Posted by: Part-Time Audiophile | November 3, 2010

Lasangna Two Ways

 

For those of you that don’t have a Cooks Illustrated subscription yet, shame on you. Okay, that said, I made a couple of lasagnas last week for a big family dinner. They were, in short, a huge hit. Which makes sense, because those Cooks Illustrated recipes rock. Of course, I deviated (wildly) from their base, so I’ll try and recreate a bit of what I did, here.

First up is the noodles. I made those fresh and, unlike last year’s lasagna attempt when I didn’t pre-cook the noodles, this year, they didn’t dissolve. Ahem. Anyway, I made 3 batches of the noodles, following this:

  1. 1c Whole Wheat Flour (I prefer King Arthur “white wheat” for this as you really need gluten development to make this work. Your “regular” bulk whole wheat might work fine, but expect that you’ll need to add some extra gluten to make the dough hang together well).
  2. 1c Bread Flour
  3. 3 large eggs
  4. 1t salt
  5. ~4T water

Mix flours and salt with paddle in bowl of stand mixer. Add eggs one at a time. Remove bowl & paddle from mixer. Lift “dough” from dry flour and sprinkle with water and knead with hand until dough comes together a bit. Attach dough hook and knead 10 minutes. Note, if you don’t add enough water to get all the dough wet early, kneading in the mixer is going to be very hard as the dough won’t come together. You’ll need to do it by hand at this point, which isn’t a lot of fun. Dough should be dry to touch and very smooth when finished. If during kneading, dough is very sticky and/or wet looking, you’ll need to add some flour. Add by the teaspoon until, after 1 min of kneading, flour is absorbed before adding more. If dough gets too dry, the hook will just spin the ball around in the bowl, so you’ll have to do it by hand, which again, is no fun.

Cover finished ball in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes. Put water on to boil — be sure to add 2+ T of table salt to the water.

Cut into quarters and flatten according to the pasta machine. I use the Kitchen Aid attachment. I put my dough hunks through a couple of times to get each to be about the width of the flattener itself before moving on to the next hunk. I start on “1” or the widest setting, then move to “2” and then jump to “4” and stop. Noodles are ready for cooking at this point. Dump them in the water all at once and cook ~2 minutes before removing carefully and transferring to a very large cutting board or directly on the counter. Don’t use paper towels as they’ll stick and that’s kinda gross.

I made two lasagnas with these noodles, a Spinach & Mushroom and a Hearty Meat Lover’s. I also used disposable lasagna pans — get the 3-4″ deep ones to get a nice stack of noodles!

Deep Dish Spinach & Mushroom Lasagne

Veggies

  • 2 bunches of spinach (or some other leafy veg), washed thoroughly
  • 2 boxes of button mushrooms (or whatever you can get, about 1#), trimmed and sliced

Bechamel

  • 1 stick of butter (unsalted), +2T
  • 1/2c of all-purpose flour
  • 1 lg onion, diced
  • 6 lg cloves of garlic
  • 6c whole milk
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 1t nutmeg
  • 1t salt
  • 1c Parmesan cheese, grated
  • 1/4t ground black pepper
  • fresh herbs (basil, thyme)

Cheesey Goodness

  • 1# Cottage Cheese
  • 2 lg eggs
  • 1/2t salt
  • 3c Parmesan cheese, grated

Rinse the spinach thoroughly. Blanch (cook for 2 mins) in boiling water and ladle spinach immediately into a bowl filled with ice and water. No reason to dump the blanching water  — just use it for cooking the pasta noodles too (or vice versa). Drain the ice water off the spinach and press as much water as you can out of them. I left mine in a colander sitting in the sink after this until I needed them.

For the sauce, first cook the shrooms in 1T of butter and 1/2t of salt on med-high heat till browned and about 1/3 of original size. I used a big 7q enameled Dutch oven, FWIW. Reserve. Add another 1T of butter and cook the onions on med heat till translucent, about 4 mins. Add garlic, cook ~1m, till aromatic. Reserve. Add the stick of butter and melt it. Add flour and make a roux. Cook on med heat, stirring, until roux has a nice nutty aroma, about 5-8 mins. Gradually whisk in milk to make bechamel. Add herbs, onions and garlic and the mushrooms. You’re going to want to bring this up to a boil (but don’t boil!). It’s going to get very thick at about 180 degrees — as it gets past this point you’re going to need to stir often to keep it from burning. At 200 or so, bring heat to low and cook for 10 mins. Discard bay leaves. Whisk in Parm, then salt and pepper to taste. Reserve.

Mix all the cheesy goodness together with a whisk. Reserve.

Ladle 1/4c or so of sauce on bottom of well sprayed dish. Add spinach to the remaining sauce.

Lay noodles across. Spoon sauce mix on top. Add another layer of noodles. Spoon sauce and layer of cheesy goodness. Noodles. Sauce. Cheesy Goodness. Repeat until you run out of space.

Should make one battleship of a lasagne.

Bake @ 425, uncovered, for about 10-15 mins until bubbling and browning, reduce to 375 and slip greased foil over lasagna and continue to cook till internal temp is 165, about 15-20 mins more.

Hearty Meat Lasagne

The noodles for this is going to come from the amount above. Note, if doing the recipe alone, one “batch” of pasta dough is usually enough.

Sauce

  • 2lbs of ground “meatloaf mix” (beef, veal and pork)
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 6 cloves of garlic, mince or pressed or pasted
  • 1t salt
  • 1t black pepper
  • 1c heavy cream
  • Fresh herbs
  • 3 cans (28oz) of diced tomatoes

Cheesy Goodness

  • 30 oz of ricotta (whole milk)
  • 3c grated Parmesan
  • 1c chopped fresh basil
  • Fresh herbs, minced
  • 2 large eggs, beaten
  • 1t salt
  • 1t black pepper
  • 2lbs fresh whole-milk Mozzarella, grated as well as you can

For the sauce, use a large pan/pot and cook onions in olive oil & salt till translucent, ~4mins on medium heat. Add garlic, cook 1 min till fragrant. Turn up heat to med-high and add meat & black pepper. Brown meat lightly (it’s just tastier that way). There will be a lot of fat in the pan here and the temptation will be to drain it. Feel free, but I wouldn’t (and didn’t). Add cream and cook off the cream till mostly evaporated, another 4 mins or so. Add any fresh herbs you want, say, marjoram or oregano (basil is going elsewhere). Add tomatoes and bring the whole mess to a simmer for 20-30 mins or so, until tomatoes start to break down into sauce.

For the cheesy goodness, make sure to use Ricotta. This is the real secret to this lasagna, so don’t skimp on it and don’t use anything but whole-milk cheese or it’ll suck. Ok, maybe not, but it won’t be awesome. Mix 2c Parm, the Ricotta, herbs, eggs & seasonings in a big bowl and set aside. Keep that Mozz & extra cup of Parm handy.

In a well-greased pan, ladle some sauce to cover the bottom lightly. Noodle layer on top. Cheesy goodness on top of that in dollops — don’t worry about being even here, it’s gonna melt all over the place. Using a light hand, top with some Mozz. Ladle over with sauce. Noodles, cheesy goodness, Mozz. Repeat. Use that last cup of reserved Parm as the topping on the very top.

Cook as above.

Let the lasagnas sit on the counter 10 mins before cutting and serving. It’s gonna be messy, so don’t sweat it.

OMG. Soooo delicious.

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