I’m a few days late in posting this month’s Daring Baker’s challenge. Better late than never, especially if it tastes this freakin’ good. The very first meal I made for my husband, on our first date 23 years ago, was four cheese manicotti. It took me a day for each cheese to create it! He told me years later that he knew he’d marry me when he took a bite. We’ve made each other many meals since, but nothing as memorable. When I presented this lasagne to my family they all said it was the best thing I’ve ever cooked for them, including my husband (and my 8 year old who claims to hate spinach)!
This week’s Le Creuset winner is announced below.
Like the manicotti, This lasagna isn’t something you are going to throw together as you run in the house after work. But, if you’ve never made your own pasta, YOU HAVE TO MAKE THIS!!! It isn’t at all difficult, it just takes a little time and some planning. Somewhere along the way I lost my pasta roller and ended up making this recipe by hand. EASY! I was scared I wouldn’t be able to get it thin enough, but it rolled out wonderfully. I could have gotten it even thinner, but this seemed just right for lasagne. I rolled the pasta the day before so it would have time to dry. Make extra so you can have homemade dried spinach pasta on hand for a rainy day, or to impress the pants off your guests.
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.
You can click on any of the hosts’ websites for the complete Lasagne Emilia-Romagna recipe. Here is how to make the pasta:
Spinach Egg Pasta by Lynne Rossetto Kasper in The Splendid Table: Recipes from Emilia-Romagna, the Heartland of Northern Italian Food: (my notes are in italics)
Makes enough for one large lasagne or 12 individual
2 jumbo eggs (I only had large, so I used 2 eggs plus an extra yolk.)
10 ounces fresh spinach, rinsed, stemmed, cooked, squeezed dry, and finely chopped. OR 6 ounces frozen chopped spinach, defrosted and squeezed dry. (I put the spinach in my Food Processor to chop it really finely.)
3 1/2 cups (14 ounces) all-purpose unbleached flour (organic stone-ground preferred). (I used gold medal, because I have it around for testing bread recipes and it was fantastic!)
To mix the pasta:
Place all of the ingredients in the bowl of your Stand Mixers. (Yes, this is the fast American way of doing it, I was running way behind this month!. You can make a well with the flour and knead by hand, but I just used my stand mixer and ended up with a really lovely dough.) Mix with your Dough Hook until all the dough comes together and is a nice smooth ball of dough. Let it knead for about 5 minutes. If it isn’t coming together add a few more tablespoons of flour.
Wrap the dough in plastic and let it rest at room temperature for at least 30 minutes or up to 4 hours. (I wrapped mine and put it in the refrigerator until the next day. I let it come to room temperature before I rolled it out. It was wonderful to roll!)
Cut the dough into four equal pieces. The smaller pieces will be easier to roll out nice and thin.
Use a rolling pin to get the dough thin. Or, use a pasta roller, which I used to own and can’t find?
Lynne suggests picking the dough up, wrapping it partially around the pin and stretching it. (I should have used my thinner French-style Rolling Pin for this part, it would have been easier to handle. honestly, I’m not sure it needed this step, but I did it! )
Continue rolling and stretching, until your dough is the desired thickness. Make sure you continually check the dough to make sure it isn’t sticking to your counter. Use a Pizza Wheel to cut the desired shape and size of pasta, lasagna noodles are large flat sheets so this is easy.
I don’t have a Pasta Drying Rack so I just laid the sheets on my large cooling rack. you will need several if you are rolling all the dough out at once. Let dry overnight.
Once the pasta is dry you will bring lots of water to a boil, salt it really well and boil the pasta for 2-3 minutes. It won’t be completely cooked, not even close. It will merely soften slightly so you can arrange it in the lasagna pan. It will cook completely when the lasagna is baked. If you over boil the noodles they will be mushy by the time your lasagna bakes.
Layer up the lasagna with the fillings of your choice, although I have got to put in a plug for Lynne’s Lasagne of Emilia-Romagna The Splendid Table. At least you have got to try the Country-Style Ragu. It takes at least a couple of hours to prepare, but it will make you weak in the knees. Be sure to double the recipe so you have some to eat on spaghetti.
I also baked some of the lasagna in individual Le Creuset Stoneware Covered Heart Ramekin and served it with a crusty epi from my book Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day. These individual portions are perfect for freezing! This way I don’t have to bake up a whole lasagna when I want to give this to my boys for lunch! Speaking of the Le Creuset Ramekins, this weeks winner is Tora of Knittyit, who wants to make her mom Tiramisu for Mother’s day. Thank you all for the wonderful ideas for desserts to serve on Mother’s day. I have a pretty good idea what I will be making, more on that later!