Sometimes it isn’t easy to eat local, especially in the winter, but I like a good challenge.
This last weekend I challenged myself to make a lasagna all from local ingredients. Raiding my pantry and freezer, I used the tomatoes I canned in August, and onions and peppers frozen from summer to make the sauce. I used milk from a local dairy, Merrymead Farm, to make the ricotta. The noodles were made with my whole-wheat flour from Castle Valley Mill and locally sourced eggs. I admit I could have made the mozzarella from the same local dairy, but time was not on my side this weekend. The mozzarella as well as the Parmesan was made in a local Italian market. I also had some local spinach in my freezer so I threw that in too. Here’s how I put it all together:
- ½ large onion, diced
- 1 bell pepper (any color) chopped
- ¼ cup red wine (make sure you use something you will drink)
- 2 quarts canned tomatoes
- ¼ cup parmesan cheese
- salt and pepper to taste
- dried oregano to taste
- sauté onions and peppers with salt until soft
- add wine and cook down for about 5 minutes
- add tomatoes and combine (at this point you decide how chunky you like your sauce, I whiz it up in a blender. You could use an immersion blender or leave it as is)
- add cheese and oregano and season with salt and pepper
- simmer for an hour or two until you get the consistency you want
The noodles were a recipe from Marc Vetri’s book Mastering Pasta. His recipe calls for 4 cups flour, 4 eggs, 1 tablespoon olive and 1 ½ teaspoons water. Bring the dough together either by hand or in a mixer, wrap it in plastic and chill it for at least an hour or up to 3 days. I used my Kitchen Aide pasta attachment to roll this out then cut it to fit my pan. Rolling out whole wheat dough can be a challenge, be patient.
(Do this the day before you plan on assembling your lasagna)
My ricotta recipe was adapted from a recipe in Cathy Barrow’s book, Mrs. Wheelbarrow’s Kitchen.
- 1 gallon whole milk
- ½ cup lemon juice
- Heat milk and lemon juice to 190 degrees (until bubbles start to form around the edge.
- Remove from heat, cover and let sit 10 minutes
- With a slotted spoon remove curds from the whey
- Add an egg and some parmesan cheese before assembling
It doesn’t seem like a lot, but save the whey and let it sit, covered, at room temperature overnight. The following day heat this liquid up to 190 degrees and you will have more ricotta and clear whey; this can be used for smoothies, breads or any other baked good in place of water.
I assembled my lasagna in a metal 8×8 pan, but you can use what you have.
Start with a layer of sauce and then noodles. Put on some ricotta and mozzarella, some more sauce and, if you are using it, sautéed spinach. Keep layering until you fill your pan and finish with mozzarella and Parmesan. Bake in a 350 degree oven covered for 45 minutes. Uncover and bake an additional 15-20 minutes. Let it rest about 15 minutes before you cut it.
This was a project and it did take commitment, but the lasagna was really good and I believe it was worth it.