You Say Lasagne, I Say LasAAAHHgne!

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It’s official.  I’m now a convert from purchased pasta to homemade.  What a difference!  So delicate. So exquisite! (Imagine me doing that Italian kissing thing with my fingertips to my lips.)

I embarked on my maiden homemade pasta voyage a few days ago when I attempted fettuccine with pesto sauce.  Total success.  Even leftover and nuked, the fettuccine noodles were as good as hot-out-of-the-pot.  So last night I was looking forward to making Spinach Lasagne using homemade pasta.  I must admit, I was a little bit worried that the fettuccine victory might have been beginner’s luck and the lasagne noodles would not be as good.  Not so!  One bite of the Spinach Lasagne and I knew I could never go back to store-bought pasta again – even the so-called packaged ‘fresh’.

I’m not gonna lie – this meal took about 3 1/2 hours (don’t freak out – I’ve figured out how to cut down the time) from start to finish (including cooking time).  Next time I will definitely start cooking earlier.  I ended up having to prepare for a commercial audition so I didn’t start dinner until 5:00.  Yikes!  And, naturally, everything took longer than expected.  There are 4 parts to making the lasagne (5 if you count the baking):  the bechamel sauce, tomato sauce, spinach filling, and the pasta.  This recipe fits into an 8″ X 11″ casserole dish – not very big since I made this just for my husband and myself for dinner and some leftovers.  Double the recipe and use a larger pan if you need more lasagne.

1)  First thing to do is make the pasta dough, but don’t roll it out yet – it needs to rest.

PASTA

  • 1 cup flour (I used organic all-purpose)
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/2 T olive oil
  • water, as needed

In a food processor beat the egg.  Add in the flour, salt, and olive oil.  Mix.  Add in trickles of water until the flour is incorporated into the egg.  Let sit in the food processor to rest until you’re ready to roll out the dough.

2)  The next thing to do is get the tomato sauce cooking.  If you’re short on time, you can buy canned tomato sauce – but it won’t be as flavorful.  A 15 oz can should be enough.  For the tomatoes I used cherry tomatoes just because I had them on hand.  I didn’t even remove the skins since once the sauce is cooked you have to puree it – so why go to the trouble to skin them?  Plus, I’ll bet there are nutrients in the skin.  I just cut them in half.

TOMATO SAUCE

  • 1 1/2 pounds of tomatoes (any kind – I used cherry)
  • 1/2 an onion, chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, pressed
  • 1/4 tsp dried oregano
  • 1/4 cup red wine
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp pepper
  • 1 1/2 T olive oil

In a 10″ skillet heat the oil.  Add in the onion, garlic, and oregano, sauteing until the onion is translucent – a few minutes.  Mix in the salt, pepper, and tomatoes and cook slowly until the tomatoes are cooked and the sauce is thick.  Puree sauce in a blender.

3)  While the tomato sauce is cooking, prepare the spinach filling.  Where I went horribly wrong time-wise was I washed each spinach leaf individually.  That was obsessive behavior gone too far!  Spinach is incredibly dirty and I wanted to make sure it was clean.  Next time, however, I’m going to remove the leaves from the stems, put all the dirty leaves in a large bowl of water, swish them around, dump the spinach into a colander, rinse, and repeat process.  Then maybe run water over the leaves in the colander one last time.  It probably took me 20 minutes to do wash the spinach leaves individually.  Live and learn!

SPINACH FILLING

  • 1 bunch of spinach, leaves only, chopped (I used scissors, grabbing several leaves at once & hacking away)
  • 1/2 an onion
  • 1 clove garlic, pressed
  • 1 T olive oil
  • 1/8 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/8 tsp pepper
  • 1 cup cottage cheese (or ricotta cheese)
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 cup Romano cheese, shredded

Heat oil in skillet or saucepan.  Saute onion for a few minutes, then add garlic, salt, and spinach.  Saute until the spinach is wilted.  In a bowl beat the egg.  Add in the pepper, nutmeg, cottage cheese, Romano cheese, and spinach mixture.

4)  Make the bechamel sauce when you get a chance.  It only takes a few minutes.

BECHAMEL SAUCE

  • 1/2 T butter
  • 1/2 T flour
  • 1/2 cup milk (any kind – I used nonfat)
  • 1/8 tsp each of salt, pepper, ground nutmeg  (you really don’t have to measure – just sprinkle)

In a small saucepan melt butter over low heat.  Sprinkle in flour and smoosh flour and butter together, making sure there are no lumps.  Add milk and seasonings.  Stir until thickened.

5) Shred 8 oz mozzarella cheese

Now it’s time to roll out the pasta.  Mine turned out pretty ugly – they were all sorts of sizes – even a couple of holes here and there.  The beauty of lasagne is you never see the faults since everything is layered.  Yay!  So don’t sweat it if your pasta comes out odd looking.  It’s a learning process.  I’m sure next time mine will come out better looking.  You’ll need (depending on their width) about 3 pasta sheets for the bottom and each layer.  The bottom ones need to be extra long since they’re going to go up the sides of the casserole and a little beyond.  They’ll be folded over the top at the end.  I chose to make 2 layers of filling, thus I needed 3 layers of pasta.  But you can have more, if you want, dividing up the fillings.  This pasta recipe will yield enough dough to have 4 layers.

When the dough is rolled out and cut to size, boil it for about 1-2 minutes.  Then immediately transfer the pasta into a bowl of cold water.  You might even want to add ice cubes to keep the water cold.  This will stop the cooking process.

To build your lasagne, lightly oil your casserole dish.  Pour half of the bechamel sauce on the bottom.  Layer on the longest pasta sheets, covering all sides.  On the narrow sides of the casserole the pasta should be long enough to drape over the edge.  Pour on the tomato sauce, then sprinkle on half the mozzarella.  Layer on more pasta sheets (these don’t have to go up the sides – just lay on top).  Pour on the spinach filling.  Sprinkle on the rest of the mozzarella.  Layer on the rest of the pasta sheets.  Fold the bottom layers that are hanging over the sides over the top so the lasagne is now a nice package.  Pour on the rest on the bechamel sauce.  Cover with foil.

Bake at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for 20 minutes.  Remove foil and bake another 15 minutes.  The top should start to brown.  It was taking too long (and I was starving) so I increased the temperature to 375 degrees after the 15 minutes – that worked out fine.  It took another 5 minutes – you don’t want it golden brown, just starting to brown.  Let the lasagne rest for about 10 minutes before slicing.

Next time I make Spinach Lasagne (and there WILL be a next), I’m going to make extra tomato sauce and freeze it for future use.  That will cut down on cooking time.  I always like to make extra when something freezes well.  The spinach filling wouldn’t freeze well, sadly.

This was definitely a time consuming recipe, but well worth the effort.  I promise!

 

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