Ok, now that the official rules of including the above paragraph are completed, let me tell you about March challenge. We had to make lasagna with bechamel sauce, ragu, and most importantly hand-made noodles!!!
I have made fresh pasta in some of the classes at Sur La Table, but never at home. I was excited, a bit nervous, overwhelmed and needed to buy a pasta machine because there was no way I was going to roll out the pasta by hand :)
I also did not feel like eating the entire lasagna on my own, so my friends Jenn, Laura and Wendy joined me for dinner a few weeks ago.
And now to the lasagna!
Lasagne of Emilia-Romagna
For the ragu sauce I decided to come up with my own recipe using premade tomato sauce, ground beef, mushrooms, carrots, thyme and dried hot peppers.
For the bechamel sauce I followed the recipe provided, but decided not to add the nutmeg: I'm not a huge fan. Instead, I added a few pinches of chili powder. The sauce came together without a problem, but I had to add quite a bit of milk to make it thinner once I re-heated it for the use in the lasagna.
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
4 tablespoons all purpose unbleached flour
2 & 2/3 cups milk
Salt and freshly ground pepper 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 and pepper.
And here is the pasta! It was spinach pasta! (Please click on the collage for better detail. Also, notice that I cut my finger while making the ragu, so kneading the pasta was a bit challenging. I joked with my friends that whoever finds a band aid in their piece of lasagna will win a prize. Of course it was only a joke!)
2 jumbo eggs
6 ounces frozen chopped spinach, defrosted and squeezed dry
3 & 1/2 cups all purpose unbleached flour
You basically pile your flour on a clean surface. Make a well inside of it. Drop eggs and spinach into the well and whisk the two together. Then slowly start incorporating the flour into the egg/spinach mixture. It will be a mess, but trust the process! Eventually you'll have a nice ball of dough (after at least 10 minutes of kneading!). I actually had quite a bit of flour left over...not quite sure why.
I used the manual pasta machine to stretch the dough into lasagna noodles. I then cooked it for about 2 minutes before starting to layer the lasagna.
The layers are as follows: bechamel, noodles, bechamel, ragu, Parmesan, repeat. End with noodles, bechamel, Parmesan. Bake at 350 covered for 40 minutes and then uncovered for 10. Let the lasagna sit for about 10 minutes before cutting into it.
What can I say? I was pleasantly surprised! I did not think the bechamel sauce would work in this recipe. But it totally did. The girls liked the lasagna too (and Laura ended up not even missing the ricotta!). The pasta was so insanely thin (in a good way) that it pretty much just melted in your mouth.
I have the leftover lasagna in the freezer to eat after my trip to Las Vegas.
Speaking of Vegas, when you read this post on Thursday, March 27th, I will be in Vegas celebrating my 30th birthday: the long weekend with Anna and our friend Lera! I promise to return your comments once I come back.
Can't wait to find out what challenge awaits the Daring Bakers in April!