The March edition of Daring Bakers went a little outside the baking box for many participants. Instead of something sweet, we were challenged with a savory and colorful dish:
The recipe we’ve chosen this month is Lasagne of Emilia-Romagna (Lasagne Verdi al Forno) 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).
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.Even though I've been making homemade pasta for many years now, I was looking forward to preparing the spinach lasagna noodles using fresh spinach. In the past, I had a spinach powder that I used, but it is long gone. I weighed out the appropriate amount of fresh spinach, then finely chopped it in the food processor before adding it to my egg and flour mixture. It certainly turned out a beautiful shade of green!
The last time I used my hand-cranked pasta roller, I had difficulty finding a place to set it up. My kitchen counters have no overhang, so I couldn't clamp it there. I recall that I just struggled with it unclamped.
Sometime after that experience, I was watching an episode of Alton Brown's Good Eats, where he was making fresh pasta. His suggestion was to attach the pasta roller to an ironing board, which I thought was a brilliant idea and was itching for a chance to try it out. Along came the DB challenge, and away I went. I have to say, it was the perfect set up.
As it turned out, I was making the pasta at midnight, so I decided to let it dry overnight. I draped the noodles over a broom handle, then propped the broom over the kitchen sink for the night. I didn't want the dog to get too curious or tempted while I was asleep. Also, my noodle dough was a bit on the wet side, so some of the noodles kept falling off the broom handle. I preferred that if they had to fall, they would do so in the sink and not on the floor.
In the morning, I had to go to a 4-hour class, so I transferred the pasta-holding broom to the ironing board, and left. My daughter, who was unaware of all this activity during the night, awoke to find a strange sight in the kitchen: an ironing board, supporting a broom, holding brilliant green noodles. She allowed as how it was a bit frightening.
After I returned in the afternoon, I prepared the ragu sauce, using my own recipe (see below) and a bechamel sauce. When those two ingredients were done, I cooked the noodles then assembled the lasagna. As a recommendation, I would strongly suggest doubling the bechamel sauce. For the cheese, I decided to use a combination of Parmesan, fontina, provolone, and mozzarella. We like cheese in this house.
On the positive side, the lasagna was in the oven before I had to go to work (evening shift). On the negative side, it was finished after I had gone, so my daughter was in charge of the final baking steps. She got to taste it first. I had to wait until 9:45 pm when I returned home. Talk about torment.
Delicious. We loved the addition of the bechamel sauce. It's even tastier the next day. I might even have enough left over to take as a lunch one day this weekend when I'm at work.
Browse through the Daring Baker blogroll over the next while so you can see all the hundreds of versions of this delicious lasagna. (Some are even gluten free!) For the recipes, please visit the hosts' blogs.
My standard ragu sauce
1/4 pound bacon, cut into 1" pieces
3/4 cup sliced onions
1/2 pound ground beef (or a mixture of beef or pork)
1 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon pepper
1 clove garlic, minced
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
2 teaspoons sugar
3 8-ounce cans tomato sauce
Extra additions: sliced mushrooms, sliced olives of any kind
In a large skillet, cook the bacon until light brown, pouring off excess fat. Add the onions, mushrooms (if using), and meat; cook until brown. Add the salt, pepper, garlic, Worcestershire, sugar, and tomato sauce. Simmer, covered, 20 minutes. Add the olives, if using; simmer, covered, 15 minutes.
Sometimes I add a splash of red wine just for fun.