March 27, 2009

Buono Appetite! It's Lasagne Verdi Al Forno from Emilia-Romagna: Daring Baker Challenge March 2009


It's my Daring Baker Challenge time and 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.

Before I go any further, I would like to mention that we Daring Bakers now meet at a new address. Do drop by there to take a look at our very trendy new home, where there is a public forum for non-Daring Bakers too.

Lasagne (this is the plural form of the word and how the Italians refer to this dish, though the singular "lasagna" is more popularly used) is an Italian sheet pasta though everyone knows it as the delicious layered preparation in which this pasta is used.
Lasagne Al Forno means "lasagne baked in an oven" and this version is green (hence the "verdi") because it has spinach.

Lasagne is a dish that has successfully transcended borders and is today made around the world, albeit with many variations from the Italian original. Even within Italy, there are many variations and each region has its own lasagne tradition. Yet, many people consider the lasagne as it is made in the Emilia-Romagna region in central Italy to be the best and the standard against which all other lasagne are measured.
Lasagne from this region uses pasta which is coloured green with spinach puree, béchamel sauce flavoured with nutmeg, a hearty meat and tomato ragu and Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese.




We like pasta and the thought of making lasagne at home was a bit daunting, especially as my one and only previous attempt at it was gnocchi which was an abject failure. So I put that memory on the backburner and decided to give this pasta a chance.

Going through the provided recipe it didn't seem too difficult. The important part seemed to be to roll the pasta out as thin as possible, and I quote "the sheet should be so thin that you can clearly see your hand through it and see colours"!

The provided recipe was for a non-vegetarian version and we were free to use alternatives to suit our dietary choices. We were required to make hand-made pasta sheets, a béchamel sauce, a ragu (or alternative sauce) and follow the given instructions to assemble and bake a lasagna.



My Lasagne Making Experience:


The Lasagne Sheets:

Following my usual style of "cook eggless if possible", I used Bryanna's eggless version to make my delightful green spinach pasta sheets.

I halved the given recipe and used the food processor to make the dough. It really cannot get any easier than this. I cooked fresh spinach, pureed it and then used it in the dough. This gave my dough a beautiful uniform green colour.



Inspired by a fellow DB's suggestion, I divided the dough into smaller pieces, shaped them into rough squares, rolled them out and then cut them into strips. Rolling out the pasta into thin sheets thin wasn't a problem, even though my rolling pin is a small wooden one which is tapered at the ends. I guess the practice from years of regularly rolling out chapattis does make all the difference!




The pasta turned out thin enough for me too see my hand through it but I'm afraid I saw no colours through it. In the above picture, it looks as if I have suddenly developed green webbed fingers!
The camera has become an indispensable part of my kitchen accessories ever since I started blogging, and with this challenge, looks like our dining chairs have joined in!!!




I let my pasta sheets dry for about 10 minutes and then cut them into strips. I put the strips into an airtight box, separated by waxed paper, and refrigerated them till the next day when I used them.


My Sauces:

I made the Béchamel sauce using the provided recipe. As the provided ragu recipe was non-vegetarian, I substituted this with my own version of Marinara sauce and stir fried finely chopped eggplant and zucchini sautéed with a bit of oil and seasoned with salt, pepper and mixed dried Italian herbs.


Assembling The Lasagne:

I cooked the refrigerated pasta sheets in boiling water for about 3 to 4 minutes, ddabbed them dry on a kitchen towel and then used them for the lasagne.

I had the marinara sauce in the freezer, so I thawed that and warmed it a little. I made the béchamel sauce prior to assembling the lasagne.

I followed the provided layering instructions, starting with a layer of the béchamel sauce, a layer of the pasta sheets, another layer of béchamel sauce, a layer of marinara topped with sautéed vegetables, a thin layer of grated cheese, repeating till the sauces and vegetables are used up. The last layer was a thin layer of béchamel sauce topped with a generous amount of grated cheese.

I couldn't find Parmesan here so I used Mozarella instead. I did think of using Paneer (a soft Indian cheese) as well, but my daughter loves Mozarella so that was the way I went with the cheese.
I baked my lasagna for 50 minutes (an extra 10 minutes) and left it to cool for about 20 minutes before cutting it to serve.


Verdict:

Even though I had a feeling that my home-made lasagna wouldn't turn out right I was very happy to be proved wrong. It was quite good and I was happy with the way the lasagne turned out.

Using as little of the sauces to make very thin layers is definitely a defining part of this preparation. It allows one to savour the flavours in the lasagne. It also prevents one's lasagne from becoming a "gloppy" mess!

One usually sees lasagna served with bread and salad in most places, but I'm not sure how it is served in Italy. Our lasagne was a full meal by itself.

I still haven't decided whether I will make this again, but I have a feeling I probably will with different vegetables and cheese just to see how the flavours pair up. This sheet pasta can also be used to make cannelloni and ravioli so I might just experiment with those too, when time permits.

And don't forget to visit my fellow lasagne bakers.


67 comments:

Soma said...

I just love those pictures!! the one where u can see ur hands! amazing!! great job done!!

Divya Kudua said...

Wow..you made Lasagna at home?Start to finish..?Great job Aparna.I love the pics,the one with your webbed hands and the sheets taking rest on the dining chair..hehe..lovely!!

Vibaas said...

Pics are awesome..i love the ones that are drying on the chair :) cute! :D

love your recipe. i never ever thought of making lasagna at home. you've given detailed description. Awesome!

Curry Leaf said...

Love Love this DB Challenge.TRUE DB YOU ARE,I actually bght lasagna sheets from US,never ever thght of making at home.The experience in rotis surely helped .Love all the pictures especially the webbed one.GREAT GREAT GREAT JOB

A_and_N said...

You MADE lasagna sheets! Gosh! Brilliant, Aparna!

jayasree said...

Brilliant job. I feel exhausted reading thro the recipe. I can imagine how it must have been to do it from scratch? The webbed pic is great.

Nags said...

i would have silently not participated in this challenge if i were the one to be given this recipe :D hehe i am that lazy!

can't wait to see your cinnamon click, yes looks like a lot of people thought it up as wood ;)

prathibha said...

Home made Lasagne?? OMG..looks very interesting....great job Aparna

Rosa's Yummy Yums said...

Your Lasagne look mighty good! Very well done here!

Cheers,

Rosa

Arundathi said...

you've really done a beautiful job of the rolling. love the greens. looking fwd to the ravioli!

MAHIMA said...

Aparna you have done a awesome job!! love your pics:)

lisamichele said...

Aparna, as usual, you did an amazing job. Your lasagne looks perfect and mouth watering! I am looking forwar to trying your marinara sauce :)

sra said...

Green webbed fingers is exactly the phrase that came to my mind when I saw the photo!

You know, when we went for some denim showroom inauguration, someone said it followed the Italian pasta style of decor. When our eyes goggled, they explained that in Italy, fresh pasta was laid out over hooks and protrusions from the wall and then cooked as per the customer's choice. Your lasagne draped over the chair reminded me of that.

Madhumathi said...

Thats really a great job!I could never imagine myself making lasagna at home..You are brilliant!
The pictures are very interesting esp the lasagna over the dinning chairs :)

Aparna said...

Thanks, everyone. It was an interesting experience. Who knows? I mught just give those gnocchi a second chance.:)

Sra, I think I've heard it all now - well almost. An Italian pasta style of decor?!!

Rachel said...

Great job Aparna

The 3rd pic reminds me of a webbed feet :)

Parita said...

Hi Aparna, I have been reading your blog for quite sometime now...lovely recipes you have got, home made lasagna is great, lovely pics and I love the green color..great work.

Passionate About Baking said...

It's beautiful Aparna, & the next time I'm going to make the eggless one like you've made. Beautiful!!

Asha said...

Happy Ugadi!

Lasagna, Lasagna everywhere! Looks gorgeous, veg Lasagna is interesting. Enjoy! :)

JZ @ Tasty treats said...

I cant help but holler, urs look amazing!! you were kind of my inspiration to do the challenge. You always do it early enough!! :-)

the lasagna looks gorgeous and perfect!! great job with the challenge!

Jo said...

Great job on your challenge and a real delicious looking lasagne if I dare say myself.

Sia said...

i envy u girl for making such perfect sheets and pefect looking lasagne! :)

wishing u and ur loved ones a very happy ugadi:)

Anne said...

Beautiful lasagne! Makes me want to make it again - ours is all gobbled up.

Medhaa said...

Perfect looking lasagna. Mine just dropped since had a lot of sauce i guess

Cham said...

The sheet is so thin, u re a pro rolling in pin! Great challenge beautifully accomplished!

FoodyGuru (Srimathi) said...

The lasagna looks very good. Eggless version and home made is some task.

Srivalli said...

Thats a lovely one aparna..looks very interesting but of course sounds so hard...:))

shellyfish said...

Aparna, I love that photo of the drying sheets - so pretty! I agree with you, this pasta was so easy to make, I know I'll do it again!

Courtney said...

your pictures look great and do your beautiful lasagna justice. love the green it is such a beautiful color

Simran said...

This was a true dare. My only attempt at pasta making was a failed ravioli and I am never trying again. Your lasagne looks lovely.

BC said...

I was crossing my fingers for you after you posted that you had a gnocchi failure (gnocchi are very particular) Congratulations on a great job!

Natashya said...

What a vivid green you got on your pasta. Your lasagne looks great! I actually prefer it vegetarian, but hubby saw the recipe and wanted the meaty one.

Hannah said...

Oh, what gorgeous green dough! Your lasagna came out so beautifully. :)

Barbara said...

Hi Aparna,
I love your lasagna. My grandmother always draped her noodles over the backs of chairs as you did.
I am borrowing your recipe for naan because it looks so good.
I will visit your kitchen more often, thanks.
Namaste!

Lisa said...

I love the uniform green color of your pasta! And I can't believe you rolled it all by hand. I'm so impressed with everyone who did it by hand (arm)!

Lori said...

My hat is off to all of you who did such a fine job of rolling your pasta. Looks so professional. You always doa nice job with these challenges.

Namratha said...

Wow, your sheets are perfect, and neatly assembled lasagna, well done! :)

Arlette said...

Hello Aprana,
your lasagna looks very delicious, and the sheets are real thin, you did a good job as usual.

Y said...

Great looking lasagne! I love that picture of your hand against the pasta sheet.

Nidhi said...

The pictures are fantastic!My kitchen resembled a "dhobi-ghaat" too when I made these. But since, lasagne is not a favorite in my house, this challenge will not be made again, I think;-). Even though I loved all individual components of the recipe;-), I craved some spice in mine, perhaps try your marinara for the leftover sheets of pasta I have.

enza said...

beautiful photos and thanks a lot for your words.
yes, chapati will aid in rolling the dough, I guess. :))

Chantal said...

oh so beautiful!

Lauren said...

Mmm, your lasagne looks beautiful!! I love all of your photos =D.

Singing Horse said...

I still can't get enough of the photos of your exquisite pasta dough and noodles. They look just so perfect! Thanks for sharing so much beauty in your kitchen!

sunita said...

Great job on the challenge, Aparna :-)

Jenn said...

I wasn't able to roll mine quite that thin, but I got close I think. I could see my hand through if I held it up to the light, but definitely no colors here either.

Lorraine @NotQuiteNigella said...

I really like how uniformly green your lasagne looks! It looks delicious Aparna and I think you have a talent as a pasta maker!

Jacque said...

Oooh, pretty pasta! I agree, I'm not sure I'll make this again, but it has sparked my interest in past making. It was a fun challenge.

Nice work :)

ice tea: sugar high said...

Wow.. I'm really impressed on how thin your lasagna sheets are. I gave up on getting the transparency, don't think my arms and back will forgive me. Great job! Love your photos too

Yasmeen said...

Awesome job aparna:).
wasn't the posting date 29th?did i read it wrong in the forum?

art and lemons said...

Beautiful green pasta sheets! I especially like the photos of the pasta drying on the chair and the green hand silhouette.

Lis said...

WOW Aparna! Your pasta sheets turned out beautifully!!

I loved reading the background about lasagne.. I learned a few things I never knew, thank you! :)

xoxoox

Susan/Wild Yeast said...

I love that photo of your hand behind the pasta. What a wonderful job you did on this!

Elra said...

Wow, that is really paper thin. You did a great job Aparna.
Cheers,
elra

Pearlsofeast said...

Too good. Keep the good work. U have done excellent job.

Raaga said...

At one time I used to make pasta by hand... now I am lazy... yours looks lovely.

I've had lasagne sitting in my drafts for years now :) too lazy to type.

Cakelaw said...

Fantastic job Aparna - I love how thin and smooth you got your lasagne sheets.

Andreas said...

Your lasagna looks so very yummy.
While looking at the results of some other Daring Bakers I started to wonder why a food which is not exactly elegant always ends up looking so appetizing.
Like the picture of your "frosh fingers". :)

seamaiden said...

Beautiful photos. I love the one where you can see your "webbed fingers" through the pasta.

I made a vegetarian (and a second vegan version) and loved this recipe- I used a red lentil sauce instead of the ragu. Delicious!

-Sea

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Chantal said...

Hi Aparna!

Thanks for stopping by my blog! I will confess that in my decision to purchase a pasta machine I did consider the possibility of rolling a couple parathas through it, I know, I know, lazy, but hey! it could work :)

farida said...

Your lasagne looks so good! Brava to you for making the pasta sheets so thin!

Sheltie Girl said...

Aparna - You did a fabulous job on your lasagne. Your pasta sheets are simply gorgeous!

Natalie @ Gluten a Go Go

Maggie said...

Beautiful looking pasta!

martina said...

Great lasagne verdi! I was born in Emilia Romagna, the Holy Land of Lasagne (and so much else!) If you like to know usually we eat lasagne by themselves, no salad or else.Although in particular occasion you could eat lasagna like a main course and then add some meat+side. I wish you enjoy them
cheers Martina

Aparna said...

Thanks, Martina for that information.

Eat4Fun said...

Very nice looking lasagne! Great photo showing the thinness of your sheets and the webbed hand look. :)