Friday, March 27, 2009

Noi mangiamo lasagna

"We eat lasagna" is for DARN SURE! Some few hundred (or more) Daring Bakers made lasagna for March! "Lasagna?" you ask. "Why, that doesn't seem like something one would purchase at a bakery." Touché. However, there will soon be a new group in Daring Kitchen Land -- the Daring Cooks! And lasagna this month was a nod in that direction. And afterall... it is baked!

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.

I have to admit, I wasn't excited when I read that our challenge would be lasagna. I love lasagna, but it still didn't excite me nor did it really challenge me since I make homemade pasta often. But I persevered... Procrastinated, but persevered. I waited until the 11th hour and made it for dinner last night -- though I had made the ragu on Monday.

This lasagna is made up of fairly simple components:
  • spinach pasta sheets
  • meat ragu
  • béchamel sauce
  • Parmesan cheese

-- you read that right; no mozzarella and no ricotta! This is "classic" lasagna which comes from the Emilia-Romagna region of Northern Italy (mozzarella is made in the South) and was traditionally made with the above listed items - even specifically the spinach in the pasta. It's also called Lasagne Verdi al Forno which means "baked green lasagna".

I was able to fit in 5 layers of pasta including the top layer

This challenge was centered around that spinach pasta and making it by hand. It was not requested or even suggested that we run out and buy a pasta machine, but I have to conclude that those of us who already owned one (or did in fact run out and buy one) had a much easier time of making this pasta. And had use of their arms and backs the next day as well! The rest of the dedicated Daring Bakers used a rolling pin, some swear words and a lot of upper body muscle! I'm a bit humbled to say that I fell into the former group. I already owned the pasta making attachments for my KitchenAid mixer. Which makes it even easier than having a hand-crank pasta machine (like Mom's). All I had to do was stand there, feed pasta sheets through, and trim them. Not much of a challenge per me. Lazy b@s+@rd...

I really never thought it'd come together with no water...

...but with enough kneading (15 minutes) it finally did!

When I read the pasta recipe (3 1/2 cups flour, 2 jumbo eggs and 6 ounces of spinach) I was SURE I was reading something wrong. Where was the other liquid? There's no way 3 1/2 cups of flour is gonna be absorbed by 2 eggs and some spinach. NO WAY. I started mixing and kneading and even had a small bowl of water at my side - just WAITING to need to incorporate it. But sure enough... after enough kneading - all was fine. I was floored! That spinach held more liquid than I could have ever imagined!

Very thin sheets of spinach pasta

I rolled my sheets to 6 thinness on the KA attachment. It was very delicate and thin and I could see the light from the window through it. Just beautiful pasta with barely a hint of spinach flavor.

Another option for drying your pasta if you run out of room on your rack

The ragu was really fantastic. It's not a very tomato-y sauce like I'm used to in lasagnas. It's all about the meat and reducing flavors into the meat. This recipe called for veal, Italian sausage, beef, pancetta and prosciutto. I went out and bought all the meats the recipe called for - even getting actual Prosciutto di Parma imported from Italy (at $TWENTY-SEVEN$ per POUND!) Good thing I only needed 1 ounce!
(The pancetta was already frying in the pan)

Mirepoix = onion, celery, carrot

The ragu starts with a mirepoix (onion, celery, carrot) to which you add the ground up meats. Reduce some wine into the mix and then a significant amount of milk (yes) and chicken stock. I luckily had some homemade chicken stock leftover from the weekend! Perhaps needless to say - this sauce was FLAVORFUL. It's such a sophisticated "gourmet" flavor that can't even compare with a tomato meat sauce.

The béchamel was of course, a piece of cake. Butter, flour, milk -- season with salt, pepper and nutmeg. I over salted my béchamel which led me to cook my noodles without salt...and all was fine!

Ready to bake

Assembly seemed like it'd be quick but took quite a while because of the layering:
1) spread béchamel
2) cook 1 layer of noodles and lay on top of béchamel
3) spread more béchamel and ragu
4) sprinkle Parmesan
-repeat- (I repeated 4 times)

The verdict?... Just eh. But, that would be my own mistake. When I made the ragu, I made half a recipe thinking we'd not need an entire 9x13 lasagna for the 2 of us. However, a couple days later, when I continued with the other ingredients and assembled - I did so in a 9x13 and did NOT half anything. Basically my brain farted. The end result was a tasty, but overly creamy and rich lasagna. I was craving more ragu (of course). I LOVED the tenderness of the homemade pasta sheets however and might never buy dried lasagna sheets again!

Those delicate sheets of pasta were worth it all

Out of pure curiosity - if anyone on this planet has read this entire entry, will you leave me a comment? I recently realized that one of my closest friends (a dedicated blog reader) can't even make her way through my long-winded DB posts. So if you do - I'd like to know and thank you!! Ha!

Follow the hosts' links to find the recipes, should you decide to tackle on your own. And don't forget to visit the other Daring Bakers for their versions as well! A new blogroll is coming soon, but until then click here. Ciao!


  1. yep i read it all! we need a pic of mike scarfing it all down or something too haha

  2. Nice pictures and beautiful Lasagne! very well done!



  3. Awesome job, Lisa! Love the step-by-step photos, and the finished lasagne is OH SO gorgeous and yummy looking!

  4. I did read through the whole post, and for someone whos wasn't excited by the challenge, you seem to have done a good post and made a lovely lasagne.:)

  5. Great job, great photos. I didn't miss the ricotta, but would have liked more tomatoes in the ragu and more bechamel in my layers. Next time!

  6. magnifiques photos pour un challenge réussi haut la main ! bravo :)

  7. It's a beautiful, well written post and I read all of it!

  8. Beautiful photos - you've got a great eye! I'm a new DB and had fun with the pasta attachment myself. I read to the end and didn't think it was a bit too long! ;)

  9. Great job on your challenge and your lasagne looks really delicious. Great pictures as well.

  10. nice post, very tenting.
    how did you put the DB logo in your template?

  11. I agree about the taste and texture of homemade pasta. Nothing can beat it! Now I have to get me one of those pasta machines :)

  12. Nicely done! Home made pasta is way tastier than store bought. :)

  13. Beautiful lasagne! I love your photos.

  14. i read it all, baby! --- all the better to make me salivate when looking at your food pictures, and to ooh and aww when the pics are of lucca.

  15. I wasnt that excited either but so glad I made it. Truth be told, I am not big on ricotta anyways, at least not in lasagna. I really loved the ragu.

    I love your makeshift drying racks, very cute.

  16. Ha! I actually DID read all of this one specifically because I told you that I never do! I passed the test! Hooray!

  17. ever - Ha! Just cuz I didn't have a pic of it doesn't mean he didn't do it!
    Rosa - Thank you Rosa!
    lisa michele - Thanks Lisa!!
    Aparna - Aw it's nice to know someone reads the whole thing! Thank you Aparna!
    ARLENE - I DID sneak a few extra tomatoes in mine. The entire can of them actually, instead of counting out 3!
    Isabelle - C'est très aimable. Merci beaucoup!
    Barbara - Thank you for reading my long-winded-ness!!
    Anne - Thanks for reading to the end! I'm not as boring as I thought! :)
    Jo - Thank you Jo!
    Nico - I left you notes on your blog for how to add the logo. Thanks Nico!
    JMom - The pasta machine DOES help quite a lot! Don't think I'd make it w/o one!
    Candice - I seriously don't think I'll be buying a lot more pasta!
    Singing Horse - Thanks you Singing Horse!
    scames - Hehe... thanks Ames! I can always count on you!!
    Lori - I liked your makeshift drying rack too! :)
    Trace - Well whaddya know... glad I wasn't too boring for ya! ;)

  18. Beautiful pictures of a beautiful outcome!

    WOW! What colors... very, very nice job!

  19. very nice job and nice looking lasagne .. I am sure you enjoyed the awesome taste!!

  20. Mmm, your lasagne looks amazing!! I love all of your photos =D.

  21. Yours looks fantastic. I did end up having to add another egg and some water to make mine come together.

  22. Gorgeous lasagne and very clever improvisation on running out of space on your rack. I just lay mine on the counter but yours is much more creative :)

  23. HI Lisa, thanks for help me with the picture stuff.
    have a good one

  24. GREAT post, long or not. I don't think I could have eaten this dish with only half the ragu, but it sure looks scrumptious!

  25. Your photos are stunning! Deliciously gorgeous..

  26. Really enjoyed your blog, the lasagna looks incredibly delicious!
    I swear i can eat the screen at the moment...

  27. Just thought I'd leave you a comment since I do read and never comment. Loved the pictures, they make your food look so yummy!

  28. I love your photos! Great job.

  29. Oh how the mighty fall. Not even a hand cranked pasta thingy. Now you've gone electric.So sad.

    Looks mighty tasty though. :)

  30. Though it takes me a couple days to get around to reading your entries, once I start them, I can't stop halfway through! I read right through to the scrumptious end every time. <3

  31. i too was not thrilled with the challenge this month, what professional pastry chef would be? i also procrastinated but in the end, i dusted off the little hand crank machine and had a blast making the sheets. yours looks wonderful!

  32. Beautiful!!! Congrats on a very successful challenge! :)

  33. Gorgeous! way to go!! Your photos are outstanding :) That was a heck of a challenge... my 1st too as a DB!