Greetings from the new MyOrangePot.com headquarters!
9 months since my last blog post,
8 months since I’m experiencing a writer’s block,
1 month since I’m reunited with my kitchenware,
Finally I am ready to just dig myself out of this rut and start getting my cook-writer hat on again!
New York and New Jersey is the place that I now call home. Now that it’s summer and Farmers’ Market abound on different days of the week, I am blessed with boundless access to bounty that in previous life was pretty hard to come by reasonably.
Today I am going to share with you a dish that I’ve made several times since 2012. I saw Michela Chiappa made it in their BBC Channel 4 “Simply Italian” program back then and was very happy to learn just how easy it is to make your own fresh pasta. Now the cook show is history, but the learning could still and definitely should be put to good use.
I was able to obtain fresh organic bounty of spinach bunch and sage at one of the nearby Farmer’s Market, and once again my Atlas pasta maker is out of storage!
Without further ado, here is Lasagne Verdi with Sage + Walnut Pesto for your enjoyment.
Lasagne Verdi with Sage+Walnut Pesto
Adapted from Simply Italian by Michela Chiappa
Prep time: 30 minutes (chopping and rinsing and whizzing), 30 minutes (pasta resting time)
Cook time: 10 minutes (making béchamel sauce), 30 minutes (pasta rolling time) 30 minutes (baking time), 5-10 minutes resting time
Total time: 125 ~ 140 minutes (this also allows 15 minutes of “confused” time as often happens when trying out new recipe)
Tools: Pasta maker, large rectangular ovenproof dish (lasagne pan), saucepan, food processor
For the pasta:
- 235g spinach, washed
- 400g plain flour
- 3 large eggs
For the pesto mixture
- ½ clove garlic, crushed
- 100g walnuts
- Zest and juice of 1 lemon
- 100g parmesan cheese, grated
- Small bunch of fresh sage, leaves picked (approx. 15-20)
- 5-8 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
For the béchamel sauce
- 80g butter
- 80g plain flour
- 800ml whole milk
- 2 handfuls or about 40g grated parmesan
- 5 large handfuls grated mozzarella (approx. 300g)
- 5 large handfuls grated parmesan (approx. 100g)
- 6-8 sage leaves, for garnishing the top
- Place the spinach in a medium sized pan with a splash of water and heat on a medium-low heat. Place the lid on top and cook the spinach for 3-5 minutes until wilted. Remove the spinach from the pan and place in a colander, then allow to cool and carefully squeeze all the water out of the spinach. Once the water is all out of the spinach place into a food processor and whizz quickly. If your don’t have a food processor, then finely chop it.
- To make the spinach dough, add the flour, 2 eggs and spinach to a large bowl, mixing well to combine all the ingredients. If the dough is too dry add the final egg, yolk first, then white, mixing between additions to ensure all ingredients are well combined and to avoid the dough becoming too wet (I’ve always used 3 eggs whenever I make this). Once the dough has come together transfer to a floured surface and begin kneading with your hands until you have a play-dough texture. If your dough is still crumbly (too dry) add a teaspoon of olive oil. If the dough sticks to your hands (too wet) add a little extra flour. Cover with cling film and rest for 30 minutes. This is the ideal time to make your pesto and béchamel.
- To make your pesto: whizz all your ingredients together in a food processor. Ideally you need your paste to be to a consistency that can be spread easily over the pasta. You may need to add more oil to get it to this consistency (I added about ¼ cup of extra virgin olive oil).
- To make the béchamel sauce, get a large non-stick saucepan and place on a medium- low heat with the butter. Once melted whisk in the flour to form a paste, then slowly add the milk bit by bit, continuously whisking until thickened. Add your parmesan and season to taste, then put to one side until ready to layer up the lasagne. Don’t worry if your béchamel goes cold.
- Once the dough is rested, take tennis ball-sized amounts of the dough and squash it flat with your fingers (remember to keep the rest of your dough covered with the cling film so it doesn’t go dry and crusty). Take your flattened tennis ball-sized piece of dough and push it through the pasta roller on the widest setting. Fold into thirds, then repeat 3 times. Once you have a rough square shape, start working it through the machine, taking it down one setting at a time, until the last but one setting (the maximum on Atlas pasta maker is 7, but I always stop at 6). If your pasta is too sticky, it won’t go through smoothly, so add a little flour to each side before you put it through the roller.
- Cut the pasta into strips which will fit your lasagne tray, approximately 30cm in length. Keep your sheets of pasta on a tray on a clean cloth to prevent them sticking.
- All of the above can be prepared several hours before making your lasagne. Just remember to keep your strips of fresh pasta laid out individually under plastic wrap so they don’t stick together or dry up.
- When you’re ready to cook your lasagne, preheat the oven to 180°C/350 F. Make sure you are using an ovenproof dish (we suggest one that is about 6 cm deep and rectangular in shape) and always start with a layer of béchamel or a layer of pesto at the bottom to stop the pasta burning. Then layer in this order: pasta layer (overlap the strips of pasta by 1cm but try not to let the pasta curl up the sides of the dish. The pieces can be cut to fit), pesto layer (1½ heaped tablespoons), béchamel layer (2 heaped tablespoons), mozzarella layer (scatter 1 handful evenly over the layer) and parmesan layer (1 handful sprinkled evenly over the layer). Repeat the above until you have completed 5 layers.
- To garnish the lasagne, brush the sage leaves with some olive oil and arrange on top, then bake the lasagne for 25-30 minutes until the top is golden and bubbling slightly. Leave it stand for about 5-10 minutes before serving.
Michela Chiappa’s tips:
- This lasagne can be done with normal plain pasta dough or even dried lasagne sheets if you are in a rush, although the green colour of the pasta does make it extra special. If so, ensure that the béchamel is runnier to give extra moisture to the dish when it is cooked and to make sure it doesn’t dry out
- Try and get your pasta strips to be at least the length of your ovenproof dish and about 12cm wide; however this is simply to make your layering easier
- The pasta doesn’t need to be very thin – it can be rolled to the second from last setting on the roller, or about 3 playing cards thick.
- When you roll your pasta out, you can either store it on trays with a layer of cling film between each layer to stop them sticking, or hang it on coat hangers or a clothes horse. The main aim is not to let the pasta strips touch each other, otherwise they will start sticking and break apart when you try to separate them
- We recommend you blanch your pasta in boiling water before layering; to do this, put the individual strip of pasta into boiling water for approximately 30 seconds (this does depends on how thick your pasta is but usually 30 seconds to 1 minute max). It should still have a bite to it but should be softened. Once blanched, dip them into cold water to stop them cooking and spread them on a clean tea-towel to get rid of the excess moisture.
- If you have any leftover pesto, put it in a jar and cover it with olive oil to seal it. It will keep in your fridge for months and is great over a plate of pasta.
- If you have any left over pasta, cut them into long ‘tagliatelle’ strips, air-dry them for 24 hours, then store in an air-tight container to be used at a later date.
- Remember, green pasta doesn’t taste of spinach – the spinach simply dyes the pasta. A great way to get your kids to eat some greens!