When I first ate lasagna in Italy, I was surprised at how different the dish was to lasagna typically served in the US. Gracious Patrizia at Villa Ferraia served us her version during a fantastic week at Ferraia’s culinary school (can you find this blogger in the kitchen?). It was light, very flavorful, and composed of thin layers of pasta, béchamel and meat sauce .
According to Lynne Rossetto Kasper, author of The Splendid Table, lasagne should always be a “vivid expression of the ‘less is more’ philosophy of cooking. Mere films of béchamel sauce and meat ragu coat the sheerest spinach pasta. Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese dusts each layer. There is nothing more; no ricotta, no piling on of meats, vegetables or cheese; little tomato, and no hot spice. Baking performs the final marriage of flavors. The results are splendid.”
Does that description sound like your typical tall stacked and heavy American-style lasagna? Definitely not! But if you’ve never had authentic lasagna, you’re missing something special.
Our Daring Baker’s challenge for March was to make authentic lasagne (plural), and particularly the lasagne verde, or spinach egg pasta. I’m always ready for a challenge with this group, founded by Lis and Ivonne! You rock!
The Daring Baker’s 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. Click on any of these sites to find the entire recipe.
Making the lasagne was a lot easier than I expected. Only three ingredients are needed – eggs, spinach and flour. I used frozen chopped spinach, squeezed it well to remove excess liquid and chopped it by hand (and not a food processor), so my spinach was more on the chunky side:
But look at what I created! A beautiful green sheet which reminded me of stained glass when held up to the sun! The goal was to get the lasagne as thin and transparent as possible. D’ya think I succeeded?
I chose to roll the dough using a traditional rolling pin and my brute strength (of which I have none!). Fortunately, I was aided by a live broadcast from the Metropolitan Opera of Wagner’s Nordic epic Das Rheingold. I had gods, thunder, and fire coursing through my veins as I pushed, turned and pulled the dough. Live from the Met – your timing was perfect!
Lasagne sheets were left to dry for a few hours:
The béchamel sauce was also simple to make using butter, flour, milk pepper and freshly grated nutmeg:
The ragu (meat sauce) was to die for! It took about 4 hours to make from beginning to end and included amongst other ingredients pancetta, beef, pork, prosciutto and sweet carrots. Surprisingly there was no garlic and no herbs, yet it had so many levels of flavor, with wine uniting them all. The wine was the key ingredient in the sauce, in my opinion, and here is a good example of why one should use quality wine when cooking. Husby was kind enough to open a Rabbit Ridge 2002 Paso Robles L.P.R. Grand Reserve. It was sooo yummy and jammy and fruity, I sipped, chopped and stirred…then I sipped again! I lived up to my license plate frame my daughter bought me that says:
I love to cook with wine. Sometimes I even put it in the food!
The end product was a ragu I’ll be making many times, using quality wine, of course!
Assembly was easy. I chose to bake the lasagne uncovered because I love a crisp and toasted cheesy top! Served with red wine…