Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Project Lasagna

Wow. I just finished one of my biggest cooking projects ever. Homemade lasagne. Completely homemade lasagne. Well, almost. I did not make the sauce from scratch, though I'm thankful I didn't because this lasagne was intensive enough.

It all started when I remembered a recipe for homemade ricotta. "I should definitely make this!" I thought. Once I finished that I that (delicious) endeavor, I looked around and saw a recipe for 1,000 layer lasagna. Must. Make. This. And what an undertaking that was. It was the most intense lasagne I've ever made. Actually I think that was the first lasagna I've ever made. And it's the best.

First comes the making of the ricotta:

Heat 3 cups of milk, one cup of cream, and a pinch of salt in a large saucepan until it reaches 190* or, if you do not have a thermometer, until it's almost simmering and there are lots of bubbles around the edges.
Take the pan off of the burner and stir (not too much!) in 3 Tablespoons lemon juice. Let this mixture sit for about 5 minutes  (note: this resulted in ricotta that was more the texture of marscapone. I think if the mixture sits longer it will "curd" up more and be grainy-er) then pour it into a cheesecloth lined colander. I used a thin dish towel instead.

I tied it to the faucet to drain better since my colander is not very perforated.

Drain the ricotta for about an hour and then scoop into a container or eat warm.
I seasoned the ricotta for my lasagna with dried basil, garlic powder, salt, and pepper. (Not pictured)

For the lasagna:
Prepare yourself because this is going to be a long process. I think it took me about 2 hours, and that was with the meat sauce (jarred, and I added cooked ground beef to it) and ricotta prepared ahead of time. Maybe do some yoga and soothing chants.

Make the pasta dough.

3 cups all-purpose flour
4 large eggs
1 teaspoon salt
4 tablespoons water

Mix together the flour and the salt in a large bowl. Crack in the eggs and add the water. Mix with your hands or a spoon until it forms a dough. Turn it out onto the counter and knead until  the dough is smooth and supple feeling. To see a video on how to knead dough look here. Cover the dough with a dishtowel, overturned bowl, or whatever and let it chill out for an hour. This lets the gluten relax and makes it much easier to roll out.
Now at this point I referred to 101 Cookbooks for directions on rolling:

"Thin out your pasta using a pasta machine. Start by cutting the big sheets into 2-inch(ish) wide ribbons. This means making 2 cuts along the sheets. This should yield you about 12 2-foot strips. Run them through the pasta machine. I go to the 8 setting, one shy of the very thinnest setting. The sheets should almost be translucent. Cut the strips into manageable rectangles roughly 4-inches in length."
My pasta roller only has six settings and at 5 they were almost translucent. Your mileage may vary. I found it much easier to roll as I layered the lasagna.
Spoon some sauce into the bottom of your dish (I used 8x8in baking pan. My sauce was just jarred sauce thinned out with water and had ground beef added. The water helps the pasts cook) and put a layer of pasta on top. Spoon some more sauce on top, then a pasta layer, etc. My layers went something like this from bottom of pan to top:

sauce and mozzerella cheese
sauce and mozzerella cheese.

Or something like that; there were a lot of layers. One assembled, bake this monster at 375* for about 35 minutes then let it cool for 10 minutes.

Slice it up and devour 2 pieces because you deserve it!

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