David calls me the Blonde Italian mainly because of my lasagna. It is one of my favorite Italian dishes to make. I’ve been told that lasagna is an art form. If you really think about the process you are building the meal. Lasagna is a creation and it is what YOU make of it.
When I was little, I remember watching my mama make lasagna. I would sit at the counter and watch her create the layers of noodles, cheese and sauce. I also remember how good it when it came out of the oven. Maybe my passion for this Italian dish started when I was just a child.
I have tried to perfect this dish as best I can. I have taken tips from the professionals and learned as much as possible about Pasta, Cheese and Sauce that I can. Together all these key elements come together to make my creation.
Mario Batali is one of my most admired Italian chefs. In fact, I DVR’d every rerun of Molto Mario for a solid year until they started re-running reruns. Even if the dish being made was something I would never make in a million years, I could always watch and learn techniques that help me in the kitchen. It’s pretty amazing what you can learn about cooking not even caring about what it is the person is preparing.
David bought me one of Mario’s books for Christmas a few years ago, along with the Kitchen Aid Pasta attachment to make my own fresh pasta. This book has the recipe I use to make my pasta. Here’s how I make my pasta:
When starting pasta you can dump the flour and eggs into a stand mixer with the dough hook, or you can use the “Well Technique”. For the well technique, place 3 ½ cups of flour on a table in a mound and make a well in the center. Put 5 eggs into the well. Mix the eggs together with a fork without disturbing the flour. Next, gently incorporate the flour into the egg mixture a little at a time. Once you have incorporated all of the flour together with the egg using a fork, use your fingertips to blend the mixture together well.
After the wet and dry ingredients have been combined, bring the mixture together with your hands to form a ball. If the mixture is too wet and sticks to your fingers, rub your hands with flour and form the dough into a ball.
I kind of lose myself in the dough and it is pretty cool to feel it come to life in your hands. Kneading pasta dough is no walk in the park though. If you are not used to it, it will make your arms start to burn. In fact it takes 10 minutes of constant kneading to form a silky ball of pasta dough like the one above. Once you have the silky ball formed cover it with plastic wrap and let it rest for a good 20 minutes.
Once the dough rests for at least twenty minutes, break out the KitchenAid Stand Mixer with the Pasta Attachment in place and have fun! It will take you back to your childhood when you used to play with Play-Doh.
Attach the pasta sheet roller to your stand mixer and set it on 1. Cut off a small section of the dough and cover the remaining dough with plastic wrap. Flatten the small section into a rectangular shape and sprinkle flour on both sides. Turn on the mixer to speed 2. Run the pasta dough through the pasta sheet roller. Keep the setting on 1 fold the dough in half and run it through again. Do this many times. This helps the ribbons in the pasta form.
Once you have a good smooth sheet, dust the sheet with some flour on each side, change the roller setting to 2. Run the flour sheet of dough through the sheet roller. Set the roller attachment on the next thickness level and repeat the process until you have the desired thickness you want for the pasta you are making. I usually go down to setting 3 or 4 for lasagna. When you are at the desired thickness, dust the sheet with flour on each side of long pasta sheet. If it is really long you can cut the sheet in half to make them more manageable.
It’s usually really long so I cut it in sheets that will fit the dish I am using to create the layers of lasagna in.
Boil the pasta for only needs 3 to 7 minutes. The recipe I use makes a ton of pasta, so I will leave it in a ball and freeze it for another day. Having fresh pasta in the freezer is better than dried in a box any day!
The three cheeses I use in my Lasagna are Mozzarella, Parmigiano-Reggiano and Ricotta.
Mozzarella is a little to complicated to make, so I do not attempt it. I prefer buying is in a solid form rather than already grated. I love cutting off thin layers of mozzarella and placing it on top of fresh basil within my cheese layers of the lasagna.
There are no substitutes for Parmigiano-Reggiano.
I learned to make my ricotta cheese from Ina Garten. It may not be the most authentic way of doing it, but it is undoubtedly a great recipe to make fresh cheese. I have found that if you make it at least 24 hours prior to when you need it works best. I let it drain over a bowl in the refrigerator overnight. It is a little more solid and much creamier if you wait.
Click HERE to learn how to make homemade ricotta.
There are many types of sauce recipes. I have my own. I do not follow a recipe. I add ingredients to taste. I will say that browning your paste makes a quick sauce taste like one you simmered all day. I almost always have used ground beef for the meat, but I have used Italian sausage before.
If you’re looking for a basic sauce click HERE.
When building your lasagna layers, always start with a little sauce in the bottom of the dish. It helps to keep the bottom noodles from sticking.
I always end with cheese. No matter what, ALWAYS, ALWAYS, ALWAYS make sure the cheese is golden brown before taking the lasagna out of the oven. The brown is where all the flavor is!
PHOTO CREDIT: I would like to thank my BFF for taking a couple of the photos I used 😉