We recently got a pasta machine, and are totally obsessed with making our own pasta - it tastes sooooo good! Mr. C would like to use our homemade pasta to make a lasagna for Christmas dinner.*
Problem is, I am having trouble finding a recipe, and I’m concerned that just treating the fresh pasta sheets like store bought noodles will lead to a pasty, gooey disaster. Yes, we are planning a dry run next week, but I’d like any input I can get before giving it a go.
Do we just roll the sheets and use as is, or do we need to actually boil them for a minute or two? Does either approach call for drying the sheets for some time first?
Also, I will be making my own ricotta for this - I like the results I’ve gotten making it in the past, but I’ve never used it in lasagna before - any tips or ideas, especially how it might interact with the pasta?
And finally, just any experience you have doing this would be appreciated. Thanks!
*Yes, I know it is far from traditional - I keep picturing Scrooge yelling from his window, “You boy! Go fetch the biggest chunk of Parmigiano Reggiano in the shop!”
This Fine Cooking Magazine recipe is quite nice. It has no ricotta, but you can get an idea of how much sauce you will need from it. There is also a really good ricotta and spinach recipe on the site, but you have to pay for it.
I haven’t made fresh pasta for years, but, for lasagna (especially with homemade ricotta), I think I’d go with something other than the traditional meat-and-cheese laden version, so you can appreciate the flavors of the fresh pasta and ricotta. Seafood lasagna with a white sauce rather than tomato would be really yummy.
As far as the ricotta goes, if it is not as firm in texture as commercial ricotta, you can beat an egg into it. That will help it firm up and give it a little more body after it bakes.
I’ve made seafood lasagna for Christmas dinner before - not only because I love lasagna, but because it’s a rich dish that is somewhat expensive to make, and therefore a special-occasion type meal. The recipe assumes you’ll be using storebought noodles and alfredo sauce, but of course you don’t have to. Seafood Lasagna
9 lasagna noodles
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 clove garlic, minced
¼ lb. baby portobello mushrooms, sliced
2 (16 ounce) jars Alfredo-style pasta sauce
1 pound shrimp, peeled and deveined
1 pound bay scallops
1 pound crabmeat
32 ounces part-skim or nonfat ricotta cheese
4 cups shredded Italian cheese blend
½ cup Romano cheese
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Add pasta and cook for 8 to 10 minutes or until al dente; drain.
Heat oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Sautee garlic and mushrooms until tender. Pour in 2 jars Alfredo sauce. Stir in shrimp, scallops and crabmeat. Simmer 5 to 10 minutes, or until heated through. In a medium bowl, combine ricotta cheese, egg, Romano cheese and pepper.
In a lasagna baking dish, layer noodles, ricotta mixture, Alfredo mixture and shredded cheese. Repeat layers until all ingredients are used, ensuring that there is shredded cheese for the top.
Bake uncovered in preheated oven for 45 minutes. Cover, and bake 15 minutes.
I made seafood lasagna with home rolled noodles for Boxing Day lunch last year (a respite from the all-turkey menus of the week) and I think I boiled the noodles for about 2-3 minutes just so they could maintain some structural integrity while assembling the lasagna. Make sure they are cool before you try to put the las. together, just because hot sheets are so bloody awkward.
Go for it! No need to boil the fresh noodles. Just roll them out and slap them into the pan. Don’t roll them to the thinnest possible setting on your machine, though. Stop at least one or two clicks before that.
Really, I can’t believe people ever use dry noodles, since with a pasta machine making and rolling out the fresh dough isn’t much more work than boiling and draining and cooling dry noodles. And it’s unbelievably better in every way.
You can make the sauce perhaps a little more watery than you might for fully-cooked non-fresh noodles, since the fresh pasta will absorb a little water, particularly the top layer. But no need to go overboard; it will work fine with exactly the same sauce as you use for cooked noodles.
I make a lasagna from scratch. The dough is just flour, eggs, salt, and finely chopped spinach. I actually don’t know the exact proportions, this is one of those things that I couldn’t get right until I threw away the recipe and did it by feel.
For my fillings, I use a besciamella (bechamel) for the white layer and a bolognese sauce for the meat layer. Also, each layer is topped with parm or grana padano or pecorino or whatever sharp, hard Italian cheese I happen to have around. The original recipe called for boiling the noodles for a minute before assembling them in the lasagna. I used to do this until the last time I made the recipe when I decided, what the hell, let just put the rolled-out sheets in there raw, and it turned out just fine.
The bolognese layer is very meaty and I basically use a classic combo of beef and pancetta with a soffritto (onions, carrots, celery), with tomato paste, stock, milk, and wine. I also add two chicken livers to my bolognese. I cook it down until it is a very rich and very thick pot of meat.
My hubby would love you!!! That’s the way he makes lasagna (he was taught this way by one of the chefs he trained with, who was from Italy). His guests at the resort rave about it. Do you use beef or veal for your bolognese? He doesn’t add anything to the meat except onions, tomato paste, and bay leaves (fresh, if he can get them).
OK- the pasta depends on the flour you use. Try getting some Semolina flour and make your pasta sheets with that. It’s harder to work by hand, but the end result is much better. You may have to knead it for 10-15 minutes to make it elastic enough to put through the pasta rollers, and don’t forget to let it rest for 15-30 minutes between kneading and rolling.
Hubby also uses vegetable powders to make colored pasta. We currently have beet powder (bright red), tomato powder (orangey) and spinach powder (green). He’s also made black pasta by straining the juice of calamari packed in its own ink, and adding that to the dough. He made a lasagna with beet pasta sheets, white sauce and spinach. Yummy!!!
Excellent - I knew I could count on the Dopers! Sadly, we are restricted a bit because two people are allergic to shellfish and one is allergic to pork. (We won’t even bother trying to accommodate the four year old, she’s so picky, so at least I’ve got that going for me.)
I think we will try boiling briefly - seems like insurance. I’m tempted to try free-form lasagne (that way we could even do different sauces and fillings), but it is awfully tempting to have a big casserole to pop in the oven, with little near-dinner prep work.
I think bolognese would be great (we just had fresh fettucine with meat sauce tonight, yum), but besciamela sounds good too - I think either we’ll have to do the combo like pulykamell describes, or do the free form and try one of each, plus maybe a pesto thing with the ricotta.
I will let you know what our test run turns out, and how Xmas dinner goes.
I use beef. I originally got the recipe from a Saveur Magazine from either 1999 or 2000. It was an article on these two old Italian ladies in Bologna and their lasagna, and the article inspired me to get off my butt and try to make lasagna completely from scratch. I was glad I did.
WARNING:PDF FILE. Wow. Looks like the recipe is online. It starts at “Pasta Verde.” The main difference is I use pancetta instead of prosciutto in the bolognese, and I discovered that pre-boiling the sheets doesn’t seem to make a difference to the dish, but perhaps I should try them side by side.