Sometime I lunge head first into a recipe without really considering what the process will entail. I’ll all but skim the ingredients list, look at the picture, consult my flippant cravings and then jump in. Most of the time it’s worked fine for me, but at times, I find myself in the middle of something not quite what I expected. And then the only thing to do is just soldier on.
When I read about this thousand-layer lasagna, I was instantly hooked. Layers and layers of almost translucent pasta, delicate in texture, yet intensely flavored. How could I possibly resist? I saw pictures on Heidi’s site, and then Deb wrote about it, and I knew it was a matter of time before I would succumb to the delicate pasta call.
It helped that our pasta machine wasn’t getting much use lately and we were feeling like we have to justify its purchase somehow. I was going on and on about how I wanted a mandoline and KS gently reminded me that before we buy yet another piece of kitchen equipment, we had to use the ones we had. I couldn’t really argue with him, practical boy that he is.
And so while he and his friend played tennis one afternoon, I got to work. I rolled my dough and let it sit. And that’s when I decided to read the instructions more carefully. Boy, was I in for a challenge. Not so much a process challenge, but a space challenge. You know how New York kitchens are, and if you’re not a New Yorker, I’m sure you’ve heard about it by now. Tiny spaces lacking counterspace, they are not friendly places for laying out layers and layers of pasta, and that’s what you kind of have to do. Heidi’s warning was well-noted – I did need all the counter space I could get my hands on, and then some. I laid out fresh kitchen towels everywhere the eye could see.
I rolled and rolled until the sheets were so thin, they were almost torn, going to 8, but not quite to 9. And then into the boiling bath they went, and then into the cold bath, and finally to the towels to rest. It. Was. A. Process. While not technically challenging, it took awhile. And it was very step intensive. But I was in the middle of it and when a recipe and I start playing chicken, I always win.
The layering part was the easiest and most fun. I will change things a bit next time though. I will use thin sheets of cheese instead of chunks as they tend to melt better and prettier that way. And secondly, I would love to do this with a nice, thick Bolognese sauce. But in the end, it was incredible. Everything I wanted and imagined this lasagna to be. Each square was like a savory mille-feuille, layer upon layer of pasta with tomato sauce and cheese. Undoubtedly to be made again. And again. And again. A thousand times over.
For the pasta dough
3 cups all-purpose flour
4 large eggs
1 teaspoon salt (optional)
4 tablespoons water (optional)
To make pasta dough in a food processor:
Process and blend flour, eggs, salt, and water in food processor until mixture just begins to form a ball, adding more water if needed by spoonfuls. The dough should be firm and pliable and not sticky. Pulse dough for 10 seconds more to knead it and remove from processor. If the dough feels a bit sticky, flour it on the outside, place on a floured surface and let stand for an hour covered by a bowl. This makes your dough more pliable.
For Tomato Sauce:
1-2 tbs olive oil
2 cloves of garlic, crushed and finely chopped
1 large shallot, finely chopped
1 tsp dry pepper flakes
1 tsp salt
about 40 oz of tomato puree (I like the Parmalat tomato puree, which is as good as it gets with pre-made crushed tomatoes)
Heat the olive oil in the pan and add the garlic and the shallots, being careful not to burn the garlic. A nice trick is to take the green part from the clove out – it removed a lot of the bitterness that cooked garlic acquires. Add the pepper flakes, salt and then finally, the tomato puree. Cook for a ten minutes or so. No need to cook awhile since this is going on your lasagna.
You will also need:
12 oz Mozzarella cheese
handful of basil leaves (we used the ones we grow upstairs!)
Freshly grated Parmesan (optional for some – but a must for us!)
Start with a well buttered 9×13 dish. Ladle a bit of sauce on the bottom and then a layer of pasta. Then a layer of sauce, and a layer of cheese. Then more pasta, more sauce, more cheese. Repeat until you have no more pasta left. Your last layer of pasta should have enough sauce on top of it to cover the top layer. Sprinkle some cheese, and some basil and voila – you are finally done with the preparation. I know. After all these hours!
Bake for 35 minutes at 375F until fragrant. The edges will get crispy and while that might seem like not a good thing, you’ll wind up wanting the corner pieces – because they will taste so good!