Dispatches From Whitcomb Street

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green lasagne with lemon

This is a hodgepodge recipe, with ideas and methods borrowed from here, there and everywhere—flavors from Martha, Italian prescriptivism from Marcella. And boy, howdy, is it good. 

Method-wise, this Serious Bolognese-style Lasagne—very, very thin noodles, stacked at least six layers high; no cheese except for a sprinkle of Parm between each layer. This dish is as much about pasta as it is about filling; it’s light and pillowy-soft inside, with a kind of resilient custard thing happening at the crunchy corners. Rich and delicate rather than oozy or cheesy or robust. It’s wonderful, but it’s not your usual lasagne, if that’s what you’re expecting. I like big, bold lasagne as much as the next girl—but sometimes you want something different. 

It all started because we had too much chard. It grows like a bandit in our garden—I’m going to need to start taking a machete out there.

Green lasagne with lemon

Wash two big bunches of chard. Cut out their center ribs, and blanch the leaves for about thirty seconds in a big pot of boiling salted water. 

Shock immediately in cold water to keep them bright-green.

Chop very finely with a knife, and then wrap in a double layer or cheesecloth or muslin, or press in a potato ricer to get as much liquid out as humanly possible.

Set most of the chard aside.

The noodles

Put three tablespoons of the chopped chard into a food processor fitted with a steel blade. Crack in two eggs and a quarter teaspoon of salt; run the machine briefly to further puree the chard and break up the eggs.

Add four ounces of semolina flour and four ounces of all-purpose flour; have another ounce or two of AP flour in reserve. Run the machine until the dough gathers into a crumbly ball. Turn it out on the counter and knead until the dough feels elastic and springy. Add more flour as you need it—the exact amount you need will depend on the moisture content of your chard, the size of your eggs, etc.

The dough will be a little more inclined to tear than all-flour doughs, but it should feel stable and cohesive and not sticky on the surface. Wrap it in plastic and let it rest for twenty minutes or so. 

Roll the noodles out to the thinnest or second-thinnest setting on your pasta macchinetta (as thin as you feel comfortable handling), or roll it by hand to at least 1/32”. Flour the surfaces as you need to to keep them from feeling sticky. Let rest for another ten minutes.

Bring a big pot of water to a boil, salt it, and boil your pasta sheets in batches, just for fifteen or thirty seconds at a time. The pasta should be just shy of done. Plunge sheets into a bowl of cold water as they finish to stop the cooking; rinse sheets and lay them out on waxed paper.

The filling

  • Make a bechamel with four tablespoons of butter, four tablespoons of flour, and 3.5 cups of milk. Stir in the rest of your chopped chard.
  • Brown half a pound of sweet sausage and crumble very fine.
  • Slice a lemon paper-thin; put the slices into a saucepan and cover with cold water by four inches. Bring to a boil and then simmer for five minutes to draw out the bitterness; when the piths are translucent, drain the slices. 
  • Grate about a cup of Parm.

The assembly

Choose a favorite lasagne dish that holds about 3 quarts. Start with a light smear of bechamel on the bottom of the dish.

Now, layer your ingredients:

  • Lay in a layer of noodles, trimming them to fit in the pan with minimal overlap.
  • Smear a quarter cup or so of bechamel on the noodles, spreading as thinly and as evenly as possible with the back of a spoon or a soft spatula.
  • Scatter a stingy handful of sausage over, then a couple lemon slices, then a couple tablespoons of cheese. Salt and pepper.

Keep layering, using a light a hand as possible with all ingredients. You should end up with at least six (and hopefully more like eight or nine) layers of noodles). Offset the lemon slices from layer to layer (or put all the lemon slices into just one or two layers) Finish with noodles, bechamel, any extra lemon slices, and cheese.

Seal with foil, put on a baking sheet, and stick in a 350F oven for 35 minutes. Uncover and broil for five minutes, or until the cheese has browned and the lemons are caramelizing.

Let cool for at least fifteen minutes before cutting into it.

  1. sparrow-wings reblogged this from whitcombstreet
  2. floatinghippo reblogged this from whitcombstreet and added:
    Trying new recipe tomorrow!
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