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.
I made some modifications in this challenge. First of all, my husband cannot eat spinach so I used butternut squash instead. I pureed the squash and added about 6 ounces to the pasta in lieu of the spinach. The color was a rich golden color, probably slightly darker than if I had added nothing at all. Fortunately, I have my old Atlas pasta machine, so the pasta rolling process was much easier than if I had rolled it out.
I made a sauce from a combination of pork and beef, since I thought the pork flavor would go especially well with the butternut pasta. This is the recipe, modified to include the pork:
Dice one large onion, 2 large carrots and 3 celery ribs. Throw into a food processor along with 4 cloves of garlic. Puree into a coarse paste. Coat a large pan with oil and heat. Add the pureed veggies and season generously with salt. Cook until the liquid in the veggies has evaporated and they become nice and brown, stirring frequently.
Add about a pound and a half of ground beef and another pound or pound and a half of ground pork. Season again with lots of salt. Brown the meat (this took me about 15-20 minutes). Add 2 cups of tomato paste and brown again, about 5 minutes. Add 3 cups of a hearty red wine and cook until it has reduced by half.
Add water to the pan to cover the meat by about an inch. Toss in 3 bay leaves and a bundle of fresh thyme and stir to combine. Bring to a boil and then reduce to simmer. As the water evaporates, add more, 2-3 cups at a time. Don’t dump in several cups of water all at once. Reduce and then add more. Stir and taste frequently and add more salt as needed. Simmer for 3 ½ to 4 hours. At the end of this time, the sauce will be meaty and not too watery. This recipe makes a lot – I froze the leftovers. (This recipe is a modification of a recipe from Anne Burrell, who has a cooking show on The Food Network).
I made the béchamel from the challenge recipe and assembled the lasagne after the pasta had dried and cooked and cooled. It was a much more refined dish than the lasagne with which I am more familiar – the kind overloaded with ricotta and mozzarella. I think the meat sauce could have used a little more spice or heat. If I were to do it again, I’d add some red pepper flakes. Probably not traditional, but we are fans of spicy flavors!