This weekend was the final week of Love 4 Lasagna at Piccante Dolce and I had decided that I was going to try to make some sort of Lasagna Carbonara for poor Shack. He liked the pastitsio alright but none of these lasagnas have really rocked his world and I am feeling a bit guilty. I wasn't sure how I was going to manage doing a carbonara because the eggs would scramble when baked and that would most likely NOT score me any brownie points with anyone. I was looking around and reading recipes when Food Network Canada announced a cooking club challenge in which you must make Bobby Flay's Macaroni and Cheese Carbonara . Come on, now perfect is that timing??
I had already decided that I would also make the pasta from scratch this time so this is what i did today:
I made a half batch of homemade pasta with italian parsely and mixed up some ricotta and swiss chard and made a small lasagna with half the ingredients and I made a mac and cheese like in his recipe with the other half.
1 1/2 cup all purpose unbleached flour
1 tlbs olive oil
1 tbls salt
Pulse all the ingredients together in the food processor and when it comes together in a ball, take it out and knead it for a few minutes until the dough feels smooth and elastic. I had to add a couple of tbls of water for some reason but the dough came together nicely in the end. I also added about 1/4 cup of chopped parsely to the dough. Wrap in plastic wrap and leave it out at room temp for at least an hour rest.
I could blather on and on with instructions but here is a really straight forward guide to making pasta dough and rolling it out that will make much more sense than I ever will
Because I was making lasagna noodles, I left them in wide sheets and just cut the length to fit my small baking pan.
I then sauteed a bit of swiss chard in a tbls of olive oil until it was just wilted, let that cool and mixed it in the with 1.5 cup ricotta and 1 egg , salt and pepper and set that aside.
I followed his recipe right up to the point of assembly so I will repost the recipe here:
From Bobby Flay’s Throwdown! cookbookPreparation time: 15 minutes
Cooking time: 40 minutes
- Unsalted butter, for the baking dish
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 slice (1-inch-thick) pancetta, cut into small dice
- 4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
- 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 5 cups whole milk, or more if needed, hot
- 4 large egg yolks, lightly whisked
- 2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh thyme leaves
- 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 2 cups freshly grated Asiago cheese, plus more for the top
- 1 1/2 cups shredded Irish white cheddar, plus more for the top
- 1 1/2 cups American cheddar, such as Goot Essa Mountain Valley, plus more for the top
- 1 cup grated aged fontina cheese, plus more for the top
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 1 pound elbow macaroni, cooked just under al dente
- 1/2 cup coarsely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves
- Preheat the oven to 375F. Butter the bottom and sides of a 10 × 10 × 2-inch baking dish and set it aside.
- Heat the oil in a large sauté pan over medium heat. Add the pancetta and cook until golden brown on all sides, about 8 minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon to a plate lined with paper towels.
- Add the garlic to the fat in the pan and cook until light golden brown, 1 minute. Whisk in the flour and cook for 1 to 2 minutes. Whisk in the hot milk, raise the heat to high, and cook, whisking constantly, until thickened, 3 to 5 minutes. Whisk in the eggs until incorporated and let cook for 1 to 2 minutes. Remove from the heat and whisk in the thyme, cayenne, and all the different cheeses until completely melted. Season with salt and pepper. If the mixture appears too thick, add additional warm milk, 1/4 cup at a time. (I stopped here to make the lasagna with half of the cheese sauce)
- Put the cooked macaroni in a large bowl, add the cheese sauce, reserved pancetta, and the parsley, and stir until combined. Transfer to the prepared baking dish.
- Combine the additional 1/4 cup each fontina, cheddar, Asiago, and Parmesan in a bowl, and sprinkle evenly over the top. Bake until the dish is heated through and the top is a light golden brown, 12 to 15 minutes. Remove from the oven and let rest for 10 minutes before serving.
The one thing I added to the recipe in order to make the lasagna was adding a mixture of 1.5 cups of ricotta, 1 egg and some sauteed and cooled swiss chard (you could use spinach or kale or rapini or any sort of green you like but we all know how rapini goes over around here so although that would have been my first choice, I am trying to make friends here so i used chard)Too assemble the lasagna, I put a couple of ladles of the cheese sauce in the bottom of my buttered baking dish and then layered on two lasagna noodles. I then spread a thin layer of the chard/ricotta mix over that, a bit of pancetta and then ladled enough cheese sauce to cover. Repeat this until you are out of room to go any higher - my pan let me do four layers. I then covered the whole thing in more cheese sauce and piled on a whack of the mixed cheeses I had used in the sauce.
Dish one down.
For the baked mac and cheese I just followed the directions from #4 down. I had held back about 1/4 of the pancetta and I cooked about 3 cups of Cavatappi pasta and so I threw the pasta, the pancetta and the parsely into the cheese sauce and mixed it all together and put that in another casserole pan just like the directions told me to do.
I baked them both at 350F and It was not ready after 20 minutes so i added 10 more and they both were bubbling at the 30 minute mark. I waited ten minutes and I tasted the baked mac and cheese but I left the lasagna to be reheated later on for dinner. It was tasty but i the sauce was a bit grainy and not all that smooth, which is probably totally my fault but even disregarding the bit of textural issues, the overall taste is not mind blowing. I am not a huge mac and cheese fan to begin with but I am pretty sure the cheese sauce should be really smooth and creamy. To be honest, this dish cost quite a bit of money to make, what with all the cheeses and i am not sure that this is the dish I would choose to splurge on. For the money I spent of cheese, I could have bought a lobster or a couple of pounds of crab and make something more to my liking. We will be eating the lasagna later on for dinner and I will be back to report on that. Perhaps that will thrill me a bit more and not leave me thinking that i kind of wish that I had turned the pasta into papperadelle and just tossed it with olive oil, hot chilis, fresh basil and fresh parmeggiano reggiano.
Okay, I just tasted the lasagna and I think that it actually works better as a lasagna. I am not sure why, but the sauce feels less grainy and i really like the fresh, green taste of the chard agains all that richness (oh how I would have loved it more with rapini but this week was not about me). It is really, really rich and heavy but if you like that sort of thing, it is pretty darned tasty. It's not as pretty and it's certainly not as photogenic as the mac and cheese but I do think it's tastier and the fresh pasta is really delicate and I think that is needed in a lasagna where there is not much happening other than cheese, bechamel and more cheese.
I do still kind of have a hankering for fresh papperadelle with olive oil and chilis though.