This month I was delighted when I found that the challenge for Daring Baker was NOT just another sweet cake or high-calorie dessert but instead a lovely and savory one dish meal that I could really sink my teeth into; Spinach pasta lasagna. The original called for a non-vegetarian ragu sauce, but it was easily replaced by one of my favorite delicious vegetarian red-lentil bolognese sauces.
Of course, the original pasta recipe was not gluten-free, but Mary of Beans and Caviar offered a gluten-free version (sans spinach). I tweaked her gluten-free recipe a bit, using a superfine grind of brown rice flour for the corn flour she used as her base, and adding the spinach back in. I was concerned that the original gluten recipe’s suggestion of uncooked spinach might make it difficult to work with the dough, so I looked online for other homemade spinach pasta recipes and found that many called for blanched and pureed spinach. I tried it, and happily, it worked beautifully. I’d never had fresh gluten-free spinach pasta and certainly never made it before, so this recipe was a special treat all around. I did find that the dough was rather sticky and I had to strike a balance between using too much cornstarch and too little. Initially I rolled the dough out on wax paper and found I had to use a sharp knife to separate the pasta from the paper, but later experiments with saran wrap were an improvement and made the knife step largely unnecessary.
It’s just a shame that as usual, despite my enthusiasm, I procrastinated and found myself making the whole recipe, photographing it, and writing this post on the posting deadline. *cough cough* Because I also made a delicious gluten-free vegan version of this recipe, I ended up with enough lasagna for a month- but I have plans to freeze pieces and enjoy it slowly over time- I’m sure I will appreciate this dish all the more when I can take it out of the freezer at whim whenever hunger strikes. This pregnant lady is now thoroughly exhausted after daring-bakering on her feet all day, but I feel a great sense of satisfaction and am thrilled that I’ve got a working recipe for gorgeous, green spinach lasagna pasta.
How to Make Gluten-Free, Vegetarian Homemade Spinach Lasagne from Scratch:
Visit my Gluten-Free VEGAN version of this challenge HERE! (Different pasta recipe, allergy friendly un-cheese recipes etc.- it was even my DH’s favorite over the cheesy one, if you’ll believe it!)
For the record:
The March 2009 challenge is hosted by Mary of Beans and Caviar, Melinda of Melbourne Larder and Enza of Io Da Grande. They have chosen Lasagne of Emilia-Romagna from The Splendid Table by Lynne Rossetto Kasper as the challenge.
Gluten Free Homemade Spinach Egg Pasta #1
1 c superfine brown rice flour (or other flour of your choice)
3/4 cup cornstarch
scant 1 cup tapioca starch
1 cup potato starch
3/4 cup sweet rice flour
1 1/2 tsp. xanthan gum
1 tsp. salt
10 oz. or a little more fresh spinach, a little water
3 T olive oil
Lots of cornstarch
Microwave fresh spinach with a little water for about two or three minutes and try to drain water. Then place in food processor and process until spinach is pureed.
Whisk together dry ingredients (brown rice flour through salt) and then add to the food processor with the spinach. Whir together and with processor running, add eggs one by one and finally drizzle in your olive oil.
When a ball of dough forms in your processor, remove and place in a piece of saran wrap, wrapping up into a nice ball. (You may need to use two pieces, placed to form a cross.) Let dough rest for about an hour and then remove one forth of the dough into a smaller ball.
Lay a piece of wax paper and then saran paper on your rolling surface. Sprinkle with lots of cornstarch and then place your dough ball on it. Sprinkle the ball of dough with more cornstarch and cover the dough with another large piece of saran wrap. Roll out dough as thinly as possible into a long strip of pasta and then cut into lasagna sheets. Peel off saran wrap to get sheets of pasta. You can use a sharp knife to separate the pasta from the saran wrap if it helps. (This is especially important if you roll it out on wax paper and not saran wrap.)
You can use immediately in lasagna or boil the pasta for a few minutes and then drain and use.
Gluten Free Dairy Béchamel – Brown Rice Flour White Sauce Recipe #2
2 & 2/3 cup milk
2 tbsp. unsalted butter and 2 tbsp. Extra virgin olive oil
4 tbsp. superfine brown rice flour
Salt and pepper to taste
Freshly grated nutmeg
Mix the brown rice flour with 1/2 cup of cold milk. Heat the rest of the milk in a small sauce pan until steaming but do not boil. Add the milk/flour mixture to the steaming milk. Stirring constantly, raise the heat and heat the mixture until thick. Once it is thick, remove it from the heat and add the butter, salt, pepper and nutmeg. Taste and adjust the seasonings. Have the béchamel warm or at room temperature ready to assemble the lasagne. Whisk the sauce occasionally if it becomes stiff or thick.
Worked well, nothing special.
Daring Bakers Lentil Bolognese Sauce Recipe #3
1 onion, chopped
2 whole garlic cloves
2 carrots, coarsely grated
3 tbsp. olive oil
2/3 cup red lentils
1 14 oz. can tomatoes
2 tbsp. tomato paste
2 cups GF vegetable stock
1 tbsp. fresh marjoram
salt and freshly ground black pepper
Saute onion, garlic, and grated carrot in olive oil in a large dutch oven until it is soft. Add lentils, tomato, tomato paste, stock and seasoning and simmer for 20 minutes until thick and lovely. Taste and season as needed.
Gluten-free Vegetarian Lasagna Recipe from Emilia-Romagna (Lasagne Verdi al Forno)
(Serves 8 to 10 as a first course, 6 to 8 as a main dish)
Preparation Time: 15 minutes to assemble and 40 minutes cooking time
10 quarts (9 litres) salted water
1 recipe Spinach Pasta cut for lasagna (recipe in files)#1
1 recipe Gluten-Free Dairy Bechamel Sauce (recipe in files)#2
1 recipe Vegetarian Red Lentil Bolognese (recipe in files)#3
1 cup (4 ounces/125g) freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
Extra cheese (I used sharp cheddar for topping)
The dough does not need to be precooked before being assembled into the lasagne *but in my opinion it might be nice if it is boiled for a few minutes before baking*.
The red lentil bolognese and the béchamel sauce can be made up to three days ahead. The red lentil bolognese can also be frozen for up to one month. The pasta can be rolled out, cut and dried up to 24 hours before cooking. The assembled lasagne can wait at room temperature (20 degrees Celsius/68 degrees Fahrenheit) about 1 hour before baking. Do not refrigerate it before baking, as the topping of béchamel and cheese will overcook by the time the center is hot.
Assembling the Ingredients:
Have all the sauces, rewarmed gently over a medium heat, and the pasta at hand. Have a large perforated skimmer and a large bowl of cold water next to the stove. Spread a double thickness of paper towels over a large counter space. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit (180 degrees Celsius). Oil or butter a 3 quart (approx 3 litre) shallow baking dish.
Cooking the Pasta:
Bring the salted water to a boil. Drop about four pieces of pasta in the water at a time. Cook about 2 minutes. If you are using dried pasta, cook about 4 minutes, taste, and cook longer if necessary. The pasta will continue cooking during baking, so make sure it is only barely tender. Lift the lasagne from the water with a skimmer, drain, and then slip into the bowl of cold water to stop cooking. When cool, lift out and dry on the paper towels. Repeat until all the pasta is cooked.
Assembling the Lasagne:
*GF NOTE: Before assembly, pour plain water into the pan, enough to form a thin film of water over the bottom. A 9 x 13 inch or 25 x 33 cm pan required almost 1/2 cup (125 mL) of water.*
Spread a thin layer of béchamel over the bottom of the baking dish. Arrange a layer of about four overlapping sheets of pasta over the béchamel. Spread a thin layer of béchamel (about 3 or 4 spoonfuls) over the pasta, and then an equally thin layer of the bolognese. Sprinkle with about 1&1/2 tablespoons of the béchamel and about 1/3 cup of the cheese. Repeat the layers until all ingredients are used, finishing with béchamel sauce and topping with a generous dusting of cheese and, if you like, extra cheese.
Baking and Serving the Lasagne:
*GF NOTE: Once the lasagne is assembled, pour a tablespoon or 15 mL of water into each corner of the dish. (I didn’t do this part-Sea)*
Cover the baking dish lightly with foil, taking care not to let it touch the top of the lasagne. Bake 40 minutes, or until almost heated through. Raise temperature to 375 and remove the foil and bake another 10 to 15 minutes. Turn off the oven, leave the door ajar and let the lasagne rest for about 10 minutes. Then serve. This is not a solid lasagne, but a moist one that slips a bit when it is cut and served.
I think I might try a different kind of cheese instead of parmesan reggiano next time to make a creamier, milder sauce that complimented the red lentil sauce a bit more.