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Daring Bakers: Lasagne of Emiliia - Romagna

6:45 PM





Its finally here, The Daring Bakers Challenge. Iam very much excited and thrilled as this is my first challenge. 

This month's challenge was hosted by Mary, Melinda and EnzaThe recipe they chose for this month's challenge is Lasagne of Emilia-Romagna from The Splendid Table: Recipes from Emilia-Romagna, the Heartland of Northern Italian Food by Lynne Rossetto Kasper (published by William Morrow and Company Inc., 1992).


It was quite challenging to make the pasta by hand.We had the choice of experimenting the recipe like, making our own Bechamel sauce and Ragu.
The original recipe called for Pancetta, Beef , pork and Prosuctto in the Ragu sauce.
I used only chicken and made the sauce simple.
The final result was very amazing, shared it with our friends and it was much appreciated.

The 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.


Spinach Egg Pasta ( pasta verde )

1 jumbo egg

100g fresh 

spinach, rinsed dry, and finely chopped; or 50g frozen chopped spinach, defrosted and squeezed dry

1&1/2 cup all purpose unbleached (plain) flour (organic stone ground preferred)

Mixing the dough:



1. Mound the flour in the center of your work surface and make a well in the middle. 

2. Add the eggs and spinach. Use a wooden spoon to beat together the eggs and spinach. 

3. Then gradually start incorporating shallow scrapings of flour from the sides of the well into the liquid. 

4. As you work more and more flour into the liquid, the well’s sides may collapse. Use a pastry scraper to keep the liquids from running off and to incorporate the last bits of flour into the dough. Don’t worry if it looks like a hopelessly rough and messy lump.

Kneading:


1. With the aid of the scraper to scoop up unruly pieces, start kneading the dough. Once it becomes a cohesive mass, use the scraper to remove any bits of hard flour on the work surface – these will make the dough lumpy. 

2. Knead the dough for about 3 minutes. Its consistency should be elastic and a little sticky. If it is too sticky to move easily, knead in a few more tablespoons of flour.

3.  Continue kneading about 10 minutes, or until the dough has become satiny, smooth, and very elastic. It will feel alive under your hands. Do not shortcut this step. 

4. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap, and let it relax at room temperature 30 minutes to 3 hours.

Stretching and Thinning:



1. If using an extra-long rolling pin work with half the dough at a time. With a regular-length rolling pin, roll out a quarter of the dough at a time and keep the rest of the dough wrapped.

2.  Lightly sprinkle a large work surface with flour. The idea is to stretch the dough rather than press down and push it.

3.  Shape it into a ball and begin rolling out to form a circle, frequently turning the disc of dough a quarter turn. As it thins outs, start rolling the disc back on the pin a quarter of the way toward the center and stretching it gently sideways by running the palms of your hands over the rolled-up dough from the center of the pin outward. Unroll, turn the disc a quarter turn, and repeat. Do twice more.

4. Stretch and even out the center of the disc by rolling the dough a quarter of the way back on the pin. Then gently push the rolling pin away from you with one hand while holding the sheet in place on the work surface with the other hand. Repeat three more times, turning the dough a quarter turn each time.

5. Repeat the two processes as the disc becomes larger and thinner. The goal is a sheet of even thickness. For lasagne, the sheet should be so thin that you can clearly see your hand through it and see colours. Cut into rectangles about 4 by 8 inches (10 x 20 cm). 

Note: Enza says that transparency is a crucial element of lasagne pasta and the dough should be rolled as thinly as possible. 

6. Dry the pasta at room temperature and store in a sealed container or bag.

Bechamel

2 tablespoons  unsalted butter

2 tablespoons  all purpose unbleached (plain) flour, organic stone ground preferred

1&1/2 cups  milk

2 cloves

1 bay leaf

Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

Freshly grated nutmeg to taste

1. Using a medium-sized saucepan, melt the butter over low to medium heat. 

2. Sift over the flour, whisk until smooth, and then stir (without stopping) for about 3 minutes.

3.  Whisk in the milk a little at a time and keep the mixture smooth. Bring to a slow simmer, and stir 3 to 4 minutes, or until the sauce thickens. Cook, stirring, for about 5 minutes, until the sauce thickens.

4. Add in the cloves and bayleaf, season with salt, pepper, and a hint of nutmeg.

Ragu’ (Ragu alla Contadina)

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil 

1 medium onion, minced

1 medium stalk celery with leaves, minced

1 small carrot, minced

1/2 pound ground chicken

2/3 cup dry red wine

1 cup chicken or beef stock (homemade if possible)

1 cup  milk

1 can plum tomatoes, drained

Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Working Ahead:

The ragu can be made 3 days ahead. Cover and refrigerate. It also freezes well for up to 1 month. Skim the fat from the ragu’ before using it.

Browning the Ragu Base:

1. Heat the olive oil in a  skillet (frying pan) over medium-high heat. Have a large saucepan handy to use once browning is complete. 

2. Add the  minced vegetables and sauté, stirring frequently with a wooden spoon, 10 minutes, or until the onions barely begin to color. 

3. Add chicken into the pan and slowly brown over medium heat. 

4. Chicken will start to loose water, stir until all the water evaporates. Protect the brown glaze forming on the bottom of the pan by turning the heat down. Cook 15 minutes. 

5. Turn the contents of the skillet into a strainer and shake out the fat. Turn them into the saucepan and set over medium heat.

Reducing and Simmering: 

1. Add the wine to the skillet, lowering the heat so the sauce bubbles quietly. Stir occasionally until the wine has reduced by half, about 3 minutes. Scrape up the brown glaze as the wine bubbles. Then pour the reduced wine into the saucepan and set the skillet aside.

2. Stir ½ cup stock into the saucepan and let it bubble slowly, 10 minutes, or until totally evaporated. Repeat with another ½ cup stock. Stir in the last 1/2 cup stock along with the milk. Adjust heat so the liquid bubbles very slowly. Partially cover the pot, and cook 1 hour. Stir frequently to check for sticking.

3. Add the tomatoes, crushing them as they go into the pot. Cook uncovered, at a very slow bubble for another 45 minutes, or until the sauce resembles a thick, meaty stew. Season with salt and pepper.

Assembling the Ingredients:

1. Have all the sauces, rewarmed gently over a medium heat, and the pasta at hand. 

2. Have a large perforated skimmer and a large bowl of cold water next to the stove. Spread a double thickness of paper towels over a large counter space. 

3. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit (180 degrees Celsius). Oil or butter a 3 quart (approx 3 litre) shallow baking dish.

Cooking the Pasta:

1. Bring the salted water to a boil. Drop about four pieces of pasta in the water at a time. Cook about 2 minutes. If you are using dried pasta, cook about 4 minutes, taste, and cook longer if necessary. 

2. The pasta will continue cooking during baking, so make sure it is only barely tender. 

3. Lift the lasagne from the water with a skimmer, drain, and then slip into the bowl of cold water to stop cooking. When cool, lift out and dry on the paper towels. Repeat until all the pasta is cooked.

Assembling the Lasagne: 


1. Spread a thin layer of béchamel over the bottom of the baking dish. 

2. Arrange a layer of about four overlapping sheets of pasta over the béchamel.

3.  Spread a thin layer of béchamel (about 3 or 4 spoonfuls) over the pasta, and then an equally thin layer of the ragu. 

4. Sprinkle with about 1&1/2 tablespoons of the béchamel and about 1/3 cup of the cheese.

5. Repeat the layers until all ingredients are used, finishing with béchamel sauce and topping with a generous dusting of cheese.

Baking and Serving the Lasagne:

1. Cover the baking dish lightly with foil, taking care not to let it touch the top of the lasagne. Bake 40 minutes, or until almost heated through. 

2. Remove the foil and bake another 10 minutes, or until hot in the center (test by inserting a knife – if it comes out very warm, the dish is ready).

3.  Take care not to brown the cheese topping. It should be melted, creamy looking and barely tinged with a little gold. 

4. Turn off the oven, leave the door ajar and let the lasagne rest for about 10 minutes. Then serve. 



The level of the challenge was a bit difficult for me, as i did it in the last moment. But it was quite interesting . I will definitely make this again, but not often !

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