Farmers Market Lasagna
Seattle’s chilly summertime is winding down with scattered sunshine following cloudy mornings. Warm evenings are rare, but, once again, the waterside neighbors initiated a dinnertime potluck along the shoreline last Friday, the start of a holiday weekend. I vowed to bring “something Italianesque”, and told them I likely wouldn’t know what it would be until mere hours before I headed out my back door to cross the street.
I wanted to try my hand at making homemade pasta. Regrettably, over the course of more than a year in Italy, I never took a cooking class! No one ever took me aside to show me how to whisk an egg into a well of flour, bring it up into a dough, knead it sufficiently, roll it out and slice it into handcut noodles.
Feeling intrepid, I located “Uncle Bill’s” web site offering an ingredient list and method for “Homemades” (noodles), and found a YouTube video showing a quicker process, “How to Make Pasta from Scratch in 5 Minutes“ (using a food processor instead of the time-honored flour well). I then called my friend, Sally, and asked to “steal” her hand-crank Marcato Atlas 150 Pasta Maker.
It really did only take 5 minutes to mix up my first ever pasta dough and handcut a bundle of tagliatelle.
Thinking about our neighborhood dinner, I conjured a “Farmers Market Lasagna“? The day before, umbrellaed market stalls had filled the street at Burien’s Town Square and I browsed for a tasty collection of veggies to nestle between wide sheets of fresh pasta. I scouted the best of each vegetable, added them to my shopping bag, then went home to cut, grill, simmer and prepare the following:
- Grilled eggplant
- Roasted, thick-walled, red peppers
- Roma & beefsteak tomatoes, peeled, seeded and cooked down to a chunky sauce
- Caramelized Walla Walla sweet onions
- Freshly-made pesto Genovese of basil, pine nuts, garlic, extra virgin olive oil, salt and some grana padano cheese that I brought back from Milano
- Fresh mozzarella and ricotta
Fresh pesto is vivid green and always scents the kitchen (and the cook’s hands) with the smell of a summer garden. Making a batch, you might as well make enough for friends and the freezer! (Clean the interior surface of the jar after you’ve dished it out, then cover the pesto with a skiff of olive oil. This keeps the pesto from oxidizing and turning black, and from getting moldy. Store it for a week or so in the fridge; for longer storage, keep it in the freezer.)
Not quite jam, pesto is still good when smeared lightly on a slice of Tuscan-style bread!
Look at the silky smooth, beautiful ribbon of pasta, just waiting to be laid down into the lasagne dish! Just a couple more turns through the finer settings on the Atlas and it was ready to go. The Milanese “Amaretti di Saronno” tin has been my flour can for close to 30 years. Prescient.
My maiden noodles were set out to dry a bit while I finished rolling and cutting. I don’t have noodle drying racks, so occasional flipping on the cookie sheets was going to have to suffice. (I love the big mess of a fully-involved kitchen!)
I cooked my pasta sheets in salted, boiling water for only about 2 minutes, drained them, oiled them a bit to prevent their sticking, then started the layering of vegetables and cheeses. (The smaller lasagna went into my freezer for another day. Mmm.)
Since everything was already cooked before it went into the pan, the Farmers Market Lasagna only needed enough heat to melt the cheeses and blend the flavors. When it came out of the oven, I wrapped the dish in my apron, and carried it over to the neighbors. Eight of us enjoyed appetizers in the upper yard before winding down the wooded trail to the bulkhead beach and the rest of our dinner.
Over the course of the evening, we enjoyed an outstanding selection of Italian wines, including a Chianti Classico Riserva, Brunello di Montalcino and a Barolo! The sunset couldn’t have been much prettier.
There’s nothing like a bunch of “grown-ups” sitting around a fire singing camp songs and old hymns. Barbara tried to get us headed in the right direction when singing “Row, Row, Row Your Boat” as a round.
I’ve talked to many people around Seattle that don’t even know their neighbors (let alone eat and sing camp songs with them)! Returning to my neighborhood, and the friends around me here, has been one of the big joys of my homecoming.