My husband and I both love to cook. We designated yesterday as our Valentine’s Day because Paul, my husband, will actually be working on Sunday. We decided to spend our Valentine’s Day together making a gluten free lasagne from scratch. Paul prefers to eat vegetarian, although he does eat meat once in a while, so I suggested we do a lasagne with mushrooms and leeks. I did some research and finally came up with a recipe that promised to be a treat fit for our special, celebratory dinner.
Our first task was to make the lasagne noodles. Paul had never made pasta from scratch before and we had fun as he learned the process. We followed the same procedure as in The Pasta Primer article. I changed the ingredient list slightly and we finished with the sheets of pasta, instead of putting them through the pasta cutter, as Peter and I had done on the previous occasion.
1 cup teff flour
1 cup sorghum flour
1 cup quinoa flour
2 Tbsp xanthan gum
1 tsp olive oil
1 tsp water
1 tsp salt
3 large organic eggs
Combine the quinoa flour, teff flour,sorghum flour and xanthan gum. Stir until they are thoroughly mixed. Set aside. (You could use any gluten free blend of flours that work well for you. This particular blend is gluten, grain and legume free, which meets my specific dietary needs. This is by far the best and most elastic dough I have maade for pasta of all kinds, including maccaroni)
Combine 2 cups of the flour mixture with the water, oil, salt and eggs. Using a stand mixer with the paddle attachment, on a low speed, mix the ingredients for 1 to 2 minutes or until they are thoroughly blended. Scrape down the sides and change the paddle to the dough hook. Knead the pasta dough on low speed for 5 minutes. Scrape down the sides as needed and add more flour by the spoonful to create dough that is elastic and not sticky. I usually add about 3 more tablespoons of flour. The amount of flour you add will depend on the size of your eggs and the humidity. There should still be close to a cup of flour left when you are finished kneading the dough. After 5 minutes, remove the dough to a floured surface and knead it into a ball. Lightly dust the dough ball with flour, seal it in plastic wrap and put it in the refrigerator to rest for at least 30 minutes. (It can stay there for hours as you do other things, if need be.)
When you are ready, prepare your pasta roller. Divide the dough into three pieces and flatten with your hands. Feed the pasta dough through the rollers until you have the desired consistency. You may need to add more flour as you work through this part of the process. Gradually, raise the number on the rollers to make the dough thinner. We continued to roll the dough until it was very thin, which was a number 5 on my pasta roller. We hung each sheet of pasta to dry as we worked with the other balls of dough.
When the pasta was dry, we cooked it in boiling water with a bit of oil and salt for about 2 minutes. You know when the pasta is cooked because it rises to the surface of the water. We set the cooked pasta on paper towels to dry. Then they were ready to be used in the lasagne.
We did this final stage as we began to assemble the lasagne. In the meantime, we had been busy preparing the other ingredients for the lasagne.
3 – 28 oz cans of diced tomatoes, drained
2 large onions, diced
3 cloves of garlic, minced
½ cup fresh parsley, chopped
3 Tbsp of fresh oregano, chopped
2 fresh bay leaves
Freshly ground pepper
1 cup red wine
1 Tbsp olive oil
We sautéed the onions in the oil until they were tender. Then we add the garlic, parsley, oregano and pepper to the pan. We tossed the herbs with the onions until they were well coated with oil and aromatic. Next, we added the drained tomatoes, bay leaves and red wine. Finally, we stirred the sauce well and allowed it to simmer, uncovered until the tomatoes were completely tender and the wine had cooked off. When you are adjusting the seasoning, be aware that the cheeses are very salty and so are the olives. Add just enough salt to balance the flavours.
Some people prefer a smooth sauce and would blend it at this point. I prefer a more rustic, chunky sauce and left it as it was.
1 cup (300 g) soft unripe goat`s milk cheese
1 1/2 cups (450 g) ricotta cheese or dry curd cottage cheese
Medium sized ball (280 g) Mozzarella cheese, grated
Small piece (100 g) of Romano cheese, grated
¼ cup fresh chives, finely chopped
¼ cup fresh basil, finely chopped
Freshly ground pepper
We combined the goat cheese, ricotta, chives, basil and pepper. The we mixed it thoroughly and set it aside in the refrigerator to allow the flavours to blend.
Finally, we combined the mozzarella and romano cheese. We covered it and set it aside for the lasagne topping.
Mushrooms and Leeks
3 leeks, white and light green part only, cleaned and sliced
.5 oz (14 g) dried morels, rehydrated and sliced
.5 oz (14 g) dried porcini mushrooms, rehydrated
2 cups of oyster mushrooms, cleaned and separated
2 cups of cremini mushrooms, cleaned and sliced
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 Tbsp butter
In a large frying pan, we melted the butter in the oil. Then we sautéed the leeks until they were almost tender. At that point we added all the mushrooms and continued sautéing for about 5 minutes. Then we set them aside.
1 cup, pitted chopped Kalmata olives
Finally, everything was ready to assemble.
Our Valentine’s Day gift to one another had been two fold. First we honoured a very romantic rose tradition from our wedding ceremony, by each putting a single red rose in our crystal vase. (The vase is a beautiful, hand cut, Waterford Crystal piece that we received from a friend as a wedding gift.) This was our way of saying how much we still love one another. Then, on the practical side, we bought ourselves a beautiful Le Creuset Cookware pan. It’s a very large, deep dish that’s just perfect for lasagne. (I can’t wait to use it at our next big family dinner!)
We greased the inside of the dish with a thin layer of olive oil. On the bottom, we spread a thin layer of Puttanesca sauce. We covered the sauce with a layer of cooked lasagne noodles. Next, we added a layer of onions and mushrooms, which we sprinkled with black olives. On top of this layer, we dropped small dobs of the goat cheese and ricotta cheese mixture. To finish the layer, we added Puttanesca sauce. We repeated the process with two more layers, ending with a final, top layer of lasagne noodles. We completely covered the lasagne with a thick layer of the combined grated mozzarella and romano cheese mixture.
We covered the lasagne with tin foil and placed it in a 375F oven for 40 minutes. We removed the foil for the last 10 minutes and placed the dish under the broiler to brown the cheese on the top. When the cheese was bubbling hot and golden, we removed it from the oven and set it to rest on the stove for 10 minutes.
This dinner had taken us 4 hours to put together, from beginning to end, including interruptions! We chatted and laughed and told stories from our earlier lives all through the preparation. We shared a drink, tasted the various components of the dish as we completed them and discussed the seasonings. It was romantic, companionable and lots of fun! I can’t think of a better way to spend a day with my best friend, my love, my husband. It was all I could have ever wanted for Valentine’s Day.
However, you might ask, how did the lasagne turn out? In a word – FABULOUS! It was so worth all the effort and time we put into it. Each flavour added something unique to the dish. It was so perfectly balanced that we could not find any fault. The pasta was tender and tasted marvellous. We can’t wait for an excuse to make our next lasagne – maybe something with a bolognaise sauce for the meat eater in me!