We couldn't decide what to get for dinner the other day, and we ended up buying some dry-cured ham. In the store, it looked like a teeny little ham, but it turned out to be two pounds. Now, two pounds is a lot when you're talking about a wet-cured ham (the only kind we had ever previously eaten), but it's a whole lot when you're talking about a rich, salty, dry-cured country ham.
Lastly, a lot of lasagne recipes call for eggs, and I've come to the conclusion that the eggs play the same role of saboteur as the ricotta. In fact, I felt like the eggs ruined my laborsome work of art. They turned a silky, beautiful bechamel into a curdly mess, and their flavor almost overwhelmed the more delicate flavor of the white sauce. Therefore, there are no eggs in the recipe printed below.
So mess-ups and all, this is now my answer to lasagne--thin, homemade noodles, a tasty bechamel, and some simple additions. The leftovers are delicious, and if you're expecting company, the lasagne can be assembled ahead of time and kept refrigerated until you're ready to start cooking; just add a few minutes to the cooking time.
Ham and Spinach Lasagne
(Partially adapted from Epicurious)
- A one-pound bag of frozen spinach
- One recipe homemade pasta
- 1 cup finely diced cooked ham, or about 6 ounces prosciutto, diced
- 3/4 cup minced shallots
- 8 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
- 1/2 teaspoon (freshly!) grated nutmeg
- 3 3/4 cups whole milk
- 1 cup chicken stock
- 1/2 cup dry Marsala or Sherry
- 1 teaspoon sea salt
- 1 cup grated Parmesan-Reggiano
- Freshly ground pepper
- 1 tablespoon very good extra-virgin olive oil
Make the homemade pasta up to the point where it is wrapped in plastic wrap and allowed to rest. Preheat oven to 350°F with rack in middle.
Bring to a boil, whisking, then simmer, stirring occasionally, just until sauce lightly coats back of spoon, about 1 minute. Do this very slowly, as impatience can lead to a curdled and/or burnt sauce. Remove from heat and cool to warm, stirring occasionally. Stir in Marsala or Sherry, sea salt, 1/2 teaspoon pepper, and 1/2 cup cheese. Be sure to taste the sauce at this point, and add more salt and pepper to taste.
While the sauce cools, squeeze as much water as possible out of the spinach. Place it in a large bowl and drizzle with the tablespoon olive oil. Add salt and pepper to taste and toss until combined.
Divide the dough into about 6 pieces, and re-wrap the 5 that you will not be using immediately. With your plain roller set to the largest setting (lower number), pass the dough through once. Fold like a book (one flat piece in the back, and two pieces folded over on the sides so that they almost meet in the middle) and pass through again. Fold like a book and repeat 2 more times.
At this point, you want the pasta sheet to be almost as wide as the rollers, so that as the pasta is stretched further, it becomes as wide as the rollers. After the last time, send the pasta through as is. Then, put the roller on the next smallest setting and pass the dough through. Continue to do this on smaller and smaller settings until the pasta is the desired thickness. For this recipe, I used the smallest setting. You can also use the second-smallest setting if you want the noodles to be a little bit noticeable, as opposed to totally melted into the other parts of the lasagne. You'll have a very long sheet that you will cut to the length of your baking dish.
Spread about 1 1/4 cups sauce over bottom of an 11- by 8-inch baking dish. Sprinkle about a quarter of the spinach and a quarter of the ham over the sauce-it will be a rather sparse covering. Cut your pasta sheet to the appropriate length, and cover the sauce with as many sheets as necessary (you'll probably need 2).
Repeat layering 3 more times, then top with remaining sauce and remaining 1/2 cup cheese. (You might not need all of the pasta dough. If not, it can be rolled out, cut into noodles, and dried.) Bake, uncovered, until browned, 45 to 55 minutes.