Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Spinach and Mushroom Lasagna with Homemade Ricotta and Homemade Pasta

Sometimes, Joey and I go a little overboard with cooking. It all started with a dinner date. One of our good friends was coming over for dinner. I keep saying that I want to make fresh pasta, so we decided this was the perfect time to do it. Lasagna would be the simplest way to use the fresh pasta, since once it was rolled out, we wouldn't have to cut it into shapes or do anything special with it. We should have just left it at that. But then we found a recipe that makes its own mushroom tomato sauce. Then Joey decided we needed to make homemade ricotta cheese. Even if we had just stopped there, it would have been enough. Of course we didn't stop there. While making this, we also made two loaves of challah, vanilla bean ice cream, and baked apples (posts coming soon). This was all done from about 3:30 onward - we started our Saturday with a run (I ran 3 miles, Joey ran 10!) and some apple picking.

Anyway, this lasagna was delicious! One recommendation - I rolled my noodles with a pasta roller and went all the way to the thinnest setting. In the recipe I was following, there were 10 settings and she went all the way to the second thinnest. Since mine only had 6 settings, I thought I should go all the way through. I think next time I would either go only to the second thinnest, or I would double up on the noodles for each layer. It was warm in the kitchen, so I had some problems with sticking. The noodles were also so delicate once cooked, that we could have handled a thicker noodle, for sure.

Recipe: Spinach and Mushroom Lasagna with Homemade Ricotta and Homemade Pasta
Adapted from Simply Recipes, The Kitchn, and Smitten Kitchen
Yield: 9 servings

1/2 gallon whole milk
1/3 cup white distilled vinegar
1 tsp salt

1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
2 large eggs
1/2 tsp salt
1-2 tbsp water

2 lbs assorted mushrooms, roughly chopped (I used cremini and white button)
1 large onion, chopped
1/4 cup olive oil
8 cloves garlic, chopped
1 6-oz can tomato paste
2 cups tomato sauce (either plain canned, or your favorite marinara), divided
1 28-oz can crushed tomatoes
1 cup water
1 tbsp dried thyme
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
1 tbsp sugar
2 10-oz boxes frozen spinach, thawed, squeezed of excess moisture
parmesan cheese
1lb shredded mozzarella cheese

Start by making the ricotta. Put the milk in a large sauce pot, and warm gently to 200 F, using an instant read thermometer to monitor progress. You don't want the milk to come to a boil.

Add the vinegar and salt, stir gently to combine, and remove from heat. Let it sit for 10 minutes. At this point, you should see clumps of separated curds, and thin watery whey. If you don't see this, add another tbsp of vinegar and wait a few more minutes.

Set a strainer over a bowl and line the strainer with cheese cloth. Scoop the big curds out of the pot with a slotted spoon and transfer them to the strainer. Pour the remaining curds and whey through the strainer. (Removing the big curds first helps keep them from splashing and making a mess as you pour.)

Drain the ricotta for 10-15 minutes, or until you're desired texture. If it becomes too dry, pour some of the whey back in.

Next, prepare the pasta dough. In the bowl of a large food processor, add the flour, eggs, and salt. Pulse until it starts to form a ball - add water, a drop at a time, if it seems too dry. You want the dough to be firm and not sticky. Dump the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and put an inverted bowl over it. Let dough rest for an hour.

While the dough is resting, make the sauce. Put the mushrooms in a large (6-8 quart) pot or sauce pan over medium-high heat. Sprinkle salt over them. Cook, stirring from time to time, until they start to release their moisture. Add in the chopped onions, and cook until the mushrooms aren't releasing any more liquid, and the liquid has boiled away. (Note - I never had this happen, so I proceeded with the rest of the recipe once it had been 10-15 minutes, and just added less water in the next steps.)

Add olive oil, and cook for another minute. Add garlic, and cook a minute longer. Stir in the tomato paste, and cook for another minute. Add 1 cup of the tomato sauce, crushed tomatoes, water, thyme, sugar and red pepper flakes, and stir together. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer on low for 20 minutes.

Once sauce is simmering, fill up a large pot 2/3 way with water and add a large pinch of salt. Bring to a rapid boil. While you are waiting for the water to boil, start rolling out the noodles. Cut the pasta dough into 4 pieces. Starting with the widest setting on your pasta roller, feed one piece through 4-5 times. Move onto the next setting, feeding through 2-3 times, before moving to the next thinnest setting. You might have to cut the dough in half before getting to the thinnest setting. Lay out the rolled noodles on a lightly greased sheet of wax or parchment paper, and then repeat with the remaining dough.

Once the water is boiling, and all noodles are rolled out, boil in batches, for 1.5-2 minutes. Remove the noodles with a spider strainer, and put back on the oiled paper.

Finally, assemble the lasagna. Preheat oven to 350 F. Spread the remaining 1 cup of tomato sauce on the bottom of a 9x13 pan. Top with several noodles, slightly overlapping (you may have to cut the noodles to fit in the pan). Spread half of the ricotta cheese over the noodles. Top with half of the spinach. Sprinkle half of the mozzarella on top, as well as some parmesan, if desired. Then spoon 1/3 of the mushroom tomato sauce on top. Add a second layer of noodles on top of this, followed by the rest of the ricotta and spinach, and another 1/3 of the mushroom tomato sauce. Add a third (and final) layer of noodles, topped by the rest of the tomato sauce, and the rest of the mozzarella cheese. Finish with more parmesan cheese (this is what makes the top brown and crispy!)

Bake for 30-35 minutes, until the cheese is golden brown in spots, and the sauce is bubbling. Let it sit for 5-10 minutes before cutting and serving. Leftovers will last up to a week in the fridge.

498.5 calories
26.1 g fat
40.2 g carbs
7.1 g fiber
33.8 g protein