The March 2009 challenge is hosted by Mary of Beans and Caviar, Melinda of Melbourne Larder and Enza of Io Da Grande. They have chosen Lasagne of Emilia-Romagna from The Splendid Table by Lynne Rossetto Kasper as the challenge.
Although I'd read the new posting directions, I didn't really register the change in the posting date until a friend pointed out this morning, the postings were due yesterday. Sorry!
When I read this month's challenge recipe, I was a little concerned. I've made lasagna so many many times before but this time would be different. Bechamel instead of a seasoned ricotta. Heavy meat sauce paired with fragile homemade spinach pasta. Could it really all come together? Of course. This is a traditional combination, just one that as an Italian-American I am less familiar with. I have made bechamel before, adding it to baked pasta dishes, but I have never totally abandoned my ricotta. So I must admit I was skeptical which might have tainted my reaction to this lasagna.
The pasta recipe was interesting. My combination of spinach, flour and only two eggs proved to be so dry that I improvised and added another THREE eggs, which seemed a little drastic. But the fifth egg really seemed to make the pasta dough the consistency that I had looked for before when I had made pasta. After rolling it out, I looked at several other cookbooks, including Batali and Silver Spoon, only to find that the ratio of egg to flour in these books was much closer to what I had ended up with (five eggs to three and a half cups flour), rather than the two eggs to three and a half cups flour. Perhaps it was a typo in the DB recipe. Or maybe I had especially dry flour. (wink)
In my family not everyone is totally into meat, so in order to get this to go over better I made a vegetarian ragu and layered the noodles with long strips of zucchini and eggplant that I slow roasted in the oven. This combination was fantastic. But my reservation held firm. The bechamel was too smooth, if that makes any sense. I love the way that a ricotta filling grips the noodle. This, on the other hand, had a slimier taste and texture.
Overall I think that if you've never had a lasagna before, this would be fantastic. But lasagna is just one of those comfort foods for me where preferences are so deeply rooted, it's hard to love the experimental version. Or maybe it reveals my anal tendencies to love routine and dislike surprise.