The March 2009 Daring Bakers 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.
There are many kinds of lasagna and even in Italy every cook has his own recipe. But this is the real, traditional lasagna that is made in the Emilia-Romagna region of Italy, the birthplace of fresh egg pasta. It is made with homemade fresh spinach pasta, bechamel sauce and bolognese sauce. That's it. Each of these three components can be made at separate times, so there isn't so much to do all at once. You can certainly make the bolognese sauce a day before and the bechamel can even be made in the morning and allowed to cool.
Spinach Lasagna with Bolognese Sauce
for a printer friendly recipe, click here
makes an 8x8 pan
For the Bolognese Sauce:
- 8 ounces ground pork
- 1 pound ground beef (chuck preferred)
- 1/2 cup diced carrot
- 1/2 cup diced onion
- 1/4 cup diced celery
- 3 garlic cloves, minced
- 3/4 cup red wine
- 15 ounce can crushed tomatoes
- 3 cups beef broth
- 2 teaspoon dried oregano
- 2 bay leaves
For the Bechamel sauce:
- 1/4 cup butter
- 1/4 cup flour
- 2 cups milk (whole preferred, but can be made with 1%)
- 1 chicken boullion cube (Knorr preferred)
- 1/2 teaspoon grated nutmeg
For the Spinach Pasta:
- 5 ounces fresh spinach
- 2 to 2-1/2 cups flour
- 3 eggs
- Freshly grated Parmesan cheese
Make the bolognese sauce:
In a large heavy pot, brown the meats. Remove from the pot and set aside. If there is a lot of fat in the pot, drain but do not wipe clean. Add about a tablespoon of olive oil. Add all the vegetables (not the garlic) and saute these slowly for several minutes. Add the garlic and cook for one minute. Add the wine and cook for a couple of minutes and then add the tomato sauce and put the meat back in the pot. Add the broth and cook, uncovered, for one hour until the sauce is greatly reduced. Check for salt and add to taste. Cook until the liquid is reduced down but not completely evaporated. At this point you can let cool and refrigerate until you are ready to use.
Make the bechamel sauce:
In a heavy saucepan melt the butter. Add the flour and cook, stirring with a whisk, for a couple of minutes. Add the milk slowly, whisking, until all the milk is added. Add the boullion cube and the grated nutmeg. Whisk and cook over medium heat for several minutes, until slightly thickened. Remove from heat and pour into a heatproof bowl or Pyrex cup. Let cool.
Make the pasta:
Steam the spinach until just wilted. Cool a little and squeeze all the liquid out. Chop finely. Mound flour on work surface. Make a well in the center and break eggs into the well. Beat lightly with fork and add the spinach into the eggs. Mix with fork. Start incorporating the flour until all the flour is added. If still sticky, add more flour, little by little, until you have a dough that is not too dry and not too sticky. Knead by hand for 5 minutes. Wrap in well floured plastic wrap and set aside to rest at least for 30 minutes.
Cut a section of dough and put through pasta maker rollers on widest setting. Fold in thirds, dust with more flour, and put through rollers again. Do this a few times and then adjust rollers to next number. Put pasta through the rollers, adding flour if you need to so it doesn't stick. Adjust rollers to next number and run pasta through until you run the pasta through setting #5 (this is the thinnest I make these noodles). Lay pasta out on well floured surface and cut to length of your pan.
Bring a large pot of well salted water to boil and prepare a large bowl filled with ice water. Cook the lasagna noodles, only 2 or 3 at a time for just a minute or so. Take out with a large spider and place the pasta in the ice bath for a couple of minutes. Remove the pasta and place on a clean towel. Repeat until all the pasta is cooked.
* Use Reynolds Wrap Nonstick foil for lasagna. If you don't know about this foil, it truly does not stick to foods like cheese, which makes it perfect for removing from lasagna. It's the only foil I buy now.