With almost 2'000 members, this community of mad cooks and bakers is growing fast and welcomes anybody who loves to be in the kitchen and experiment with food. It is such a wonderful thing, so thanks everybody who participated in the creation of this webpage and, especially Ivonne at "Cream Puffs In Venice" (Canada) and Lisa at "La Mia Cucina" (USA) without whom none of this would exist!
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.
I've always been a sucker for Lasagne. As far as I can remember, this Italian dish has never disappointed me. Of course, it surely has to do with the fact that I never ate store-bought Lasagne in my entire life. You can't beat homemade Lasagne as this casserole tastes so much better when it's prepared with loving hands!
Until now, I hade never made the pasta sheets myself, otherwise both the Béchamel and the Bolognese Sauce have always been prepared with great care and much attention to detail. It is only very lately that I have started experimenting with 100% handmade and hand-rolled pasta (without machine - see my "Tagliatelle" post). And to my biggest surprise, making fresh pasta at home isn't all that difficultn nor all that esoteric. It just needs a little getting used to the process and it implies that you'll have to spend a certain amount of time in the kitchen. The only side-effects you'll be exposed to are back and arm ache. In conclusion, it is quite a straight forward process.
Well, for this challenge what was going to be new for me was the incorporation of spinach to the pasta dough, the shaping/cutting of the dough in big sheets and the making of Ragù accroding to pure Emilia-Romagnian tradition. As nothing was really too challenging for me, I felt very confident and concentrated.
The making of these "Lasagne Of Emilia-Romagna" went very smoothly and it resulted in a dish that both looked perfect and tasted heavenly! The instructions were followed to the letter and didn't play too much around. I only added a few spices and flavorings to the "Ragù" and the "Béchamel", and added more cheese between the layers. And as, lasagne improve with age, I made that dish one day ahead in order for the flavors to meld beautifully (see tips at the end).Otherwise I stayed true to Lynne Rossetto Kasper's recipes because I wanted to make a lasagne that would be as traditional as possible.
These exquisite Lasagne are extremely satisfying and gratifying thanks to the verdantly vivid pasta which are fantastically smooth and delicate, to the "Béchamel" which is velvety and far from being bland as well as to the "Ragù" that is rich in flavors, full-bodied and thick. This scumptuous Bolognese classic from Italy's culinary heartland is unlike anything else you've tasted so far, though, I must give credit to my old Lasagne recipe which is quite similar and is as droolworthy as this one.
These voluptuous "Lasagne Of Emilia-Romagna" are excellent on all levels and their deliciousness will haunt you. This hearty, creamy, meaty, cheesy, tomatoey, moist and lip-smacking dish is the kind of family-food that'll get you hooked as it is literally irresistible. A gastronomic treasure worth the effort and time spent sweating in the kitchen!
I really want to thank Mary at "Beans And Caviar", Melinda at "Melbourne Larder" and Enza at "Io Da Grande" for having chosen that delightful recipe and for making us travel virtually to Italy!
~ Lasagne Of Emilia-Romagna or Lasagne Verdi al Forno ~
Recipes taken from "The Splendid Table: Recipes Of Emilia-Romagna, The Heartland Of Northern Italian Food" by Lynne Rossetto Kasper and slightly adapted by Rosa @ Rosa's Yummy Yums 2009.
Serves 8 to 10 as a first course, 6 to 8 as a main dish.
#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 Oz (300g) fresh spinach, rinsed dry, and finely chopped or 6 Oz (170g) frozen chopped spinach, defrosted and squeezed dry
3 1/2 Cups (14 oz/400g) All-purpose unbleached (plain) flour
1. Mound the flour in the center of your work surface and make a well in the middle. Add the eggs and spinach.
2. 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).
3. 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).
4. 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).
5. 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).
6. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap, and let it relax at room temperature 30 minutes to 3 hours.
7. 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).
8. 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. The transparency is a crucial element of lasagne pasta and the dough should be rolled as thinly as possible).
9. Cut into rectangles about 10 x 20 cm (4 by 8 inches) 10. Dry the pasta at room temperature and store in a sealed container or bag.
#2 Béchamel sauce
Preparation Time: 15 minutes.
Makes 1 quantity bechamel sauce.
4 Tbs (2 ounces/60g) Unsalted butter
4 Tbs (2 ounces/60g) All-purpose unbleached (plain) flour
2 2/3 Cups (approx 570ml) Milk
Salt, to taste
A pinch of paprika
Freshly ground pepper, to taste
Freshly grated nutmeg, to taste
1. Using a medium-sized saucepan, melt the butter over low to medium heat.
2. Sift over the flour, whisk until smooth, and then stir (without stopping) for about 3 minutes.
3. Whisk in the milk a little at a time and keep the mixture smooth.
4. Bring to a slow simmer, and stir 3 to 4 minutes, or until the sauce thickens.
5. Cook, stirring, for about 5 minutes, until the sauce thickens.
6. Season with paprika, salt, pepper and a hint of nutmeg.
#3 Country Style Ragu’ (Ragu Alla Contadina)
Preparation Time: 30 minutes and Cooking time 2 hours.
Makes enough sauce for 1 recipe fresh pasta or 1 pound/450g dried pasta.
3 Tbs (45ml) Extra virgin olive oil
2 Oz (60g) Pancetta, finely chopped
1 Big onion, minced
4 Cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 Stalk celery with leaves, minced 1 Medium carrot, finely grated
4 Oz (125g) Boneless veal shoulder or round
4 Oz (125g) Mild Italian sausage (made without fennel/I used Swiss "saucisse à rôtir")
8 Oz (250g) Beef skirt steak, hanging tender, or boneless chuck blade or chuck center cut (in order of preference)
1 Oz (30g) Thinly sliced Prosciutto di Parma
2/3 Cup (5 oz/160ml) Dry red wine
1 1/2 Cups (12 oz/375ml) Chicken or beef stock (homemade if possible)
2 Cups (16 oz/500ml) Milk
3 Canned plum tomatoes, drained
2 Tbs Tomato puree
2 Tbs Dark balsamic vinegar
2 tbs Fish sauce
1 Tbs Light brown sugar
1 1/2 Tsps Dried Italian mixed herbs
1 Tsp Red Tabasco
Salt, to taste
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1. Heat the olive oil in a 30cm (12 inch) skillet or frying pan over medium-high heat (Have a large saucepan handy to use once browning is complete).
2. Add the pancetta and minced vegetables and sauté, stirring frequently with a wooden spoon, 10 minutes, or until the onions barely begin to color.
3. Coarsely grind all the meats together, including the prosciutto, in a food processor or meat grinder.
4. 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.
5. Turn the contents of the skillet into a strainer and shake out the fat.
6. Turn them into the saucepan and set over medium heat.
7. 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.
8. Then pour the reduced wine into the saucepan and set the skillet aside.
9. Stir 1/2 cup stock into the saucepan and let it bubble slowly, 10 minutes, or until totally evaporated.
10. Repeat with another 1/2 cup stock.
11. Stir in the last 1/2 cup stock along with the milk.
12. Adjust heat so the liquid bubbles very slowly. Partially cover the pot, and cook 1 hour. Stir frequently to check for sticking.
13. Add the tomatoes (crushing them as they go into the pot), tomato puree, sugar, vinegar, fish sauce, herbs and tabasco.
14. Cook uncovered, at a very slow bubble for another 45 minutes, or until the sauce resembles a thick, meaty stew.
15. Season with salt and pepper.
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.
# 4 Assembling The Lasagne
Preparation Time: 15 minutes to assemble and 40 minutes cooking time.
10 Quarts (9 litres) Salted water
1 Recipe Spinach Pasta cut for lasagna
1 Recipe Béchamel Sauce
1 Recipe Country Style Ragu
1 1/2 Cups (12 oz/280g) Freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
1. Have all the sauces, rewarmed gently over a medium heat, and the pasta at hand.
2. Have a large perforated skimmer and a large bowl of cold water next to the stove.
3. Spread a double thickness of paper towels over a large counter space.
4. Preheat the oven to 180° C (350° F).
5. Oil or butter a 3 quart (approx 3 litre) shallow baking dish.
6. Bring the salted water to a boil.
7. Drop about four pieces of pasta in the water at a time.
8. 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).
9. Lift the lasagne from the water with a skimmer, drain, and then slip into the bowl of cold water to stop cooking.
10. When cool, lift out and dry on the paper towels. Repeat until all the pasta is cooked.
11. Spread a thin layer of béchamel over the bottom of the baking dish.
12. Arrange a layer of about four overlapping sheets of pasta over the béchamel.
13. Spread a thin layer of béchamel (about 3 or 4 spoonfuls) over the pasta, and then an equally thin layer of the ragu.
14. Sprinkle with about 1 1/2 tablespoons of the bechamel and about 1/3 cup of the cheese. 15. Repeat the layers until all ingredients are used, finishing with béchamel sauce and topping with a generous dusting of cheese.
16. 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.
17. 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).
18. Turn off the oven, leave the door ajar and let the lasagne rest for about 10 minutes.
Working Ahead & Tips:
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° C/68° F) 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. You can freeze the baked and cooled lasagne. One day before reheating, get the frozen lasagne out of the freezer and let defreeze in the fridge overnight.
The next day, get the lasagne out of the fridge and let them reach room temperature (2 hours), then reheat in oven at 150° C (300° F) for about 30 to 40 minutes.
As Lasagne improves with age, just put it together and cook it for 40 minutes, as indicated. Then, refrigerate. The next day, get the dish out of the fridge and leave it at room temperature for about 2 hours. Reheat gently in the oven (at 150° C/300° F) for about 30-40 minutes before serving.
****************Etant donné la longueur du texte original, je n'ai malheureusement pas pu faire une traduction française de ce billet et je m'en excuse auprès de tous mes amis lecteurs et blogueurs francophones!
C'est pourquoi je vous suggère de vous rendre sur les blogs mentionnés ci-dessous. Vous y trouverez cette recette en version française.
Chez Vibi de "La Casserole Carrée" (Canada)
Chez Isa de "Les Gourmandises d'Isa" (Canada)