My refrigerator can be a place of great discoveries when i gather enough strength to clean it. It’s a dangerous business, though. On bad refrigerator days I’ve scared myself to death with vegetable bin monsters but on good days pulling things out is a bit like watching a dish create itself in front of my eyes.
Last sunday, it occurred to me that the leftover ground meat with soffrito i used in empanadas a day earlier (delicious by the way), and the roasted kabocha squash that was used on a pizza along with a chunk of tallegio had some affinity for one another, and that’s how this lasagna came to be. The half bunch of cilantro that needed some urgent lovin’ turned into a quick emulsion sauce. It brightened up the dish. It was as though rescued ingredients had come together to throw a symphony. Pasta always does a great job at unifying flavors and textures and this was no exception.
So here you have it, friends. I think it deserves a little moment in the spotlight. The recipe is approximate since the dish was made from leftovers but this is meant to provide inspiration. Feel free to come up with your own version. All hail the lasagna!
Lasagna ‘à la Zen’
- Serves 4
For the pasta dough:
- 3 cups all-purpose or “00″ flour, plus more for dusting work surface
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 4 whole eggs
- 4 yolks
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
for the soffrito/ground meat:
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 onion, minced
- 1 red pepper, minced
- 1 garlic clove, chopped
- 1 1/2 lbs ground meat (beef/pork/veal)
- 4 tablespoons tomato paste
- 1 tablespoon chipotle in adobo, chopped (optional)
- 3 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
- 1 tablespoon sesame oil
- 2 teaspoons sugar
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
For the tallegio bechamel:
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 2 tablespoons flour
- 2 cups milk
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 8 ounces tallegio, cubed
- Roasted Kabocha squash
- 2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
- 1 shallot, chopped
- 1 cup half and half
- salt and pepper
- 1/2 bunch cilantro
For the pasta:
- Combine the flour, the salt, the eggs, yolks and olive oil in a Kitchenaid bowl and combine on low speed using the dough hook (this also could be done by hand in a large bowl). Increase the speed until you get a rough dough. This should take 1 or 2 minutes.
- When the mixture comes together transfer to a floured clean surface and knead the dough, turning the inside-out, until you obtain a dough that’s smooth on the outside, adding flour everytime the dough starts to feel sticky. The whole process should take less than 5 minutes. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and let it rest in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours, or overnight.
- Take the dough out from the fridge and place it on a floured surface. Cut it in 4 equal pieces. With a rolling pin make rectangle with the pieces of dough, so that they fit inside your pasta machine.
- Start rolling pasta sheets on the thickest setting and cut in half (so it doesn’t get too long). Keep rolling reducing the setting everytime. The number “8″ setting on my machine is where i usually stop.
- You should be able to see your hand through the pasta sheets when you have reached the right thickness. You want it thin but not so thin that it becomes fragile.
- Blanch the pasta sheets in boiling salted water and cool in a ice bath. Drain. Reserve on the side.
For the soffrito/ground meat:
- Add the olive oil to a skillet over medium-low heat. Add the onions and peppers, stirring occasionally, for 30 minutes. Add the garlic then add the tomato paste and adobo stirring until combined. Add the ground meat, season, and stir until the mixture is cooked. Add the cilantro, the sesame oil and sugar. Let the mixture cool.
For the Tallegio bechamel:
- In a medium saucepan, heat the butter over medium-low heat until melted. Add the flour and stir until smooth. Over medium heat, cook for 2 minutes.
- Meanwhile, heat the milk in a separate pan until just about to boil. Add the hot milk to the butter mixture 1 cup at a time, whisking continuously until very smooth. Bring to a boil. Cook 5 minutes, stirring constantly, then remove from heat. Add the tallegio and stir until melted. Season with salt.
- In a buttered dish, layer the pasta sheets with the ground meat mixture, kabocha squash, parmesan and Tallegio bechamel. Bake for 20 minutes at 350’F. Meanwhile combine the vinegar and shallots in a small saucepan. Boil for 2 minutes. Add the half and half and bring to a boil. Reduce for 3 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Add the cilantro and blend until frothy. Serve with the lasagna.