Thursday, August 25, 2011

Making lasagna

So, I totally wimped out and purchased my fettuccine noodles for the other night.  Determined not to be too afraid to try something new, I decided to use my pasta maker for lasagna noodles instead.  A coworker of hubby's had a family emergency, so I decided to make them a lasagna to make things a little easier.  Thus began the all day affair in my kitchen making zucchini bread and lasagna...

To start things off, I read the instruction manual for my new pasta machine.  Wow... That was interesting.  It seems like it was written in Chinese and then badly translated to English... So useless.  For one thing there is no illustration for how to clamp it to a tabletop... So, through trial and error, I figured out how to work with the machine.  Then I used the included recipe for pasta dough.  Hurdle #2.  There was WAY too much flour to incorporate so eventually I gave up.  I kneaded it by hand way longer than the 2-3 minutes it recommended.  I added more flour to keep it from being sticky when I ran it through the machine to work it to a soft consistency, but it still didn't amount to the quantity in the recipe.  Then I began to thin the pasta sheets.  The instructions didn't have a guideline for lasagna noodles, so I guessed and made them pretty thin, the second smallest setting.  I think next time I will make them 1 thicker, but I am not sure it will be a hugely noticeable difference.  Then I cut them to a good length and boiled those puppies!  There were no cook times in the instructions, either, so I cooked them for about 4 minutes or so - I basically just cooked them until they looked right.  Other than looking pale compared to store bought noodles, they were pretty much indistinguishable.  They tasted good!  Success!  So I made my lasagna :-)

Jenni's Lasagna:

about 1 1/2 C all purpose flour plus more for dusting
3 eggs

in a bowl or on a floured worktop, create a well in the middle of the flour and crack in the eggs.  With a fork, incorporate the flour slowly into the egg without breaking the side of the well until the egg is no longer wet and runny.  continue to work the dough until it is less sticky, then knead in the flour by hand until well incorporated and the dough is not sticky when pulled apart.  Let the dough rest for 20 minutes.

Roll the dough out with a rolling pin into a narrow strip that will fit through the machine.  Run the dough through the widest setting.  Dust the rectangle with flour and then fold the strip in thirds.  Repeat 9 times or until the dough is very silky, dusting the dough each time and the machine as needed.  Dial the machine down size by size, cutting the length in half when it becomes too long to deal with and working each half separately, until the desired thickness is achieved.  Dust the sheets with flour and then cut them to the desired length for your pan.  I also cut some in half long ways (after I boiled them) because about one and a half sheets fit the width of my pan, but overlap is good too :-)  If using fresh spinach, drain the pasta water over the spinach to wilt it.

Rest of Lasagna:
1 lb ground beef or italian sausage
1 medium onion
1T or so italian spice
2 cloves garlic or ~1t garlic powder
1Lb frozen or fresh spinach
1 egg
1.5 oz or so freshly grated Parmesan
16 oz ricotta (the smaller container in the store)
1t parsley
8 oz mozzarella, grated
1 can Hunts Four cheese tomato sauce

Preheat oven to 350.  Brown meat and onion in med skillet over med hi heat; drain fat.  Add spices and cook until flavors meld, 2-3 mins.  Layer noodles in bottom of pan and spread the meat over the noodles.  Add 1/2 can of sauce over the meat and spread it evenly.  Add another layer of noodles.  Microwave the spinach until it is no longer frozen, or if using fresh, pour the hot noodle water over them to wilt it.  If you forgot this step, no biggie, just put it in raw.  It will wilt in the oven just fine, but the layer will be a bit bulkier.  Add another layer of noodles.  In a medium bowl, combine the ricotta, egg, parsley, and a little of the Parmesan (the rest will go on top of the lasagna so use your judgement).  Mix thoroughly and spread the mixture over the noodles.  Add another layer of noodles, spread the remaining sauce over the noodles and top with the mozzarella and the rest of the Parmesan.  Bake for 35-45 minutes or until the sauce is bubbling and the cheese on top is browning and bubbly.  Enjoy!

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