Sunday, March 29, 2009

Daring Bakers March Challenge: Spinach Lasagna

You better believe that when I read this month's DB challenge was to make a lasagna completely from scratch that I was stoked and then some. Knowing I had a few dinners with friends and family scheduled at the end of the month, last week I dove in headfirst to make the spinach lasagna dish in one night. To be more accurate, 5 hours start to finish but I'm not bragging or anything. :0

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.

This recipe challenge had 3 parts: spinach pasta, meat ragu, and a bechamel sauce. My changes to the recipes are in Red. I also want to give a bit of a disclaimer, I don't have pics of the process of making this dish as many DBers do. Once I'm in the zone I can't stop to take pictures because of my laserbream focus.

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

#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) : I used 4 large eggs + 1 tblsp of warm water here.
  • 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)
  • *Just because I want to toot my own horn, I don't have a pasta machine and rolled these sheets out by hand-TooT TooT!!
#2 Bechamel
Preparation Time: 15 minutes
  • 4 tablespoons (2 ounces/60g) unsalted butter: I only had salted butter in the house so I used that and just omitted the salt addition below.
  • 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 : I didn't have any nutmeg so I used allspice as an alternative and it worked out nicely.

#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 : I had 2 pieces of hickory smoked bacon in the fridge, so I used that instead of the pancetta.
  • 1 medium onion, minced
  • 1 medium stalk celery with leaves, minced
  • 1 small carrot, minced
  • 4 ounces/125g boneless veal shoulder or round : My grocery had veal cut for scallopini.
  • 4 ounces/125g pork loin, trimmed of fat, or 4 ounces/125g mild Italian sausage (made without fennel) : I used an andouille sausage here to kick the flavor up a bit.
  • 8 ounces/250g beef skirt steak, hanging tender, or boneless chuck blade or chuck center cut (in order of preference) : I used beef round instead.
  • 1 ounce/30g thinly sliced Prosciutto di Parma : Omitted this due to the cost. :)
  • 2/3 cup (5 ounces/160ml) dry red wine : I used burgundy cooking 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
  • *I also chopped up 2-3 cloves of fresh garlic when I sauteed the bacon, onions, celery, and carrot. I am Italian, so it had to be done.*

Other than the noted changes, I made one other major alteration: ricotta cheese. I can live without the mozzarella in a lasagna but I cannot fathom enjoying this dish without the ricotta cheese. The rest of the dish was assembled and baked exactly to the challenge's speficiations and it was so rewarding and delicious! I was able to make 3 lasagnas in 8x6 glass pans: 2 with the meat ragu and 1 that was veg because the ragu ran out. For my veg lasagna, I used asparagus, fresh spinach, onions, hot Italian cherry peppers, and added gorgonzola cheese as well to match the bite of the hot pepper with the bite of creamy cheese. These lasagnas were bells of 2 balls this past weekend and I still have some leftover. I will keep this experience with me always and probably will make my lasagna pasta by hand for the rest of my days. THANKS DB!!!!


Dragon said...

Toot away! You did a great job with this month's challenge. :)

The Duo Dishes said...

This looks like the most challenging challenge in a long time. Nice job.

Jo said...

wow does that look yummy! So impressed!

Audax said...

Great job on this challenge and I hope the dinners with friends went well. Laser beam focus I wish I had that.

Post a Comment