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Valentine Lasagne

Early last week Victor decided he was making lasagne, today. For many folks, lasagne for dinner usually means putting the frozen block of Stouffer’s into the oven and coming back in an hour.

Not around here. Lasagne in our house is a bit more complex – it starts with making the sauce and making the lasagne noodles. It’s the old adage if you’re going to do it, do it right…

The sauce was not overly-difficult. He added ground beef to his jarred sauce along with some garlic and herbs and cooked it down a bit. It came out a bit richer, meatier – more substantial.

And them he made the lasagne.

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Fresh Lasagne

Ingredients

  • 2 1/2 cups ’00’ flour
  • 1/2 cup semolina flour
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 tsp olive oil
  • 1/2 tsp salt

Instructions

On a clean work surface, mound flour and form a well in the center. Add eggs  to the well. Using a fork, gently break up yolks and slowly incorporate flour from inside rim of well. Continue until liquid is absorbed, then knead for 10 minutes. Wrap dough tightly in plastic and let rest for 30 minutes.

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Divide dough into 3 pieces. Cover 2 pieces with plastic wrap. Flatten remaining dough piece so that it will fit through the rollers of a pasta machine.

Set rollers of pasta machine at the widest setting, then feed pasta through rollers 3 or 4 times, folding and turning pasta until it is smooth and the width of the machine.

Roll pasta through machine, decreasing the setting, one notch at a time (do not fold or turn pasta), until pasta sheet is a scant 1/8 inch thick. Cut to fit your dish or pan.

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There are few things in this world that are better than homemade pasta – and right now, I can’t think of one of them…

The lasagne was layered with sauce, pasta, ricotta mixed with herbs and parsley, fresh mozzarella… All the good stuff. We had a hard time waiting for it to set up before diving into it.

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While Victor was getting lasagne together, I made a loaf of Pane Siciliano.

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This is a great bread I’ve made a few times – and even made it in Sicily! The original recipe comes from one of my favorite books – The Italian Baker by Carol Field.

Pane Siciliano

Makes 2 loaves

  • 2 1/2 tsp active dry yeast
  • 1/4 cup warm water
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tsp malt syrup
  • 1 cup water, room temperature
  • 2 1/2 cups semolina
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 1/3 cup sesame seeds

Stir the yeast into the 1 1/4 cups warm water in a large mixer bowl; let stand until creamy, about 10 minutes.  Stir in the oil and malt and mix until smooth.  Knead on medium speed until; the dough is firm, compact, and elastic with lots of body, 4 to 5 minutes.  Finish kneading by hand on a lightly floured surface.

First rise. Place the dough in a lightly oiled bowl, cover tightly with plastic wrap and let rise until doubled, about 1 1/2 hours.  The dough should be springy and blistered, but still soft and velvety.

Shaping and second rise. Punch the dough down, knead it briefly, and let it rest for 5 minutes.  Flatten it with your forearm into a square.  Rollit into a long, narrow rope, about 20 to 22 inches long.  The dough should be so elastic that it could almost be swung and stretched like a jump rope.  Cut the dough in half and shape each into a loaf.

Place the loaves on floured parchment paper, peels sprinkled with corn meal, or oiled baking sheets.  Brush the entire surface of each loaf with water and sprinkle with sesame seeds; pat the seeds very gently into the dough.  Cover with a kitchen towel and let rise until doubled, 1 to 1 1/2 hours.

Baking. Thirty minutes before baking heat the oven with baking stones to 425°.  Bake 10 minutes, spraying 3 times with water.  Reduce the heat to 400° and bake 25 to 30 minutes longer.  Cool on racks.

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We’ve become almost-exclusively an Italian Flour family. The exception is Daisy Organic Flour grown and milled here in Pennsylvania. I bake too much to buy mediocre flour, and Victor’s pasta is just unbelievably outstandingly good. Quality ingredients give quality results. It’s just worth it.

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The lasagne was both rich and decadent, while also being light. The homemade pasta makes all the difference. It’s not gummy like no-bake noodles usually are, or belly-bombs like some traditional lasagne noodles. I wiped my plate clean, sopping up every bit of goodness with bread slathered in butter. It really took a lot to keep from going back for more.

Take your chocolates, your flowers, your going-out-to-dinners… This was Valentine’s Day!

Fun in the kitchen, great smells wafting through the house, and eating a great dinner on hand-painted plates custom-made for us in Florence.

It does not suck to be us…

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