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Meaty spinach lasagne with béchamel sauce (Lasagne verdi al forno) recipe

Meaty spinach lasagne with béchamel sauce (Lasagne verdi al forno) recipe


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  • Recipes
  • Ingredients
  • Meat and poultry
  • Poultry
  • Chicken
  • Chicken pasta

An especially lovely and hearty lasagne. A bit of extra work, but so very worth it.

56 people made this

IngredientsServes: 8

  • Pasta
  • 140g spinach - rinsed, stemmed and dried
  • 2 eggs
  • 100g pasta flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 190g plain flour
  • Ragu
  • 30g butter
  • 2 rashers bacon, diced
  • 1 carrot, diced
  • 1 stick celery, diced
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 100g lean pork mince
  • 100g lean beef mince
  • 100g minced ham
  • 2 tablespoons tomato purée
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 240ml beef stock
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 100g chicken livers, trimmed and chopped
  • Béchamel
  • 30g butter
  • 2 tablespoons plain flour
  • 480ml warm milk
  • 1 pinch salt
  • 1 pinch ground nutmeg
  • Cheese
  • 135g grated Parmesan cheese
  • 570g ricotta cheese
  • 45g butter

MethodPrep:1hr ›Cook:30min ›Ready in:1hr30min

    To make pasta dough:

  1. Steam the spinach in a steamer or over boiling water until bright green, 2 minutes. Squeeze to remove excess moisture and process in a food processor to make a paste. Combine spinach with eggs, pasta flour and salt and process until smooth. Stir in enough of the flour to make a smooth dough. Knead briefly, cover and set aside.
  2. To make ragu:

  3. In a large frying pan, melt butter over medium-high heat. Saute bacon, carrot, celery and onion until onion is translucent. Stir in pork, beef and ham and cook until browned. Stir in tomato purée, oregano and beef stock (reserve the chicken livers for later). Season with salt and pepper, reduce heat to low, cover and simmer 20 minutes.
  4. To make béchamel:

  5. While the ragu is simmering, combine 2 tablespoons butter and 2 tablespoons flour in a medium saucepan over medium-low heat. Whisk to make a roux. Remove from heat, let rest one minute, then whisk in warm milk. Return to heat, simmer 10 minutes, stirring constantly, until thickened. Season with salt and nutmeg. Remove from heat.
  6. To cook pasta:

  7. Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to the boil. On a floured surface, divide pasta dough into three portions. Roll each portion out to a thin sheet. Have ready an ice water bath. Cook each sheet 3 minutes in the boiling water; remove from the boiling water and dip in the ice water; drain and dry on a clean, dry cloth.
  8. To finish ragu:

  9. Stir the chicken livers into the simmering sauce. Cook 1 minute, remove from heat and set aside.
  10. Preheat oven to 200 C / Gas 6. Grease a 20x30cm baking dish.
  11. To assemble lasagne:

  12. Place one pasta sheet in bottom of prepared baking dish. Spread one third of the ragu, one quarter of the béchamel, one third of the ricotta and one quarter of the Parmesan over the pasta. Repeat layers twice. Top with remaining béchamel and Parmesan and dot with butter.
  13. Bake in preheated oven 30 minutes, until top is golden brown.

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Reviews & ratingsAverage global rating:(52)

Reviews in English (46)

by Kelsolake

D*MN! is all I and my family can say! I took this to a big family get together and it was voted unanimously (By northern italians) the BEST lasagne they ever had. We are talking raised in northern Italy folks. Well, I made a few adjustments, to make it a bit easier. I used Barilla oven ready lasagne noodles, mixed my ricotta with 0ne egg and 1 frozen, but thawed and squeezed dry box of spinach. I thickened the bechamel by using 4T of flour instead of 2, it was very runny with just 2. (Dont skip the nutmeg, this is a great flavor complement. For the meat I used 7oz each of ground Buffalo, pork and veal. (Veal makes a difference, dont just use ground beef) and instead of tomato paste, I added 1 16oz can of wild porcini marinara.(found at Trader Joes) This is going in my forever book here at home. Not too saucy, not too cheesy, PERFECT!-13 Sep 2004

by Jenwee99

The best lasagne I have ever had. I am never going back to the American version. The bechemel sauce really is key to this dish. One thing for new cooks making bechemel sauce, make sure you use whole milk. I tried making it once with skim milk and it didnt work. You need that fat in there. You can make the meat sauce a day or two ahead so it will develop its flavors more-29 Jan 2005

by KATHY A

Alrighty,I found the pasta easy to make if you use your food processor. A good marble or teflon rolling pin makes rolling the pasta a breeze. No real need for a pasta machine here. You can also make the pasta sheets the night before, layer between wax paper and refrigerate to expedite things in the kitchen the next day.(do not cook pasta until ready to use)I decided to double both sauces just in case I felt a single batch was too little. (another reader complained of too little sauce) If you use a small food processor to chop your vegetables you will be done in record time.I used most of both sauces when I assembled the lasagna. What a delightful aroma while the Ragu was cooking.This is not difficult, it just sounds that way.Excellent flavors! Do try this one, you will be pleased, my guests certainly were.-24 Oct 2005


Use real butter

Recipe: lasagne of emilia-romagna

There is a lot going on this week at urb and much of it is happening while I am away (skiing). What now? Daring Bakers challenge time! If any of you follow the DBers, we have a sweet new home at The Daring Kitchen. You should go and check it out some time. And while we’re at changing homes, I had to say goodbye to my Bond-esque whisk-toting Daring Baker in exchange for…

the chopping ninja – haya!



Alright, here’s the party line: 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.

And let’s not forget our fearless, awesome, ass-kicking, super sexy founders: Lis of La Mia Cucina and Ivonne of Cream Puffs in Venice. They make all of this possible (with the help of several others – you know who you are! We love you!).

flap steak, ground veal, prosciutto, pancetta, pork loin

someone was really excited about the country style ragu



This recipe is fantastic if you want something truly delicious to grace your table. This recipe sucks if you don’t have a full day to devote to making it. I’m glad I did it for the knowledge and experience, but I probably won’t do it again without one of those hand crank pasta dealies. The sauce was also pretty involved, but good. It was very… meaty. A little too much meat for our tastes.

the ragu begins with minced onion, carrot, celery, and pancetta

browning the ground meat



The ragu involved a lot of browning and reduction of liquids which was responsible for the intense flavor in the sauce. I actually enjoyed the part where the meat was browned and left a nice layer of fond on the pan. That deliciousness was not wasted – oh no no no, it was reduced with some red wine and then added to the sauce.

fond on the pan

grating nutmeg into the bechamel sauce



The meat sauce continued to simmer and reduce for another couple of hours. Meanwhile I prepared the Bechamel sauce which was unbelievably simple to make by comparison. After all of the sauces were covered and waiting on the stove, I tackled the real challenge: the pasta.

eggs, spinach, flour



I’ve never made pasta by hand before. This was exciting though, because it was a beautiful shade of bright green due to the chopped fresh spinach. Rolling the pasta out, I discovered that I didn’t have the patience to bring it to the thin see-through final state it was supposed to be. It was thin enough though. I only let my pasta dry for a couple of hours before boiling it for 2 minutes and then patting it dry for the assembly.

rolling out a quarter of the dough at a time

sheets of pasta drying on my towel rack in the living room



By the time I was assembling the lasagne, I was in no mood for photographing anything. It came together quickly (but I had double the amount of pasta needed). Now the recipe says to cover the lasagne for the first 40 minutes and then to uncover it for the last 10 minutes of baking. It is not supposed to have a golden crust, but be creamy white. Screw that! I *live* for that golden crunchy crust on top. So I left mine uncovered for the entire 50 minutes and it was fantastic.

A HUGE thanks to our founders and hosts for this challenge. I am quite the fan of the savory challenges because I actually eat them. Be sure to visit other Daring Bakers around the food blogosphere to see what they made! [The new blogroll will be up eventually, but for now, use the old one.]

i am a baking machine



Lasagne of Emilia-Romagna (Lasagne Verdi al Forno)
[print recipe]
from The Splendid Table: Recipes from Emilia-Romagna, the Heartland of Northern Italian Food by Lynne Rossetto Kasper
(Serves 8 to 10 as a first course, 6 to 8 as a main dish)

10 quarts (9 litres) salted water
1 recipe Spinach Pasta cut for lasagna
1 recipe Bechamel Sauce
1 recipe Country Style Ragu
1 cup (4 oz./125g) freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano

Working 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°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.

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°F (180°C). 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.

spinach egg pasta (pasta verde)
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 oz./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 (organic stone ground preferred)

Working by hand you will need: 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. 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. 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).

Dry the pasta at room temperature and store in a sealed container or bag.

4 tbsps (2 oz./60g) unsalted butter
4 tbsps (2 oz./60g) all purpose unbleached (plain) flour, organic stone ground preferred
2 2/3 cups (approx 570ml) milk
salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
nutmeg to taste, freshly grated

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.

country style ragu’ (ragu alla contadina)
makes enough sauce for 1 recipe fresh pasta or 1 pound/450g dried pasta)

3 tbsps extra virgin olive oil (45 mL)
2 oz./60g pancetta, finely chopped
1 medium onion, minced
1 medium stalk celery with leaves, minced
1 small carrot, minced
4 oz./125g boneless veal shoulder or round
4 oz./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 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
salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

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 1/2 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.

66 nibbles at “daring bakers: lasagne”

To me, lasagne is all about the golden cruncy crust too!
Impressive work, Jen – I don’t think pasta making will ever be my kind of baking…

Hi Jen!
If you want to make fresh pasta again, do yourself a favour and buy a pasta rolling machine. Believe me, it makes your life a whole lot easier – I’m using mine to even knead the dough (just put it through the machine at the thickest setting 4-5 times and it becomes silky smooth and just a little bit shiny). I also don’t dry my fresh pasta before cooking – whats the point in making fresh pasta, if you dry it?

Als alsways your food looks delicious and your pictures are … *wow*.

Your lasagne looks perfect, and the photos are (as usual) perfection. Kudos on the hand rolling, I couldn’t do it!

You dis a wonderful job, as always! your lasagne look really delicious and tempting! I love the presentation and the picture of your sad drooling dog -P!

Cheers and have a nice weekend,

love the vivid green color! have a blast skiing jen!

That fresh green color in the pasta is wonderful. And I agree, baked pastas dishes need that golden crunchy coating on top.

Wow, so great to see a savory dish from the DBers…and pasta. How much better can it get? :) Looks really delicious, Jen.

I’ve seen many wonderful efforts, but yours has to be the most perfect I’ve viewed thus far. Outstanding! And, I love your kitchen “helper.”

Wow, that really is a lot of meat. I went veg on this one, because I couldn’t countenance buying that many types of meat when I barely ever eat it. The end product? Beautiful, as always :)

Now that is a seriously ass-kickin’ lasagne. Go DBs! :D

Yours looks so pretty compared to mine!

This is absolutely gorgeous and so delicious looking. I love how your layers come out so neatly. Mine was a big mess unfortunately!

Wow! That is impressive and beautiful! I’m not sure I would go for that much meat but it would be fun to make once. Now if I only had that much time to make it! :)

Looks great. I’m with you though–it was an awful lot of work and I don’t love lasagne that much–and I even have a pasta roller, haha. I did mine over 2 days to maintain my sanity.

you are definitely the woman. I could not do it…too much work. :) but it looks yummy

Such a vibrant green dough- Lovely photographs as usual. Glad you enjoyed this challenge, makes it more worthwhile for me to have slogged through knowing that it was appreciated by others!

It looks amazingly fantastic but I was SO not up to making lasagna from scratch this month. Sadly.

Looks great! your dough came together much more nicely than mine did. And I agree about the top crust being more yummy when it’s crispy like that.

You are a baking machine. And, whew, you did this without a pasta machine. Why you are a ninja!

Absolutley… my favourite picture is of the soulful puppy eyes at the table edge! We’re howling over that one.

How fun to work with green dough. The final presentation is beautiful!

Oh my word. That is divine. So much meat… mmm, meaaaaat. Can you really have too much meat? ^_^ That pasta is such a vibrant shade of green. Everything looks amazing!

Hope you have some in the freezer because I am coming over!! Gorgeous!

i am a baking machine

Um, YEAH YA ARE. Jeebus. Your pictures are outstanding. I want to dive into that spinach.

LUUUUUUV that picture of you kneading the dough. What a fantastical shade of green!! I totally cheated and used my pasta machine. Not even the hand crank kind (where one would have to do a BIT of work) but the one that runs on my mixer. I may as well have sat in front of the TV, drinking a beer while I made my pasta…

Have fun on the slopes! I’m FINALLY hitting them (the Tahoe ones) next weekend after an embarrassing number of years of absence. I’m going to fall on my ass at the first turn for lack of quadriceps.

are you tired? i’m too pooped to pop )

what a beautiful picture and a lovely result!

They look absolutely fantastic ! Malting in the mouth !

That looks amazing :-)! Great photographs :-)!!

Your pictures look lovely, and the green of the lasagne really lends itself to pictures. I really love the eyes of the “excited someone” in your picture.

reading rosetto’s recipe I had the same sensation.
too meaty for my taste!
in our family we use only beef meet grounded, onion. carrot and celery and anything else but tomatoes.
so I did.
your work looks great and I’m so glad I’m a savoury fan, too!!

everything looks fantastic! i love the green of the pasta and look at that dice on the veg…well done!

I made a vegetarian ragu, (Catholic, Friday, Lent), and it was delicious, but really cried out for crispy pancetta. I am in total lust for all these talented photographers. As wonderful as mine tasted, I just can’t capture it on film! You did a fabulous job. I love the pic with the dog, my Bichon hangs around when there’s chocolate in the oven! Heading back into your blog to see the old challenges..

Mmm, your lasagne looks amazing!! Beautiful pictures =D!

You ARE a baking machine! Gorgeous lasagne — I just love the perfection of your drying strips. Very, very nice. I liked this challenge so much, I’m going to put off buying a pasta maker. Figure my arms need some definition. Hahahahaha!

Beautiful photos and lasagne! I especially liked the one of your little kitchen helper.

golden crust is the best part! looks delicious!

beautiful lasagna jen! I felt bad when i didn’t make this because it sounds so good. love the color of that pasta. so vibrant!

Awesome color in those noodles. That rolling is really a work out isn’t it. Surprising that you had any ragu sauce for the lasagne with your “helper” ))
Gorgeous lasagne!

Wow, what gorgeous photos! Yum. Looks like really delicious lasagne!

Stunning photos as always! I always love it coming to your blog. SO vibrant and deliciously tempting!

LOOOOOOOVELY lasagna. And a cute dog too :-D

I am completely in awe that you rolled the whole thing by hand. You are *definitely* a baking machine.

The drying pasta sheets look like a plant in the morning dew.

I love the colour your acheived with your pasta. Simply gorgeous! Oh and your puppy is adorable. :)

Awesome lasagne! I too love the golden crunchy top – but eschewed it for the sake of adhering to the recipe as faithfully as possible, this time round.

Wow. I’m liking the savoury options in Daring Bakers lately. This looks very involved and delicious.

wow, nice job! You make it looks so easy!

How in the heck did I miss this? I know I came over here the other day to check out your lasagne. I forgot to leave my comment!

Anyway, it looks gorgeous and delectable, as usual! It was a ton of work, but I though it was so worth it in the end. Hope you enjoyed yours.

[…] here’s El Spatulla, urb-style: But what are the Daring Bakers anyway? Find out at the new […]

Truly drool-worthy. Just beautiful.

Everyone – thanks for your sweet comments about the lasagne AND the pup :)

Lisa – have fun babe and be careful!! :)

Margie – yes, tired. That hand rolling killed my f#$%#$% back!

kellypea – you are one brave lady! I am never going to hand-roll pasta again. I think it killed two potential ski days for me while my back recovered :(

Susan – it happens to me too, sweetie. I can’t keep up any more – and apparently my brain is on vacay )

That pictures of the big round green pasta is just gorgeous! Well and so is the lasagna itself!

WOW! Other than that I am speechless!

I love how bright green your pasta turned out. I couldn’t agree more about the crust- definitely the best part!

I love your photos and your dog is so cute! He does look like he’s just waiting for a morsel of meat to fall off the board. lol!

We’ll be making this…mmmmmmm i love a good ragu! And adding spinach to anything is always good!

Your lasagna looks beautiful. I, too, could only roll so much! Great blog!

[…] missed last month’s Daring Bakers Challenge which was a lovely looking lasagna with handmade noodles. It was a tough month in my world and while the lasagna sounded delicious, […]

This is awsome, this is different than my method but i will give it a try. Thank you

Made this tonight, and while it was time consuming, it was excellent. What a great type of lasagna. Was my first time making pasta, which turned out a lot easier than I thought. Thanks for the step by step, it was really nice to have a visual to check to make sure everything I was doing was on track. Thank you!

Wow! Just discovered your web site. Everything looks so great and inspires me to head for the kitchen. This lasagna recipe is TRULY Italian – the way lasagna should be made :-)


The Daring Lasagne

OK, let me just say here once and for all that I am one daring kitchen ninja. Over and over I takn the daring baker’s challenge like a good little blogger, and then I make it at the last minute, inevitably and usually when I am about to throw a party. It makes sense right? I mean, I need people to eat the challenge after I make it, so I invite them over. But I always tend to get in a little over my head.
This month was no exception. Posting date (for which I am late, sorry a million times) was Joey’s birthday, and when I discovered that the challenge was for a traditional Northern Italian lasagne, I knew that the stars were aligned. Because the thing is, Joey feels kind of spiritual about lasagne. And he was going to be thirty and it was all going to be perfect.
But you hear the tone of doom in my voice, right? Because then I decided to surprise him with some friends from out of town, and before I know it, it’s Friday morning, and I’m making two traditional Northern Italian lasagnes, and two cheesecakes, and four loads of laundry, and lots of table setting, and I’m making up new cocktails and drinking them too just to calm my speeding heart as I run, yes run around the house.
But of all of these things, the lasagne is the thing that I am most cocky about, because although making fresh pasta might be intimidating for some people, I make it a lot, and I am not scared in the least.
I have this fabulous little crank pasta maker that my friend Eilen gave me for my birthday last year, and it’s so fun and easy, I make pasta once a week. So why should I be scared?
OK, I’ll tell you why.
1. I am throwing a suprise dinner and making lasagne at the last minute. Disastrous already.
2. This lasagne involves a ragu sauce which takes a lot of time, in fact, about as many hours as there are kinds of meat involved.

3. The lasagne uses a bechemel sauce instead of ricotta, and I tend to have a hard time thickening bechemel sauce. This is one irrational reason (among several rational ones) that I want to go to culinary school.
4. Two words: spinach pasta.

Spinach pasta is different than non spinach pasta. The moisture content is not what I’m used to, but somehow, I wrestled it into a ball.

And this brings us to 5:15 last night, a half an hour before Joey is supposed to arrive. My kids are crying for some reason beyond me. My ten-year-old sister, who I have put in charge of the girls while I make this lasagne, is finally shouting “Go on cry! Cry about how bad your life is!” This stops the crying, and my sister is my hero. I am diligently trying to run the little balls of spinach pasta through the machine, and I swear the thing is pooping out these little sticky balls of stuff, and it’s all just falling apart. This has never happened to me. And I have made a double batch of spinach noodles and there is mushy spinach dough everywhere. And then I start to panic. My friend Meg arrives, and I’m holding back the tears and I’m thinking maybe I should just order pizza. And she says, screw the pasta maker, use the rolling pin. This works better, and I’m assembling as I go. I’ve made lasagne with fresh noodles before, and I always skip the drying and cooking of the noodles and I like the result. So I’m assembling, and my bechemel is pretty runny, and the ragu is all milky, and the noodles are all holey and awful looking, and this whole thing is just, well, as Joey would call it, “lasagne fail”.
I’m not giving up now though, and I bake the thing, and people are arriving and I’m now really drinking because boy do I need it, and I’m just trying not to think about the horrible disaster in the oven.
Everything else is going well, although the white bean stew burns and I drop one of the cheesecakes on the floor, but it ends up on the right side.
Joey comes, and everyone says surprise and I’m still running around and I take the lasagnes out of the oven.

And they don’t look so bad, although we’re definitely going to need bowls. I have created a new dish: lasagne soup.
But then something miraculous happens. It sets up. And awestruck, I put it on a plate.

And it’s friggin’ delicious. I mean so good, every part of it. A masterpiece.
Told you I was a kitchen ninja. Did you really think it was going to end poorly?

And you too can be a kitchen ninja. And make sure you check out all the exciting accounts of daring lasagnes from the fabulous daring bakers. Here are the details:

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
1 recipe Bechamel Sauce (recipe follows)#2
1 recipe Country Style Ragu (recipe follows)#3
1 cup (4 ounces/125g) freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano

Method
Working 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: (note: I didn’t do this)
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 1Ž/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)

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) (note, I used four eggs, but this number with vary greatly depending on the size of the eggs and the humidity of the day)
10 ounces (300g) fresh spinach, rinsed dry, and finely chopped or 6 ounces (170g) frozen chopped spinach, defrosted and squeezed dry
3Ž/2 cups (14 ounces/400g) all purpose unbleached (plain) flour (organic stone ground preferred)

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.

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.

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
2ž/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)

3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil (45 mL)
2 ounces/60g pancetta, finely chopped
1 medium onion, minced
1 medium stalk celery with leaves, minced
1 small carrot, minced
4 ounces/125g boneless veal shoulder or round
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
2/3 cup (5 ounces/160ml) dry red wine
1 Ž/2 cups (12 ounces/375ml) chicken or beef stock (homemade if possible)
2 cups (16 ounces/500ml) milk
3 canned plum tomatoes, drained
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

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.


Homemade Lasagna with Spinach-Egg Pasta, Bechamel Sauce and Italian Sausage Ragu


I chose to do the Spinach-egg pasta, the bechamel and a Ragu sauce with fresh hot Italian Sausage. I wasnt very excited about doing this challenge, I almost didnt do it. The prospect of hand-rolling the pasta and lack of my previous experience in preparing any kind of lasagna played in my mind and I decided that most probably I wouldnt do it. But then my fellow Daring Bakers posted their succesful challenges in our forum and seeing their beautiful lasagnas encouraged me to do it. Still I wasnt too eager to try it out .

My experience:

I decided to bake individual portions of lasagna so that I wouldnt have to take any chance that the lasagna would slip and get sloppy while cutting and serving.

I halved the recipe for the pasta, but still had to add 3 large eggs to make the dough. The initial dough was lumpy which turned smooth after a few minutes of kneading. The dough was left to rest for about 1 1/2 hours. The rolling-out part was a little tough, I finished mine by dividing the dough into quarters and rolling them out real thin on the counter. (Check out the picture).

Instead of cutting the pasta into long sheets, I cut them into 4" by 4" squares because of my idea to do individual portions. The pasta squares were dried at room temperature and kept in an air-tight container.

I prepared the bechamel sauce as per the instructions, but again halved the recipe. It was a very simple and quick recipe. I looooved the sauce, the taste and the color was perfect!! The addition of nutmeg really made a big difference in the taste of the sauce, it was amazing. I would love to try it out as a sauce for other dishes as well.

The meat ragu recipe given was a bit complicated with a lot of ingredients, I decided to go simple using just Fresh hot Italian Sausage (ground) for my meat ragu. Again, I halved the recipe and used about 9 1/2 oz. of ground sausage substituting it for all the other meats. Using minced onions, celery and carrots, I followed the recipe, using red cooking wine for deglazing. Actually when I browned the meat, no glaze was formed! -). I used one 14.5 oz can of whole peeled tomatoes and one 14.5 oz can of diced tomatoes for the ragu. In the end I felt that I could probably reduce the amount of tomatoes by a little amount. The ragu was also deeelicous!! I was sampling it by spoonfuls in between the cooking.

Last night, I cooked the pasta in salted boiling water and as per my decision to bake the lasagna in individual portions, I made three double lined foil boxes, based on the size of the 4" pasta squares. The lasagna was layered with two sheets of pasta interlaced with the sauces and grated Parmesan cheese. The layers were finished off with a final layer of bechamel sauce and a generous dusting of grated Parmesan cheese. I got two lasagnas with 4 layers each and one with three layers. ( I lost a few sheets to extreme boiling in the water -)). I also came up a little short of bechamel for the last portion of the lasagna.

The foil boxes were covered with foil and the lasagnas were baked at 350F for about 30 minutes. The foil cover was taken off and baked for about 5 minutes. The lasagna was allowed to rest for 10 minutes in the oven with the door slightly ajar.


Results of the Taste test :

I must say that we liked the lasagna. JM said that the lasagna was delicious and he was happy with his share. Although I liked the lasagna, I am not too crazy about it. For me, the taste didnt justify the amount of work that went into it. It sure was a very time-consuming challenge. Eventhough the individual components of the lasagna were outstanding, they didnt come together to the degree I expected. I expected an explosion of outstanding flavors, but I didnt get it. (Maybe it was my seasoning!). Anyway, I accomplished atleast part of what I set out to do - a few firsts in my culinary journey - my first ever lasagna, first homemade pasta, my first bechamel. I also gave JM a lovely homemade meal and proudly completed the requirements of the Daring Bakers challenge. Eventhough I doubt I will make this again, I am happy that I tried this out. It sure was a delicious and satisfying meal.

(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
1 recipe Bechamel Sauce (recipe follows) #2
1 recipe Country Style Ragu (recipe follows) #3
1 cup (4 ounces/125g) freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano

Method

Working 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)


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.


#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 & Cooking time 2 hours
Makes enough sauce for 1 recipe fresh pasta or 1 pound/450g dried pasta)


3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil (45 mL)
2 ounces/60g pancetta, finely chopped
1 medium onion, minced
1 medium stalk celery with leaves, minced
1 small carrot, minced
4 ounces/125g boneless veal shoulder or round
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
2/3 cup (5 ounces/160ml) dry red wine
1 &1/2 cups (12 ounces/375ml) chicken or beef stock (homemade if possible)
2 cups (16 ounces/500ml) milk
3 canned plum tomatoes, drained
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

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.

Do check out the awesome "baked-masterpieces" of my fellow Daring Bakers. Check out my previous Daring Bakers Challenges here.


Semi di Papavero

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.All recipes below 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).

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 water1 recipe Spinach Pasta cut for lasagna (recipe follows)#11 recipe Bechamel Sauce (recipe follows)#21 recipe Country Style Ragu (recipe follows)#31 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 dry3&1/2 cups (14 ounces/400g) all purpose unbleached (plain) flour (organic stone ground preferred)
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.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.
#2 Bechamel
Preparation Time: 15 minutes
4 tablespoons (2 ounces/60g) unsalted butter4 tablespoons (2 ounces/60g) all purpose unbleached (plain) flour, organic stone ground preferred2&2/3 cups (approx 570ml) milkSalt and freshly ground pepper to tasteFreshly 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)
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil (45 mL)2 ounces/60g pancetta, finely chopped1 medium onion, minced1 medium stalk celery with leaves, minced1 small carrot, minced4 ounces/125g boneless veal shoulder or round4 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 Parma2/3 cup (5 ounces/160ml) dry red wine1 &1/2 cups (12 ounces/375ml) chicken or beef stock (homemade if possible)2 cups (16 ounces/500ml) milk3 canned plum tomatoes, drainedSalt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
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.
Alternative Recipes from Mary of Beans and Caviar:
#1 Gluten Free Egg Pasta
The choice of the first flour is personal. I used corn flour because the subtle taste blended well with the dish. However, this is a matter of personal taste – please feel free to substitute a different flour for the corn flour but don't subsititute a starch.
150 gr corn flour or masa in North America - yellow with a slightly gritty feel (250 mL, 1 cup) NOT a starch100 gr corn starch* (3/4 cup, 187.5 mL)100 gr tapioca flour* (225 mL, 9/10 cup or a little over 7 volume ounces)150 gr of potato starch* (250 mL, 1 cup)100 gr of glutinous rice flour* (200 mL, ¾ cup)10 gr of Xanthan powder (1.5 tsp, 7.5 mL)10 gr of salt (1 tsp, 5 mL)6 extra large eggs (60 gr each or 2.5 oz in weight, 1 fluid oz in volume)3/8 cup of water (95 mL)50 mL of extra virgin olive oil (1/5 cup)
Note: If you add cooked chopped spinach to this recipe, you may have to reduce the water. The recipe was not tested (yet) with the addition of spinach.
*fine white powder that squeaks when rubbed between fingers
Plastic wrap or parchment paper for your work surfaceAluminium foil to cover the lasagne
Sift all the dry ingredients together in a large bowl. Make a well in the middle of the dry ingredients.
Whisk together 3 eggs, the water and/or spinach, and the oil. Pour into the middle of the dry ingredients.
Mix with a sturdy wooden spoon, gradually drawing more of the flour mix into the wet ingredients. Add each egg as needed. The dough will be crumbly at the beginning but will gradually come together as you add the eggs. You will need to use your hands to squeeze and mix the dough.The dough will be firm and stick together when ready. It will not have the elasticity of gluten dough therefore it will crack when kneaded and pushed. Form it into a smooth ball, oil it lightly, and cover securely with plastic wrap. Let it rest for an hour.
Put a sheet of plastic wrap on your work surface. This is very important as the dough will not hold together very well when lifted. Have flour ready for dusting (corn flour etc) and dust the surface lightly. Cut a piece of dough about the size of really large egg – it doesn’t matter the size but start small for the first one to gauge how much space you need. Keep the remaining dough covered so it does not dry.
Roll the dough into a ball and flatten into a disc with your hands. Put it on your work surface and flatten with your hands. Use a rolling pin and gently push the dough down and out ward from the centre. You may have to place one hand on the plastic wrap as you push the dough down and away. Gluten free dough does not stretch like wheat dough therefore it needs gentle flattening and pushing. If it breaks, pat it back together. If it is too dry, dab a little water with your finger.
The gluten free dough will be thicker than wheat dough and you will barely be able to see your hand through the dough. Once it is flattened, cut into strips or squares that will fit your pan.Set the dough aside on the plastic sheet. There is no need to dry the dough. But if you do dry the dough, it will not be able to hang because it will break. Stack the rolled out dough with plastic sheets in between.
Stack the sheets when dry and wrap securely. Store in the fridge until ready to use. Freezing will make the dough crumbly and difficult to work with – so freeze only as a last resort!This dough does not need to be precooked before being assembled into the lasagne.
#2 Gluten Free Béchamel - White Sauce
2 & 2/3 cup milk4 tablespoons unsalted butter or Extra virgin olive oil4 tablespoons corn starch (fine white and squeaky) – another starch can be substitutedSalt and pepper to tasteFreshly grated nutmeg
Mix the corn starch with ½ cup of cold milk. Heat the rest of the milk in a small sauce pan until steaming but do not boil. Add the milk/cornstarch mixture to the steaming milk. Stirring constantly, raise the heat and heat the mixture until thick. Once it is thick, remove it from the heat and add the butter, salt, pepper and nutmeg. Taste and adjust the seasonings. Have the béchamel warm or at room temperature ready to assemble the lasagne. Whisk the sauce occasionally if it becomes stiff or thick.
Assembling the Gluten Free Lasagne:The assembly is the same as the regular lasagne with the addition of water. Gluten free lasagne noodles need a little more moisture for the lasagne, so you will be adding a little bit of water to the lasagne.Before assembly, pour plain water into the pan, enough to form a thin film of water over the bottom. A 9 x 13 inch or 25 x 33 cm pan required almost ½ cup (125 mL) of water. Once the lasagne is assembled, pour a tablespoon or 15 mL of water into each corner of the dish. Cover the lasagne tightly with aluminium foil. Be careful not to touch the top of the lasagne with the foil. Bake as directed.This lasagne was baked in a glass baking dish. Adjustments in time and temperature may be needed if your dish is metal!

Questo post, fatto in fretta e furia, mi fa tornare nei Daring Bakers , dove manco da tempo. Tutto questo in onore di Enza, che questo mese ha ospitato la sfida. Grazie .


Buono Appetite – It’s Lasagne Verdi Al Forno from Emilia-Romagna : Daring Baker Challenge March 2009

It’s my Daring Baker Challenge time and 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.

Before I go any further, I would like to mention that we Daring Bakers now meet at a new address. Do drop by there to take a look at our very trendy new home, where there is a public forum for non-Daring Bakers too.

Lasagne (this is the plural form of the word and how the Italians refer to this dish, though the singular “lasagna” is more popularly used) is an Italian sheet pasta though everyone knows it as the delicious layered preparation in which this pasta is used. Lasagne Al Forno means “lasagne baked in an oven” and this version is green (hence the “verdi”) because it has spinach.

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. Yet, many people consider the lasagne as it is made in the Emilia-Romagna region in central Italy to be the best and the standard against which all other lasagne are measured.

Lasagne from this region uses pasta which is coloured green with spinach puree, béchamel sauce flavoured with nutmeg, a hearty meat and tomato ragu and Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese.

We like pasta and the thought of making lasagne at home was a bit daunting, especially as my one and only previous attempt at it was gnocchi which was an abject failure. So I put that memory on the backburner and decided to give this pasta a chance.

Going through the provided recipe it didn’t seem too difficult. The important part seemed to be to roll the pasta out as thin as possible, and I quote “the sheet should be so thin that you can clearly see your hand through it and see colours”!

The provided recipe was for a non-vegetarian version and we were free to use alternatives to suit our dietary choices. We were required to make hand-made pasta sheets, a béchamel sauce, a ragu (or alternative sauce) and follow the given instructions to assemble and bake a lasagna. You can find the detailed challenge recipe at the Daring Bakers website.

The Lasagne Sheets : Following my usual style of “cook eggless if possible”, I used Bryanna‘s eggless version to make my delightful green spinach pasta sheets.

I halved the given recipe and used the food processor to make the dough. It really cannot get any easier than this. I cooked fresh spinach, pureed it and then used it in the dough. This gave my dough a beautiful uniform green colour.

Inspired by a fellow DB‘s suggestion, I divided the dough into smaller pieces, shaped them into rough squares, rolled them out and then cut them into strips. Rolling out the pasta into thin sheets thin wasn’t a problem, even though my rolling pin is a small wooden one which is tapered at the ends. I guess the practice from years of regularly rolling out chapattis does make all the difference!

The pasta turned out thin enough for me too see my hand through it but I’m afraid I saw no colours through it. In the above picture, it looks as if I have suddenly developed green webbed fingers!

The camera has become an indispensable part of my kitchen accessories ever since I started blogging, and with this challenge, looks like our dining chairs have joined in.

I let my pasta sheets dry for about 10 minutes and then cut them into strips. I put the strips into an airtight box, separated by waxed paper, and refrigerated them till the next day when I used them.

My Sauces : I made the Béchamel sauce using the provided recipe. As the provided ragu recipe was non-vegetarian, I substituted this with my own version of Marinara sauce and stir fried finely chopped eggplant and zucchini sautéed with a bit of oil and seasoned with salt, pepper and mixed dried Italian herbs.

Assembling The Lasagne : I cooked the refrigerated pasta sheets in boiling water for about 3 to 4 minutes, ddabbed them dry on a kitchen towel and then used them for the lasagne. I had the marinara sauce in the freezer, so I thawed that and warmed it a little. I made the béchamel sauce prior to assembling the lasagne.

I followed the provided layering instructions, starting with a layer of the béchamel sauce, a layer of the pasta sheets, another layer of béchamel sauce, a layer of marinara topped with sautéed vegetables, a thin layer of grated cheese, repeating till the sauces and vegetables are used up. The last layer was a thin layer of béchamel sauce topped with a generous amount of grated cheese.

I couldn’t find Parmesan here so I used Mozarella instead. I did think of using Paneer (a soft Indian cheese) as well, but my daughter loves Mozarella so that was the way I went with the cheese. I baked my lasagna for 50 minutes (an extra 10 minutes) and left it to cool for about 20 minutes before cutting it to serve.

Even though I had a feeling that my home-made lasagna wouldn’t turn out right I was very happy to be proved wrong. It was quite good and I was happy with the way the lasagne turned out.

Using as little of the sauces to make very thin layers is definitely a defining part of this preparation. It allows one to savour the flavours in the lasagne. It also prevents one’s lasagne from becoming a “gloppy” mess!

One usually sees lasagna served with bread and salad in most places, but I’m not sure how it is served in Italy. Our lasagne was a full meal by itself.

I still haven’t decided whether I will make this again, but I have a feeling I probably will with different vegetables and cheese just to see how the flavours pair up. This sheet pasta can also be used to make cannelloni and ravioli so I might just experiment with those too, when time permits. And don’t forget to visit my fellow lasagne bakers.


Lasagne of Emilia-Romagna

Lasagne of Emilia-Romagna (Lasagne Verdi al Forno)
Recipe by Lynne Rossetto Kasper

Hi All! I'm back from my much needed vacation. I missed all of you very much. Did you miss me? :) What greater way to return than with another Daring Baker's challenge. I had a great time with this month's challenge. I can't wait to experiment with making more fresh pasta. There really is nothing like it. Enjoy!

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.

All recipes below 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).

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
1 recipe Bechamel Sauce (recipe follows)#2
1 recipe Country Style Ragu (recipe follows)#3
1 cup (4 ounces/125g) freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano

Method
Working 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)

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
3&1/2 cups (14 ounces/400g) all purpose unbleached (plain) flour (organic stone ground preferred)

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.

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.

#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)

3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil (45 mL)
2 ounces/60g pancetta, finely chopped
1 medium onion, minced
1 medium stalk celery with leaves, minced
1 small carrot, minced
4 ounces/125g boneless veal shoulder or round
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
2/3 cup (5 ounces/160ml) dry red wine
1 &1/2 cups (12 ounces/375ml) chicken or beef stock (homemade if possible)
2 cups (16 ounces/500ml) milk
3 canned plum tomatoes, drained
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

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.


Cooking 4 the Week

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 T he Splendid Table by Lynne Rossetto Kasper as the challenge.

I'm a pretty recent Daring Bakers member, so it was a pleasant surprise to me to see a savory item go onto the challenge roster. We were to make a ragu, a bechamel sauce, and most importantly, fresh spinach pasta.

The recipes were taken directly from Lynne Rossetto Kasper's glorious book The Splendid Table . The recipes are challenging, but doable, and I strongly recommend you give this dish a try. The ragu can be made ahead and frozen and the pasta can be done earlier in the day and held before assembly.

Lasagne of Emilia-Romagna (Lasagne Verdi al Forno)
(Serves 8 to 10 as a first course, 6 to 8 as a main dish)

  • 1 recipe Spinach Pasta cut for lasagna (recipe follows)
  • 1 recipe Bechamel Sauce (recipe follows)
  • 1 recipe Country Style Ragu (recipe follows)
  • 4 ounces freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano

Working 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 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. Oil or butter a 3 quart 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. (I ended up with about six layers - you may have more or less depending on the thickness of your pasta.)

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.

Spinach Egg Pasta (Pasta Verde)
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
  • 3&1/2 cups (14 ounces/400g) all purpose unbleached (plain) flour (organic stone ground preferred)

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.

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.

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).

Dry the pasta at room temperature and store in a sealed container or bag.

  • 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.

Country Style Ragu’ (Ragu alla Contadina)
Makes enough sauce for 1 recipe fresh pasta or 1 pound/450g dried pasta).
I made mine batch of this in my crockpot - it worked perfectly for the slow simmer this sauce needs.

  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil (45 mL)
  • 2 ounces/60g pancetta, finely chopped
  • 1 medium onion, minced
  • 1 medium stalk celery with leaves, minced
  • 1 small carrot, minced
  • 4 ounces/125g boneless veal shoulder or round
  • 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
  • 2/3 cup (5 ounces/160ml) dry red wine
  • 1 &1/2 cups (12 ounces/375ml) chicken or beef stock (homemade if possible)
  • 2 cups (16 ounces/500ml) milk
  • 3 canned plum tomatoes, drained
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

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.

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.


Ingredients

  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter (2 ounces 60g), plus more for greasing baking dish
  • 4 tablespoons all-purpose flour (1.25 ounces 35g)
  • 3 cups (700ml) whole milk
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • Pinch freshly grated nutmeg
  • 2 pounds (900g) fresh homemade plain egg or spinach pasta or store-bought fresh lasagna noodles, or 2 (450g) boxes dry lasagna noodles (see note)
  • Vegetable oil, for greasing pasta
  • 1 1/2 quarts (1.5L) warm ragù bolognese (choose either this classic slow-cooked version, this extra-rich oven-baked version, or this pressure-cooker version)
  • 3 ounces (85g) Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

Meaty spinach lasagne with béchamel sauce (Lasagne verdi al forno) recipe - Recipes

This was something that I feel I am an expert at-- homemade pasta! Thanks to Jon and Ali, I've had a hand pasta maker for a couple of years now and I LOVE homemade pasta. But I've never experimented with flavored pasta, so this was a great challenge!

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

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.

  • 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
  • 3&1/2 cups (14 ounces/400g) all purpose unbleached (plain) flour (organic stone ground preferred)

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.

  • 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 tasteFreshly 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)

  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil (45 mL)
  • 2 ounces/60g pancetta, finely chopped
  • 1 medium onion, minced
  • 1 medium stalk celery with leaves, minced
  • 1 small carrot, minced
  • 4 ounces/125g boneless veal shoulder or round
  • 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
  • 2/3 cup (5 ounces/160ml) dry red wine
  • 1 &1/2 cups (12 ounces/375ml) chicken or beef stock (homemade if possible)
  • 2 cups (16 ounces/500ml) milk
  • 3 canned plum tomatoes, drained
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

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.


Watch the video: Lasagne al Forno Italian Beef Lasagna (June 2022).


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