Thursday, March 26, 2009

Lasagne of Emilia-Romagna

Lasagne is a dish that has successfully transcended borders and is today made around the world, albeit with many variations from the Italian original. Even within Italy, there are many variations and each region has its own lasagne tradition. But, as Lynne explains in her introduction to the recipe - the dish should always be a “vivid expression of the ‘less is more’ philosophy of cooking. Mere films of béchamel sauce and meat ragout coat the sheerest spinach pasta. Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese dusts each layer. There is nothing more; no ricotta, no piling on of meats, vegetables or cheese; little tomato, and no hot spice. Baking performs the final marriage of flavours. The results are splendid.”

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.


Lasagne of Emilia-Romagna (Lasagne Verdi al Forno)
(Serves 8 to 10 as a first course, 6 to 8 as a main dish)
Preparation Time: 15 minutes to assemble and 40 minutes cooking time
10 quarts (9 litres) salted water
1 recipe Spinach Pasta cut for lasagna (recipe follows)
1 recipe Bechamel Sauce (recipe follows)
1 recipe Country Style Ragu (recipe follows)
1 cup (4 ounces/125g) freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano

MethodWorking Ahead: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 degrees Celsius/68 degrees Fahrenheit) 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.

Assembling the Ingredients:
Have all the sauces, rewarmed gently over a medium heat, and the pasta at hand. Have a large perforated skimmer and a large bowl of cold water next to the stove. Spread a double thickness of paper towels over a large counter space. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit (180 degrees Celsius). Oil or butter a 3 quart (approx 3 litre) shallow baking dish.

Cooking the Pasta:
Bring the salted water to a boil. Drop about four pieces of pasta in the water at a time. 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. Lift the lasagne from the water with a skimmer, drain, and then slip into the bowl of cold water to stop cooking. When cool, lift out and dry on the paper towels. Repeat until all the pasta is cooked.

Assembling the Lasagne:
Spread a thin layer of béchamel over the bottom of the baking dish. Arrange a layer of about four overlapping sheets of pasta over the béchamel. Spread a thin layer of béchamel (about 3 or 4 spoonfuls) over the pasta, and then an equally thin layer of the ragu. Sprinkle with about 1&1/2 tablespoons of the béchamel and about 1/3 cup of the cheese. Repeat the layers until all ingredients are used, finishing with béchamel sauce and topping with a generous dusting of cheese.

Baking and Serving the Lasagne:
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. 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. Turn off the oven, leave the door ajar and let the lasagne rest for about 10 minutes. Then serve. This is not a solid lasagne, but a moist one that slips a bit when it is cut and served.

#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 ounces (300g) fresh spinach, rinsed dry, and finely chopped; or 6 ounces (170g) frozen chopped spinach, defrosted and squeezed dry(I kept the juice and used it)
3&1/2 cups (14 ounces/400g) all purpose unbleached (plain) flour (organic stone ground preferred)(I substitute 1 cup wheat flour for the white)

Working by Hand:
Equipment
A roomy work surface, 24 to 30 inches deep by 30 to 36 inches (60cm to 77cm deep by 60cm to 92cm). Any smooth surface will do, but marble cools dough slightly, making it less flexible than desired.
A pastry scraper and a small wooden spoon for blending the dough.
A wooden dowel-style rolling pin. In Italy, pasta makers use one about 35 inches long and 2 inches thick (89cm long and 5cm thick). The shorter American-style pin with handles at either end can be used, but the longer it is, the easier it is to roll the pasta.Note: although it is not traditional, Enza has successfully made pasta with a marble rolling pin, and this can be substituted for the wooden pin, if you have one.
Plastic wrap to wrap the resting dough and to cover rolled-out pasta waiting to be filled. It protects the pasta from drying out too quickly.
A sharp chef’s knife for cutting pasta sheets. (I used a pizza cutter)
Cloth-covered chair backs, broom handles, or specially designed pasta racks found in cookware shops for draping the pasta.
Mixing the dough:
Mound the flour in the center of your work surface and make a well in the middle. Add the eggs and spinach. 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.

Kneading: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. 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. 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. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap, and let it relax at room temperature 30 minutes to 3 hours.

Stretching and Thinning:
If using an extra-long rolling pin work with half the dough at a time. 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. 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. Cut into rectangles about 4 by 8 inches (10 x 20 cm). Note: Enza says that transparency is a crucial element of lasagne pasta and the dough should be rolled as thinly as possible. She says this is why her housekeeper has such strong arms!
Dry the pasta at room temperature and store in a sealed container or bag.


1- I used one cup of wheat flour in my mix and the dough was very dry , I used the liquid I saved from the spinach (around 2 tbsp) helped a lot.

2- rolling and stretching the dough on the rolling pin helped a lot, dusting flour on the working surface and your hand when you stretch, I didn't have any problem with the dough and getting a see through thin pastry. I was proud with the total results.

3- I used my clothes rack to dry the pasta.

* I squeezed the spinach and saved the liquid, as I used one cup whole wheat instead of using all white, I used the liquid when making the dough. It came perfect and very pliable, I didnt have any problem what so ever, and came together withing 10 minutes. wrap it and kept it to rest for 30 minutes only.

#2 Bechamel
Preparation Time: 15 minutes
4 tablespoons (2 ounces/60g) unsalted butter
4 tablespoons (2 ounces/60g) all purpose unbleached (plain) flour, organic stone ground preferred
2&2/3 cups (approx 570ml) milk
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste , freshly grated nutmeg to taste
Using a medium-sized saucepan, melt the butter over low to medium heat. Sift over the flour, whisk until smooth, and then stir (without stopping) for about 3 minutes. Whisk in the milk a little at a time and keep the mixture smooth. Bring to a slow simmer, and stir 3 to 4 minutes, or until the sauce thickens. Cook, stirring, for about 5 minutes, until the sauce thickens. Season with salt, pepper, and a hint of nutmeg.

#3 Country Style Ragu’ (Ragu alla Contadina)

Preparation Time: Ingredient Preparation Time 30 minutes and Cooking time 2 hours
Makes enough sauce for 1 recipe fresh pasta or 1 pound/450g dried pasta)
(I double the recipe )
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil (45 mL) ( I didn't use)
2 ounces/60g pancetta, finely chopped ( I used home made smoked bacon)
1 medium onion, minced
1 medium stalk celery with leaves, minced
1 small carrot, minced
4 ounces/125g boneless veal shoulder or round (I used Lamb shoulder chops with bones- fat trimmed, cooked them till the meat fall off the bones)
4 ounces/125g pork loin, trimmed of fat, or 4 ounces/125g mild Italian sausage (made without fennel)
8 ounces/250g beef skirt steak, hanging tender, or boneless chuck blade or chuck center cut (in order of preference)
1 ounce/30g thinly sliced Prosciutto di Parma (didn't use)
2/3 cup (5 ounces/160ml) dry red wine
1 &1/2 cups (12 ounces/375ml) chicken or beef stock (home made chicken stock)
2 cups (16 ounces/500ml) milk
3 canned plum tomatoes, drainedSalt and freshly ground black pepper to taste (added bay leaves and chopped garlic)


Cooking the Ragou
Working Ahead:

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.
Browning the Ragu Base:Heat the olive oil in a 12 inch (30cm) skillet (frying pan) over medium-high heat. Have a large saucepan handy to use once browning is complete. Add the pancetta and minced vegetables and sauté, stirring frequently with a wooden spoon, 10 minutes, or until the onions barely begin to color. Coarsely grind all the meats together, including the prosciutto, in a food processor or meat grinder. 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. Turn the contents of the skillet into a strainer and shake out the fat. Turn them into the saucepan and set over medium heat.
Reducing and Simmering: 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. Then pour the reduced wine into the saucepan and set the skillet aside.
Stir ½ cup stock into the saucepan and let it bubble slowly, 10 minutes, or until totally evaporated. Repeat with another ½ cup stock. Stir in the last 1/2 cup stock along with the milk. Adjust heat so the liquid bubbles very slowly. Partially cover the pot, and cook 1 hour. Stir frequently to check for sticking.
Add the tomatoes, crushing them as they go into the pot. Cook uncovered, at a very slow bubble for another 45 minutes, or until the sauce resembles a thick, meaty stew. Season with salt and pepper.




The Best Lasagna we ate so far!!!!!!!! Thank you ladies for choosing this recipe

23 comments:

lisamichele said...

Magnificent job, Arlette! Everything, from your photos to the lasagne look amazing! Michel must be in heaven lol

hornedfroggy said...

Very nice! :) I was too hungry and only got a picture of the plated piece! Shame on me!!

Arlette said...

Thanks you very much Lisa..
this was a yummy challenge, a bit time consuming, but the flavours were amazing, this is the best lasagne I ate so far...
Michel really enjoyed it,thank God I double the Recipe and froze them.
and you can join us

Rosa's Yummy Yums said...

Your lasagne look mighty delicious! Very well done!

Cheers,

Rosa

BC said...

It was a time consuming challenge - whew! But you did so well!

Amal said...

Marhaba, I am glad to know you and your blog, thank you for your visit on my blog and your question! I have just added a translation icon on the right of the page. very good evening!

Marija said...

Great looking lasagne! I had to skip this turn unfortunately :(

Arlette said...

Hello Marija
you can always try your hands on this fabulous recipe and I am sure you will love it.
thanks for stopping by

Passionate About Baking said...

Great job there Arlette...it looks delicious. Well done on the challenge!

chuck said...

Arlette, do you have any of that lasagna left? I can be at your house in 10 minutes lol. I just love lasagna. Yummy!!

Arlette said...

Hello Chuck,
I do have enough for another meal, I rolled my pasta very thin, and i made a 9x13 tray and froze 10 sheets, and for the ragou I made 2 1/2 the amount, using lamp chops instead of veal, I left the bones in the sauce until they fall apart.
You are most welcome, let me know when you are free!!!

Barbara Bakes said...

Great idea to use your clothes drying rack. Your lasagne looks great!

Aparna said...

That looks good, Arlette. Others definitely agree, as you can see someone wanting a share.:)

shellyfish said...

Beautiful! I now wish I would have doubled my pasta to freeze some like you did! Are you in North Bay, Ontario? I noticed North Bay on your page - I was born in the Soo! Small Daring Bakers world!

Arlette said...

Hello Shelly,
Yes I live in North Bay, Ontario.
where do you live now??? still in the Soo if so come and see me one day at the Downtown Farmer's Market.
we are neighbors... yes its a small world .

Chahira Daoud said...

Arlette!!!
Ezzayek??? Great job, your lasagna looks soooooo yummy .
We all ate lasagna may be at the same week.
We really enjoyed this month challenge, I freezed some lasagna too.
Great post Arlette
Best wishes !
Chahira
http://chahirakitchen.blogspot.com/

ice tea: sugar high said...

Fantastic job! Love your photos too..

Cakelaw said...

Lovely job Arlette - I like the photo of your steaming pot of ragu.

farida said...

You did a great job! Your lasagne looks nice and chubby:) Mine was a little thin.

creampuff said...

Nicely done, Arlette! So happy to hear that everyone loved the lasagne!

Bronwyn said...

Your lasagne looks great (deliciously gold and cheese-y)!! I used my clothes drying rack for drying pasta too. My boyfriend was all scandalized ("but you use this to dry your panties!!"). He seemed to forget all about this horror once dinner finally rolled around.

Maggie said...

Beautiful looking lasagna! I love seeing your notes.

Celeste said...

Wow...your lasagne turned out beautifully! Nicely done!!! :)