum this looks...layers & layers of delcious pasta. Beautiful colours there too...WOW
xoxoxo

Maria said...

The lasagna looks awesome!! Nice job!! Hope you enjoyed your vacation!

Elin said...

Welcome back and your lasagna looks delicious! Just looking at it makes me hungry :P

5 Star Foodie said...

Delicious lasagna! Thank you so much for visiting my blog today!

Elra said...

What a perfect layers. Your lasagna look really delicious.
Cheer,
elra

Fearless Kitchen said...

This looks great. The spinach lasagne noodles are a really nice touch.

Selba said...

The lasagna and ragu look wonderful yummy...

Jamie said...

Your lasagne looks really good! I love the gorgeous pasta and I would like to try it.

Zita said...

Of course we miss you, great to have you back, your lasagne looks so rich and yummy :)

Netts Nook said...

Thanks for visiting my blog. I have never dared to make my own noodles yours look wonderful. Great job.

Amanda said...

Wowza! That is one impressive lasagne--well done!

mesa para 4 said...

Hi Dragon what a comeback :-) great and beautiful lasagna...abraço

Hayley said...

Your lasagna turned out awesome. Great Job!

jillian said...

So true that there is nothing like fresh pasta. This looks great!

Arundathi said...

You've done an amazing job!

Christine said...

Picture perfect! Looks delicious!

whall said...

You were missed, and glad to see you back with this tempting awesomeness. I know that as soon as I get the hankering for some real home-cooked stuff, I'm coming here and browsing through your archives.

Megan said...

Your lasagna looks amazing!

Laurel said...

Your lasagna looks absolutely delicious! Love the colors! Your pasta wasn't nearly as green as mine... ;-)

Lori said...

You did an amazing job on your lasagne. So appetizing.

Lasagna Master said...

These lasagna recipes look awesome! I will bake them this week and give the recipes a try.

Great blog!

 
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