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Epic, layered, complex.

Today I ticked a big one off the 2012 Cooking Challenges list: making pasta. I’ve made it before, but it was pretty wobbly and I wasn’t too proud of it. I haven’t made it solo since M and I bought a pasta-roller-dealie: we’ve been making our own pasta for ages (which is to see M has been making our own pasta for ages) and the process of rolling it out by rolling pin and drying it on the clotheshorse has been getting dashed tedious. So we invested in a cheap past roller-outer from eBay and that has renewed our (M’s) vigour for pasta-making. Hey, gimme a go at that. Heaps easier than I thought it would be!

I elected to make a lasaagna. There’s a fair bit involved, so you read to the end before you commit. I won’t have you chucking a tanty and calling me nasty names because it takes so long. Fuck that.

I should probably explain that the last time I made pasta was in anticipation of some friends coming over for tea. I’d knocked off early from work and come home to make the world’s biggest pot of minestrone and two loaves of crusty bread, and I was making the pasta towards the end of this process. I have since learned that spending an afternoon being tired and hungry (because you’re saving your appetite for the big dinner later on) does not produce optimal learning conditions. It just makes you shitty and tearful, so when the pasta doesn’t seem to be working somehow, the logical response is to shriek, fling it in the sink and use the dried pasta in the pantry that you suspect came with the house. So I was slightly hesitant about approaching this task, lest I once again have to face the unpleasant shrieking, flinging stage. Turns out that’s entirely optional.

Proto-pasta

Pasta

  • 1 cup flour
  • dash of salt
  • 1 egg
  • bit of water

Flour + salt + egg, mixed thoroughly, and then trickle the water in little by little until you get a thick, firm dough. It’s a pretty dry and heavy sucker, but it’s not like you’re going to bed with it. Knead it until it’s uniform and even, then worry that you haven’t made nearly enough and reassure yourself that you can always do with more practice and if there isn’t enough, you’ll make more.

Ball o'dough!

Run it through your pasta roller dealie or roll it out on the bench with a rolling pin until it’s translucently thin. Realise you have loads of pasta and won’t make any more today. Hang the sheets out to dry a little while you do the rest:

Delicate sheets

The big pot of ratatouille which is doubling as filling and which I forgot to tell you to put on first should be ready:

You've already done this, right?

Ratatouille you made earlier

  • 1 eggplant
  • 4 small zucchini
  • 2 purple onions
  • 2 red capsicums
  • 2 green capsicums
  • paprika
  • cumin seeds
  • salt
  • 2 tins of tomatoes
  • random chilli jam I found in the fridge
  • thyme, parsely, oregano, basil

Roughly chop all your vegetables, finely chop all your herbs, add spices and chilli jam to taste, mix through the tomatoes and about half a tomato can of water. Mix well, then bake in the oven at 200° for about two hours. DONE. Ratatouille. Now might be a good time for me to mention that this pot of ratatouille will serve for one and a half loaf-tin-sized lasagna, while the pasta listed above will make enough pasta for two. So you can chuck in an extra tin of tomatoes somewhere along the line, or you can make one loaf-tin-sized lasagna and use the rest of the pasta and ratatouille to make some sort of awesome fettuccine or something. I don’t really care. But don’t waste it, please.

Now, since we’re doing lasagna, we want cheeeeeese sauce. I use soy milk for mine, since moo milk makes me sick. But the basic formula is still the same:

I like this bit.

3 tabs of butter, bubbling away;

Roux roux roux your boat

Add 3 tabs of plain flour and make a roux. Stir it for a bit over heat, giving it a chance to become smooth and cook slightly. Then start trickling in milk, stirring more or less constantly, until you have a thick, warm sauce. A good rule of thumb is 1 tab butter + 1 tab flour + 1 cup milk; I used less because I wanted a super thick sauce. I also would normally add a little salt, but I had plans along the lines of a shitton of parmesan, which brings its own salt to the party. Oh, parmesan. You so crazy.

Bring it together, bitches

Gotcher pasta, gotcher red juicy ratatouille, gotcher cheese sauce. It’s hammer time. Get them all together: this is your mise en place (meez ZON playzzzz).

Check out this motherfucking mise, yo.

Start laying that shit.

A little peak at what lies beneath.

My preference: red sauce, (pasta, red sauce, cheese sauce), pasta, red sauce, plain cheese. Repeat the details between the brackets as many times as you see fit. But always put sauce on the bottom of the pan, so the bottom isn’t a dry, disappointed husk of overcooked pasta. And always put plain cheese on the top. You know why.

Once I’d filled two loaf tins with layered awesomeness, I still had some sheets of pasta left over.

Hm.

Since this was my first — and, I may say, triumphant — batch of pasta dough, I was reluctant to chuck it out like yesterday’s crayfish. Instead I grabbed a pot of ratatouille that was lurking in the freezer from the last batch, threw in some chopped tomato and basil…

Waste not, BE AWESOME

Used the last of the pasta, the last of the parmesan, and the last of the ratatouille. And got two more lasagna, albeit single-serve lasanga bambini. Checkit:

Bambini deliziosa!

And the big suckah:

Dat pasta.

Butter my butt and call me a biscuit, but that’s some arse-kicking lasagna right there, m’friend. The second one is waiting, uncooked, and will be whisked away to a friend’s tonight to be cooked and shared on-site. Happy times ahead.

spoonfully tips on lasagna

  • Put red sauce on the bottom of the pan, before any pasta.
  • If you’re using dried pasta sheets, soak them in boiling water for a while before you start layering.
  • Cheese on top. CHEESE ON TOP. Whatever goes between your layers is your own private concern, but for the love of pi, people, cheese on top.
  • Freezes like a boss: lunches for weeks.

I’m asserting this is a win. I’m asserting I know how to make pasta. Cooking challenge item TICK. Next!

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