Monday, March 8, 2010

I am Turning into an Italian Grandmother.

Yes it is true. I am slowly but surely turning into an little old Italian lady. Pay no mind that I am in fact mostly of Norwegian descent, and that I am the ripe old age of 25.

I know because of the look I got when I told people I spent almost 10 hours in the kitchen last weekend making lasagna. Why did it take you so long they asked. Well because I took the long way. I made a near-traditional meat Bolognese sauce. I made a béchamel sauce. I made my own egg noodles. I made the ricotta. Yeah you heard me correctly. I made the ricotta.

Have I gone insane you ask? My mom asked. Some of my friends asked. Maybe I have. But man was it fun. And rewarding. And by rewarding I mean this lasagna was so damn good. Insanely good. Standing for 10 hours stirring sauces, and kneading pasta dough, and straining curds and whey? Yup, it was worth it. SO worth it.

No Hold's Barred Lasagna
recipe adapted (barely) from Serious Eats

The bolognese sauce cooks for a good 3-4 hours so I would prep as much of the ingredients as you can, and then start with the sauce. While the sauce is simmering, make and drain the ricotta and make and roll out the pasta dough. Right before you are ready to assemble, put together the ricotta mixture and make the béchamel sauce. Lots of multi-tasking, but that's the fun part right?

Special Equipment:

Cheesecloths, pasta roller, food processor, deep 13 X 9 baking dish

For the ragù Bolognese:
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
4 tablespoons butter
1 pound 85/15 ground beef
1 pound ground pork
3-4 ounces chicken livers, finely chopped
1 large onion, finely chopped (about 1 1/2 cups)
2 large carrots, peeled, and cut into 1/4-inch dice (about 1 cup)
3 large ribs celery, peeled, and cut into 1/4-inch dice (about 1 cup)
4 cloves garlic, finely minced
1/2 cup fresh sage leaves, finely chopped
large pinch red pepper flakes
1 (28-ounce) can crushed tomatoes
1 1/2 cups dry red wine
1 1/2 cups whole milk
2 cups homemade chicken or veal stock (or 2 cups low-sodium canned chicken broth)
2 bay leaves
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 tablespoon worcestershire sauce
1/2 cup heavy cream
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup minced basil
1/4 cup minced parsley

For the ricotta:

One gallon whole milk
1/3 cup plus 1 teaspoon distilled white vinegar
1/2 teaspoon salt

For the ricotta mixture:
3 cups fresh ricotta
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 large eggs
2 tablespoons minced basil
2 tablespoons minced parsley

For the pasta:
6 eggs, divided
6 egg yolks, divided
5 cups all purpose flour, divided
1 1/2 teaspoon salt, divided
6 tablespoons of water, divided


For the béchamel:
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons flour
2 cloves garlic, finely minced
2 cups whole milk
1/2 pound dry whole milk mozzarella cheese, grated or finely chopped (buy the ball of cheese, stay away from pre-shredded stuff here)
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

To assemble:
Fifteen 4" by 8" sheets fresh rolled pasta (or sized to fit your pan)
4 ounces parmigiano reggiano, finely grated (About 2 cups)
1 tablespoons minced basil
1 tablespoons minced parsley

To make the bolognese sauce:

Heat the butter and oil in a large pot or dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add the pork, beef, and chicken livers, stirring to break up meat, and cook until no longer pink, about 7-10 minutes. Transfer meat to strainer set over a large bowl. Transfer about half the liquid back to the pot and reduce heat to medium. Add the onions, carrots, celery, sage, garlic, and red pepper flakes and cook until vegetables are softened, but not browned, about 10 minutes.

Return the meat back to the pot, along with the tomatoes, red wine, milk, stock, and bay leaves. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer partially covered, about 3 hours stirring occasionally.

When sauce is reduced and slightly thickened, remove bay leaves, add soy sauce, worcestershire sauce, and heavy cream and simmer for about 5 minutes longer, stirring frequently. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Remove from heat and let come to room temperature, about 30 minutes. Stir in parsley and basil, set aside until use. If making ahead of time (do it, it only gets better) reheat until warm before assembling lasagna.

To make the ricotta:

In a large pot, using a candy thermometer, bring a gallon of whole milk to 180 degrees F, stirring frequently to prevent scorching. When it reaches temperature, remove from heat and gently stir in the vinegar. Curds should start forming immediately.

Cover and let sit for about 2 hours. Line a colander with a few sheets of cheesecloth or food safe paper towels, and set over a bowl. Transfer the larger curd to the colander with a slotted spoon, then slowly pour the remaining curds and whey into the colander.

Let drain for 1-2 hours, depending on desired texture and consistency.

If using that day mix ricotta with the eggs, parsley, basil, salt and pepper, and set aside. If making ahead of time, place in air tight container and refrigerate for up to 7 days, mix with eggs and herbs directly prior to assembling the lasagna.

To make the pasta:

This much pasta should be made in two batches. In a food processor, combine the 2.5 cups flour and 3/4 teaspoon salt, pulse a few times to combine. In a small bowl lightly beat together 3 eggs, 3 egg yolks, and 3 tablespoons of water. With the food processor running, slowly stream in the egg mixture and run until a sticky dough forms. Add water by the teaspoons if mixture is dry. Turn dough out onto a floured surface and knead until smooth and pliable, about 10 minutes. Cover with plastic wrap and let rest for 45 minutes. Repeat with the other half of ingredients.

Take each ball of dough and divide it into four pieces. Flatten 1 piece of dough with heel of hand into a rectangular shape. Put through pasta roller at widest setting 5 times, folding edges over to retain rectangle shape.


Reduce the setting by one, and roll the rough three times on each setting, until you reach the 3rd thinnest setting (this is on a 7-setting roller).

I prefer my lasagna noodles thick, but feel free to go to the second thinnest setting if you like. Repeat with each piece of dough. Flour sheets of dough and let dry on dry dish towels until ready to use, at least 20 minutes.

Cut round edges off of dough and then cut pasta into square or rectangular sheets to fit your pan. I used two slightly smaller pans, so your ratios may vary a bit. You will most likely have lost of leftover pasta, cut into shapes and freeze for later use. Don't you love it when there are bonuses?

To make the béchamel sauce:

Heat the butter in a heavy saucepan over medium-high heat until it stops foaming, about 1 minute. Whisk in the flour and continue stirring until mixture turns a light tan color, about 1 minute. Add garlic, whisk to combine. Slowly stream in the milk while whisking, and bring to a simmer. Reduce the heat to low and add the cheese and nutmeg and whisk until cheese is completely melted. Return to a simmer then remove from heat and set aside until ready to use.

Almost there, time to assemble! If you are using the 9X13 pan, you should end up with five layers of noodles. If you are using smaller pans, you may end up with less noodle layers in each. Exact measurements are not important for each layer, but I will give you an approximation. Just use your best judgement and hope you don't run out before you reach the top!

To assemble:

Preheat your oven to 375 F. Add about 1 - 1 1/2 cups bolognese sauce to bottom of baking dish and drizzle with about a 1/2 cup of béchamel. Top with three sheets of pasta. Add another 1 - 1 1/2 cups bolognese sauce and 1/2 cup béchamel sauce, and sprinkle with 1/3 cup parmigiano reggiano cheese. Add three more sheets of pasta. Spread 1/2 of your ricotta onto the noodles and spread it evenly with a rubber spatula. Top with another 1 cup of meat sauce and sprinkle with 1/3 cup of parmigiano reggiano cheese. Repeat the noodle-meat-béchamel-parm and noodle-ricotta-meat-parm layers. Top with the last layer of noodles, the remaining meat sauce, the remaining béchamel, the remaining parmigiano reggiano. Now, stand back and bask in the glory of this almost-overflowing dish of cheesy, delicious, wonderment.

Place baking dish onto a foil-lined baking sheet (to catch all the bubbly overflow) and place on middle rack in the oven. Bake for 45 minutes- 1 hour until hot and bubbly and cooked through. Tent with tin foil during baking if the top is getting too dark.

Remove from the oven and sprinkle with basil and parsley. Be sure to let the lasagna sit and rest for at least 10-15 minutes at room temp before cutting into it.

Seriously just try not to pull off the little almost-burnt corners of pasta and pop them in your mouth while you let the lasagna rest. Just try, its hard.

Serve if you must have some greens with a light salad, but I say the best side dish for this lasanga is just another piece of lasagna and a big 'ol glass of Chianti. If I am indeed turning into a grandma, there's gotta be wine.

Oh and one last thing...get off my lawn.

6 comments:

Jena said...

I am absolutely going to be making this, albeit with premade pasta since I don't have a machine. It looks divine, I think I'm drooling!

a-man-duh said...

Wow. You have far outdone yourself with this one. I just licked my computer screan trying to get a taste.

HollowPeas said...

Jena,

Please try it, it is heavenly!! I have made pasta sheets before with a rolling pin. You can't get it as thin, and you have to use some muscle, but for lasagna it would work great since the noodles should be a little on the thick side! Please let me know if you do try it!

Amanda-

Ha!! The visual of that just made my day.

Hungry Dog said...

I'm dying. This is crazy! I am so impressed. I'm not sure I could go through all this but I would happily, happily eat at least half a pan of this. Looks incredible.

HollowPeas said...

Hungry Dog, yes I admit it was a bit crazy, but worth every minute of it! :-)

LishySue said...

I have just stumbled upon your blog, and I have to admit, you are my kind of crazy, sister!
I am so excited. I want to make EVERYTHING!! Today will be the wild rice and cranberry bread, this weekend CAKE POPS - OMG! for Valentine's day. Thank you to sharing your gifts, talents, and recipes. You have a new fan!

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