October 22, 2010

Lasagna with Homemade Basil Noodles and Sausage-Tomato Sauce


for the sauce:
2 lb bulk Italian sausage (casing removed if necessary)
1 large onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 cubanelle pepper, minced
56 oz canned coarse ground tomatoes
14 oz canned diced tomatoes
6 oz tomato paste
1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
red wine (optional)
10 basil leaves

for the pasta:
1 1/2 cup flour
1/2 cup finely minced basil
3 eggs

for the filling:
1 lb ricotta
1/2 lb frozen chopped spinach, defrosted and squeezed dry
1 1/2 cup mixed Italian cheese*
1 egg

extra shredded cheese for sprinkling

Preheat oven to 350. Start the sauce first. Brown the sausage in a large, heavy pot (I used this dutch oven) breaking up any large pieces. When nearly fully cooked, drain off as much fat as possible. Add the onion, garlic and pepper. Cook until the onion is translucent. Add the tomatoes, tomato paste, balsamic, salt and pepper. Simmer as you make the pasta. It should reduce by about an inch and half or so. Add wine if desired periodically. Stir occasionally. When the sauce is cooked, stir in the basil leaves.

for the pasta:
While the sauce is bubbling away, pour the flour onto a clean counter top. Create a well on top and add the eggs. Knead together until a ball forms then work in the basil. Knead until a flexible dough forms. Divide into 9 equal balls. Roll through a pasta machine according to the package instructions. We rolled ours out through #5, rolling at each level twice on this machine. Hang until you are ready to use them.

for the filling:
Mix all ingredients in a large bowl. Set aside until ready to use.

Ladle a even layer of sauce over the bottom of a standard 9x13 inch pan, covering it thoroughly. Arrange three noodles in a single layer. Top with 1/2 of the cheese mixture then ladle more sauce on top. Repeat. Top for the remaining three noodles and cover with sauce.

Sprinkle with cheese. Cover in foil and bake for 30 minutes. Remove the foil and continue to bake an additional 30 minutes or until heated through. Allow to sit for a couple of minutes before slicing.

*I used a shredded six cheese blend that included Mozzarella, Provolone, Parmesan, Fontina, Romano and aged Asiago.

My thoughts:
This was a fun weekend food project. We planned out what we wanted to do and was on sauce and filling duty while Matt rolled the pasta out. It was surprisingly easy! Why has it taken so long for us to make fresh pasta for the first time. It didn't take as long as I would have thought and I think with practice we will get every faster. I think lasagna was a good first homemade pasta experiment because it was not only delicious (I loved the hint of basil) but we didn't have to bother boiling the noodles before using them because they were going to be baked buried in sauce. It sounds silly but eliminating that one step was great, I went right from finishing the noodles to layering to popping it in the oven with no lag time. Let me tell you, it was a spectacular lasagna. The sauce was complexly flavored, the noodles were awesome and well, we liked it so much, we had it for dinner twice vs. our usual leftovers for lunch/frozen for later new food for dinner routine. Yum. I already want to make it again.

Note: while it looks like a lot of sauce, I promise you will end up using all of it!

If you use sausage in your pasta dishes, enter this Johnsonville contest.