Friday, March 27, 2009

Daring Bakers: Red, White, and Green

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.

The verdict?

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.


Megan said...

What a great idea to use an ironing board. I love Alton Brown, he always has such clever and unique ideas.

Great looking lasagna, I could sure use a piece right about now!

Susan @ SGCC said...

Your lasagne looks beautiful! I have the same problem with my pasta maker. Thanks for the great tip!

Lisa said...

Your lasagne turnedc out beautiful and I love the idea of attaching the pasta roller to an ironing board! If I recall correctly, didn't he do that on a ravioli show? It's been so long, I can't

Eva said...

Yours looks great. I really liked mine too. A added ricotta to my bechamel which probably doubled the amount so I had just enough. Side note, I think the posting day is the 29th.

Lauren said...

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

NKP said...

Good call doubling the bechamel - in retrospect I was wishing I had. And yes to the quadruple cheese!
It all looks wonderful.
As to Bella, you are right - she does like to be in your lap at all times... when you eat, read, pee.. even sleep. She is definitely the baby of the house!

MyKitchenInHalfCups said...

Marvelous on an ironing board!
It looks wonderful Judy!
But the color you got in the noodle is incredible. I must try it in the food processor.

ice tea: sugar high said...

Great idea using the ironing board to dry the pasta. Fantastic job on this month's challenge

Susan/Wild Yeast said...

I love your setup there, but I can see how it would be disconcerting to discover it in the kitchen unexpectedly! Beautiful results.

Michelle Dargen said...

WOW! Awesome idea with the ironing board. Your lasagne looks amazing!

Dragon said...

I love the colour of your pasta! Well done.

kellypea said...

Midnight? Jeez Louize. Seriously, you are dedicated. Love the ironing board set up. If I end up with a pasta maker, I'll have to remember that. Gorgeous lasagna, and your ragu recipe sounds yummy!

TeaLady said...

ALTON RULES!!!! He does have some great tips/ideas. Wow!!! To have done so much late at night. Serious Cook!!! It looks amazing. I will never buy pasta again for lasagna or anything else except for speghetti.

And, I don't know what I was reading, but it did NOT say to cook spinach first. Maybe I dreamed it.

Great job on this challenge.

Audax said...

Lovely description of the process. just love the photos of the drying pasta. Bravo on a great job.

Tracy said...

I have always wanted to make homemade pasta. Great job!

zorra said...

Your quite inventive. ;-)