Lasagna is delicious but I consider myself to have respectable motor skills and I still feel like serving lasagna can be a silly exercise in futility. I'm sure someone has built an entire episode of a sitcom around a dinner party ruined by lasagna (there are like 200 channels, it's probably happened.) Also, I don't eat every meal with 7 other people, and if I was you can be sure there would be carnivores and vegetarians in the mix. It's time to re-engineer this dish.
My version uses a ramekin to hold a stack of saucy deliciousness between layers of handmade pasta. Don't let the pasta worry you, it's easier than it should be and so much nicer than the dried stuff.
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Step 1: Ingredients
For the Pasta:
1 cup flour
1/2 tsp salt
1-2 tbsp water
The fillings are a place to express creativity and/or use up some leftovers. My fillings were...
1 package ricotta (about 14 ounces)
1-2 cups shredded mozzarella
1-2 cups fresh spinach - I used some fresh leftover spinach that I had washed, dried and frozen in a freezer bag - about 2 cups that I diced, feel free to substitute pre-packaged frozen
Italian Sausage - browned and crumbled
Sliced Mozzarella for the top
The ramekins I used hold about 10 ounces.
Step 2: Make the Pasta
Mix the flour and salt.
Make a well in the center.
Add the egg. (I made a double of this recipe.)
Mix the egg into the flour by hand or with a mixer.
Add 1-2 tbsp of water to help the collect up all the flour.
Knead on a floured surface until it starts to get stretchy and glossy. I keep my flour in the freezer so my dough didn't want to come together very well, but it worked out anyway.
Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and leave it on the counter for at least 30 minutes. I left mine for more like an hour, and it was beautiful dough when I came back to it. (Use this time to prep your fillings and get a large pot of water boiling!)
Unwrap, knead it until it's stretchy and even. This probably won't take a lot.
Leave the ball of dough covered in plastic as you work with pieces of it as it wants to dry out.
Roll out small pieces of dough to about the size of your ramekins. Make sure the counter and rolling pin (or pasta roller) are floured. About a tablespoon of dough was the right amount to make a ramekin sized circle. You're aiming for the thinnest you can make the dough, and mine had so much active gluten that I had to pull it by hand a bit. The pasta will get a bit larger in diameter and thicker when you boil it.
Roll out all of the pieces of dough you need and lay them out on plastic wrap or similar until you're ready to use them.
Step 3: Ricotta Spinach Filling
I made this filling by mixing an egg, some salt and pepper, the ricotta, the mozzarella and some spinach. The spinach was fresh that I washed, dried, froze and then chopped up for this. Stir that all together and it's ready to go in as a layer in your lasagna.
Step 4: Layer It Up
Start a pot of salted water (larger than your pasta sheets) boiling if you haven't already.
Add your first layer of stuff to the ramekin(s). This is a mix of pasta sauce and italian sausage.
Carefully drop a piece of pasta into the pot. It will probably sink to the bottom, then float back up to the top. Mine took about 30 seconds to float up. I used a pair of tongs to flip the piece, gave it 15-30 more seconds then pulled it out, let it drip off, and layered it into a ramekin.
Add a layer of filling, then a layer of pasta, and so on, ending with a layer of filling. The pasta is really tender so you can layer in a lot if you're into that.
Once they're layered up, put a sheet of foil over each. Set them in a baking pan of some sort and back them for 30 minutes at 350 degrees F.
*If you're making these ahead just cover the top in foil and leave them in the fridge until you're ready to bake them.*
Step 5: Ravioli Bonus Round!
I had pasta and ricotta spinach filling left over, so I made ravioli while the lasagna baked.
Roll out the pasta as thin as you can.
Cut into squares with a sharp knife or pizza cutter.
Drop a bit of filling into the center.
Wet the edges of the pasta, fold over and press to seal.
I set these on a wax paper covered plate, put them in the freezer until the outside felt dry, then tossed them all into a box in the freezer.
To cook them I'll put them in a baking dish (or ramekin), cover them with watered down sauce and bake for about 45 minutes. I'm not planning to boil them because I'm not confident in my ravioli sealing skills yet, and these are kind of overstuffed.
Step 6: Finishing Touches
After 30 minutes pull the foil off, then top with some extra cheese (this is sliced mozzarella) and bake until melty and browned a bit.
Step 7: Serve It!
Place everyone's personalized lasagna on a plate (they're center of the earth hot right now) and serve them. The filling combination options are wide ranging, and you could even set up a layering bar if you had picky kids/friends and the motivation to assemble such a thing.
Second Prize in the