Friday, March 27, 2009

Daring Bakers March- Lasagna!

Good news. We've moved! Alex and I, not the website. We are still unpacking and assembling, which I think we will be doing for quite a while, but we're HERE. The old house still needs a little love, but we have until Tuesday to get it done. I do have the kitchen unpacked, which I guess is all that really matters.

And for the first post in the new house, this month's Daring Baker's Challenge! This month we made lasagna, which was awesome. I made every part from scratch. The noodles, the ragu, the bechemel, the ricotta (see my post on March 13), everything except the mozzarella and Parmesan. And while the whole process took about six hours, it was really, really good. I served this for dinner to some friends, and everyone ate a hefty slice, and then went back for seconds.

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.

Gluten Free Egg Pasta

The choice of the first flour is personal. The original recipe called for corn flour because the subtle taste blended well with the dish. However, this is a matter of personal taste – please feel free to substitute a different flour for the corn flour but don't substitute a starch. I used rice flour and thought that was delicious.

1 c rice flour (or other flour of your choice)
3/4 c corn starch
scant 1 c tapioca starch
1 c potato starch
3/4 c sweet rice flour
1 1/2 t xanthan gum
1 t salt
6 eggs
3/8 cup of water
3 T olive oil

Sift all the dry ingredients together in a large bowl. Make a well in the middle of the dry ingredients.

Whisk together 3 eggs, the water and the oil. Pour into the middle of the dry ingredients. Mix with a sturdy wooden spoon, gradually drawing more of the flour mix into the wet ingredients. Add each egg as needed. The dough will be crumbly at the beginning but will gradually come together as you add the eggs. You will need to use your hands to squeeze and mix the dough.

The dough will be firm and stick together when ready. It will not have the elasticity of gluten dough therefore it will crack when kneaded and pushed. Form it into a smooth ball, oil it lightly, and cover securely with plastic wrap. Let it rest for an hour.

Put a sheet of plastic wrap on your work surface. This is very important as the dough will not hold together very well when lifted. Have flour ready for dusting (I used rice flour) and dust the surface lightly. Cut a piece of dough about the size of really large egg – it doesn’t matter the size but start small for the first one to gauge how much space you need. Keep the remaining dough covered so it does not dry.

Roll the dough into a ball and flatten into a disc with your hands. Put it on your work surface and flatten with your hands. Use a rolling pin and gently push the dough down and out ward from the center. You may have to place one hand on the plastic wrap as you push the dough down and away. Gluten free dough does not stretch like wheat dough therefore it needs gentle flattening and pushing. If it breaks, pat it back together. If it is too dry, dab a little water with your finger. The gluten free dough will be thicker than wheat dough and you will barely be able to see your hand through the dough. Once it is flattened, cut into strips or squares that will fit your pan. Alternately, use a pasta roller, which I did.

Set the dough aside on the plastic sheet. There is no need to dry the dough. But if you do dry the dough, it will not be able to hang because it will break. Stack the rolled out dough with plastic sheets in between.

Stack the sheets when dry and wrap securely. Store in the fridge until ready to use. Freezing will make the dough crumbly and difficult to work with – so freeze only as a last resort!This dough does not need to be precooked before being assembled into the lasagne.

Cheese bechamel

4 T unsalted butter
4 T rice flour (or sorghum flour, if using that use 3 T)
2 2/3 c milk
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
1 t paprika
1 c grated cheese (I used mozzarella)

Using a medium-sized saucepan, melt the butter over low to medium heat. Sift over the flour, whisk until smooth, and then stir (without stopping) for 1 minute. Whisk in the milk a little at a time and keep the mixture smooth. Bring to a slow simmer, and stir 3 to 4 minutes, or until the sauce thickens. Cook, stirring, for about 5 minutes, until the sauce thickens. Remove from heat, season with salt, pepper, and paprika, then stir in cheese.

My Version of Country Style Ragu’ (Ragu alla Contadina)

3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 medium onion, minced

1 carrot, minced
6 cloves garlic
1 lb ground beef

1 lb sausage (I used a mix of sweet and hot)
1 to 1 1/2 lb (total) cubed beef, pork and veal (often sold together in a 'gravy pack')
2 t paprika
1 t thyme
1 c red wine
1 1/2 c chicken or beef stock
2 cups milk
1 can tomatoes, diced

Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Working Ahead:
The ragu can be made 3 days ahead. Cover and refrigerate. It also freezes well for up to 1 month. Skim the fat from the ragu’ before using it.

Browning the Ragu Base:
Heat the olive oil in a deep pot over medium-high heat. Add the onion, garlic, and carrot and sauté, stirring frequently with a wooden spoon, 10 minutes,
or until the onions barely begin to color. Add meat to the pan, sprinkle with paprika and thyme, and slowly brown over medium heat (do this in two batches if necessary). First the meats will give off a liquid and turn dull gray but, as the liquid evaporates, browning will begin. Stir often, scooping under the meats with the wooden spatula. Protect the brown glaze forming on the bottom of the pan by turning the heat down. Cook 15 minutes, or until the meats are a deep brown. Turn the contents of the skillet into a strainer and shake out the fat.

Add meats back to the pot, then add the wine, lowering the heat so the sauce bubbles quietly. Stir occasionally until the wine has reduced by half, about 3 minutes. Scrape up the brown glaze as the wine bubbles. Stir ½ cup stock into the saucepan and let it bubble slowly, 10 minutes, or until totally evaporated. Repeat with another ½ cup stock. Stir in the last 1/2 cup stock along with the milk. Adjust heat so the liquid bubbles very slowly. Partially cover the pot, and cook 1 hour. Stir frequently to check for sticking.

Add the tomatoes, and cook uncovered, at a very slow bubble for another 45 minutes, or until the sauce resembles a thick, meaty stew. Season with salt and pepper.

Assemble the Lasagna

1. Lightly grease your lasagna pan. Then pour 3 T water or stock in the bottom of the pan.
2. Spread a thin layer of ragu on the bottom of the pan.
3. Place a layer of lasagna noodles (uncooked!) on the ragu.
4. Top with cheese sauce, more ragu, then a good sprinkling of Parmesan and mozzarella cheese.
5. Add another layer of pasta, then repeat. I had six or seven layers. Keep going until you run out of everything. Cover with a final layer of ragu and cheese.
6. Pour a tablespoon of water or stock down the each of the corners of the pan. Cover tightly with foil, and bake 45 minutes at 350.
7. Remove the foil and bake another 15, until starting to brown just a little. Let rest 15 minutes before you try to cut and serve it (longer is better).


  1. Raise your arms in victory for another gluten free lasagna!

  2. Anonymous2:25 PM

    Congrats on some beautiful GF lasagna!

  3. Wow, fantastic, sharp photos, and your lasagne is perfectly layered and beautiful! Well done times 1000!

  4. Great job! Good for you that you managed the challenge and moving!

  5. Anonymous4:44 PM

    yum I hope there's some left saturday night!

  6. For a gluten free lasagne, this sure does look delicious. I love the first picture of the assembled dish.

  7. Mmm, your lasagne looks amazing =D Awesome job making everything from scratch!!

  8. Great job! And it's gluten-free. Thanks for sharing your experience!

  9. Wow, I hope you got this done before your move. Yikes, I can't imagine making this one in a newly unpacked kitchen.

    It looks fantastic! I lovely your so delicately shredded cheese.

  10. yumm.. your lasagne looked so cheesy! Just the way I like it. Well done!

  11. Anonymous11:46 AM

    I'm so impressed! i didn't get to make mine this month. but yours looks perfect!

    And now I've tagged you. Feel free to participate or not.


  12. your pictures have gotten really good jill.

  13. Way to go! I missed out on this month's challenge, but seeing yours, I regret it. :(
    Congrats on the move! Glad to hear it went well.

  14. Ha! I was wondering why you were early- and turns out I was late! Darned date change.

    Anyway, pics look great. I had lots of fun with this challenge myself and made TWO versions (Vegetarian and vegan)- I'm just impressed you did it and MOVED! How awesome are you.

  15. So I really think you should go to culinary art school or become some sort of recipe designer/food photographer for a magazine (likes of martha stewart living or something). You have natural talent which you should expand on!

  16. You did a beautiful job on your lasagne!

    Natalie @ Gluten A Go Go