Unless you happen to live in Emilia-Romagna, in whose towns and cities there are still a few shops selling pasta made by hand, you can make far better fresh pasta, either by the rolling-pin method or the machine method, than you can buy or eat anywhere.
— Marcella Hazan, Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking
Truer words were never written than those above. Homemade pasta is the epitome of creating beautiful food at home. And contrary to what many people thing, making pasta at home is not difficult, even if you make it entirely by hand and roll it yourself!
The Daring Bakers had the opportunity to do this thanks to our March hostesses.
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.
These lovely ladies threw down the pasta gauntlet by challenging us to make lasagne typical of the Emilia-Romagna region of Italy; a region renowned for its citizens’ abilities to make the most beautiful homemade pasta..
The recipe, the main challenge being hand-rolling the pasta, was for a spinach dough, a country-style ragu and a bechamel.
So I should tell you right off the bat that I had to make amendments to each section of the recipe. Normally, I love all of these elements but Famiglia Cream Puff has been struggling with various forms of flu and the thought of a heavy, albeit delicious, lasagne didn’t sit very well with the stomach.
Instead, I made a basic pasta dough, a plain tomato sauce and a bechamel that I used for a mini-lasagne. I used the rest of the dough to make a larger and plainer lasagne that was enjoyed throughout the week for work lunches.
I began by creating my dough. Using the method Mama Cream Puff taught me, I created a ring of flour and dropped in my eggs. Using a fork, I slowly incorporated the flour into the egg until I had a thick mixture that I gathered into a ball. I kneaded the dough for about 10 minutes (by hand) until it was nice and smooth. I then let it rest for about an hour.
I used the longest rolling pin that I had to begin rolling out my dough. It was tough work, especially because at a certain point I had to divide the dough in half. Our counters are very small and there was no way that I could roll the dough out thinly without cutting it into two pieces.
At a certain point, I will admit, I gave up. It was hard work rolling that dough and I probably could have gone a bit thinner, but I was satisfied so I cut my dough into segments, floured them and placed them on a baking sheet to dry out a bit.
I then went ahead and made a half portion of the bechamel. Because I couldn’t stomach the idea of eating bechamel since I was under the weather, I made a mini lasagne with the bechamel. I began with a layer of bechamel, followed by a layer of cooked lasagne noodles topped with sauce and grated Parmigiano Reggiano.
I repeated these steps several times and ended with a slathering of bechamel on top.
The end result looked lovely. While I didn’t try it, my family ate it right up, which is, of course, the best compliment a cook can get.
I went ahead and used the rest of my dough to make a simple lasagna of noodles, sauce and grated Parmigiano, which was also delicious.
My mother’s lasagne is the standard by which I judge all others. While this lasagne was good, it’s certainly not Mama Cream Puff’s, although I did take many liberties with the recipe.
I do want to thank Mary, Melinda and Enza for challenging us to step out of our comfort zones and get rolling!