Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Lasagna From Scratch

When i was growing up, my mom would always make a big lasagna if we were expecting house guests. It was easy to put together and fed a bunch of folks for at least two meals.

The four of us almost finished the lasagna i made last night!

I was lucky to have two of our very favorite friends over for dinner last night and spent the day preparing a fresh lasagna for the four of us marrieds to enjoy. My friend brought over some fresh lettuce and heirloom tomatoes that i whipped into a salad and a meal was made (plus delicious wine, of course). Now, i must admit i pretty much literally spent all day on this meal. I could have divided the chores into several days, but i like to commit a day to cooking every once in a while and Monday is the perfect day for that, if you ask me. Get me in an apron with some dance music (i admit it was a compilation of Britney and some other beat driven music) blasting and i'm a happy girl!

My day started with finishing off some great artwork and then packaging it all up to be shipped while making mozzarella using this recipe and a gallon of raw milk. I finally own good rubber gloves so i was able to do the stretching in steamy hot, salted water. The mozz turned out well, not as fine as some recipes but perfect for shredding, which is what i needed for the lasagna anyway. I also made a batch of ricotta with the leftover whey and got a really nice yield. We'll be using that with the extra pasta i had tomorrow night.

Once the mozz was made, the ricotta draining and the artwork shipped, i started on the pasta. I used 2 cups white whole wheat flour with four eggs some salt and ground basil. Mix well, knead it up and start rolling in batches. To get really good pasta you have to have PATIENCE and a lot of time. Each batch of pasta is rolled out on the widest settting at least 4 or more times before you start thinning it down and shaping it. Lasagna is easy as you don't have to cut noodles, but getting the wide noodles rectangular is a struggle on its own. The pasta turned out great and cooked in 3 minutes in salted, oiled water.

My workspace
This is where the timing got tricky. I didn't cook all the lasagna noodles and saved some to the side to be cut into fettucini that is drying in the kitchen presently. I cooked just the right amount somehow, pulling the cooked noodles out into a bowl of ice water for safe keeping. During the rolling and resting pasta phase i also sauteed some veggies (mushrooms and greens from the garden -chives, chard, broccoli greens, kale- with some truffle oil and red wine) and thinly sliced some zucchini. I blended up the pasta sauce using garden tomatoes that i'd roasted with garlic, onions, salt and olive oil the last two nights or so in two batches. That was one awkward sentence- that's how my whole day felt yesterday! But it somehow all came together. The ricotta layer was mixed ricotta (store bought) garlic, salt, pepper, fresh basil and one egg. I cooked the pasta last once all these other things were ready and layered up the lasagna.

I used this fancy pan someone gave us for our wedding, and i'm afraid it held the chill of the refrigerator more than i'd like. I probably should have set it out to warm before sticking it in the oven, or cooked it all longer while covered. It tasted delicious but was a bit moist still - i might try drying the noodles better next time when layering. Hey, it was my first lasagna ever. And we all agreed - it tasted different than lasagnas we're used to, in a good way. The fresh ingredients were delicious and lighter than store bought Prego, Ragu, and boxed dried noodles. The noodles were way thinner, for one thing and the fresh sauce and veggie layer felt less heavy too. We each had two pieces and walked away feeling great rather than catatonic.

Spending a whole day preparing a meal for friends may not be in everyone's schedule capacity, but if it is - do it! Very gratifying.... Though it is sad to see that labor of love scarfed up in a matter of minutes. Nah, it's not sad.
It's delicious.

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