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Entries in vegetarian (32)

Sunday
May182008

Lasagna with Red Pepper Tomato Sauce


This is a recipe I adapted years ago from Giuliano Bugialli, the famous Italian cooking instructor in Florence, Italy. This lasagna is totally homemade, from the noodles to the bechamel sauce. It contains no meat and is very light. The noodles are rolled out very thin and the recipe uses bechamel sauce instead of ricotta cheese. The tomato sauce, though, is really outstanding. The addition of red peppers to the tomatoes makes for a fuller, richer flavor and even if you do not make the lasagna, this tomato sauce is great with pasta.

There are three items in this recipe that make up this lasagna and you must make them all from scratch - the noodles, the tomato sauce and the bechamel. If this seems daunting to you, try making the tomato sauce a day ahead and refrigerate it. You can make the bechamel in the morning and refrigerate that too, until you are ready to assemble the lasagna. Have you read my older Pasta Fresca post about how to make homemade pasta? You might want to check that out. Yes, this recipe is a lot of work, but it makes the lightest, freshest lasagna you will ever taste.

Lasagna with Red Pepper Tomato Sauce 

This recipe is for an 8x8 baking pan.

Ingredients:

For the pasta:

  • 3 cups Italian 00 flour or unbleached all purpose flour
  • 4 whole eggs
  • 4 egg yolks 

For the tomato sauce:

  • 1/3 cup olive oil
  • 2 large red bell peppers, seeded & coarsely chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves
  • 1 large can Italian San Marzano tomatoes (or plum tomatoes, if you can't find San Marzano)
  • 1/4 cup Italian parsley sprigs (leaves only)

For the bechamel sauce:

  • 1/4 cup butter (1/2 stick)
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 2 cups whole milk

Instructions:

For the tomato sauce:
Heat oil in heavy large pot over medium heat. Add peppers and whole garlic and cook 5 minutes. Stir in tomatoes and parsley. Cover and simmer 25 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add salt and pepper to taste. Insert immersion blender and puree sauce. (Or pour sauce into blender or food processor, puree and pour back into pot. Then go out and buy an immersion blender.) Simmer sauce until sauce is thick, about 15 minutes more. Transfer sauce to bowl and let cool. (Can be made 1 day ahead and refrigerated.)


For the bechamel sauce:
Melt butter in heavy medium saucepan over low heat, add flour and whisk. Cook for 1 minute. Add milk, whisking constantly. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer about 10 minutes, whisking constantly, until sauce has thickened up. Season with salt and pepper (I use a little white pepper). It is essential that the bechamel have some salt in order for the taste to be right. Pour into large Pyrex or a bowl and cool to room temperature, stirring every few minutes to prevent a skin from forming.

For the pasta:
Arrange flour in mound on work surface and make well in center. Break eggs in well. With fork, gently beat eggs and begin gradually drawing flour into the eggs. When enough flour has been incorporated to enable you to handle the dough, start kneading the dough. If it is too sticky, add a little more flour. (I make this in my KitchenAid mixer, with the dough hook.)   Knead dough until smooth. If making it in mixer, when you take it out of the mixer, also knead briefly by hand.  When you have a nice firm dough that's not too sticky, wrap it in a floured piece of plastic wrap and let it sit about 20 minutes to rest.



Cut a piece of the dough and flatten it (keep remainder covered).  Turn pasta machine to widest setting (setting #1) and run dough through.  Dust dough with flour if sticky and fold into thirds.  Run through machine a few more times until smooth.  Adjust machine to next narrower setting and run dough through, dusting lightly with flour if sticky.  Keep doing this until you have run the dough through setting #5.  Lay the noodles out on a floured surface and repeat with remaining dough.  Cut pasta into 12" long strips. You should have 24 pasta strips when finished. (If you do not have 24 strips, don't worry - just don't make as many layers when you assemble the lasagna.)


Bring large amount of salted water to a boil. Fill a large bowl with ice and water for ice bath.  Add 3 pasta strips and after water is boiling again, cook for about 10 seconds.  Transfer pasta to ice bath to cool.  Set on towels in single layer.  You can stack towels/pasta on top of each other.  

To assemble:
Butter an 8x8 baking dish.   Arrange 2 strips one way, allowing edges to hang over.  Spread 1/3 of the bechamel sauce over pasta.

Sprinkle with 1/4 cup Parmesan.  Cover with another layer of pasta, laying the strips the opposite way.  

Spoon on 1/3 cup tomato sauce.  Repeat pasta and tomato sauce layers 3 more times.  Add another layer of pasta, then another 1/3 of the bechamel and 1/4 cup Parmesan.  Make 4 more layers each of pasta and tomato sauce.  

 

Top with another layer of pasta.  Cover with remaining bechamel and Parmesan.  Cover with final layer of pasta.  Fold edges in over top layer or trim off hanging edges if you want.  It probably makes it a little easier to slice if you cut off the edges.  I just folded mine over - this is how Bugialli makes his.  (Can be prepared 1 day ahead and refrigerated.  Bring fully to room temperature before continuing.) Preheat over to 375. Bake lasagna uncovered until top is light golden brown and crisp, about 30 minutes.


 

 


tip: Try to use San Marzano tomatoes from Italy. Yes, they really are different than the ones grown domestically. It's because of the soil and climate where they are grown in Italy.

 

tip: Giuliano Bugialli does not add mozzarella cheese to the top of this lasagna. It makes a golden, crisp crust on top. If you really want the cheese on top for a softer texture, you can certainly add that. Cover the lasagna when it bakes.


 

Wednesday
Mar262008

Eggplant Rollatini

This makes a delicious vegetarian entree or a filling side dish. You all know how to make risotto now - remember my risotto post? For this recipe, however, instead of making a saffron type risotto, I make it with a little tomato paste and very light beef broth. You can certainly use vegetable broth if you want to keep it a vegetarian dish. This dish is great because you can make it in the morning, or even the day before, refrigerate it and bring it to room temperature before baking.

There is a lot of debate with cooks about whether to salt eggplant or not. Some people claim that salting the eggplant before cooking helps get rid of any bitterness. Salt does help suppress bitterness in foods, this is true, but most people rinse off the salt before cooking. Actually, the main reason to salt eggplant is to help with the amount of oil the eggplant soaks up during cooking. If you have ever cooked eggplant, you know it can absorb an unbelievable amount of oil. That is because eggplant is full of tiny air pockets. It is actually just like a sponge. When you slice eggplant and then salt it before cooking, the salt draws out the moisture and helps collapse the air pockets, so it takes on a lot less oil. It is worth doing.

Eggplant Rolatini

This recipe makes 5 rollatini.

Ingredients:

For the Risotto:

  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 1 cup arborio or carnaroli rice
  • 4 cups light beef broth (or vegetable broth), heated
  • 1/3 cup grated parmesan

for the eggplant:

  • 1 large eggplant
  • oilve oil
  • marinara sauce

Instructions:

Heat a little olive oil in a heavy saucepan. Add the garlic and saute gently for one minute. Add the tomato paste and cook for one minute. Add the rice and cook for about a minute more.

Start adding the warm broth and stir the risotto. Every time the rice absorbs the liquid, add a couple more ladles. Keep stirring for about 25 to 30 minutes. Take the risotto off the heat and add the cheese. Transfer to a bowl and let cool before assembling rollatini.

 


Slice the very ends off the eggplant. Slice the eggplant into 1/4 inch slices. You should have 5 slices for a large eggplant. Salt the slices heavily and place in a colander for about one hour. Rinse the salt off the eggplant and press with paper towels to dry.

Heat a grill or grill pan on the stove. Make sure it's hot before beginning. Brush the eggplant slices on both sides with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Grill on both sides until you have nice grill marks and the eggplant is pliable.

Place a little marinara sauce in the bottom of a small baking dish. Place some risotto all along the eggplant slices and roll up and place seam side down in baking dish. Top with marinara sauce. Bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes covered. Remove cover and bake an additional 10 minutes. Serve with grated parmesan cheese.

Saturday
Mar082008

Farro Salad


This is one of my favorite dishes. Sometimes I make a big batch of this and then have it for lunch for a few days. It's easy and a very healthy dish. Farro has become quite popular now and can be found on a lot of menus at good Italian restaurants. It is an ancient grain that has been eaten in Italy for eons. It's very similar to spelt. In fact, some people claim they are the same thing and some people say they are different. They are very close. I have cooked both and I believe spelt is a little harder and takes a little longer to cook. If you can't find farro, just use spelt. I can only buy farro when I travel out of town and can pick some up.
At our farmer's market last year, there was a family selling ground spelt flour. I asked the lady if I could buy some whole and she was mystified - she couldn't understand why I would want to eat it whole.   I bugged her every week and finally one week she remembered to bring a bag of unground spelt and she happily gave it to me and would not charge me. It was delicious in this salad.


Farro Salad

Ingredients:
  • 1 cup farro or spelt
  • 1 red bell pepper
  • 1 yellow bell pepper
  • 1 medium red onion
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 Tablespoon fresh thyme
  • 1 Tablespoon fresh chopped parsley
  • olive oil
 

Instructions:

Place farro in small saucepan. Simmer for about 20 minutes. If using spelt, simmer for about 35 minutes. When it's tender, it's done. Drain.

Chop peppers and onions. Mince garlic. Spread out on a baking sheet, drizzle with a little olive oil, salt and pepper and toss and then roast at 350 degrees for 30 minutes. Stir halfway through cooking time.

In large bowl, toss farro with vegetables and fresh herbs. Drizzle olive oil over and season generously with salt and pepper.