I’ve made homemade ravioli before but never lasagne - and the whole experience has been a real pleasure. This isn’t difficult. Sure it takes time, there are stages and decisions to make along the way but all in all even though I’m a first-time lasagne maker it won’t be the last.
Here's the deal:
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 made a vegetarian version of lasagne and used only half of everything (of the original recipe). I threw the rest of the lasagne noodles in the freezer for another time. I ended up with 9 layers of pasta sheets, which is okay, I think - I read somewhere that there should be al least 6 layers for it to be a real lasagne.
2 large eggs (65g)
190 g. frozen chopped spinach, defrosted and squeezed dry
350 g. all purpose unbleached (plain) flour
Since it’s still wintery here in Denmark and definitely not tomato season I bought plum tomatoes (more flavour) and made a tomato sauce with a lot of orange juice. This is perfect, if you haven’t reached tomato season yet. This is a chunky version - if you wanted you could pass it through a sieve.
Tomato sauce 500 g.
500 g. fresh plum tomatoes, skinned, seeds removed and diced
2 cloves of garlic, sliced
Juice from two oranges
A big handful of fresh basil, chopped
A little sugar, a little salt, a little pepper
Let it simmer for 20-30 minutes.
Béchamel - (I didn’t use all of it)
40 g. unsalted butter
40 g. all purpose unbleached (plain) flour
400 ml. 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.
Bring the salted water to a boil. Drop about four pieces of pasta in the water at a time. Cook about 1-2 minutes. 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 with a little olive oil (so it doesn't stick) to stop cooking. When cool, lift out and dry on a towel or paper towel. Repeat until all the pasta is cooked.
Spread a thin layer of béchamel over the bottom of the baking dish. Arrange a layer of sheets of pasta over the béchamel. Spread a thin layer of béchamel (about 2 tablespoonful) over the pasta, and then an equally thin layer of the tomato sauce. Sprinkle with about 1&1/2 tablespoons of the béchamel. Repeat the layers until all ingredients are used, finishing with béchamel sauce and topping with a generous dusting of cheese.
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. 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 very solid lasagne, but a moist one that slips a bit when it is cut and served.