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daring bakers: lasagne

Recipe: lasagne of emilia-romagna

There is a lot going on this week at urb and much of it is happening while I am away (skiing). What now? Daring Bakers challenge time! If any of you follow the DBers, we have a sweet new home at The Daring Kitchen. You should go and check it out some time. And while we’re at changing homes, I had to say goodbye to my Bond-esque whisk-toting Daring Baker in exchange for…

the chopping ninja – haya!

Alright, here’s the party line: 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.

And let’s not forget our fearless, awesome, ass-kicking, super sexy founders: Lis of La Mia Cucina and Ivonne of Cream Puffs in Venice. They make all of this possible (with the help of several others – you know who you are! We love you!).

flap steak, ground veal, prosciutto, pancetta, pork loin

someone was really excited about the country style ragu

This recipe is fantastic if you want something truly delicious to grace your table. This recipe sucks if you don’t have a full day to devote to making it. I’m glad I did it for the knowledge and experience, but I probably won’t do it again without one of those hand crank pasta dealies. The sauce was also pretty involved, but good. It was very… meaty. A little too much meat for our tastes.

the ragu begins with minced onion, carrot, celery, and pancetta

browning the ground meat

The ragu involved a lot of browning and reduction of liquids which was responsible for the intense flavor in the sauce. I actually enjoyed the part where the meat was browned and left a nice layer of fond on the pan. That deliciousness was not wasted – oh no no no, it was reduced with some red wine and then added to the sauce.

fond on the pan

grating nutmeg into the bechamel sauce

The meat sauce continued to simmer and reduce for another couple of hours. Meanwhile I prepared the Bechamel sauce which was unbelievably simple to make by comparison. After all of the sauces were covered and waiting on the stove, I tackled the real challenge: the pasta.

eggs, spinach, flour

kneading the dough

I’ve never made pasta by hand before. This was exciting though, because it was a beautiful shade of bright green due to the chopped fresh spinach. Rolling the pasta out, I discovered that I didn’t have the patience to bring it to the thin see-through final state it was supposed to be. It was thin enough though. I only let my pasta dry for a couple of hours before boiling it for 2 minutes and then patting it dry for the assembly.

rolling out a quarter of the dough at a time

sheets of pasta drying on my towel rack in the living room

By the time I was assembling the lasagne, I was in no mood for photographing anything. It came together quickly (but I had double the amount of pasta needed). Now the recipe says to cover the lasagne for the first 40 minutes and then to uncover it for the last 10 minutes of baking. It is not supposed to have a golden crust, but be creamy white. Screw that! I *live* for that golden crunchy crust on top. So I left mine uncovered for the entire 50 minutes and it was fantastic.

A HUGE thanks to our founders and hosts for this challenge. I am quite the fan of the savory challenges because I actually eat them. Be sure to visit other Daring Bakers around the food blogosphere to see what they made! [The new blogroll will be up eventually, but for now, use the old one.]

i am a baking machine

Lasagne of Emilia-Romagna (Lasagne Verdi al Forno)
[print recipe]
from The Splendid Table: Recipes from Emilia-Romagna, the Heartland of Northern Italian Food by Lynne Rossetto Kasper
(Serves 8 to 10 as a first course, 6 to 8 as a main dish)

10 quarts (9 litres) salted water
1 recipe Spinach Pasta cut for lasagna
1 recipe Bechamel Sauce
1 recipe Country Style Ragu
1 cup (4 oz./125g) freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano

Working ahead: The ragu and the béchamel sauce can be made up to three days ahead. The ragu can also be frozen for up to one month. The pasta can be rolled out, cut and dried up to 24 hours before cooking. The assembled lasagne can wait at room temperature (20°C/68°F) about 1 hour before baking. Do not refrigerate it before baking, as the topping of béchamel and cheese will overcook by the time the center is hot.

Assembling the ingredients: Have all the sauces, rewarmed gently over a medium heat, and the pasta at hand. Have a large perforated skimmer and a large bowl of cold water next to the stove. Spread a double thickness of paper towels over a large counter space. Preheat the oven to 350°F (180°C). Oil or butter a 3 quart (approx 3 litre) shallow baking dish.

Cooking the pasta: Bring the salted water to a boil. Drop about four pieces of pasta in the water at a time. Cook about 2 minutes. If you are using dried pasta, cook about 4 minutes, taste, and cook longer if necessary. The pasta will continue cooking during baking, so make sure it is only barely tender. Lift the lasagne from the water with a skimmer, drain, and then slip into the bowl of cold water to stop cooking. When cool, lift out and dry on the paper towels. Repeat until all the pasta is cooked.

Assembling the lasagne: Spread a thin layer of béchamel over the bottom of the baking dish. Arrange a layer of about four overlapping sheets of pasta over the béchamel. Spread a thin layer of béchamel (about 3 or 4 spoonfuls) over the pasta, and then an equally thin layer of the ragu. Sprinkle with about 1 1/2 tablespoons of the béchamel and about 1/3 cup of the cheese. Repeat the layers until all ingredients are used, finishing with béchamel sauce and topping with a generous dusting of cheese.

Baking and serving the lasagne: Cover the baking dish lightly with foil, taking care not to let it touch the top of the lasagne. Bake 40 minutes, or until almost heated through. Remove the foil and bake another 10 minutes, or until hot in the center (test by inserting a knife – if it comes out very warm, the dish is ready). Take care not to brown the cheese topping. It should be melted, creamy looking and barely tinged with a little gold. Turn off the oven, leave the door ajar and let the lasagne rest for about 10 minutes. Then serve. This is not a solid lasagne, but a moist one that slips a bit when it is cut and served.

spinach egg pasta (pasta verde)
Makes enough for 6 to 8 first course servings or 4 to 6 main course servings, equivalent to 1 pound (450g) dried boxed pasta.

2 jumbo eggs (2 oz./60g or more)
10 oz. (300g) fresh spinach, rinsed dry, and finely chopped; or 6 oz. (170g) frozen chopped spinach, defrosted and squeezed dry
3 1/2 cups (14 oz./400g) all purpose unbleached (plain) flour (organic stone ground preferred)

Working by hand you will need: A roomy work surface, 24 to 30 inches deep by 30 to 36 inches (60cm to 77cm deep by 60cm to 92cm). Any smooth surface will do, but marble cools dough slightly, making it less flexible than desired. A pastry scraper and a small wooden spoon for blending the dough. A wooden dowel-style rolling pin. In Italy, pasta makers use one about 35 inches long and 2 inches thick (89cm long and 5cm thick). The shorter American-style pin with handles at either end can be used, but the longer it is, the easier it is to roll the pasta. Plastic wrap to wrap the resting dough and to cover rolled-out pasta waiting to be filled. It protects the pasta from drying out too quickly. A sharp chef’s knife for cutting pasta sheets. Cloth-covered chair backs, broom handles, or specially designed pasta racks found in cookware shops for draping the pasta.

Mixing the dough: Mound the flour in the center of your work surface and make a well in the middle. Add the eggs and spinach. Use a wooden spoon to beat together the eggs and spinach. Then gradually start incorporating shallow scrapings of flour from the sides of the well into the liquid. As you work more and more flour into the liquid, the well’s sides may collapse. Use a pastry scraper to keep the liquids from running off and to incorporate the last bits of flour into the dough. Don’t worry if it looks like a hopelessly rough and messy lump.

Kneading: With the aid of the scraper to scoop up unruly pieces, start kneading the dough. Once it becomes a cohesive mass, use the scraper to remove any bits of hard flour on the work surface – these will make the dough lumpy. Knead the dough for about 3 minutes. Its consistency should be elastic and a little sticky. If it is too sticky to move easily, knead in a few more tablespoons of flour. Continue kneading about 10 minutes, or until the dough has become satiny, smooth, and very elastic. It will feel alive under your hands. Do not shortcut this step. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap, and let it relax at room temperature 30 minutes to 3 hours.

Stretching and thinning: If using an extra-long rolling pin work with half the dough at a time. With a regular-length rolling pin, roll out a quarter of the dough at a time and keep the rest of the dough wrapped. Lightly sprinkle a large work surface with flour. The idea is to stretch the dough rather than press down and push it. Shape it into a ball and begin rolling out to form a circle, frequently turning the disc of dough a quarter turn. As it thins outs, start rolling the disc back on the pin a quarter of the way toward the center and stretching it gently sideways by running the palms of your hands over the rolled-up dough from the center of the pin outward. Unroll, turn the disc a quarter turn, and repeat. Do twice more. Stretch and even out the center of the disc by rolling the dough a quarter of the way back on the pin. Then gently push the rolling pin away from you with one hand while holding the sheet in place on the work surface with the other hand. Repeat three more times, turning the dough a quarter turn each time. Repeat the two processes as the disc becomes larger and thinner. The goal is a sheet of even thickness. For lasagne, the sheet should be so thin that you can clearly see your hand through it and see colours. Cut into rectangles about 4 by 8 inches (10 x 20 cm).

Dry the pasta at room temperature and store in a sealed container or bag.


4 tbsps (2 oz./60g) unsalted butter
4 tbsps (2 oz./60g) all purpose unbleached (plain) flour, organic stone ground preferred
2 2/3 cups (approx 570ml) milk
salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
nutmeg to taste, freshly grated

Using a medium-sized saucepan, melt the butter over low to medium heat. Sift over the flour, whisk until smooth, and then stir (without stopping) for about 3 minutes. Whisk in the milk a little at a time and keep the mixture smooth. Bring to a slow simmer, and stir 3 to 4 minutes, or until the sauce thickens. Cook, stirring, for about 5 minutes, until the sauce thickens. Season with salt, pepper, and a hint of nutmeg.

country style ragu’ (ragu alla contadina)
makes enough sauce for 1 recipe fresh pasta or 1 pound/450g dried pasta)

3 tbsps extra virgin olive oil (45 mL)
2 oz./60g pancetta, finely chopped
1 medium onion, minced
1 medium stalk celery with leaves, minced
1 small carrot, minced
4 oz./125g boneless veal shoulder or round
4 oz./125g pork loin, trimmed of fat, or 4 ounces/125g mild Italian sausage (made without fennel)
8 ounces/250g beef skirt steak, hanging tender, or boneless chuck blade or chuck center cut (in order of preference)
1 oz./30g thinly sliced Prosciutto di Parma
2/3 cup (5 oz./160ml) dry red wine
1 1/2 cups (12 oz./375ml) chicken or beef stock (homemade if possible)
2 cups (16 oz./500ml) milk
3 canned plum tomatoes, drained
salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Working ahead: The ragu can be made 3 days ahead. Cover and refrigerate. It also freezes well for up to 1 month. Skim the fat from the ragu’ before using it.

Browning the ragu base: Heat the olive oil in a 12 inch (30cm) skillet (frying pan) over medium-high heat. Have a large saucepan handy to use once browning is complete. Add the pancetta and minced vegetables and sauté, stirring frequently with a wooden spoon, 10 minutes, or until the onions barely begin to color. Coarsely grind all the meats together, including the prosciutto, in a food processor or meat grinder. Stir into the pan and slowly brown over medium heat. First the meats will give off a liquid and turn dull grey but, as the liquid evaporates, browning will begin. Stir often, scooping under the meats with the wooden spatula. Protect the brown glaze forming on the bottom of the pan by turning the heat down. Cook 15 minutes, or until the meats are a deep brown. Turn the contents of the skillet into a strainer and shake out the fat. Turn them into the saucepan and set over medium heat.

Reducing and simmering: Add the wine to the skillet, lowering the heat so the sauce bubbles quietly. Stir occasionally until the wine has reduced by half, about 3 minutes. Scrape up the brown glaze as the wine bubbles. Then pour the reduced wine into the saucepan and set the skillet aside. Stir 1/2 cup stock into the saucepan and let it bubble slowly, 10 minutes, or until totally evaporated. Repeat with another ½ cup stock. Stir in the last 1/2 cup stock along with the milk. Adjust heat so the liquid bubbles very slowly. Partially cover the pot, and cook 1 hour. Stir frequently to check for sticking. Add the tomatoes, crushing them as they go into the pot. Cook uncovered, at a very slow bubble for another 45 minutes, or until the sauce resembles a thick, meaty stew. Season with salt and pepper.

66 nibbles at “daring bakers: lasagne”

  1. Ronine says:

    To me, lasagne is all about the golden cruncy crust too!
    Impressive work, Jen – I don’t think pasta making will ever be my kind of baking…

  2. Barbara K says:

    Hi Jen!
    If you want to make fresh pasta again, do yourself a favour and buy a pasta rolling machine. Believe me, it makes your life a whole lot easier – I’m using mine to even knead the dough (just put it through the machine at the thickest setting 4-5 times and it becomes silky smooth and just a little bit shiny). I also don’t dry my fresh pasta before cooking – whats the point in making fresh pasta, if you dry it?

    Als alsways your food looks delicious and your pictures are … *wow*.

    BR, Babs

  3. Lisa says:

    Your lasagne looks perfect, and the photos are (as usual) perfection. Kudos on the hand rolling, I couldn’t do it!

  4. Rosa says:

    You dis a wonderful job, as always! your lasagne look really delicious and tempting! I love the presentation and the picture of your sad drooling dog ;-P!

    Cheers and have a nice weekend,


  5. Meeta says:

    love the vivid green color! have a blast skiing jen!

  6. Andrea says:

    That fresh green color in the pasta is wonderful. And I agree, baked pastas dishes need that golden crunchy coating on top.

  7. amy says:

    Wow, so great to see a savory dish from the DBers…and pasta!!! How much better can it get? :) Looks really delicious, Jen.

  8. Arlene says:

    I’ve seen many wonderful efforts, but yours has to be the most perfect I’ve viewed thus far. Outstanding! And, I love your kitchen “helper.”

  9. Caitlin says:

    Wow, that really is a lot of meat. I went veg on this one, because I couldn’t countenance buying that many types of meat when I barely ever eat it. The end product? Beautiful, as always :)

  10. robin says:

    Now that is a seriously ass-kickin’ lasagne. Go DBs! :D

  11. Hilary says:

    Yours looks so pretty compared to mine!

  12. jo says:

    This is absolutely gorgeous and so delicious looking. I love how your layers come out so neatly. Mine was a big mess unfortunately!

  13. JessW says:

    Wow! That is impressive and beautiful! I’m not sure I would go for that much meat but it would be fun to make once. Now if I only had that much time to make it! :)

  14. Laura says:

    Looks great. I’m with you though–it was an awful lot of work and I don’t love lasagne that much–and I even have a pasta roller, haha. I did mine over 2 days to maintain my sanity.

  15. charlane says:

    you are definitely the woman!!! I could not do it…too much work. :) but it looks yummy

  16. Hannah says:

    Such a vibrant green dough- Lovely photographs as usual. Glad you enjoyed this challenge, makes it more worthwhile for me to have slogged through knowing that it was appreciated by others!

  17. Kate says:

    It looks amazingly fantastic but I was SO not up to making lasagna from scratch this month. Sadly.

  18. Candice says:

    Looks great! your dough came together much more nicely than mine did. And I agree about the top crust being more yummy when it’s crispy like that.

  19. Lori says:

    You are a baking machine. And, whew, you did this without a pasta machine. Why you are a ninja!

  20. Mary says:

    Absolutley… my favourite picture is of the soulful puppy eyes at the table edge! We’re howling over that one.

  21. Asianmommy says:

    How fun to work with green dough. The final presentation is beautiful!

  22. Jesse says:

    Oh my word. That is divine. So much meat… mmm, meaaaaat. Can you really have too much meat? ^_^ That pasta is such a vibrant shade of green. Everything looks amazing!

  23. Tartelette says:

    Hope you have some in the freezer because I am coming over!! Gorgeous!

  24. Melissa says:

    i am a baking machine

    Um, YEAH YA ARE. Jeebus. Your pictures are outstanding. I want to dive into that spinach.

  25. rainbowbrown says:

    That looks wonderful

  26. Lisa says:

    LUUUUUUV that picture of you kneading the dough. What a fantastical shade of green!! I totally cheated and used my pasta machine. Not even the hand crank kind (where one would have to do a BIT of work) but the one that runs on my mixer. I may as well have sat in front of the TV, drinking a beer while I made my pasta…

    Have fun on the slopes! I’m FINALLY hitting them (the Tahoe ones) next weekend after an embarrassing number of years of absence. I’m going to fall on my ass at the first turn for lack of quadriceps.


  27. Margie says:

    Beautifully done, Jenzie!!!!!!

    are you tired? i’m too pooped to pop ;)

    (I loved the helper!)

  28. fairy_mi says:

    what a beautiful picture and a lovely result!

  29. Foodie Froggy says:

    They look absolutely fantastic ! Malting in the mouth !

  30. gine says:

    That looks amazing :-)! Great photographs :-)!!

  31. Aparna says:

    Your pictures look lovely, and the green of the lasagne really lends itself to pictures. I really love the eyes of the “excited someone” in your picture.

  32. enza says:

    reading rosetto’s recipe I had the same sensation.
    too meaty for my taste!
    in our family we use only beef meet grounded, onion. carrot and celery and anything else but tomatoes.
    so I did.
    your work looks great and I’m so glad I’m a savoury fan, too!!

  33. cindy says:

    everything looks fantastic! i love the green of the pasta and look at that dice on the veg…well done!

  34. sweetiepetitti says:

    I made a vegetarian ragu, (Catholic, Friday, Lent), and it was delicious, but really cried out for crispy pancetta. I am in total lust for all these talented photographers. As wonderful as mine tasted, I just can’t capture it on film! You did a fabulous job. I love the pic with the dog, my Bichon hangs around when there’s chocolate in the oven! Heading back into your blog to see the old challenges..

  35. Lauren says:

    Mmm, your lasagne looks amazing!! Beautiful pictures =D!

  36. kellypea says:

    You ARE a baking machine! Gorgeous lasagne — I just love the perfection of your drying strips. Very, very nice. I liked this challenge so much, I’m going to put off buying a pasta maker. Figure my arms need some definition. Hahahahaha!

  37. Rebecca says:

    Beautiful photos and lasagne! I especially liked the one of your little kitchen helper.

  38. steph (whisk/spoon) says:

    golden crust is the best part! looks delicious!

  39. Aran says:

    beautiful lasagna jen! I felt bad when i didn’t make this because it sounds so good. love the color of that pasta. so vibrant!

  40. MyKitchenInHalfCups says:

    Awesome color in those noodles. That rolling is really a work out isn’t it?!!! Surprising that you had any ragu sauce for the lasagne with your “helper” ;))
    Gorgeous lasagne!

  41. sara says:

    Wow, what gorgeous photos! Yum. Looks like really delicious lasagne!

  42. asti says:

    Stunning photos as always! I always love it coming to your blog. SO vibrant and deliciously tempting!

  43. VeggieGirl says:

    LOOOOOOOVELY lasagna!!! And a cute dog too :-D

  44. Susan/Wild Yeast says:

    I am completely in awe that you rolled the whole thing by hand. You are *definitely* a baking machine.

  45. Dana says:

    Just gorgeous – as usual!

  46. Andreas says:

    The drying pasta sheets look like a plant in the morning dew.

  47. Dragon says:

    I love the colour your acheived with your pasta. Simply gorgeous! Oh and your puppy is adorable. :)

  48. Y says:

    Awesome lasagne! I too love the golden crunchy top – but eschewed it for the sake of adhering to the recipe as faithfully as possible, this time round.

  49. Psychgrad says:

    Wow. I’m liking the savoury options in Daring Bakers lately. This looks very involved and delicious.

  50. katie says:

    wow, nice job! You make it looks so easy!

  51. Susan at Sticky,Gooey,Creamy,Chewy says:

    How in the heck did I miss this? I know I came over here the other day to check out your lasagne. I forgot to leave my comment!

    Anyway, it looks gorgeous and delectable, as usual! It was a ton of work, but I though it was so worth it in the end. Hope you enjoyed yours.

  52. daring bakers: lasagne of emilia-romagna « serendipity brought anchovies says:

    […] here’s El Spatulla, urb-style: But what are the Daring Bakers anyway? Find out at the new […]

  53. Madeleine says:

    Beatiful lasagne!! :)

  54. Anne says:

    Truly drool-worthy. Just beautiful.

  55. jenyu says:

    Everyone – thanks for your sweet comments about the lasagne AND the pup :)

    Lisa – have fun babe and be careful!! :)

    Margie – yes, tired. That hand rolling killed my f#$%#$% back!

    kellypea – you are one brave lady! I am never going to hand-roll pasta again. I think it killed two potential ski days for me while my back recovered :(

    Susan – it happens to me too, sweetie. I can’t keep up any more – and apparently my brain is on vacay ;)

  56. clumbsycookie says:

    That pictures of the big round green pasta is just gorgeous! Well and so is the lasagna itself!

  57. Sweet Tooth says:

    WOW! Other than that I am speechless!

  58. Jillian says:

    I love how bright green your pasta turned out. I couldn’t agree more about the crust- definitely the best part!

  59. JMom says:

    I love your photos and your dog is so cute! He does look like he’s just waiting for a morsel of meat to fall off the board. lol!

    Beautiful looking pasta!

  60. Lorna says:


  61. Mollie says:

    We’ll be making this…mmmmmmm i love a good ragu! And adding spinach to anything is always good!

  62. Kat says:

    Your lasagna looks beautiful. I, too, could only roll so much! Great blog!

  63. Brownies for Dinner » Blog Archive » Daring Bakers: Cheesecake! says:

    […] missed last month’s Daring Bakers Challenge which was a lovely looking lasagna with handmade noodles.  It was a tough month in my world and while the lasagna sounded delicious, […]

  64. Andrew Stagikas says:

    This is awsome, this is different than my method but i will give it a try. Thank you

  65. Amy says:

    Made this tonight, and while it was time consuming, it was excellent. What a great type of lasagna. Was my first time making pasta, which turned out a lot easier than I thought. Thanks for the step by step, it was really nice to have a visual to check to make sure everything I was doing was on track. Thank you!

  66. Souzie says:

    Wow! Just discovered your web site. Everything looks so great and inspires me to head for the kitchen. This lasagna recipe is TRULY Italian – the way lasagna should be made :-)

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