I love pasta. It is the best, most perfect, food. It can come in many forms so its diverse and the amount of variation when it comes to sauces is endless. There is good pasta, bad pasta and poorly executed pasta (very often). I like plain store bought spaghetti with olive oil and garlic and hand-made fancy ravioli with a page long list of ingredients for the filling and another one for the sauce. I like regular pasta, stuffed pasta, long and short, fancy and plain, with sauce or in a soup. Here is something I made tonight, there is no recipe per-se but the technique and the various stages is something I want to share.
To make a pan full of lasagna, to feed 8 very very hungry people (or 10 hungry people), you will need:
4 eggs & 2 cups of flour (+ more for dusting) for the pasta dough OR a package of lasagna sheets enough for 5 layers in your dish
4-5 cups (approx. 1 liter/1 quart) tomato sauce – make your favorite one or buy one you are satisfied with (I recommend Dave’s Gourmet heirloom tomatoes, organic sauce)
1/2 lb (220 gr) spicy italian sausage (raw) – buy bulk or take out of the casing
1/3 (150 gr) lb ground chicken thigh meat
850 gr (30 oz) ricotta
a bag of spinach (lets say about a pound, 1/2 kg)
1/2 cup to 1 cup grated Parmigiano Reggiano
2 balls of fresh mozzarella
salt and freshly ground black pepper
1) Put the ricotta in a fine sieve and let stand while you are doing the rest of the prep; it will lose some of the liquid.
2) Divide tomato sauce into 2/3 and 1/3, set the 1/3 aside. Brown the meat in some olive oil braking it while it cooks, add the tomato sauce and cook together until the meat is tender and the sauce reduced a bit (add a bit of flour if its too liquid).
3) Wash spinach and put it in a pot, sprinkle a teaspoon or so of salt, close the lid and let cook for a few minutes on a medium heat until absolutely wilted. Drain, wash under cold water, squeeze as much of the water as you can, chop and set aside.
4) Make pasta.
5) Bring a pot of water to a boil add salt, cook pasta a few sheets at a time (just make sure the water is boiling at all times) for just a few second (lets say 5) and transfer to a bowl of cold water. Wash under cold water, pat dry with a towel.
*** If using store bought pasta follow manufacturer’s instructions rather than the ones above ***
6) Spread bottom of lasagna dish with a bit of the tomato sauce, cover with pasta sheets, spread half the meat sauce 1/4 of the mozzarella and a sprinkle of Parmigiano Reggiano, cover with another layer of pasta. Cover with 1/2 the ricotta and half the spinach – sprinkle some salt and pepper. Another layer of pasta, another layer of meat sauce and Parmigiano, more pasta, ricotta and spinach and the last of the pasta should be covered with the plain tomato sauce the rest of the mozzarella and Parmigiano Reggiano.
7) Cover with foil and bake at 400 F (200 C) for 15-20 minutes, take off the foil and turn on the broiler and wait for the cheese to melt and a crust to form.
8) Take out of the oven and let sit for a few minutes for the lasagna to set, cut and serve with some fresh basil and freshly ground black pepper.