Sunday, May 18, 2008

Homemade sauce and pasta transformed into individual lasagnas...

Ah yes, a full week of recipes now that we are back in the kitchen full time - 8 new recipes for us this time. Our top picks this round were those fun Chocolate Cupcakes with Cream Filling, the Italian Panini with Prosciutto and Fresh Mozzarella and Jeff's choice of that Lighter Pineapple Upside-Down Cake.

Looking for a relaxing way to spend a weekend evening in the kitchen? If so, you'll have to give this Semolina Lasagna with Spicy Amatriciana a try, made special by making your own homemade lasagna sheets! Homemade pasta may sound intimidating or complicated, especially if you have never made it before (this was our first time!), but this version is quickly prepared in the food processor with just 5 ingredients!

While the rich yellow dough was resting, I jumped a head a bit from the recipe and started preparing the sauce to keep busy. To give the sauce an intriguing smoky note, a couple slices worth of chopped bacon are rendered until crispy. To those crisp bits and drippings, a little extra oil, a mess of thinly sliced onions and a few crushed cloves of garlic are added. Fire-roasted diced tomatoes and a little water are stirred in as soon as the onions began to brown a bit - this mixture is then allowed to slowly bubble away until the flavors combine and the sauce thickens.

When you go to cook the pasta, be sure to use a large pot and season the water generously with salt (use about 1 tablespoon per 6 quarts - you could even go a little heavier I think). As you add the pasta, try to lower it slow enough that it has a chance to work its way in, but don't take your time as the rising steam from the water will start to make it sticky. Once it is done, transfer the long sheets to a damp towel and cover - you'll want to do these one at a time so they cook evenly and quickly. You'll need 6 individual serving dishes that are oven safe to prepare these in - these funky dishes that we picked up at Ikea worked perfectly (though maybe a touch big!).

The lasagna is assembled by simply laying the end of the cooked pasta sheet into the bottom of the baking dish, spooning a little of the homemade sauce on top, folding a piece of the sheet back over that sauce and repeating this process, ending with sauce on top to keep the pasta moist. Because the dough is rolled quite thin, it may tear on you (we actually only had this happen once though), but it is not a big deal as it patches together well as you layer. You of course need cheese, so as the last layer a sprinkling of freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano and a few chunky pieces of fresh mozzarella are added. This gives you just enough cheesy flavor, but still allows the clean flavors of the sauce and pasta be the star. If you are a cheese fiend though, you could get away with adding a bit to the layering process. Each dish is covered and baked just long enough to reheat the dish and allow the cheese to melt - if you are a "crusty edge" person, uncover the dishes and broil them for just a minute or two so the pasta edges crisp up.

While this dish gets extra points for fantastic flavor, I loved preparing and serving this as individual portions, allowing you to customize the flavor of each to suit you or your guests taste. We also can't get over just how much better the homemade lasagna sheets tasted - while we won't give up on the convenient prepared dry versions any time soon, I know I'll be making these sheets again when I have the time to do so.


  1. That lasagna looks wonderful! Reminds me so much of a dish I had in Rome...There's nothing like homemade pasta! Though lately I've been sort of cheating - I use won ton wrappers when I make ravioli. Really like the dish from Ikea, I haven't seen those there...

    I made polenta cookies over the weekend. Tweaked the recipe a little by adding a lemon glaze, they disappeared fast!


  2. Oh Yum!!
    I haven't gotten the courage to try that recipe yet, although I really want to try homemade pasta sometime.
    I also enjoy the process of making things, so this sounds like a nice project to try! (plus my son loooves lasagna!)
    Nice looking lasagna Joe, and I like your "funky dishes"!! :o)

  3. Quinn - I quite often use wonton wrappers for ravioli too!

    Ana - It really is not difficult at all, just a little time consuming!