Ricotta Lasagna with Handmade Spinach Pasta

Spinach+Lasagna Ricotta Lasagna with Handmade Spinach Pasta
Yes, I do have a peroghy recipe for you. Do I ever. (So does Cheryl, who I made them with last week.) And I have been DIE-ING to settle down into a warm, soft (with crispy edges, of course) bowl of them. That was my biggest plan for this Sunday. Before, that is, I noticed “Daring Bakers Post” on my calendar this morning. Like all homework assignments I have left this one to the day we’re all supposed to post. And the monthly challenge wasn’t even cake or something I could save for dessert – it was fresh spinach 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.) Not exactly something that fits into the same meal as potato-dough dumplings.

I almost came up with an excuse and bailed. Emailed in sick. But then… I should know better than this. Wasn’t this the whole point of taking on a monthly challenge? And couldn’t I make it easy enough to bother with?

Homemade pasta is a rarity, mostly because it is so cheap and readily available. But like any other dough-based product, it is pretty sublime when made from scratch, and easy to mix and knead together. (Note: you don’t have to do the mountain of flour on the counter thing – it just makes me feel more authentic. You could minimize clean-up by doing it all in a bowl.)

Spinach+pasta+dough+ +unmixed Ricotta Lasagna with Handmade Spinach Pasta

The speed bump is the pasta machine, which you don’t even really need to make fresh pasta. You can roll the dough out with a rolling pin into a rustic smear, and then cut it into strips (for fettuccine-type noodles) or leave them as is and layer with sauce, meat, veg and cheese to make the very best lasagna ever. Which was my plan. And being fresh, these are the ultimate no-boil lasagna noodles.  Oh yes, I am really getting into this idea now.

Spinach+pasta+dough+ +dry Ricotta Lasagna with Handmade Spinach Pasta
Spinach+pasta+dough Ricotta Lasagna with Handmade Spinach Pasta

The only part that’s sort of a hassle is kneading the dough for 10 minutes or so. (Then again, everything is relative.. if there was a product on the shelves that promised fresh pasta dough in under 15 minutes, it might seem like a steal.) But this is how I typically get around it – I call Mike into the kitchen and then say “knead this”, and then leave the room. He won’t stop until I come back, at which point it’s usually smooth and elastic, likely due to his superior upper-arm strength (being a drummer and all). Done.

I was just going to roll out some sheets and be done with it. But it was (yet another) snow day, and W was bored, so I decided to pull my pasta machine out of the basement, figuring it was really just the ultimate Play-Doh contraption. And then it occurred to me that I have my kids’ birthday gift solution for the next decade or so. Because wow, these are fun. I’ve made fresh pasta with teenagers and toddlers, to equal rapture.

Spinach+Pasta Ricotta Lasagna with Handmade Spinach Pasta

It’s funny, how skewed our views are on things. Mike came into the kitchen and surveyed W (naked, as usual) and I cranking pasta sheets through, then threading the sheets through the noodle cutter, and said “wow, pasta making is such a hassle, isn’t it? I mean, why even bother?” Which is true, sort of – it is cheap and easy to find. Then again, once the dough is mixed up you can play Play-Doh with your kids for an hour or so and at the end of it have fresh spinach pasta for dinner. No one has ever called playing Play-Doh with your kids a waste of time.

And really, it’s fun for grown-ups too. How many kids’ activities can you enjoy as well? This was much more satisfying than playing Woody and Buzz, which tends to slow time virtually to a standstill. And requires a lot of crawling around on the floor.

You don’t even need to trim rolled-out dough into rectangles for your lasagna – it doesn’t matter if the thin sheets overlap, or if they have round edges. If you leave them on the countertop for a bit, they will get a little leathery and easy to trim, or stack, roll and cut into ribbons.

Spinach+noodles Ricotta Lasagna with Handmade Spinach Pasta

So here’s the recipe for pasta Verde – I, as always, adapted it a little. The original called for 2 jumbo eggs, but I see no reason to not use the large ones in your fridge. It also called for fresh (which you then cook) or frozen spinach, finely chopped – I went for a block of frozen, and gave it a pulse in the food processor but found it a bit tough to cut with bits of spinach in the dough – I think it would work better pureed completely, liquid and all. It does look cool with the chunks of spinach in there though.

Spinach Egg Pasta (Pasta Verde)

1 10 oz. pkg. frozen chopped spinach, thawed
2 large (or jumbo) eggs
3 1/2 cups (14 ounces/400g) unbleached all-purpose flour

In the bowl of a food processor, whiz the spinach (don’t bother squeezing it out) until relatively smooth. (Alternatively, you could chop it up finely by hand.) Mound the flour in the center of your work surface and make a well in the middle. Add the eggs and spinach. Use a fork to stir the eggs and spinach up a bit, then gradually start incorporating the flour from the sides of the well into the liquid. As you work more and more flour into the liquid, you could use a pastry scraper to keep the liquids from running off and to incorporate the last bits of flour into the dough. Just get in there with your hands and blend it all together. Don’t worry if it looks like a hopelessly rough and messy lump.

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 spoonfuls of flour. Continue kneading about 10 minutes, or until the dough has become satiny, smooth, and very elastic. Cover the dough with plastic wrap or a tea towel and let it relax on the counter for 30 minutes to 3 hours.

Roll the dough, in small pieces at a time if you like (or about a quarter of the dough at a time) as thinly as possible on a lightly floured surface. I took walnut-sized balls of dough and rolled them, and then ran some through the pasta machine.

If you cut it into ribbons, dry the pasta at room temperature by draping over the rolling pin or the back of a chair, or dust with flour and twist into loose nests. Store in a sealed container or bag, or freeze it fresh. Makes the equivalent to 1 lb. dried pasta (lots).

Spinach+lasagna+layers Ricotta Lasagna with Handmade Spinach Pasta

I froze a bunch and then layered the rest with ricotta and chunky tomato sauce, topped it with cheese and baked it for almost an hour.

While we’re on the topic of handmade pasta, I’m teaching a pasta class next weekend – or more accurately assisting Lina de Gaeta, master pasta maker and owner of Lina’s pasta – at The Cookbook Company Cooks. As good a way as any to spend a Saturday afternoon, I think.

And on the subject of sourdough, a) I am so excited that so many of you want some starter! b) what I meant by free-for-all was that I’m not going to draw for it, I’m going to share with whomever wants some. Since there is so much interest, I am starting to split and feed it already. AND – I read in one of my bread books that you can actually dry starter, then reconstitute it – which means it should be mailable!

How crazy will people think you are when you excitedly receive a small chunk of dried paste in the mail?

One Year Ago: Braised Lamb Shanks, Pavlova and Creme Brulee

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March 29 2009 08:31 pm | pasta

25 Responses to “Ricotta Lasagna with Handmade Spinach Pasta”

  1. sue.d on 29 Mar 2009 at 9:06 pm #

    Good grief, think I’d like me some of that lasag RIGHT NOW! And I’m not in the least bit hungry, I just finished a bowl of very lacklustre pasta of my own.

    I love the Play Doh visualization. Doesn’t it make you want to put some through the garlic press just ’cause?

  2. Carolyn on 30 Mar 2009 at 3:25 am #

    Julie, just wondering if you’ve tried kneading the dough with a stand mixer? I’ve only ever kneaded it using the stand mixer, with what I thought were good results, but now I’m wondering if I should be kneading it by hand.

    Thanks for another wonderful recipe!

  3. Elaine on 30 Mar 2009 at 7:25 am #

    Woah! What? Mailable starter? Now people all over the continent are going to be clamoring for this starter! I know I will…

    I love this spinach pasta recipe; my project this spring will be to stock the house well with kale orechiette, beet gnocchi, and spinach noodles. Thanks, once again, for the inspiration!

  4. Jen V. on 30 Mar 2009 at 7:50 am #

    If it can be reconstituted, and therefore mailed (I live in WA state), I would love to be the recipient of the Banff starter. We spent our honeymoon there, so it would be doubly special and delicious. BTW, I came upon your site by chance when searching for a recipe over the holidays, and have been lurking on an almost-daily-basis ever since. I love your approach and your recipes – you’ve been inspirational when I needed it most… recently had a first baby and hit a major cooking creativity block. You are reminding me that cooking well and healthy doesn’t have to be difficult. I just take a look at whatever is in the fridge and search that ingredient on your site until I find something that fits the bill. And the results? Let’s just say that my husband is hooked on your site now as well!

  5. Sue (London) on 30 Mar 2009 at 8:19 am #

    I made lasagna last night but it doesn’t look nearly as wonderful at yours with home-made noodles. Must try that and I was thinking the same thing as Carolyn, why not use my dough hook to knead it?
    How exciting about the reconstituted starter! You could start a separate website (you know, in all your spare time!) and have people talk about their starter, what they did with it, who they shared theirs with, etc!

  6. Pat from Ontario on 30 Mar 2009 at 8:26 am #

    I’m so glad you can mail the starter. I’d love some too!!!

  7. Colleen on 30 Mar 2009 at 8:41 am #

    oh Yippee!! Please, please mail me some starter, too! I was rather glum and didn’t post on FSF (it’s hard to sulk and post at the same time). I will be trying the pasta for supper tonight…my husband will think he’s won the wife lottery.

  8. Margaret on 30 Mar 2009 at 9:22 am #

    Great story. Glad it was a “Family Affair” much more fun. I did mine all alone, by myself, by hand and loved it. Will do again — soon. Your pasta looks lovely.

  9. Cheryl on 30 Mar 2009 at 11:45 am #

    Damn, that looks good, and fun. I’m glad my kid isn’t the only one who likes to cook (and do pretty much everything else) naked.
    And I’m picking up some starter when I come over to get my cooler!

  10. Diana on 30 Mar 2009 at 1:13 pm #

    I would love some sourdough starter also. Sounds wonderful! I made your chicken thais last Saturday in the crock pot. Very good, thank you for the recipe. Will be making many more times.

  11. Dorothy on 30 Mar 2009 at 2:31 pm #

    My Mom learned to make pasta from her Italian Mother-in-law and I remember as a child watching her handroll and cut the dough. Because she made so much at once and we had a busy crowded house and couldn’t be trusted not to mess up her pasta she used to spread a clean white sheet on her bed and lay it there to dry. I hadn’t thought about that in years! Nothing better than homemade pasta.

  12. Jenn on 30 Mar 2009 at 4:47 pm #

    Julie!

    I would love some starter but I live in Edmonton. Does that mean you can stick some in the mail for me??:D

  13. Carolyn on 30 Mar 2009 at 5:27 pm #

    I would LOVE some starter. I live in Ontario. Let me know if I can cover the postage costs. Also, I second the suggestion to get kids to help with rolling pasta. My young daughter and I have spent many hours making and rolling pasta together. There is a wonderful recipe on the foodtv.ca site for chocolate pasta!

  14. Pat from Ontario on 30 Mar 2009 at 5:48 pm #

    Would it make it easier if I send you a self-addressed stamped mailer?

  15. Mary on 30 Mar 2009 at 5:49 pm #

    I found this challenge to be as fun as as can be as well. I wish we had fresh pasta readily available in my neck of the woods, and love the freezing idea! gReat job.

  16. Natalie (Michigan) on 30 Mar 2009 at 5:54 pm #

    My parents are visiting from out of town and I introduced them to you through every dish I make…. Thank-you!! I have been thinking through what I can make from scratch and what is too much work. I was about 8 when my mom made pasta and hung it from broom sticks all over the kitchen. I was just telling her today that I wouldn’t be making pasta… but I also told her that I just make what Julie makes….. SO…. now I may have to! Maybe she can help :) I made your no-knead bread today and my husband said, “keep making this.” Another winner!

    BTW my 4 year old also loves the natural look.

  17. DJ on 30 Mar 2009 at 6:11 pm #

    Mailing sourdough starter through the mail? Count me in!
    I think I actually still have some Amish Cinnamon loaf starter still in my deepfreeze from???hmmmmm…..it must be at least 8 years old! Yikes!Everytime I clean out my deepfreeze, some little voice in my head tells me to keep the starter. I am hereby making a committment to do something with it in the next few weeks – either bake with it or throw it out.

  18. lovetocook on 30 Mar 2009 at 6:15 pm #

    Ever see the Australian award-winning ad produced to raise awareness about STDs? One couple in bed, then each of them with another partner, then 8, 64, etc. and exponential spread of whatever the first person had. Julie’s sourdough starter will soon be all over Canada and the Pacific Northwest!
    Time to make spinach pasta for sure.

  19. jenn (in niagara)! on 30 Mar 2009 at 7:23 pm #

    nobody but you julie would discover and find out that you can indeed mail sourdough starter! that is fantastic! and sure would be nice to get some here!:)
    that pasta looks surreal!
    will be trying that on the weekend!
    thanks, jenn

  20. Debra on 31 Mar 2009 at 7:25 am #

    Starter, did I hear you say you’re sharing that starter???!!!

    Please, please count me in! I’ll even pick it up!!!

    Thanks!

  21. mmac on 31 Mar 2009 at 5:32 pm #

    Am I too late for the starter bandwagon? I’ve been waffling. Wondering if I’m up for that level of commitment. What if I can’t keep it up? But what the hell. Sometimes you just have to jump in the deep end …

    Happy to pick up when/where ever

  22. JulieVR on 31 Mar 2009 at 5:38 pm #

    Nope – never too late! I am compiling a list of recipients now. And yes, what the hell – try it a few times and let it go if you’re not up for the upkeep! There’s plenty more where that came from, it’s not like it will die off forever…

  23. Susan on 01 Apr 2009 at 7:11 am #

    Hi Julie, I would love to receive that starter.

    Thanks !

  24. Adrian Oseen on 06 Apr 2009 at 4:16 pm #

    Julie!
    If it’s mailable, and freezable, and it makes chicken & dumplings, coffee cake and bread, I’m in!!
    Where do I send postage?

  25. Zoey on 21 Jul 2010 at 11:33 pm #

    Julie—made this tonight and it was phenomenal! Thanks for the inspiration.

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