Lasagna Verde is a delicious and decadent pasta dish from Emilia-Romagna in Northern Italy. I have only been making this dish for about five years. Prior to that, I did not make lasagna because it was not my favorite pasta dish. As a matter of fact, it was not a family favorite growing up. My mother only made it once or twice a year in the traditional Italian-American style layered with a meat sauce, ricotta, mozzarella, and pecorino cheeses, which was very good, just not a family favorite.
About nine years ago I became friends with Roberta, a young Italian woman from the region of Emilia-Romagna, in Northern Italy. The region is considered by many to be the gastronomical capital of Italy. Roberta and I worked together, and I was studying the Italian language and culture at the time, so it was common for us to discuss the food of Italy, and specifically the food of her region. Through these discussions, I learned how lasagna was made in Modena. She never actually gave me the recipe, but she did tell me how to make the béchamel sauce and what ingredients were typically used in the lasagna.
Her mother, Franca, visited her every summer in New York and usually made trays of lasagna for Roberta to keep in her freezer. One summer I was the lucky recipient of one of those trays. It was the best I had ever eaten. The layers of pasta verde (pasta made with spinach), béchamel sauce, and ragù alla Bolognese (meat sauce) blended together to form a luscious, creamy and savory pasta dish that melted in my mouth. I had never eaten lasagna like this before. Eating her lasagna gave me the model for my own. After a few attempts, I successfully made a traditional lasagna verde that I am proud to share with you now.
The recipe I am sharing with you is entirely made from scratch, including the pasta. You can certainly choose to use store bought lasagna noodles made with spinach. It will also be delicious, although I think the homemade pasta makes it extra special. If you choose to make everything yourself, you can do it in steps. I usually make the sauce a couple days before I plan to make the lasagna. If you choose to make it farther in advance you can freeze it. The pasta can be made the day before and kept in the refrigerator until the next day when you are ready to make it. This way you don’t have so much to do all at once. I suggest, though, that you make the béchamel sauce the day you assemble the lasagna.
What you need…
Bolognese Sauce: The first thing you need is the Bolognese sauce (meat sauce). I have already posted Ragù alla Bolognese in another post, so instead of repeating it in this post, just click here for the recipe.
Béchamel Sauce: I have also posted Béchamel sauce previously. You can find it under Essential Recipes here.
Parmesan Cheese (I recommend Parmigiano Reggiano)
Next you need to make the pasta.
This pasta is used to make the sheets for the Lasagna Verde. You can also use this pasta for ravioli or tagliatelle (ribbon-cut pasta).
4 – oz. fresh baby spinach
2 ½ – cups all-purpose flour
3 – eggs
1/4 – cup water
1 – tsp. salt
Add a couple tablespoons of water to a large skillet, and add the washed baby spinach and sprinkle a little salt over it. Cook over a medium flame for about 2 minutes until the spinach is tender. Drain the spinach in a colander and set aside to cool. Once it is cool enough to handle, use paper towel or a clean dishtowel in which to roll the spinach and wring out the excess water. Next, on a cutting board, chop the spinach into tiny bits or use a food processor to chop finely.
Place the flour on a large board or your countertop and make a well in the center. (You can use a large mixing bowl if you prefer.)
Add the eggs, water and salt into the center of the well.
Take a fork and whisk the eggs until the yolks are broken, then add the spinach.
Continue to whisk the egg and spinach mixture, and gradually incorporate some of the flour into it with the fork. Once you have incorporated enough flour to make a sticky dough, you can start to mix the dough with your hands.
Once the dough takes form (if using a bowl), turn the dough out onto a floured, flat surface and knead the dough until it feels smooth and silky. Add flour as needed.
Cover the dough with plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes before rolling out the noodles. You can keep the dough in the refrigerator overnight for use the next day if you choose.
While the pasta is resting in the refrigerator you can make the Béchamel sauce.
Time to assemble the Lasagna
Put a large pot of water on to boil. Once it comes to a boil, add a teaspoon of salt.
Remove the pasta dough from the refrigerator and knead on a floured surface for about one minute. Cut the dough into four or five pieces. With a rolling pin roll out one piece of dough in order to put it through the pasta machine.
Be sure to put a little flour on the rollers of the pasta machine before you insert the dough. Put the setting on number 1 and pass the dough through twice, then move on to setting number 2, then 3 and so on until you reach setting number 6. This will give you the right thickness for the pasta sheets.
Lay the finished sheet on a floured surface until you have rolled out all of the dough.
Cut the longest pieces in half and place the two pieces in the boiling water. Stir so that the pasta does not stick together. Let come back to a boil and cook about 4 minutes. Remove the pasta and place on a clean dish towel.
Place a little sauce on the bottom of a 9 x 13 baking dish.
Measure and cut the cooked pasta to fill the bottom of the dish.
Put several spoons of sauce on top of the pasta and spread it evenly.
Next pour some Béchamel sauce and spread evenly, then sprinkle with Parmesan cheese.
Repeat the process until you fill the dish, which should be 5 layers.
Cover with foil and bake in a preheated 375° oven for one hour. Check after 45 minutes and remove foil. Cook until it get golden brown and bubbly.
Let rest at least 30 minutes before serving.