Paper-thin lasagna noodles layered with besciamella, ragu Bolognese and Parmigiano-Reggiano.
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I made this recipe and loved it! As I was building the lasagna, I wondered why fresh noodles need to be boiled before assembling because it seems like they would cook just fine during baking. I made a second pan with leftover ingredients and didn't bother to boil the noodles, which saved a lot of time and clean up, and it seemed to taste just as good. Have you tried skipping the boiling step?
I have never tried this recipe without boiling the noodles. Most Italians will say that if the lasagna noodles are not boiled first it can result in gummier pasta. They would also say that the noodles are never meant to soak up the sauce and this sauce in particular is already quite dry.
That being said, we are all free to experiment and see what works for us. Thanks for reporting your feedback about this Carol. Cheers!
This is the perfect lasagna , I don't need to look any where else. The paper thin pasta makes all the difference and the ragu is just WoW .
I took me a lot of time but it definitely worth it.
I made the pasta in my food processor but I actually regret it now, it was too big for my processor to handle I had to divide the dough in half and continue my work on batches. One more thing what could happen if I used more liquid by mistake ? I really suffered when kneading my dry dough so I had to add more liquid , but it tasted great.
One more thing : Why did we have to roll this dough differently than what we learned at the school ?
Flour contains different levels of humidity from day to day, especially season to season. Depending on how you measured it, you may require a bit more or less liquid to create the proper dough consistency, so no worries there.
There are many ways to roll pasta. The main thing is to develop the gluten to make the dough elastic and stretchy. Glad you enjoyed the dish!
A pasta roller is quite important for this recipe, at least if you want to recreate the paper-thin noodles. That being said, if you are okay with something thicker then you can try using ready-made or fresh lasagna noodles. Just keep in mind the final result will be quite different. Cheers!
While I usually use a machine, I have made this without before. It just takes a bit of time, flour and patience. Work slowly, rolling from the middle, trying to keep the dough relaxed. Flip and dust the dough with flour often. I take it down to, say, .5 to 1 mm or so. A French rolling pin is a definite help as you can lean on one edge over thick spots a bit to help keep things even. It may not be as perfect as a machine, but it worth a shot. :-)
Definitely one of my favorite recipes. Got a batch sealed in the freezer right now!
Can you make the ragù ahead of time, like the day before? Also, what is the best way to store the pasta if making it one day ahead? Is freezing the only way? Lastly, how do you start preparing the pasta after king it out of the freezer?
A variation on this recipe has been in the family for a very long time, so I feel compelled to comment. While excellent, and gives Nonna's recipe some competition (sorry Nonna), I think you're putting the cart before the horse, and making a great lasagna dish far more difficult than it should be.
1. The key is the thinly-rolled pasta and the many layers or flavor it allows. Don't let the work involved in creating the spinach lasagna put you off. It's not necessary to creating a truly great lasagna. Think back to basics... layering in flavors. We can do the same here, with much less work IMHO.
2. You don't need to make the spinach noodles as shown. They are a lot of work, and you can achieve equivalent--IMHO better taste, presentation and variety--by layering in cooked spinach, sauce and pristine very simple white thin noodles. Again, the very thin noodles that make it possible to combine many layers are what make this lasagna special--not that the noodles are made with spinach.
Spinach noodles are nice, but IMHO add little substance and a lot of work-unless you insist on the contrast with the red ragu, which is fine, but don't let that stop you. There are far more and interesting variations. Start with thin rolled pasta--which is really the key to this lasagna--and, if you like, work up to spinach noodles later if you like.
3. You don't need to make the pasta pieces as precise as shown in the recipe--when Nonna makes it (and as I make it), it is always a "patchwork quilt" of pieces--some pieces are 18"+ long, some are bits and pieces. We generally make/cook the noodles as large as possible, then cut them as needed as we assemble the dish. If there are odds-and-ends, we assemble as needed/desired.
The general assembly is: prepare the basic dough; cut into pieces; put into bags and refrigerate for a few hours; roll out into as long/thin noodles as you can manage; get a big pot of boiling/salted water and an ice bath; roll out the noodles; cook the noodles (then dunk in ice bath); remove excess moisture from noodles (a Squeegee works well or lay them on towels). Given that you have all your other ingredients prepared--then assemble the lasagna as you go. Cut the noodles to size--don't worry about exact fit or the leftover bits, as you'll likely find nooks and crannies they'll help to fill.
4. I would strongly recommend you try a more delicate filling in addition to, or in place of, the ragu in the recipe (or maybe use a lighter filling with a bit of tomato paste). A good starting point is the filling used for Ascoli olives (a white veal- and pork-based filling). That with bechamel and cheese produces an excellent lasagna. That's not necessarily a substitute for the ragu/red filing, but can complement it very nicely (if you insist on have a heavy/red component). You can prepare a dish that ranges from layers of white/amber to white/amber/green to white/amber/green/red and everything in between.
Remember, you are creating a lasagna with many layers--not an industrial 3-4-layer dish with heavy noodles. There's plenty of room/layers for a wide variety of flavors, textures and colors--Ascoli/pale, Ragu/tomato/red, spinach/green, cheese-bechamel/amber-white, noodles/amber-white, etc. Each add a flavor, texture, and color--all bound by your hand-cranked and very thin lasagna noodles.
4. In short, IMHO, the presumption that the labor-and time-intensive preparation of spinach noodles (and implied precise preparation) as a prerequisite to success does a disservice to the fundamentals: thinly rolled, many-layered lasagna noodles and the incorporation (if you want) of many different textures and flavors is what makes this special. Start with simple noodles and many layers with various sauces. If you feel so inclined, then--and only then--progress to more complex/spinach/whatever noodles.
I made the pasta, bechemel sauce, and bolognese today and plan to assemble and bake it tomorrow. Everything looks great so far, except that my pasta isn't very green. It's a very faint light green....I used fresh spinach and followed the directions carefully. Why is my pasta not very green?
Could be a couple of factors:
1. Could have cooked the spinach a tiny bit too long. Spinach can loose a bit of it's color, like other green vegetable, if cooked a bit too long, or
2. just used a little less spinach.
Good news is that it won't matter one bit. The flavor will be delicious and once you bake this lasagne, you will note that you lose some of the color anyway.
So congratulations for taking on this time consuming dish. You will love it. Look forward to your report :-)
Joe K makes a few good points above. In particular, you can focus first on a plain noodle if you like but you may have to adjust this recipe slightly. Watch for the key indicators when making the dough to make these adjustments.
This recipe, btw, is in fact from Mario Batali. So while we do tend to focus on the fundamentals here at Rouxbe, there are cases when you may want to go the extra step to re-create a dish and see if the extra effort is worth it.
We loved this dish, but I know I'd love the same dish with plain noodles as well.
I finished the lasagna tonight and it was amazing.....even if we did eat dinner at 9:30pm. I love how each part of the recipe is great on it's own and could be used for another dish. I love how delicate the pasta is...even if mine wasn't as green as yours. I made some fettucini with some of the spinach pasta and plan to make it later in the week. The bolognese was also fantastic and would be great with spaghetti. I learned a lot from this recipe.
Making a head
Great recipe! I wander if the flavor will be compromised if all components of lasagne were made ahead.
01. How to keep freshly made pasta especially for lasagna. Do you boil it and store or do you store and cook later?
02. Would Besciamella sauce loose its velvety texture if prepared and stored in the refrigerator a day in advanced?
03. I guess Ragu would benefit from being cooked a day ahead of assembly time. Right?
While you could make the components ahead, why keep them separate? I often make the lasagna and then throw it in the fridge to keep until I cook it the next day It doesn't lose any quality, IMO. Once cooked, lasagna can also be kept well by freezing, especially with a vacuum sealer. I cut it into single servings and freeze/seal them separately. Reheat in an oven or with slow zapping in the microwave. That's always a welcome meal after a long day at work.
Bill, thank you for your detailed explanation. I just wanted to hear the opinion of an experienced cooks. I am always cautious what type of food I am freezing. Although I’ve read it is ok to freeze most of the food I also read that the texture of frozen food is somewhat altered. I need more learning to do.
I made this lasagna many times now ... It is by far the best lasagna ever. I never actually cared much for lasagna before but after this lasagna I changed my idea 180 degree.
The only problem is that it takes a lot of time and work to prepare. Of course you can do some of the components a day ahead but still.
Also it needs some space to drain the boiled pasta which is not very good if you have a small apartment like my self.
I had problems with dry laminated pasta before but after doing hundreds of them now I now what to look for so that's not a problem any more.
I wanted to try not to boil the noodles this time as it didn't seem logical to me in the first place. Some people said it might dry the ragu so I made my ragu a bit wetter this time and my bechamel a bit runnier so that it becomes perfect after baking.
The result was not that great to tell you the truth it was still awesome better than every other lasagna I tried and I can assure you that for someone who didn't try the perfect one this will still be the best for him but for me it just didn't make it . The pasta was a bit gummy and a bit tough also ,and the bechamel seems to disappear as if it was absorbed by the noodles ?
I also made the pasta this time in my stand mixer which was a very good thing by the way .. just followed the manufacturer steps and the noodles came perfect .
I was also able to figure out why we would roll this pasta differently. And the reason was because of the color . The more you fold the greener and more even the color will be. The first dough I rolled I didn't fold it that many times as specified in the recipe. It did give me a nice thin noodle but the color was white with some greed spots.
Yeah, I agree that construction does take a bit of space! You might try stacking the cooked noodles straight from the ice bath to your counter. If you layer them with damp (not wet) tea towels in between, they will not stick too badly and will hold until you are ready.