Friday, March 2, 2012

Spinach & Eggplant Lasagna

As I mentioned in my DIY Cheese post, I ended up using most of the ricotta we made in a new lasagna recipe I got out of Marc Vetri's cookbook Rustic Italian Food. It's a beautiful cookbook, with excellent photos, dozens of recipes and lessons on techniques, methods, and ingredients. I adapted one the recipes to make the lasagna below - Vetri's version is for mini 'lasagnettes', but I opted to use his eggplant puree as a layer in a more traditional style.

Don't let yourself get overwhelmed with the amount of preparation for this. I made the pasta dough ahead of time, refrigerated it for a couple days, then rolled it out when I was ready to assemble. You could probably even make the fillings ahead of time too, but I would not recommend letting them sit too long. You want the flavors to be as fresh as possible.

The pasta dough itself was not all that hard to make, and turned out great. We had left over sheets that I cut into fettuccine and froze for dinner another night. The fresh pasta sheets really make all the difference in the world. Once you make your own, you'll never go back to using store-bought dried lasagna noodles. I'm now forever spoiled.


Spinach & Eggplant Lasagna:
Marinara sauce - jarred is fine, but use a good one like Bertoli
1lb fresh ricotta cheese - make your own with the DIY Cheese Kit!
1 pkg frozen spinach, thawed and rung out to remove liquid
1 egg
Fresh pasta sheets, cut into lasagna size strips - see instructions below
Eggplant filling - see instructions below
Salt & Pepper
1 pkg shredded mozzarella

1.) Preheat over to 375°. Mix the ricotta, drained spinach, and egg in a mixing bowl until well combined. Season with salt and pepper. Set aside.

2.) Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.  Gently drop the cut pasta strips in and blanch for 30 seconds each. Remove and immediately transfer to an ice bath to stop the cooking.  Remove and lay out on a clean kitchen towel to dry.

3.) Spoon a thin layer of marinara sauce into the bottom of a 9x11 glass baking dish. Lay out the first strips of pasta to form an even layer. Next, spread the ricotta mixture out into an even layer. Spoon some more sauce on top of the cheese. Cover with another layer of pasta strips. Spread the eggplant mixture across the second pasta layer. Spoon some more sauce over the eggplant. Add the last layer of pasta strips and cover with more marinara. If you have left over filling & pasta, you can add more layers if you like. Spread the entire package of mozzarella over the top.

4.) Cover with foil and bake at 375° for 25 mins. Remove the foil, then bake another 25 mins or until cheese is bubbly and golden brown. Remove from oven and let it cool for 15 mins before serving - otherwise it'll be a sloppy mess.  Enjoy!

babada booby!

Eggplant Filling: Recipe from Marc Vetri's Rustic Italian Food cookbook
2 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 Eggplant peeled and chopped (about 3 cups)
3/4 cup fresh ricotta
2 tablespoons freshly grated parmesan
1 egg
2 tablespoons unseasoned bread crumbs
Salt & Freshly ground pepper

1.) Heat the oil in a heavy skillet over medium heat. Add the eggplant and saute until tender and the edges are golden brown, about 10 mins.
2.) Let the eggplant cool slightly, then transfer to a food processor or VitaMix (if you're lucky enough to have one - and I am).  Puree until smooth, then add the ricotta, parmesean, egg, and bread crumbs. Season with salt & pepper and pulse briefly until mixed. Set aside. Makes about 2-1/4 cups.

Basic Egg Pasta Dough: Recipe from Marc Vetri's Rustic Italian Food cookbook
Yields  1 pound of dough or 6 fully rolled pasta sheets, each 4-5 feet long. I substituted all purpose for the durum flour - and a few extra table spoons of water to the dough to get the right consistency. Because of all the egg yolks, the dough takes on a gorgeous deep yellow, almost amber color.

1-1/4 cups tipo 00 or all purpose flour, plus more for dusting
1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon durum flour
9 egg yolks
3-4 tablespoons water
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil

1.) Put both flours in the bowl of a stand-up mixer. Using the paddle attachment, run the mixer on medium and add the egg yolks, water, and the oil. Mix just until the ingredients come together into a dough, 2-3 minutes.  Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface and knead by hand for about 5 minutes, or until silky and smooth, kneading in more flour if the dough is too sticky. The dough is ready if it gently pulls back into place when stretched with your hands.

2.) Shape the dough into a 6-inch-long log, wrap in plastic wrap, and refrigerate for at least 30 mins or up to 3 days. It could get too soft and difficult to roll if left at room temperature.

3.) Cut the dough into 6 equal pieces and let them return to almost room temperature. They should still feel a little chilly when you touch them. Position your pasta roller (kitchen aid or hand-crank) at the widest setting and leave plenty of room for the outfeed - you'll need at least 4-5 feet of room by the time you're done. Roll one piece of dough through the rollers, lightly dusting the dough with flour if necessary to prevent sticking. Reset the rollers to the next narrowest setting, and again pass the dough through the rollers. Continue to pass the dough once through each progressively narrower setting.

4.) Between rollings continue to dust lightly with flour if needed, always brushing off the excess. You should end up with a sheet 4-5 feet long and thein enough to see your hand through with the pasta is held up to the light.

5.) Lay the pasta sheets on a lightly floured surface, and sprinkle lightly with more flour. Using a knife or the cutter attachment on the pasta machine to create the pasta shape specified in the recipe you are making.

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