Sunday, 29 March 2009

Handmade spinach egg pasta

The March 2009 challenge is hosted by Mary of Beans and Caviar, Melinda of Melbourne Larder and Enza of Io Da Grande. They have chosen Lasagne of Emilia-Romagna from The Splendid Table by Lynne Rossetto Kasper as the challenge.
I loved this months challenge. I feel that pasta is something that I would have never done myself, if there wasn't for Daring Bakers. Pasta is always there in the shelf of the supermarket or delicatessen store, if I want to go to more fancy cooking. Its very inexpensive, so there is really no need to do all that heavy duty.

I bought the fresh spinach and rolled up my sleeves and got it started. Chopped spinach and there came my first wow and amazement and double checking of the recipe. Is it really all this amount. Next step, measuring out the flour, making the well, starting to mix in the spinach and eggs and once again, WOW, is it all that amount of spinach??? I started to knead it together and it didnt look anywhere near to be a pasta, just all this dry mixture of flour and spinach. But I didnt give up and kept manipulating it. It took some time, much more than 3 minutes suggested in recipe, close to 10 at least to get it into this.

Following the instructions I kept on kneading 15 minutes or so and ended up something that looked more close to being pasta.

I left it to relax at room temperature for about an hour. Rolling out didnt seem too much of a trouble. I managed to roll it out quite thin. I used fairly small baking dish to make the lasagne, sinde its only two of us eating. It took exactly half of the made pasta to fill in this dish. Other half I rolled out and cut into pieces and left to dry.

For a sauce I chose simple ground beef version with a little twist of good quality Portuguese chouriço from Joao's last trip home. I usually dont use any measures, just shuffle in about 500g ground beef, 2 small cans of chopped tomatoes and rest of it is pure fantasy, sometimes mushrooms, different types of veggies, Herbs de Provance etc. This time I also added some carrots to the sauce to cut the acidity of tomatoes and chouriço. For bechamel I used recipe given, plus added some grated parmesan cheese for a taste.

Spinach Egg Pasta (Pasta Verde)

2 jumbo eggs (2 ounces/60g or more)

10 ounces (300g) fresh spinach, rinsed dry, and finely chopped; or 6 ounces (170g) frozen chopped spinach, defrosted and squeezed dry

3 1/2 cups (14 ounces/400g) all purpose unbleached (plain) flour (organic stone ground preferred)

Mixing the dough:
Mound the flour in the center of your work surface and make a well in the middle. Add the eggs and spinach. Use a wooden spoon to beat together the eggs and spinach. Then gradually start incorporating shallow scrapings of flour from the sides of the well into the liquid. As you work more and more flour into the liquid, the well’s sides may collapse. Use a pastry scraper to keep the liquids from running off and to incorporate the last bits of flour into the dough. Don’t worry if it looks like a hopelessly rough and messy lump.
With the aid of the scraper to scoop up unruly pieces, start kneading the dough. Once it becomes a cohesive mass, use the scraper to remove any bits of hard flour on the work surface – these will make the dough lumpy. Knead the dough for about 3 minutes. Its consistency should be elastic and a little sticky. If it is too sticky to move easily, knead in a few more tablespoons of flour. Continue kneading about 10 minutes, or until the dough has become satiny, smooth, and very elastic. It will feel alive under your hands. Do not shortcut this step. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap, and let it relax at room temperature 30 minutes to 3 hours.
Stretching and Thinning:
If using an extra-long rolling pin work with half the dough at a time. With a regular-length rolling pin, roll out a quarter of the dough at a time and keep the rest of the dough wrapped. Lightly sprinkle a large work surface with flour. The idea is to stretch the dough rather than press down and push it. Shape it into a ball and begin rolling out to form a circle, frequently turning the disc of dough a quarter turn. As it thins outs, start rolling the disc back on the pin a quarter of the way toward the center and stretching it gently sideways by running the palms of your hands over the rolled-up dough from the center of the pin outward. Unroll, turn the disc a quarter turn, and repeat. Do twice more. Stretch and even out the center of the disc by rolling the dough a quarter of the way back on the pin. Then gently push the rolling pin away from you with one hand while holding the sheet in place on the work surface with the other hand. Repeat three more times, turning the dough a quarter turn each time.
Repeat the two processes as the disc becomes larger and thinner. The goal is a sheet of even thickness. For lasagne, the sheet should be so thin that you can clearly see your hand through it and see colours. Cut into rectangles about 4 by 8 inches (10 x 20 cm). Note: Enza says that transparency is a crucial element of lasagne pasta and the dough should be rolled as thinly as possible. She says this is why her housekeeper has such strong arms!
Dry the pasta at room temperature and store in a sealed container or bag.

Final product, straight from the oven and following day .. mmm


Angela @ A Spoonful of Sugar said...

Your lasagne looks amazingly good! Wasn't it fun watching and feeling the pasta dough changing colour and texture as you kneaded? I loved it :D

Aire & Joao said...

True, it was pretty amazing. From all this pile of green leaves, some four and good instructions I was able to make pasta. Great stuff!

AJ said...

This lasagne looks really delicious!!