I’ve made pasta for a while. I learned with cup measures, translating those to my scale, but still using a number of eggs rather than the weight of eggs. That changed recently when I read Michael Ruhlman’s Ratio. Ratio goes behind the cups & weights to the relationship of the ingredients with each other. For me, this revolutionized pasta. With a 3 to 2 ratio, I now weigh the eggs first than add 1 1/2 times that amount of flour. Whether the large organic eggs I bought are on the small end of the grade, or if I’m using Beatrice’s generous large offerings, it makes no difference; the pasta dough is perfect, every time.
This day the pasta was for lasagna. I roll the sheets thin for lasagna, creating 4 or 5 layers in the baking dish. The pasta melts together with the béchamel, mozzarella, and simple tomato sauce, a recipe that I first learned from Iole Aguero. I make the pasta using mostly white whole wheat flour, rolling with a hand-crank Atlas Pasta Machine, and not letting the dough dry before assembling the dish. The tomato sauce is best using fresh cherry tomatoes at the height of summer. The flavor explodes! During non-peak tomato season, I use BioNaturae’s bottled strained tomato, simmering a few crushed garlic cloves and red pepper flake, adding basil chiffonade at the end of cooking if I have any on hand. Béchamel is béchamel. Make whatever version you love. Iole’s lasagna uses four cheeses and is very decadent. I use only two: mozzarella and parmesan, partly because I’m cheap and partly because I like this to be more than just a special-occasion dish. I will even use a meat sauce if I have extra, or if I’ve made a bolognese and want to go the extra steps to lasagna instead of just to tagliatelle. Assemble the dish with a hint of sauce along the bottom of the dish, followed by pasta sheets cut to fit, then more sauce, béchamel, and cheese. Repeat until your dish is full and cheese reigns over all.
As with many of the foods I want to write about, I take pictures during the process but forget to take pictures on the final product. Regarding lasagna, with the counters wiped and the saucepans cleaned, the aromas begin wafting from the oven, it’s dinner time. The table is set and we tuck in. Only after stowing leftovers into the fridge do I slap my forehead Homer Simpson Style, realizing I didn’t finish the photos. Oh well. It was delicious. Try the ratio. I think you’ll be pleased.