Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Here's your fresh pasta

I've been making fresh pasta once a week for the past month, using different flours.  There are so many pasta dough recipes in the cyber-world, that I believe it is possible to try a new recipe every day for a month and still not have tried them all.  Some recipes call for all-purpose flour or high gluten, while others list semolina or whole wheat flour, and there are just as many combinations of these.
All this pasta making was instigated by an Italian friend who was longing to eat the authentic Lasagna Verdi Alla Bolognese, from the Ristorante Diana, that he had many years ago in Bologna, Italy.  Along with memories of that long ago dinner, came amusing stories of his mother working the dough on the kitchen table.  My friend decided an authentic Italian roller-type pasta machine was necessary, rather than the American machine I have made many pounds of pasta with over the years.
Lasagne Verdi
3 1/2 C all purpose flour
1/4 C water
2 Tb oil
2 eggs
1/2 C fresh spinach, cooked, drained and chopped
Combine all the ingredients and knead until smooth.  Roll out on lightly floured surface to a thickness of about 1/8", then either cut into 5-6" squares, or use a pasta machine and roll it quite thin.  Bring a large quantity of salted water to a boil.  Add 1/2 the pasta and cook quickly just until al dente, 1-2 minutes.  Drain well, and lay on dish towels to dry.  Repeat with remaining pasta. 
Bechamel Sauce
6 Tb butter
1 C(scant) all purpose flour
1 quart milk, heated to boiling
pinch of  salt
dash freshly grated nutmeg
lightly salted water 
1 C freshly grated Parmesan cheese (I used more)
Additional Parmesan for garnish
Melt butter in a large saucepan over medium heat.  Whisk in flour, blending well.  Let cook several minutes, whisking constantly.  Slowly whisk in boiling milk, blending until smooth.  Add salt and nutmeg.  Reduce heat to low and cook about 10 minutes, stirring constantly.  Set aside. 
Ragu alla Bolognese 
2 Tb oil
1/2 C minced pancetta
1/2 C minced onion
2 Tb minced celery
2 Tb minced carrot
2 lbs lean ground beef
Salt and freshly ground pepper
freshly grated nutmeg
3/4 C dry white wine
3 Tb tomato paste
Heat oil in a Dutch oven over medium high heat.  Add pancetta and cook until browned.  Add onion, celery and carrot; continue cooking, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon, until soft.  Add beef, salt and pepper to taste and dust lightly with nutmeg.  Continue cooking, stirring often, about 30 minutes.  Reduce heat to medium.  Add wine and continue cooking, stirring occasionally, until wine has evaporated.  Blend in tomato paste.  Add water to cover all ingredients (about 2 1/2 Cups).  Bring to boil, reduce heat and simmer uncovered about 45 minutes.  
To assemble:  Generously butter a 9"X13" baking dish and arrange a layer of pasta on the bottom.  Spread with about 1/3 of the bechamel, then some ragu.  Sprinkle with about 1/3 of the cheese.  Repeat.  Add  another layer of pasta, then remaining bechamel and cheese; dot with butter.  Bake until hot and bubbly, about 50 minutes.  Let it rest for 10 minutes and serve with the remaining ragu and additional Parmesan.
The layers of fresh pasta melt in your mouth while the bechamel sauce adds another dimension.  Though not your traditional combination of ricotta, mozzerella and tomato sauce, this lasagna is a concert of flavors.   Supposedly, this is the original Lasagne Verdi Alla Bolognese recipe from the Ristorante Diana in Bologna, Italy which serves 12.  Bon Appetite.


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