Friday, March 27, 2009

Daring Bakers Challenge--Lasagna of Emilia-Romagna

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.

When I made these Sticky Buns last month, my friend Natalie convinced me that I should join The Daring Bakers (now The Daring Kitchen, and they will be doing Daring Cooks challenges next month too). So this is my first official challenge. I like challenges. This almost feels like getting an assignment from school or something, only WAY more fun.

For those of you who are wondering about The Daring Kitchen, please visit their website.

For my first challenge, Natalie and I decided to work together. I am really grateful that Natalie allowed me to use her expertise for this because (1) I don't own a kitchenaid mixer (anyone out there want to sponsor me, or put a good word in with Pioneer Woman? Anyone? Anyone...dang), and (2) I have never made homemade pasta before. I've made lasagna my Brazilian way, but never the noodles from scratch.

We, unfortunately didn't get any pictures of us working in the kitchen. (Natalie had her camera in the kitchen, and I even brought my camera with me, and we still forgot). But out lasagna was a masterpiece. Natalie made the dough for the noodles ahead of time, and I worked on the sauces, and we brought it all together.

(Gluten-Free) Lasagne of Emilia-Romagna
from The Splendid Table by Lynne Rossetto Kasper
(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 gluten-free Spinach Pasta cut for lasagna (recipe follows)
1 recipe Bechamel Sauce (recipe follows)
1 recipe Sarah's Ragu (recipe follows)
1 cup (4 ounces/125g) freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano

Working Ahead:
The ragu and the béchamel sauce can be made up to three days ahead. The ragu can also be frozen for up to one month. The pasta can be rolled out, cut and dried up to 24 hours before cooking. The assembled lasagne can wait at room temperature (20 degrees Celsius/68 degrees Fahrenheit) about 1 hour before baking. Do not refrigerate it before baking, as the topping of béchamel and cheese will overcook by the time the center is hot.

Assembling the Ingredients:
Have all the sauces, rewarmed gently over a medium heat, and the pasta at hand. Have a large perforated skimmer and a large bowl of cold water next to the stove. Spread a double thickness of paper towels over a large counter space. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit (180 degrees Celsius). Oil or butter a 3 quart (approx 3 litre) shallow baking dish.

Cooking the Pasta: (This step is not necessary if you make gluten-free pasta)
Bring the salted water to a boil. Drop about four pieces of pasta in the water at a time. Cook about 2 minutes. If you are using dried pasta, cook about 4 minutes, taste, and cook longer if necessary. 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 to stop cooking. When cool, lift out and dry on the paper towels. Repeat until all the pasta is cooked.

Assembling the Gluten-Free Lasagne:
The assembly is the same as the regular lasagne with the addition of water. Gluten free lasagne noodles need a little more moisture for the lasagne, so you will be adding a little bit of water to the lasagne.

Before assembly, pour plain water into the pan, enough to form a thin film of water over the bottom. A 9 x 13 inch or 25 x 33 cm pan required almost ½ cup (125 mL) of water. Once the lasagne is assembled, pour a tablespoon or 15 mL of water into each corner of the dish. Cover the lasagne tightly with aluminium foil. Be careful not to touch the top of the lasagne with the foil. Bake as directed.

Assembling the Lasagne:
Spread a thin layer of béchamel over the bottom of the baking dish. Arrange a layer of about four overlapping sheets of pasta over the béchamel. Spread a thin layer of béchamel (about 3 or 4 spoonfuls) over the pasta, and then an equally thin layer of the ragu. Sprinkle with about 1&1/2 tablespoons of the béchamel and about 1/3 cup of the cheese. Repeat the layers until all ingredients are used, finishing with béchamel sauce and topping with a generous dusting of cheese.

Baking and Serving the Lasagne:
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 (test by inserting a knife – if it comes out very warm, the dish is ready). 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 solid lasagne, but a moist one that slips a bit when it is cut and served.

Gluten-Free Spinach Egg Pasta
adapted from an anonymous commenter on Tomatilla!

1/3 cup potato starch
2/3 cup cornstarch
2/3 cup fine cornflour
1 cup tapioca flour
2/3 cup white rice flour
1 tsp salt
6 oz frozen spinach, thawed, squeezed dry, and chopped
5 tbsp olive oil
6 eggs

Put all dry ingredients in a Kitchen Aid mixing bowl and sift several times to combine. Add the olive oil, eggs, basil and garlic and thoroughly knead with kneading attachment to make a stiff dough. Adjust flour if needed or add a little water. Once thoroughly combined, wrap dough ball in plastic wrap and let sit for 30 minutes to rest.

Break about 1/6th of the dough ball off, rewrap the rest to prevent it drying out. Either roll out thinly on the counter top by hand or use a pasta machine.

Sare's Notes:
1. The noodles wouldn't thin out, and we're guessing it is due to their gluten-free nature. The noodles were very hearty this way, and no one seemed to mind.
2. Being Gluten-free did not have any effect on the taste of the noodles, in my opinion.

Gluten Free Béchamel - White Sauce
(original challenge recipe)

2 & 2/3 cup milk
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
4 tablespoons corn starch (fine white and squeaky) – another starch can be substituted
Salt and pepper to taste
Freshly grated nutmeg

Mix the corn starch with ½ cup of cold milk. Heat the rest of the milk in a small sauce pan until steaming but do not boil. Add the milk/cornstarch mixture to the steaming milk. Stirring constantly, raise the heat and heat the mixture until thick. Once it is thick, remove it from the heat and add the butter, salt, pepper and nutmeg. Taste and adjust the seasonings. Have the béchamel warm or at room temperature ready to assemble the lasagne. Whisk the sauce occasionally if it becomes stiff or thick.

Country Style Ragu
adapted by Me from the original challenge recipe

Makes enough sauce for 1 recipe fresh pasta or 1 pound/450g dried pasta)
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
4 ounces/120g pancetta, finely chopped
1 medium onion, minced
1 medium stalk celery, minced
1 small carrot, minced
9 ounces chicken sausage (with mushroom and asiago)
1 &1/2 cups chicken stock
2 cups milk
3 cans stewed tomatoes, drained
1 tsp garlic, minced (or two garlic cloves, minced)
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh basil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Heat olive oil in a 12 inch skillet over med-high heat. Add the pancetta and minced vegetables and sauté, stirring frequently with a wooden spoon, 10 minutes, or until the onions barely begin to color. Remove chicken sausage from its casing and crumble into the mixture. Heat for another 10-15 minutes or until the meat is lightly browned. Add chicken stock and milk, bring to a slight boil, then reduce to simmer. Add tomatoes, garlic, and basil, and allow the tomatoes to crumble (maybe help them out with a spoon). Simmer for about 30-45 minutes on low heat, stirring occasionally.

Sare's Notes:
1. I really enjoyed making this sauce. It was very colorful.
2. I think I will use this recipe again for a soup (we actually all sampled the left over sauce, as a soup covered with cheese, while the lasagna cooked. Both of our families enjoyed it).

Overall response:
Everyone ate, and thoroughly enjoyed the lasagna. Our toddlers happily ate (must have been the cheese). I was pleasantly surprised that the lasagna wasn't soupy or mushy. It was perfect, and absorbed all of the juices from the soup.

1 comment:

  1. Congrats on completing your first challenge and welcome to Daring Bakers! Your lasagne looks wonderful :)