Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Pasta Continued...

So with the start I showed you how to make your own pasta, now with this recipe I will share my Lasagna, which [you are unfamiliar with this] is a baked pasta dish of layers of cheese, pasta and sauce. Every Italian has a different recipe, a different sauce, and each will taste unique.

This is my recipe:

First the sauce:

This is a basic Bolognese [some will use a non meat sauce or a marinara, but I prefer the taste and texture of the meat sauce].

1lb ground meat [I use a pre mix from my butcher of veal, beef and pork]
bay leaves
onion [diced finely]
tomato paste
tomato sauce
red wine

Brown meat in sauce pan along with onions, and spice, add in salt and pepper to taste. When everything is browned, add in your paste and sauce, using the cans add in 1 can measurement of wine and 1 of water, until you have a nice deep red colour.

I let this simmer at a low heat for hours, until the liquid thickens and reduces by about 1/3, stirring every hour or so.

Let the sauce cool right down before use in this dish.

Cheese Mixture:

2 packages of soft Ricotta [about 1lb]
2 whole eggs
grated parmasan
1/2 - 3/4c spinach [I use the frozen cubes, and let them thaw out and drain]

Mix this all together in a bowl and let sit for min of 1h to overnight for full taste.

aside from the above you will need also about 1lb of sliced mozzarella [don't buy the processed type, as it will not taste as nice as the fresh]

Have your pasta rolled out into sheets, for the recipe on pasta click this link, the thickness of your pasta is whatever you desire, I did at the lvl 4 on my machine.

On to the Layering, for this I start off with a spoonful of sauce at the base of the casserole [I have 2 - 9x9 pans], next goes the pasta [yes at raw state], cheese mixture, mozzarella slices, then sauce. Rinse and repeat until you at the top of the dish. To top it I add a layer of pasta, cover that with sauce and mozzarella slices. I find with my dishes I get 4 layers give or take.

I then bake this [covered to start] for about 45m at 350 deg, taking off the foil and allowing another 10-15m for the cheese to bubble and brown.

In terms of timing, I trust my nose, and check on the pasta only when I can smell the scent of the dish all over the house. Joy of home cooking and not always noting the time, and getting distracted with one thing or another!

So no worries if you don't get exactly the right amount of time, and for the love of cooking don't use a timer as that can lead to checking on the dish every few mins, which only lets out heat and prolongs the overall cooking time. Timers are only good for eggs and segmenting your day. When it comes to cooking the best timer is your own sense of smell, your nose will tell you when to open that door and check on things.

Once your pasta is done and all molten goodness, allow for the dish to rest 10m before cutting into it. If you cut into the lasagna [or any baked pasta] right on pulling it out, will only result in all of your hard work pouring out of the layers! Let it rest, let the gooey cheesy yumminess settle a bit and you get the below image. a delicious layered slice of Italian goodness!

This recipe is one that is freezable both in its uncooked state [I often make two dishes, one for that night and one for later on which I freeze]. If frozen, cook from that state, placing the covered dish into the cold oven [a VERY important factor to keep from shattering your dishes]. Let your oven preheat with the dish in it, and allow for extra time for baking, again let your nose be your guide as to when to take out the pasta. From frozen it can take up to double the time to get cooked all the way through, but is mightily delish when it comes out of the oven, just like fresh!

Also note, you can make your sauce ahead of time and keep in either the fridge for up to 3 days covered, or in the freezer for up to 3 months [granted I know sauce in my house barely lasts 2 days, but if you can leave it for the 3 days it will develop a far deeper flavour profile]. The cheese you can make up to 2 days in advance, leaving it covered in the fridge, placing the cellophane directly on the surface like a second skin to keep the air out.

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