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.
This month's challenge was to make lasagna from scratch. I had never made any pasta from scratch before so I was both nervous and excited about it. The idea was to bring back the simplicity of an authentic Italian lasagna, which is made with three components: the lasagna sheets, a simple béchamel sauce and the meat ragu. Vegetarians were given the option of making a vegetarian ragu. I chose to make a "bolognese" sauce using Textured Vegetable Protein (TVP), something I've made before and pleases vegetarians and meat eater alike.
The lasagna tasted GREAT, it reminded me of the lasagnas my grandma used to make, only she used chicken instead of meat. This is really how a lasagna should be. Making the pasta was ok, I thought it was going to be harder specially because I made it by hand, no machine. I had fun doing it - once. I don't think I will do it again, it's just too much time consuming, but for a challenge purpose it was fun to channel my inner Nona for a day!
Regarding the recipe: the original recipes for the pasta, béchamel and meat ragu can be found on this moth's hosts blogs named at the beginning of the post. I made the béchamel sauce without any changes, for the lasagna I decided to half the recipe, using 2 eggs.
The recipe for the original lasagne verdi can be found at Mary's blog, including an awesome how-to video that really helps you get an idea of the pasta hand-rolling process (believe me, it is a process...)
I included here my recipe for the vegetarian bolognese which can be used anywhere you use a regular meat sauce. Since the TVP doesn't have much flavour, be sure to add lots of fresh herbs, vegetables and season it very well.
Vegetarian Bolognese Sauce Recipe:
makes one large pot of sauce, enough for a lasagna plus 2 cups pf left overs
You will need:
8 oz of textured vegetable protein (TVP)
12 tablespoons of olive oil
1 teaspoon of my herb seasoning salt (or use 1 onion, chopped and 2 garlic gloves, mashed)
2 teaspoon of tomato paste
celery stalk, finely chopped
1 large carrot, finely chopped
8 oz of sliced white mushrooms (or anyone you like best)
1/4 cup of white wine
1 14 oz can of diced tomatoes
2 tablespoons of fresh oregano, chopped
2 tablespoons of fresh thyme, chopped
1 tablespoon of fresh rosemary, chopped
8 oz of vegetable stock
2 teaspoons of salt
First re-hydrate the TVP in triple amount of very hot water, on this case, 24 oz. Let stand in a bowl for about 30 minutes. Squeeze out excess water by pushing it through a sieve, it should yield about 3 cups of the TVP. Set aside.
Heat the oil in a large pot over medium heat.
If using the herb seasoning salt: Add the seasoning salt and cook it for about a minute, add the tomato paste and cook them together for about 2 minutes more, stirring often.
If using onion and garlic: Cook the onions until translucent, add chopped garlic and cook for a minute more, stirring. Add the tomato paste and cook it, stirring it around the pot for about 2 minutes.
Add the celery, carrot and mushroom and cook it until soft, about 5 minutes, stirring once in a while. Add the wine and let it evaporate, scraping down the brown spots form the bottom of the pot. Add tomatoes, herbs, vegetable stock and the hydrated TVP. Bring it to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for 30 minutes. Add salt and taste, re-season if necessary.
Before & After...