I have always made yummy homemade lasagna, but in March I endeavored to make the WHOLE lasagna TOTALLY from scratch with the assistance of my good friend Terri Jones.
|Lasagna after coming out of the oven.|
Days 1 & 2: THE SAUCE
I started with the sauce. I had froze two 2 gallon bags full of tomatoes last summer which I peeled, chopped and immersion blended. I then sauteed onions, garlic, anchovy filets (yes, anchovy, they add an amazing, nutty taste to the sauce), oregano, and other spices, salt and pepper and added them to the tomatoes. For 2 days I simmered, stirred and reduced. At the very end of the second day I added fresh basil to make one hell of a pasta sauce.
|Red Liquid Gold, the aroma filled the house for 2 days.|
Day 3: THE CHEESE
|Making the ricotta on the stove.|
Terri and I were in cheese mode. I had made cheese before with the help of The New England Cheese Making Supply Company.
Since we were going to make 2 pans of lasagna, 1 for her and 1 for me, we knew we needed lots and lots of cheese.
|Ricotta hanging to remove excess water.|
Making the ricotta was incredibly easy. All it takes is 1 gallon of milk, 1tsp. citric acid and 1 tsp. cheese salt. You heat the milk, citric acid and salt to 195° in a stainless steel pot. When the curds begin to separate from the whey, I removed the ricotta from the heat and let sit for 5 minutes. We ladled the curds into a cheese cloth and let hang for a ½ hour.
|Cooking the mozzarella curds.|
I love fresh mozzarella, and making my own fresh mozzarella is so much better than store bought. For one, when you make your own, the price is a fraction of what you would pay in the store. Secondly you know the ingredients used and it keeps much longer than store bought, up to a week in the fridge. Lastly but most importantly, the taste is so much better.
|Fresh Mozzarella ready to be eaten or made into homemade lasagna.|
Day 4: THE NOODLES & EVERYTHING ELSE
|Semolina and eggs|
|Mixing the eggs and flour|
This was the busiest day yet. We started with the noodles. We used good semolina flour shaped into a mound on my counter. In the well in the center we cracked fresh eggs and gradually mixed in the flour from the edges
|Terri rolling out the noodles.|
|Sauteing fresh spinach.|
We decided that this was to be a vegetable lasagna mainly because I don't eat red meat but also because we wanted to vegetables to add their own subtle flavor without being overshadowed by meat. We started with fresh spinach to which added some nutmeg and sauteed.
|Ricotta mixture with spinach.|
The spinach was added to the ricotta, that we had made the day before, along with a couple of eggs, salt and pepper. We got our hands into it, literally, so that everything was evenly mixed.
|Mushrooms get sauteed.|
Mushrooms always add a nice earthy taste to anything. I especially like them in lasagna. We sauteed them until they started to brown and added parsley, salt and pepper.
The time had come to put all those things together that we had been working hard on for past for days. I ladled warm sauce into the lasagna pans and put a layer of noodles on top of that followed by some more sauce. Ricotta mixture came next topped with more sauce and Parmesan. The next layer was noodle, more sauce, the mushrooms and some mozzarella, sauce and noodles. The ricotta layer was repeated and topped with noodle, more sauce, Parmesan and the rest of the fresh mozzarella.
We covered them with foil and put them in a 375° oven for about 30 minutes and uncovered for an additional 15 minutes or until the cheese begins to brown a bit. The 10 minutes we had to let the lasagna sit were the most difficult minutes in the past 4 days, but at last the time had come. I opened a bottle of CMS Red by Hedges Family Estate, a nice red table wine perfectly suited to pasta. I generously ladled more sauce on top and we proceeded to eat what we all agreed was "The Best Lasagna" this side of Chicago.
|Homemade Vegetable Lasagna made from scratch.|