OK... I am on a pasta jag... can't seem to shake it. After making the Chestnut Pasta a few days ago, I was reminded how truly great fresh pasta is and how I have neglected making it for a very long time. I promise, after this post I will do some local fish and veggie posts...maybe even with pasta? Meanwhile, please travel with me to Italy where soft velvety pastas and complex layered flavors of long cooked sauces delight our senses. In making this dish, you will share with your guests and family something quite special, a gift of your time and love, something that is rarely found on menus in the US and something that is even more rare and wonderful here on Hawai'i Island.
Bolognese is quite simply Lasagna made a very special way. I happen to think that it is one of the best pasta dishes ever. It is also a bit on the messy side and it is something that requires a good deal of production time. However, it is so worth the effort. Much of this dish can be broken down into components that can be made ahead of time. I spent about 8 hours (much of which was simmering time for the sauce) of a single day making it, but you could easily do the pasta one day, the Bolognese Sauce another day and the Besciamella & assembly another day. So, that is the way I am going to give this formula to you, starting today with the Spinach Pasta. Of course the Spinach Past is good for other forms of pasta. It can be cut and shaped into nearly any shape of pasta, so keep this recipe on hand for other uses too. I love it for ravioli with fresh ricotta and lemon zest filling. And all the while, this is also a great way to add spinach to foods for those who do not get enough of this important vegetable.
There are two ways to make this pasta, one with fresh spinach and the other is with chopped frozen spinach. While I love fresh spinach (especially in salads) unless you have a huge garden of it, I must admit that frozen chopped spinach is perfect for this recipe and no compromises are made in nutrition or texture. Keep in mind that spinach pasta is more moist than some pastas, so it will cook more quickly. I am giving instructions here for using frozen spinach, but you can easily cook raw spinach for about 5 minutes and then do the draining and squeezing with it.
Preparing the Spinach
Thaw the frozen spinach in a bowl in the refrigerator over night, then place in a strainer and squeeze the spinach by hand. Once you have done this, let it rest for a few minutes and then place in an old linen towel and twist it into a ball, squeezing even more. Just when you think you have removed all of the moisture, squeeze again. The dryer the spinach, the better the pasta.
Making the Dough
- One ten ounce box of frozen chopped spinach (completely drained as instructed above)
- 2 Cups all-purpose flour (plus additional for rolling and kneading the pasta)
- 2 large whole eggs
- 2 egg yolks
- 1 Tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
Break apart the spinach in the bowl of a food processor and puree it, scrape down the sides with a spatula. In the bowl of the processor, add the flour to the spinach, pulsing till the spinach is completely incorporated into the flour.
In a measuring cup with a spout, whisk together the eggs, yolks and oil. While the processor is running slowly pour the egg mixture into the spinach flour mixture. Processs briefly and then scrape down the sides of the bowl and then process just until it starts to cling to the blade or form a ball.
Turn the dough onto a lightly floured surface and knead briefly until smooth and elastic. Wrap well in plastic wrap and allow to rest at room temperature for 30 minutes to an hour before rolling. At this point you can store it in the refrigerator for up to three days and up to three months in the freezer. If you do this, make sure that you allow the thawed dough to rest and completely come to room temperature before rolling.
In part 2 we will be making the sauces, then in part 3 we will assemble the Pasticciata Bolognese.