**Updated with photos...scroll to the bottom for a visual experience of this exciting challenge!**
I am very sad about this Daring Bakers' posting. I worked hard last Friday to ensure my lasagna was made on time, but, unfortunately, my computer has been having extreme technical difficulties lately, and its newest trick is to refuse to load Windows. Alas, there will be no photos with the post at this time. I finally made it to a computer that I could type out a post on, but my photos are still on my camera waiting to be uploaded.
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.
Handmade pasta is a challenge I've always wanted to undertake. It's up there on my list of baking/cooking endeavors-to-try along with baking yeast bread, roasting a whole chicken, and hand-making ice cream (another challenge the Daring Bakers has pushed me to achieve! :-) ).
I found myself with a free afternoon and an empty house so I flung on my apron, blasted my bluegrass tunes (for some reason, bluegrass always gets me in the mood for cooking) and wiped down the counters in preparation.
The dough for the spinach lasagna was simply flour, chopped spinach and two eggs. I ended up adding about 2 tablespoons of flour as the dough wasn't coming together with only two eggs. (I found out later other daring bakers had simply added another egg or two, which I had considered, and will probably do in the future.) The amount of spinach I used was only 6 ounces, when the recipe called for 10...probably the reason why it was too dry. After ending up with a green, lumpy, dough ball, I kneaded the dough for about 10 minutes. If you are looking for a good arm workout to beef up those triceps and shoulders for the swimsuit season, here's your chance! ;-) The dough, then, had to rest for a while, 30 minutes to 3 hours. (I left it about 3 hours.)
After a nice, extended workout at the pool, I came back to roll out the dough into long, thin strips. The trick to rolling out lasagna is stretching rather than smashing. It doesn't spread easily like cookie dough. Because of all the kneading, the gluten in the flour is very lively and doesn't like to cooperate with spreading thinly. I don't think my dough rolled out quite as thinly as it should have (you should be able to see your hand through it if you hold it up to the light), but when it started tearing, I chose to call it quits. I cut it into 4"x8" strips, draped some chair backs in the kitchen with linen towels and hung the pasta to dry.
The bechamel sauce was simple enough, but I burned it the first time. You start out by browning butter and flour in a saucepan before adding the milk. But I believe I had the heat up too high, because as soon as I started to pour in the milk, this horrible burning smell emitted from the pan. It is best to have the heat on the lower side of low-medium.
No meat on Fridays in Lent, so I threw together a marinara sauce to blanket my lasagna with. After sauteeing an onion, 3 cloves of garlic and 1 cup of mushrooms in a pan, I added two large cans of crushed tomatoes. Seasoning it with a little pepper (there was already added salt in the cans), I left it to simmer for about an hour. At the very end, I added about 2 T. of fresh basil.
The lasagna was layered, starting out first with a bit of bechamel in the bottom, noodles, bechamel, marinara, parmesano reggiano, etc. until all ingredients are used up, finishing with bechamel and a generous spread of parmesano reggiano on top.
I baked it about 40 minutes at 350 F covered with tinfoil. Then, took off the tinfoil and baked it another 10 minutes. And, lastly, turned off the oven, propped the door open a smidge, and let it cool and set for about 10 minutes before serving. This was exactly per recipe instructions and it worked like a charm.
This lasagna was perfect served with a Caesar salad on the side. Although, I hear that is rather un-Italian.
A wonderful spring meal! :-)