I bought a pasta maker attachment for my Kitchenaid the first year I lived in New York, and I quickly realized I lacked one of the key ingredients for making fresh pasta: space. In my first two attempts to make fresh ravioli, I ended up with sheets of pasta strewn over every available surface in the apartment I shared with my two roommates. I do my best culinary work in a calm, controlled environment with minimal mess, so after only two uses, my pasta maker was stowed away in the deep, dark recesses of my cabinets. Recently, however, I felt inspired to take it out again and give it another chance, now that I have a bit more counter space and only one roommate who has no problem with fresh pasta on the sofa.
I attempted to make ravioli last Sunday night, but there was a bit of a snafu with a Fresh Direct delivery, so I’d rather not relive that painful memory. Instead, I wanted to share a few thoughts I had about making Alice Water’s Spinach Lasagna from The Art of Simple Food. I went all out, and made everything from scratch, including the pasta, tomato sauce and béchamel. I probably embarked on this mission a little too casually, because truth be told it was a LOT of work and consumed a lot of time. If you are going to replicate this experiment, I would suggest making the tomato sauce a day in advance, or at least a few hours before you begin preparing the béchamel and the spinach filling. You could also easily make the pasta dough earlier in the day, and just take it out when it’s time to cook the noodles I felt a little panicky having so many irons in the fire simultaneously, so to speak, and I think the lasagna would have turned out a little better if I had planned my attack more thoroughly.
That said, everything came together in the end, and I enjoyed eating my creation both for dinner last night and lunch today. Here are the necessary recipes, if you want to try this at home:
1 recipe Fresh Pasta (see below)
1 ½ cups White Sauce (see below)
1 recipe Simple Tomato Sauce (see below)
1 bunch spinach (½ pound)
1 garlic clove, minced
½ pound ricotta cheese
¼ cup + 2 tablespoons Parmesan cheese
pinch of grated nutmeg
Wash and drain the spinach. Warm up a tablespoon of olive oil in a skillet over medium heat. Cook the spinach until just wilted, seasoning with salt. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute more. Set aside and let cool. Then, gather the spinach into a ball and squeeze to remove excess moisture. Chop fine.
In a bowl, mix the ricotta with the spinach. Add 1 tablespoon olive oil and salt to taste.
In another bowl, mix the warm white sauce with ¼ cup Parmesan cheese, a pinch of nutmeg, and salt.
Roll out the pasta into 5 – 6 inch long sheets. You should have seven of them. (If you have more or less, no worries, just tailor the lasagna assemblage to what works.) Cook al dente in a big pot of boiling, salted water. Drain, rinse under cold water, and then drain again. Put the noodles in a bowl with a tablespoon of olive oil to prevent sticking.
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.
Oil a 10 by 12 inch baking pan. To assemble the lasagna, first spread a few spoonfuls of white sauce on the bottom. Then a single layer of pasta. Spread this with a third of the ricotta mixture. Add another layer of pasta, and then half the tomato sauce. Pasta again and then half of the white sauce. Another layer of pasta. Repeat until all of the pasta is used up, making sure you finish with a top layer of pasta. Drizzle with olive oil, and cover completely with foil.
Bake for 20 minutes. Remove and discard the foil, sprinkle with 2 tablespoons Parmesan cheese, and bake for 15 minutes more, until bubbling and golden brown. Let stand for five minutes before serving.
from The Art of Simple Food
2 cups flour
2 egg yolks
Put the flour in a large bowl and make a well in the center with your fork. Pour in the eggs. Mix, like you’re scrambling the eggs, incorporating the flour a bit at a time. When it becomes too stiff, mix with your hands. When it all comes together, pour it out onto a floured surface and knead lightly. Add a few drops of water if it’s too dry. Shape the dough into a disk, wrap in plastic, and let stand an hour.
When you’re ready to roll the dough, you can either use a rolling pin on a floured surface (folding the dough in half a few times and rolling it out again until its thin and even) or you can use a pasta machine. For this, roll the pasta through the widest setting, fold into thirds, and roll again. Do this a couple times, and then begin decreasing the setting on the machine until the pasta is your desired thickness.
from The Art of Simple Food
3 tablespoons butter
3 tablespoons flour
2 cups milk
Melt the butter in a heavy-bottomed pot. Stir in the flour. Cook over medium heat for about 3 minutes, whisking the whole time. Then, add the milk bit-by-bit, still whisking in order to avoid getting lumps. Bring the concoction up to a boil. Then, turn down to a bare simmer and cook for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Season with salt and nutmeg. Keep warm until use, or it will solidify.
Read Full Post »