food. family. life.

spinach, eggplant and zucchini lasagna

I hope everyone had a wonderful Easter holiday. In Italia, Pasqua (Easter) is second only to Christmas, a very important holiday to most as it marks the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Many festivals and celebrations take place all over Italia from Thursday to Good Friday and through to Easter Sunday.

Those who have gone without for Lent can celebrate the return of what was lost and indulge in all their favorite dishes and beverages at the famiglia’s feast on Sunday.

Easter for my famiglia is a somewhat quiet holiday compared to more heavily celebrated holidays with large gatherings and days of celebration each year.cucinadimammina_spinach eggplant & zucchini lasagna_01

Easter when I was a girl meant plenty of new spring roasted and grilled vegetables, fresh homemade pasta and always some roasted fresh baby lamb (abbacchio) or charcoal grilled fresh baby goat (capra alla griglia.)

The grilled meat was served with fresh-cut lemons to squeeze over the top before devouring…

All of this was served alongside large bowls of garden vegetable salads, roasted potatoes and a variety of freshly prepared vegetables.

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With the aroma of strong espresso brewing in the kitchen, le dolci a tavola began with Mammina Loreta’s famous “Pina di Pasqua” (working with her no-measure recipe under development as we speak.)

Her version of a traditional Easter sweet yeast cake-like bread rich with the flavors of wine and liquore, studded with golden raisins and topped with a simple sugar and lemon glaze and doused with colored confetti candies… yum.

A perfect complement to our wonderful spring holiday meal.

I ventured down the road of a baked pasta this Easter for my famiglia and,  in keeping with the lighter fare of the season, I chose to make fresh homemade spinach lasagna noodles for a wonderful fresh vegetable lasagna.

This classic dish, of which I make many variations on depending on which vegetables inspire me at that moment, is a great display of fresh tastes with the richness of a baked pasta.

The making of this dish does need a bit of a time investment.

I started in the early morning hours to make the spinach pasta dough and roll out the thinnest sheets of dough, prepared all the ingredients and put them together in a large baking dish and we were eating this along with all my other creations by late afternoon.

Perfect timing for me and my famiglia.

spinach, eggplant & zucchini lasagna {spinaci, le melanzane e le zucchine lasagne}

for the spinach pasta (green pasta):

ingredients

6 fresh organic large eggs

1 large bunch fresh spinach leaves, washed and trimmed

4 1/4 cups unbleached flour

sea salt

more flour for rolling the pasta

Bring large pot of water to boil; add a pinch of salt. When water reaches a boil; add in the spinach leaves and blanch for no more than 45 seconds.

Quickly remove the spinach leaves with a slotted spoon and place in an ice bath to cool for 1 to 2 minutes. Drain the spinach of all the water; place the spinach in a dish towel and squeeze it dry.

Chop the spinach up finely using a sharp knife, be sure no excess water remains. Place in a bowl and set aside.

Set up your table covered with a clean tablecloth and set up your wooden work board and pasta machine.

In a large open bowl or on the wooden work board, measure out the flour needed and create a well or opening in the center of the flour.cucinadimammina_spinach eggplant & zucchini lasagna_16

In a small bowl; crack the eggs and add in the chopped reserved spinach and mix gently with a fork until somewhat blended.

Slowly pour the egg and spinach mixture into the well in the flour and using your fork begin to circle and slowly blend the flour in the egg mixture until all is almost incorporated.

Using your hands, continue to combine the mixture until a soft dough forms and continue to blend well so the eggs, spinach and flour are evenly combined.

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Form a ball with the finished dough and dust lightly with flour. Place on wooden board under a bowl and let rest for 20 to 30 minutes.

Once the dough has rested, uncover and slice a chunk off and begin to roll the dough into wide thin noodles.

Begin rolling at a thick setting; keep rolling at the next thinnest setting until you achieve the thinness you want (on my traditional machine, I start at 7, move to 5 and then do a last roll at 3 (carefully.)

Lay the thinly rolled noodles on the clean tablecloth and dust liberally with flour so they do not stick and continue rolling sections of the dough.

Once you have finished rolling all the noodles (until the dough runs out.) Dust all the noodles again lightly with flour and let them rest and dry a bit.

Note: Remember to dust the pieces of dough lightly with flour and dust the rollers a bit too; if the dough is too sticky, work some more flour into it to smooth it out before rolling. Making pasta can take a bit of practice, but once you get the feel it is so simple to make the best tasting pasta you have ever had.cucinadimammina_spinach eggplant & zucchini lasagna_43

for the besciamella sauce:

INGREDIENTS

5 tbsp. unsalted butter

1/4 cup unbleached flour

3 cups whole milk

2 tsps. sea salt

1/2 tsp. ground nutmeg

In a medium saucepan, set the milk to come to just under a boil (watch this carefully so it does not over boil and burn.)

In a second medium saucepan, melt the butter on medium to low heat. Add the flour and stir until smooth, Cook slowly while continuing to stir until it becomes a light golden brown; about 6 to 7 minutes or so.

Once the milk comes to heat (not a boil), begin adding the milk to the butter and flour mixture and whisk in the milk while the heat remains on medium.

Continue adding in the milk about a cup at a time until all is added. Continue whisking on medium heat and the mixture should begin to thicken slowly; this takes about 1o minutes. Once the mixture is fully thickened; remove from the heat.

Add in the salt and nutmeg; mix well and taste for any additional seasoning. Cover and set aside to cool.cucinadimammina_spinach eggplant & zucchini lasagna_56

for the lasagna:

INGREDIENTS

2 fresh large organic Italian purple eggplants, washed

6-7 fresh organic zucchini, washed and trimmed

1 batch of homemade marinara sauce, warmed

1 16 oz. container of fresh whole milk ricotta

1 batch of besciamella sauce (see above)

about 2 cups or so of grated parmigiano-reggiano or romano cheese (or a combination of the two)

olive oil

Peel and slice the eggplant into about 1/8 to 1/4 inch slices and season with salt and pepper. In a large skillet, drizzle olive oil and sauté the eggplant slices on both slices until lightly golden and soft. Place on a platter and let cool.

Using a vegetable peeler, slice the zucchini into thin long ribbon strips until all are cut down. Season lightly with salt and pepper and in the same skillet, drizzle more olive oil and sauté the ribbons very quickly just until tender. Remove to the platter and let cool.cucinadimammina_spinach eggplant & zucchini lasagna_52cucinadimammina_spinach eggplant & zucchini lasagna_11

Assemble the lasagna ingredients and set a very large stock pot to boil; season the water liberally with salt. Once the water reaches a full boil; lower the heat slightly and begin to add the spinach noodles about four to five at a time; depending on the size of your pot.

Cook these stirring once in a while to make sure they are completely in the boiling water for about two to three minutes and remove to drain and set on a clean platter to rest (do not overlap the noodles or they will stick together!) You can lay sheets of wax paper on the tablecloth to ensure the cooked noodles do not stick, if you prefer.

Once all the noodles are cooked; remove the water from the heat and discard. Using a large deep baking dish; drizzle the bottom liberally with olive oil and add a good amount of marinara sauce to the bottom of the baking dish.

Begin to lay the cooked noodles lengthwise to cover the bottom of the dish; try not to overlap the noddle too much (break them by hand if you need.)cucinadimammina_spinach eggplant & zucchini lasagna_67

Add some marinara to the top of the noodles and layer next with a mixture of the eggplant slices and zucchini ribbons; add some grated cheese and spoonfuls of ricotta as the next layer (use your discretion on how much you like here.)

Using a large spoon drizzle liberal amount of the besciamella and begin the layering again with more noodles.

Alternate this next level by layering the noodles along the width of the pan (alternating the layered noodles is helpful so they are less likely to fall apart when cutting into the finished baked lasagna.)

Continue this layering process until you have reached the last top layer; be sure to cover the last layer well with the marinara, grated cheese and remaining besciamella.

Cover the baking dish lightly with foil and preheat the oven to 425 degrees and let come to temperature.

Note: Any leftover cooked noodles can be wrapped individually and frozen for making future dishes (pasta rolls, stuffed manicotti-style baked pasta, etc.) Reserve and store leftover marinara sauce for future use as well.

Bake the lasagna in the oven for about 30 to 35 minutes; remove the foil and continue baking until the top begins to crisp up and the sauce is bubbling (about 10 minutes or so more.)

Remove the baking dish from the oven and cover lightly, set aside to cool a bit. Serve immediately.

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Note: Photography provided by Carina A. Favale

Buon Appetito!

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