Sometimes I like to cook stupidly complicated things. Sometimes I like to make my life difficult by making various components of dishes that don’t actually need to be made by hand.
In other words: meet lasagna.
In order to make this as complicated as humanly possible, I decided to make the ricotta, the sauce, and the pasta.
I sound so put-upon, don’t I? Heh. In reality, I love this stuff. It’s such a triumph to sit down and eat something I spent time on that is delicious. And, actually, all the various components of this were individually very easy to make. If I had better time management skills, it would probably only have been about two hours in the kitchen.
First: the ricotta:
I unfortunately don’t remember where I got this recipe.
2 qt. whole milk
1 cup heavy cream
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 tablespooons fresh lemon juice
Line a large sieve with heavy duty fine-mesh cheesecloth, and place it over a large bowl.
Slowly bring milk, cream and salt to a rolling boil in a 6-qt heavy pot over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, to prevent scorching. Add lemon juice, then reduce heat to low and simmer, stirring constantly, until the mixture curdles, about 2 minutes.
Pour the mixture into the lined sieve and let it drain for 1 hour. After discarding the liquid, chill the ricotta. Covered, it will keep in the fridge for 2 days.
Next, the tomato sauce. Smitten Kitchen is my favorite cooking blog, hands down. I’ve made more than a dozen of her recipes, and have never had one go wrong. She’s funny and realistic, doesn’t hide her failures or the things she changed, and her photography is waaaaaay better than mine. I got this sauce recipe from her a couple years ago and it’s my go-to for pretty much any occasion. I changed it slightly by adding fresh garlic, basil, thyme and rosemary, and letting it cook longer so it thickened and made a better lasagna sauce.
Serves 4 as a main course; makes enough sauce to lightly coat most of a pound of spaghetti
28 ounces (800 grams) whole peeled tomatoes from a can (San Marzano, if you can find them)*
5 tablespoons (70 grams) unsalted butter
1 medium-sized yellow onion, peeled and halved
Salt to taste
Put the tomatoes, onion and butter in a heavy saucepan (it fit just right in a 3-quart) over medium heat. Bring the sauce to a simmer then lower the heat to keep the sauce at a slow, steady simmer for about 45 minutes, or until droplets of fat float free of the tomatoes. Stir occasionally, crushing the tomatoes against the side of the pot with a wooden spoon. Remove from heat, discard the onion, add salt to taste (you might find, as I did, that your tomatoes came salted and that you didn’t need to add more) and keep warm while you prepare your pasta.
Serve with spaghetti, with or without grated parmesan cheese to pass.
Aren’t eggnests cute?
Since, again, I have no idea where I got my initial pasta recipe from (I’m that dork who bought a pasta machine as a celebratory gift to myself when I finally got a job after being unemployed for a year.) I’m just going to steal Smitten Kitchen’s.
Adapted from Gourmet Magazine
3 cups all-purpose flour
4 large eggs
1 teaspoon salt
4 tablespoons water
To make pasta dough in a food processor: Blend flour, eggs, salt, and water in processor until mixture just begins to form a ball, adding more water, drop by drop, if dough is too dry (dough should be firm and not sticky). Process dough for 15 seconds more to knead it. Transfer to a floured surface and let stand, covered with an inverted bowl, 1 hour to let the gluten relax and make rolling easier.
To make dough by hand: Mound flour on a work surface, preferably wooden, and make a well in center. Add eggs, salt, and water to well. With a fork, gently beat eggs and water until combined. Gradually stir in enough flour to form a paste, pulling in flour closest to egg mixture and being careful not to make an opening in outer wall of well. Knead remaining flour into mixture with your hands to form a dough, adding more water, drop by drop, if dough is too dry (dough should be firm and not sticky). Knead dough until smooth and elastic, 8 to 10 minutes. Cover with an inverted bowl and let stand 1 hour (to make rolling easier).
After it rested, I ran it through my pasta machine to about number 5. My pasta was a bit thin, this is the first time I’ve made it with my new machine, which is also why my lasagna is a bit leaning tower up there at the top, but really that’s a matter of preference.