Saturday, March 28, 2009

March Daring Bakers - The Lasagne of Emilia-Romagna

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.

March has been a busy month, and I've spent most of if it waging war against the flu and colds.  Add to that my husband's skepticism about "pasta verde" and I almost didn't get this challenge done!  To ensure that I didn't end up with more pasta verde than I could use, I halved the recipe and it worked out fabulous.  I did end up using my own Bolognese sauce recipe, to add something the hubs couldn't resist to make up for the green noodles LOL.

Lasagne Verdi al Forno (from The Splendid Table: Recipes from Emilia-Romagna, the Heartland of Northern Italian Food by Lynne Rossetto Kasper -- William Morrow and Company, Inc., 1992).

10 quarts salted water
1 recipe Spinach Pasta 
1 recipe Bechamel Sauce
1 recipe Bolognese Sauce (my recipe instead of Lynne's)
1 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano

NOTE:  All measurements for pasta and bechamel are half the original recipe!  First I made the spinach pasta:

1 jumbo egg, slightly beaten
3 oz frozen chopped spinach, defrosted and squeezed dry
1 3/4 cups all purpose, unbleached flour

Because I was still battling a cold, I didn't completely "hand make" this pasta, rather I started it using my Cuisinart food processor.  I processed the spinach to a coarse paste, then added the flour.  After a few pulses, I added the egg and mixed it until the ingredients would hold together when pressed.  At this time I transfered the contents to a floured surface and kneaded the dough for 10 minutes by hand.  The dough was then allowed to rest for over 30 mintues, covered lightly with plastic wrap.

During this time I made the Bechamel Sauce:

2 tbsp unsalted butter
2 tbsp all purpose unbleached flour
1 1/3 cups milk
Salt & pepper to taste
Nutmeg to taste

In a medium saucepan, melt the butter over low to medium heat.  Sift over the flour and whisk until smooth, then stir, without stopping for 3 minutes.  Whisk in the milk a little at a time to keep the sauce smooth.  When all milk is added, bring to a slow simmer and stir 3-4 minutes, or until the sauce thickens.  Season with salt, pepper, and a hint of nutmeg.

Bolognese Sauce (this was made the day before - this recipe makes a lot and can be halved; I don't bother making less because the hubs will eat this sauce for days until its gone):

2 carrots, finely chopped
2 stalks celery, finely chopped
1/2 large onion, finely chopped
1 clove garlic, finely chopped or run through a press
1 cup pancetta, finally chopped/cubed (can buy this pre-cubed in store - use 4 oz. pkg)
6 tbsp butter
2 tbsp olive oil
2 lbs. ground sirloin
1 lb. ground pork
1 small can tomato paste
1 cup red wine
4 cups beef or vegetable stock
2 cups of water
1/2 cup heavy cream
Salt & pepper to taste

Chop the carrots, onion, and celery.  Heat oil and butter in a large pot over medium heat.  When the butter starts to brown slightly, add the vegetables and cook until they are start turning brown on the edges.   Add the pancetta, and cook until browned, about 10 minutes.  Increase to high heat and add the sirloin and pork, breaking the meat up to the desired size as it cooks.  Cook until the meat and vegetables have a deep golden, to brown color, about 12 to 15 mintues.  Add the wine and scrape the bottom of the pot to deglaze as the wine cooks off.  Add the tomato paste and stir into the meat and vegetable mixture to evenly distribute, then add the stock and water and let the mixture come to a boil.  Once at a boil, reduce heat to low and let simmer for 2-3 hours, or until the sauce thickens.  Turn off heat and add heavy cream.  

Here's a gallery of a few steps I managed to capture:

Veggies Chopped!

Meat ready to cook.

 Pasta kneaded and ready to rest.

Some assembly required... 

The finished lasagne!

The lasagne was really tasty, the filling was rich and very flavorful, and even the hubs conceded that the green sheets of spinach death weren't that bad in the end.  I would definitely make it again, though I think my husband does prefer his recipe, so considering he's the lasa maker in the family, this recipe will only come out for special occasions!


Lauren said...

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

Honey Pickles said...

Bravo! Your lasagne looks yummy.

BC said...

Green sheets of death... hahaha... I understand, spinach is like poison to some people. Very brave to try it though.