Friday, September 23, 2011

Rolled lasagna

Now that we all know how to make our own pasta and ricotta, let's put it together with a few other things for some lasagna....

I found this recipe somewhere online. I forget where, because I would gladly post a link and give them Kudos like I always do.  I love a good lasagna, but somehow layering the noodles doesn't work for everyone including me. Even laying them different directions as you go, sometimes you cut into it and stuff goes everywhere. You are left with a big pile of noodles, cheese, meat and sauce, not resembling much of anything recognizable.

Rolled lasagna-

When I make the noodles, I make the 2 egg pasta, which makes about 9 lasagna noodles. The 9 noodles will fill a 9X9 pan.   You can also place 1 or 2 rolls in separate pans for single servings- good for lunches...

Lasagna noodles, 1 package if not making your own
ricotta cheese, 8 oz if you are using store bought.
1 lb mozzarella cheese, grated
grated Parmesan cheese- optional
1 lb Italian sausage- optional
1 jar of pasta sauce

Cook the meat if you are using any, shred or crumble, drain any grease off and set aside.  Cook the noodles in boiling water until they float. I usually cook one or two noodles at a time.  Taking one out to cool, slipping another one in and going along from there until the noodles are all cooked.

Place a small amount of pasta sauce in the bottom of the 9X9 pan, this will keep the noodles from sticking when you bake.  As the noodles cool enough to handle them, place a spoonful of pasta sauce on the end of the noodle, smear it the length of the noodle if you choose. Spread some ricotta cheese on the end of the noodle, sprinkle some meat, Parmesan and mozzarella cheese on the end or full length. Roll the length of the noodle and place the roll in the pan. 

When all of the noodles are rolled and in the pan, use the rest of the sauce over the noodles. Use the remainder of the mozzarella and Parmesan to sprinkle over the top of the noodles as well. This can now either be frozen for later or baked in the oven for 30 minutes at 350 degrees.  I try to make Italian bread, garlic bread or at least bread sticks to go with this.   Enjoy!

*Edited to add- Lasagna Alfredo Roll Ups, same thing sort of, but stuffed with spinach instead and covered with alfredo sauce... I gotta try this one.  All recipes also has a few other variations- Lasagna roll ups. Turkey, tofu, veggie, southwest sausage, chicken, seafood, crab... I guess it depends on your tastes. 

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Ricotta Cheese

Now that everyone knows my recipe for homemade pasta, I will put this one up for ricotta. I haven't tried it out yet, but I hope to soon.  I found this recipe on the Smitten Kitchen back in June.

I can only imagine how much different (to read Better!) lasagna will taste with not only the homemade pasta, but also the ricotta being used... and I have an easy recipe for rolled lasagna that I will be sharing soon too.

From the SK website-

Rich Homemade Ricotta
Inspired by Salvatore Ricotta, via Tasting Table

I made this ricotta three different ways: with all milk, as the Salvatore recipe suggested (we found it a bit dry), with 3 cups milk and 1 cup heavy cream and with 3 1/2 cups milk and 1/2 cup heavy cream. Guess what? The last two ricottas were virtually indistinguishable.The extra cream did indeed add an even richer edge, but the one with less cream was also very indulgent. I imagine I’d use the richer version for toasts, for putting out at a party and the almost-as-rich one for pastas and things where I might need a larger, sturdier quantity. I’ll leave it up to you which way you go.

Makes about 1 generous cup of ricotta
3 cups whole milk
1 cup heavy cream (see Note above about using less)
1/2 teaspoon coarse sea salt
3 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice

Pour the milk, cream and salt into a 3-quart nonreactive saucepan. Attach a candy or deep-fry thermometer. Heat the milk to 190°F, stirring it occasionally to keep it from scorching on the bottom. Turn off the heat [Updated] Remove from heat and add the lemon juice, then stir it once or twice, gently and slowly. Let the pot sit undisturbed for 5 minutes.

Line a colander with a few layers of cheesecloth and place it over a large bowl (to catch the whey). Pour the curds and whey into the colander and let the curds strain for at least an hour. At an hour, you’ll have a tender, spreadable ricotta. At two hours, it will be spreadable but a bit firmer, almost like cream cheese. (It will firm as it cools, so do not judge its final texture by what you have in your cheesecloth.) Discard the whey, or, if you’re one of those crafty people who use it for other things, of course, save it.  Eat the ricotta right away or transfer it to an airtight container and refrigerate until ready to use.

Serve: On 1/2-inch slices of baguette that have been run under the broiler until lightly bronzed. Serve it simply [as shown in the top photo, left to right] with honey and a pinch of flaky sea salt, a couple grinds of black pepper, pinch of salt and drizzle of olive oil, and/or a few droplets of an aged balsamic. Or with zucchini ribbons [as shown in the last photo], I started with about half a pound of miniature zucchini my mother-in-law had found at Trader Joes. Larger ones will work just fine, but you might want to first cut a big one in half lengthwise. Peel them into ribbons and toss them with 1/4 teaspoon of salt and let them drain in a colander for a while (this wilts them), about 20 minutes. Rinse and pat them dry. Toss with lemon juice, olive oil, salt and black pepper to taste. Arrange in piles on ricotta crostini.

Do ahead: I keep mine only 3 to 4 days; the really fresh milk I used doesn’t last long. However, Salvatore also uses really fresh milk, and theirs appears to keep closer to two weeks. In conclusion? Shelf lives will vary. Use your nose to judge freshness. Or your partner’s nose, because who doesn’t like hearing “Hey honey, sniff this for me?”