Guest Bite – Artichoke Lasagna

Guest Bite – Artichoke Lasagna

by BiteSizedJonathan on March 7, 2012

This bite was contributed by our friend Alexis Delaney.

A few years ago I was fortunate to meet and befriend Jessica while we were both working at Mas (farmhouse). When it finally came time for me to leave the restaurant, I resolved to go to Italy. I had always wanted to live abroad, loved Italian food, and was incredibly intrigued by a project started by my personal hero Alice Waters at the American Academy in Rome. As the date approached, however, I became more and more nervous. Leaving Mas and my close network of friends in New York seemed daunting. Jessica was incredibly supportive and, having lived in Rome herself during college, assured me I would fall in love with the city, the people and the food. She was right, of course.

This bite is inspired by my time in Rome – in fact it is what we made for dinner my first day at the Academy. The lasagna’s main ingredients, artichokes and bitter greens, are key Roman winter vegetables. It is tied together by a bechamel sauce that is blended with sauteed artichoke stems (for extra artichoke flavor), as well as grana and pecorino cheeses. This tiny lasagna is special and unique thanks to a Ligurian corzetti stamp, which I used to create the pasta layers. I had seen (and coveted) these wooded embossed stamps at the Academy, and later found one in a kitchen store just blocks from Jessica’s old apartment in the Prati district of Rome. It was a perfect gift and I couldn’t wait to come back and make pasta with her.

For the Spinach Pasta Dough:
500 g. 00 flour
250 g. AP flour
250 g. semolina flour
Pinch of salt
5 whole eggs
7 egg yolks
1/3 c. wilted spinach

Heat 1/2″ of salted water in a wide sauce pan. When the water has reached a boil add 2 bunches of de-stemmed spinach and stir until it is uniformly wilted. Remove from pan and allow to  cool. Blend 1/3 c. spinach with the whole eggs and egg yolks. Reserve the remaining spinach for the lasagna’s layers (this should be wrung out it a dish towel and chopped coarsely). Slowly add the flours and salt to the spinach and eggs until you have a cohesive, non-sticky dough. Start to knead the mixture adding additional flour if the dough needs it. It is much easier to add more flour than to add more water so keep that in mind. Work the dough for about 20 minutes. Test it’s elasticity by prodding it with a finger. If it springs back quickly, then its time for it to rest. Do this at room temperature for at least an hour.

For the Artichokes:
8 artichokes
1 clove garlic, chopped
2 tsp. chopped thyme
2 Tbs. chopped parsley
4 Tbs. olive oil

Pare the artichokes down to the heart by removing leaves around the stem and base. With a sharp knife cut away the top of the artichoke to about 1″ from the base. Remove the stem and set it aside. With a small knife, pare away all the dark green from the base. Cut the heart in half and scoop out the choke with a spoon. Place the cleaned artichoke in acidulated water. To peel the stem, make an incision 1/4″ below the tip and peel back the fibrous parts with your knife. Thinly slice the artichokes and place in a pan nearly covered with salted water and a few glugs of olive oil. Bring this to a boil, reduce to a simmer, and cook until the artichokes are tender and the water has evaporated. Create a well in the center of the pan and add the chopped garlic and herbs. Briefly saute and remove from the heat.

For the Bechamel:
4 Tbs. Butter
4 Tbs. Flour
4 c. milk
1/4 c. picked parsley
Sauteed artichoke stems
Salt and Pepper
Start the bechamel as you normally would, with flour and butter. Whisk until the raw taste of the flour is cooked off, then slowly add your hot milk, whisking all the while. Season with salt and pepper and add parsley and artichoke stems. Blend using a hand blender and keep warm, but not too hot.

For the Corzetti:
Roll out the pasta using a machine. Start on the widest setting. Fold the pasta in thirds and pass it through the machine again. Repeat this several times, it redevelops the gluten and creates silky pasta sheets. Roll out the dough, decreasing one setting at a time, to the desired thickness (I stopped at the second to last setting). Cut out pasta circles using a corzetti stamp or more likely a pastry cutter or inverted shot glass. Dust with semolina flour and keep in a single layer to avoid sticking. Blanch the corzetti in boiling salted water and remove to an ice bath.

For the bite:
Grease a baking pan with olive oil and put down a corzetti. Spread a spoonful of bechamel, followed by a layer of spinach, and a layer of grated grana and pecorino cheeses. Top with another pasta coin. Spread with more bechamel, a layer of artichokes, and more cheese. Complete another layer with bechamel, spinach, and cheese. The bite will be four pasta coins tall with the final one topped with the sauce and more cheese. Bake in a 425 degree oven until lightly brown. Consume with friends and wine!!!

Alexis is the meat cook at Mas (la grillade), my co-worker and dear friend. Her skillful cooking, love of everything Italian and endless creativity with food are just a few reasons we have bonded over the years. We are excited to share Alexis’ recipe on BiteSized, and even more excited to continue to cook with her and eat her wonderful meals for years to come.

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Sarah March 7, 2012 at 11:42 pm

Oh man, this looks delicious! All of my favorite things in one bite! Thanks for the recipe.

Amanda March 8, 2012 at 2:32 am

These look excellent! I love the recipe, the photos and the whole look and feel of the blog.

BiteSizedJessica March 20, 2012 at 9:47 am

Thanks Amanda! Thank you for checking out BiteSized.

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