I love when I have a day with enough free hours to devote to cooking an involved meal – well, at least until the end of the day when my feet and back are aching and my hands are dry and wrinkly from washing so many dishes. 😛 Today I had those free hours and so I made lasagna.
Ever since I made ravioli and found out how easy it is to make homemade pasta – not effortless, certainly, but it isn’t an unattainable goal – I wanted to try making lasagna with fresh homemade pasta.
I was able to borrow a pasta roller from some friends which made it much easier to get the dough nice and thin. The first time through – the “kneading” stage – takes a bit of work to get the dough to go through correctly without tearing, but once everything is smoothed out and kneaded together it rolls beautifully. I’m going to have to consider investing in a roller of my own if I want to continue this pasta-making venture – in fact Mom has a few on watch on eBay for me already.
I used a different recipe for the pasta this time – the same four ingredients but the proportions were a bit different, I think. For a little bit there I was a bit scared that things weren’t going to work out because the dough seemed a lot drier and not nearly as soft as what I used for the ravioli. But once I added a bit of water, it came together in a nice ball, and then several passes through the roller helped tremendously, as I’ve said.
Perhaps it’s not as authentic as the broomstick-between-two-chairs method (but then, neither is using a machine to roll the dough), but a drying rack sure worked for, well, drying the pasta. First I draped like so, in wide sheets, and let it dry for about 20 minutes while I did dishes and cleaned the mess of flour on the counter. Then I cut each of the four wide sheets in half and hung them so they were only over one “spindle” of the rack.
Then when they were almost completely dry I cut each long strip in at least thirds, depending on the length. After they were even drier, I boiled them in small batches for 3-5 minutes, immediately plunging them into cold water to stop the cooking process. After they were all boiled, I just assembled as usual and baked until heated through and the cheese was bubbly.
When it came time to enjoy the meal, we were all pretty hungry. It was definitely worth the hours of work. Dad proclaimed it to be G-R-A-T-E, (great) which if you know Dad, means he really likes it. Mom and Ada both said it was delicious. But I think the complete silence as everyone was enjoying their portion was the loudest praise.
I spent around 6 hours total in the kitchen, between making the pasta, the meat sauce and the ricotta filling, boiling the noodles, assembling everything, doing dishes and cleaning up messes after each stage of the process, making a salad, and a spur-of-the-moment dessert made from three boxed lasagna noodles that were in the cupboard and one homemade one, some cream cheese and powdered sugar, and fresh strawberries, topped with whipped cream and chocolate syrup. Yum. And I enjoyed every minute.
A day spent doing things I love to do, with and for the people I love. The best kind of day.