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