I joined the Daring Bakers last summer because I felt the need for a challenge. I've always been more of a cook than a baker, and I thought this group would be the perfect opportunity to step out of my comfort zone and try something new. I have gained a lot of confidence in my baking since joining the group, and look forward to each new monthly challenge. Baking does still intimidate me some times, but I love the experience of trying a new recipe or technique and finding success at the end. Edible results are always the best!
I still would call myself a cook more than a baker, though, so I was quite excited when I saw the Daring Bakers challenge for March. Authentic Italian lasange was the perfect middle ground between cooking and baking. I've been wanting to make homemade pasta for months now, but have had some major frustrations with the Kitchen Aid pasta attachment I own. The Daring Bakers lasagne suggested hand rolling your pasta, and I was eager to see if the old fashioned way would be more successful than my pasta attachment.
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.
I was plesantly surprised that this recipe was not as complicated as I anticipated. It took a couple hours to make the pasta, but it didn't feel too hectic or demanding. A perfect Sunday afternoon activity. The bechamel was simple and came together perfectly, and I made a vegetable ragu to layer in between bechamel and pasta. The end result was elegant and delicious, and I wished I'd had the foresight to invite friends over to join us. It was rich from the bechamel, but the vegetable sauce kept it from being too heavy. Overall, I had a great time making this authentic lasagne, and can't wait to try more homemade pasta recipes!
Since the recipe is a bit extensive, I'm not going to post the whole thing here. Check out Mary's blog, Beans and Caviar, for detailed recipes. Below is my vegetable tomato sauce recipe, since it was my own creation.
Chunky Vegetable Tomato Sauce
1 Tbsp olive oil
salt and pepper
2 cans (14.5 oz ) diced tomatoes--I cheated a little and got the Hunts brand tomatoes that were already flavored with basil, garlic, and oregano
1 tsp dried oregano
1/2 tsp onion powder
Peel the carrots, and dice into 1/4 inch cubes. Dice the zucchini into similar sized cubes. Heat the oil in a skillet on medium, then add the carrots. Turn the heat to medium low, and let the carrots saute for about 15 minutes, until tender. Add the zucchini, and cook about 5 minutes more. Season with salt and pepper.
When zucchini and carrots are tender, add the tomatoes. Season to taste with extra oregano and onion powder. Simmer on medium for 30 minutes, until sauce has thickend. This vegetarian sauce was perfect with the lasagne, and would also be tasty with a short pasta like penne or fusilli.