Sunday Fresh Pasta ~ Cheesy Lasagna

iPhoto“Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.”
Leonardo da Vinci

Yesterday lasagna sounded good, but not your ordinary lasagna or shall I say not your grandma’s lasagna. Many years ago I found and saved a recipe for a lasagna made with many very thin sheets of fresh pasta and it was delicious, just a simple sauce, fresh mozzarella, parmesan and basil completed the dish. I know someone missed the sliced meatballs between the pasta sheets so I was prepared with homemade sausage, grilled and bathed in tomato sauce to serve with the lasagna. I couldn’t manage the dough on the thinnest setting, but the lasagna sheets came out pretty good rolled at the second to last setting.

Use the best canned tomatoes that you can find and don’t be tempted to cut corners for your sauce by using canned puree which always taste too over cooked and too acidic, puree is good for adding to things, but mercy not THE one and only main tomato product for a sauce…

There are so many fresh pasta dough recipes, but I use one that I have tacked to the inside of my cabinet door…1+3/4 cup 00 flour, 2 slightly beaten eggs, plus one extra yolk, 1/2 teaspoon salt, knead with mixer dough hook for 4-5 minutes or until you have a smooth ball of dough. Rest the dough for at least 30 minutes before cutting the dough into 12 pieces (I can manage the smaller pieces in the pasta roller better than in 8ths as the sheets get too long). Roll the pasta sheets through a pasta roller according to the roller machine directions or watch a video. I get the dough through to the second to last setting and that is as thin as I dare roll the sheet of pasta…cut the sheets into 4 inch lengths and lay out on floured parchment paper separating each layer with another sheet of parchment cover with a towel until ready to cook.

iPhoto

Prepare a huge pot of boiling water to cook the individual cut sheets (6-8 at a time) for about 20 seconds each, cool immediately in a bowl of ice cubes and water, scoop out and lay each one on a parchment covered sheet pan and cover with paper towels. Continue cooking the sheets and separating each layer until you can just cover the pasta with a clean soft tea towel…take a break for several hours if needed by now. I had enough pasta sheets for a 7 1/2 x 9 1/2 x 2 3/4 glass baking dish and while you can’t see all of the layers, I managed to finish with 12 or 13 layers.  Each sheet wasn’t even as thick as a shiny new penny.

iPhotoEach sheet wasn’t even as thick as a shiny new penny.

If you are just not into making fresh pasta sheets try to find it in one of your stores or an Italian deli or restaurant that might sell you some. Purchased sheets may need to be rolled thinner as I find most too thick. Head on over to the 101 Cookbooks blog to see the recipe:

http://www.101cookbooks.com/archives/thousand-layer-lasagna-recipe.html#comments

Sauce:

1-28 ounce can or box of the best crushed tomatoes available
1 medium carrot cut in half
1 thick slice of peeled onion
2 tablespoons olive oil
6 or so fresh basil leaves
crushed red pepper
6 cloves smashed roasted garlic
a good glug of red wine
zest of a small lemon
salt and pepper to taste

Heat the olive oil over medium heat add the onion and carrot, briefly sauté. Add the crushed tomatoes, basil, red pepper and season with a little salt. Add wine and simmer for 30-40 minutes. Remove from heat and cover until you are ready to assemble the lasagna.

Blend 1/2-3/4 cup parmesan cheese with shredded fresh mozzarella (3 balls of cheese are suggested) and set aside. Ladle in just enough sauce to lightly coat the bottom of a deep casserole or lasagna dish, add a layer of pasta, a generous handful of cheese and more sauce. Continuing to layer ingredients ending with a layer of pasta and finally the last of the sauce. Sprinkle parmesan over and bake in a 375º oven for 30-40 minutes. Allow to rest for 30 minutes before serving. Serve lasagna with a salad and fresh bread…NOTE:  you can put additional pieces of torn basil over a few of the layers.

http://www.nytimes.com/video/dining/1194817104184/no-knead-bread.html

iPhoto