|Lasagna with Homemade Pasta|
A couple of weekends ago, we had our friends Heidi and Rich visiting, and Heidi makes lasagna that Rich approves of, and he is Italian. I know she made it for us once a few years ago, but I cannot recall precisely how that one was. I just do not recall. This time, I asked Heidi if she would make her lasagna, and I would watch to see what she did. How did she manage the mixture not being too wet? Or too dry? The one thing I stipulated, as my contribution, was that I would make the lasagna noodles in my pasta machine.
Heidi had never used fresh pasta before, and was very impressed with how easy they were to make (the machine does the work) and how easy to use (they don't need to be cooked beforehand). Aside from that, she said she just made the pasta and meat sauce with both hamburger and Italian sausage, and not too much liquid-y ingredients.
It came out crazy delicious. However, my husband and I both tend to retain water when we eat something processed with too much salt. She had used three 8-ounce packages of mozzarella slices. She used the better part of a pint of cottage cheese. We added no salt to the sauce (or anything else), which used a 24 ounce sized jar of Prego brand spaghetti sauce and some tomato sauce and tomato paste. The Prego is something I use often with no particular water retention problem, so I figured it wasn't that. But the cheese? Oh, yes.
|Lasagna with Homemade Pasta just out of oven|
So, her lasagna was fantastic in the sense that it cut well and held together, was neither too wet or too dry. I wanted to repeat the effort on my own. I went looking at the cheeses, comparing sodium levels. I wanted to use ricotta instead of cottage cheese. The ricotta had nearly half the sodium per same-size serving of cottage cheese. I used only two 8-ounce packages of mozzarella, but I used shredded mozzarella instead of the slices, which had much more sodium than the shredded kind. I chose to add spinach to my lasagna, just because I love how pretty it looks. I have nothing at all against spinach, but you truly do not taste it in lasagna, so it is more for esthetics, to me.
Sadly, my husband and I both retained water after eating this lasagna, even with more careful eye on the sodium - though not quite as dramatically.
As for the pasta, again I made my own. I used half whole grain Kamut flour, freshly ground, and half semolina flour, with egg and water. I love the great al dente "tooth" of this pasta, which cooks just perfectly in the sauce once all assembled and baked. If making the pasta by hand, you can use all-purpose, 500 grams worth, by weight.
So without further ado, here is my recipe:
Makes one very full 9 x 13-inch casserole
1 pound very lean hamburger meat
1 pound Italian sausage meat
1 - 2 tablespoons olive oil
1 onion, chopped
6 cloves garlic, minced
1 green bell pepper, chopped
2 tablespoons fresh oregano leaves, minced
2 tablespoons fresh basil leaves, minced
1 tablespoons fresh rosemary leaves, minced
1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves
1 (24-ounce) jar Prego traditional spaghetti sauce
1 (8-ounce) can tomato sauce
1 (6-ounce) can tomato paste
280 grams Kamut Khorasan whole grain flour
220 grams semolina flour
2 large eggs + enough water to make 190 grams
12 ounces frozen chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
2 (8-ounce) packages shredded mozzarella
2 cups / 1 pint ricotta cheese
Parmesan, for sprinkling
MEAT SAUCE: Heat a large pot or Dutch oven and add in the olive oil. Add the hamburger and sausage meat and cook, breaking up into very small pieces, until no longer pink. Add in the onion, garlic, bell pepper & fresh herbs, stirring until vegetables are softened. Add and stir in the spaghetti sauce, tomato sauce and tomato paste and stir to combine. Bring to a simmer, cover and allow to cook gently for at least a half hour, more if there is time. Stir occasionally to keep from sticking to the bottom of the pot.
PASTA: Mix the ingredients until they come together into a mass, turn out and knead for 5 to 7 minutes, then pass through a pasta roller to the thickness desired for the lasagna. Cut to the proper size needed and use just as they are.
ASSEMBLY: Have all the ingredients at hand, ready to use. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Use a large, full-sized 9 x 13-inch pan. Mine is a Wilton pan, with absolutely squared sides. If your pan is sloped, or smaller, all the ingredients will not fit. The picture at right shows the order of the layers as they go in the pan.
Spray the pan with non-stick spray. Place one ladle full of meat sauce into the pan (#1) and spread to somewhat cover the bottom. Layer on three lasagna noodles (#2). Cover the noodles with a layer of meat sauce and then half the spinach over top (#3). Dot on about ⅓ of the ricotta, in small dollops (#4). Sprinkle all over with ⅓ the total amount of mozzarella shreds, and top with another layer of lasagna noodles (#5). Cover this layer with meat sauce (#6), then the remaining spinach (#7). Top with the remaining third of ricotta, in small dollops, and part of the remaining mozzarella shreds. Reserve the rest of the mozzarella aside for the top, later. If there are any remaining noodles, place them on top and coat with a scant layer of meat sauce so the pasta on top will not dry out in the oven.
|Sequence of assembly|
Once that last bit of meat sauce is on, spritz a piece of foil or a silicone, oven-proof cover with a little non-stick spray and cover the lasagna. Bake it covered for about 40 minutes, until very bubbly. Remove the covering and sprinkle on the remaining mozzarella and a generous grating of Parmesan cheese. Bake for 15 minutes more. Remove and let set for about 15 minutes to firm up before slicing and serving.
My passion is teaching people how to create a harmony of flavors with their cooking, and passing along my love and joy of food, both simple or exotic, plain or fancy. I continue my journey in ethnic and domestic cuisines, trying new things weekly. I would love to hear from you, to help me continue my journey to explore diverse culinary experiences and hopefully to start you on a journey of your own. Join me also at A Harmony of Flavors on Facebook, and Pinterest and sign up for my Newsletter.