When I make lasagna, if I have the time, I like to go all out. Homemade noodles and homemade sauce. Obviously this can be simplified by using store bought noodles, cooked to al dente, and store bought sauce (although if you choose to do only one of these–I find a homemade sauce is always more special than store bought.)
- 2.5 Cups of Flour
- 4 Eggs (start with three—it depends on size of egg and density of flour)
- 1 Tablespoon Olive Oil (add more if too dry)
- 1 Teaspoon Salt
Place all ingredients in a food processor and blend until a ball forms, or it at least clumps up a bit. If too dry and no ball forms, add some more oil. Sometimes, it doesn’t become a ball as it hopefully will, but will form a dough when pinched. Turn it over onto a clean surface, and knead it until it comes together into a homogeneous ball and then continue kneading the dough for ten more minutes. It’s a tough dough, and it might hurt your wrists a little, but the texture will end up soft and smooth, like a lighter version of playdough. It’s important to knead for the full ten minutes to create this light texture, otherwise the pasta will be heavy and kind of gummy. Wrap the ball tightly in Saran wrap and let rest for between 20 minutes and an hour, or store in the fridge until needed.
**I recommend getting the dough started, and then working on the sauce and fillings, and then continuing here and cooking the pasta right before assembling the lasagna.**
Then to the pasta maker. Cut the dough into eight equal parts. Working with one ball of dough, keep the rest covered so it doesn’t dry out. Pat it into a sort of rectangularish shape, and feed through pasta maker on largest setting, for me, it is 7. Add a little flour to each side of pasta as needed. Fold the sheet in thirds, rotate (so you aren’t trapping any air bubbles in), and run the dough through setting 7 again. Repeat this three more times (so you have done it four times), this is the last step in kneading the dough. Run the dough through settings 5, 3, and finally 2, remembering to add a little flour to each side if the dough starts pulling. Flour both sides of the pasta liberally and place on a cookie sheet, covered with saran wrap.
Now is a good time to check the size of your pasta against you bakeware. Will the pasta you have be wide enough to cover the bottom in two widths? You can make the pasta sheets wider by folding the sheet in half when you are at width 5 and running it through the machine again. I think I actually made my pasta sheets too wide when I did this though. Repeat rolling out the dough with the remaining balls. When you are about half way done, place a large pot of salted water on to boil.
After all the sheets are rolled out, place one sheet in the bottom of your baking dish to measure the width, and trim off the excess on the end. Use that sheet as a guide to cut off the ends of the rest of the pasta sheets. You can knead this dough and roll it out, or wrap in saran and place in the fridge to make fettuccini with later, depending on how many layers you want to make your lasagna. Here, I only had three layers of pasta, but my husband was hoping for more.
Once the salted water is at a rolling boil, it’s time to cook pasta! I cooked three sheets at a time, carefully lowering them in so they didn’t splash. Give the sheets a gentle stir while they cook. When they float, they are cooked and ready to be removed to a colander, and rinsed with cold water. Repeat until all of your pasta sheets are cooked, and cooled. If your sauce and fillings are ready to go, it’s time to assemble. (Directions below.)
SAUCE: (Or you can of course use your favorite recipe.)
As always when I make tomato sauce, I base it on the recipe for the Oaxacan Omelette by Rick Bayless. Some pasta sauce recipes call for additional flavors like wine, sugar or honey. I like that this makes a savory and tomato-forward flavor, and also has a bit of a spicy kick.
- 2 Med-Lg Banana Peppers (You can omit these and put in Red Pepper Flakes to taste when you add the dried oregano. I like it spicy, so I would probably want about a tablespoon. For a less spicy sauce, start with one teaspoon.)
- 1 1/2 Lbs Ripe Tomatoes (Or a 28 oz can of fire roasted tomatoes)
- 4-6 Cloves Garlic, still in their papery skin
- 1/2 Small Onion, chopped
- 2 Tbs Olive Oil
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1 1/4 Cups Veggie Broth
- A generous 1/4 Cup Fresh Basil, sliced or chopped
- Salt and Pepper to Taste
Place the banana peppers, tomatoes and garlic on an aluminum foil lined trail under the broiler until they are roasted and blackened on both sides. The peppers will cook faster than the tomatoes, about 4-7 minutes on each side (it really depends on the heat source). Remove the peppers and garlic to a plate to cool while the tomatoes finish roasting. Once cool, remove the garlic from their skins, and place them in a blender, along with the peppers, roughly chopped, and the blackened juicy tomatoes, including all of the juices from the pan. Blend until smooth.
Heat two tablespoons of olive oil over medium heat. Add onions and cook until starting to turn translucent, about four minutes. Add the tomato puree and dried oregano. Simmer until the sauce has thickened enough that a line stays when you scrape the bottom of the pan with a spoon. Stir in the veggie broth and cook until the sauce is a nice pasta sauce texture. Taste and season with salt and pepper. Stir in sliced basil, and remove from heat.
SPINACH AND RICOTTA FILLING:
- 2 Bunches Spinach, washed and de-stemmed
- 1 Lb Ricotta (I got the stuff from the deli counter, which was really delicious, and at least for me, similarly priced to the pre-packaged stuff.)
- 12 oz Mozzarella (divided: half for the filling, the other half is for the topping.)
- 1 Egg
- 3-4 Cloves Garlic, minced
- 1/4 Cup Fresh Parsley, chopped
- 1/4 Cup Fresh Basil, chopped
- 1 Tsp Dried Oregano
- I didn’t add this time, but I think next time I will try adding a teaspoon of red chile flakes.
Heat a couple of tablespoons of oil over medium heat, and add the spinach. Cook until wilted, remove and cool. Once cool, squeeze out as much of the liquid as possible, and chop.
In a large bowl, combined the spinach, ricotta, 6 oz of mozzerella, egg, garlic, parsley, basil and dried oregano.
- 1 Lb Crimini Mushrooms, sliced
- Olive Oil
- Pinch of Salt
You can throw the mushrooms into the lasagna raw, they will cook in the oven, however I like to sauté them first in order to release the meaty umami flavor. Heat up a couple of tablespoons of olive oil over medium-high heat. Once hot, add the mushrooms and cook until they have released their moisture, and start to brown, about fifteen minutes. Season lightly with a large pinch of salt. Set aside to cool.
TO ASSEMBLE THE LASAGNA:
- Cooking Spray
- Sauce 3-4 Cups sauce
- Cooked Lasagna Noodles
- Spinach and Ricotta Filling
- The remaining 6 oz mozzarella listed from the “filling” section
- 4 oz Freshly Grated Parmesan
Spray a 13″ x 9″ baking dish with cooking spray. Pour about a cup of the sauce into the pan and spread it around. Line the dish with two noodles. Spread half of the spinach and ricotta filling on the noodles. Place half of the mushrooms in a thin layer on top of the spinach and ricotta. Then layer in about a cup of sauce, spreading smooth with a spatula. Then layer: noodles, spinach and ricotta, mushrooms, noddles, remaining sauce, and top with the mozzarella and parm. Bake at 350 degrees for about 40 minutes, or until golden brown. Allow to cool for five minutes before serving.