It was another lazy Sunday and I was feeling antsy not having any plans for dinner. Mark suggested pasta bolognese, something I’ve made many times before. I did some research in my Gourmet Today cookbook, and found this awesome recipe for lasagna with bolognese sauce and fresh pasta sheets.
Making fresh pasta is definitely time consuming, and may seem a daunting task at first, but you do end up with a lot of pasta who can be kept frozen for weeks. The pasta sheet recipe is adapted from one of Mario Batali’s, and although I halved the recipe, I still ended up with enough to make two meals out of it for one week with still more left over in the freezer. Fresh pasta cooks fast, even frozen, so in effect you are saving cooking time in advance if you take a few hours to make fresh pasta.
I ended up making the lasagna as well as a ravioli with cauliflower cream and crab sauce the following week.
To make the pasta sheets, first blanch the spinach in boiling water for 45 seconds, then drain the spinach and transfer to a bowl of ice water to stop the cooking process.
Squeeze as much water as possible out from the spinach. When I couldn’t get any more water out, I wrapped the spinach into some paper towels and squeezed some more. The spinach is supposed to add color and flavor only, excess water can change the texture of the pasta. Finely chop the spinach.
Stir the chopped spinach, eggs, and oil together in a bowl and set aside.
The recipe called to mix the dough by hand, I took a shortcut and used a stand mixer with a dough hook attachment. I placed the flour and salt in the bowl and with the machine on low, I gradually poured in the egg spinach mixture.
I let the machine run until the dough has come together, and have become firm and elastic, approximately 5 to 10 minutes. Gather the dough into a ball, wrap with plastic sheet, and let rest in room temperature for about an hour.
Once the dough is fully relaxed, cut the dough into 8 equal pieces. Set aside 7 pieces under a sheet of plastic wrap so they don’t dry out.
Roll out the piece of dough into a rough rectangle and dust with flour.
With the pasta roller on the widest setting, feed the narrow end of the dough rectangle into the machine and roll it through.
Fold the dough like a letter in 3rds.
Feed the folded dough with the folded end first through the same widest setting and roll it through.
Repeat this process through 7 more times. This will ensure the pasta gets that firm, hearty bite to it. If the dough gets sticky, dust with flour before proceeding.
Turn the pasta machine to the next narrow setting, and feed the dough through.
Continue through until you reach the narrowest setting on your machine. Your dough will come out very very long, so be sure you have enough counter space ready in advance. If you don’t have a lot of counter space, you can cut the dough in half and continue through that way.
Dust the pasta sheet with flour, and set aside in a pan for about 10 minutes until it dries out slightly. Trim the end pieces and portion the sheet into about 5 inch pieces. A dough scraper/cutter is a good tool to have in the kitchen, and some even come with measurements printed on them.
Cover the finished pasta sheet with a damp towel, and continue on to the next piece of cut dough. It may seem like a lot of work on even one piece of dough, let alone 8, but with a little patience you’ll find your self working in a groove. The first piece of dough may take a little time to roll out, how ever by the second or third piece of dough, I found it took me about 10 to 13 minutes to roll out the piece from start to finish.
To cook the pasta sheets, boil a large pot of water with some salt. While the water is boiling, prepare a large bowl of ice water. Once the water boils, drop the pasta sheets into the pot, and cook for 1 minute. If you are using previously frozen pasta sheets, it takes about the same time.
Quickly remove the pasta sheets from the boiling water with a slotted spoon, and transfer to the bowl of ice water to stop the cooking process.
Now the pasta sheets are ready to be used for whatever recipe you’d like. I made the lasagna bolognese shown below:
And Cauliflower and crab ravioli:
The following two posts will be my steps cooking through these recipes.