November 16, 2010

Chicken and White Sauce Lasagna

My weekend project was homemade chicken lasagna. I honestly don’t know one person that doesn’t like a well made lasagna. Here, in our home it is a winner. Everyone likes it. I grew up with my Dad cooking his special lasagna recipe everytime he wanted to give my Mum a break from the kitchen.  His recipe is a simple ham, cheese and tomato sauce lasagna that I plan to post here in another occasion.
Since I was already researching recipes for homemade pasta I decided I would be making my own lasagna sheets (of course this was also an excuse to use my new pasta machine I had bought a while ago and never used so far). I guess I don’t need to tell you that this “lasagna project” turned into an adventure of three hours! It involved several pairs of hands and an incredible amount of flour scattered around the living room (because obviously this isn’t a recipe I could make in myverysmallkitchen...).

I started measuring the flour. Homemade pasta can be made by hand or in a food processor. In this recipe I used the processor to be quicker. I mixed the flour and eggs for 2 minutes at medium speed and then transfered the dough to a floured surface. Then, I kneaded the dough a bit and added a teaspoon of olive oil to make it a bit more elastic. (This is one trick I learned while searching for the best recipe. It works). I kneaded the dough a little more incorporating the oil until it became homogeneous.

Next, I cut the dough in three parts and opened each part using a rolling pin prior to start passing the pasta in theNext, I cut the dough in three parts and opened each part using a rolling pin prior to start passing the pasta in the pasta machine. Since it was the first time I was using the pasta machine I had some “operational” problems but at the end it worked well. The pasta sheets were about 2mm thick. Just remember it is important to add flour to the surface where you will extend the pasta otherwise it will stick to it. I cut the pasta sheets the size of the baking dish I was going to use and floured them on both sides to prevent the sheets sticking to each other.

Once the pasta was done I cooked the two sauces. For the chickent sauce, I added the oil to a medium saucepan and cooked the onions over low heat for 5 minutes. Then, added the chopped tomatoes and green peppers and cooked for another 3 minutes on medium fire. Next, added the shredded chicken, spices and salt, mixed it well and let it to cook for more 5 minutes still on medium fire, stirring from time to time.  At last, I added the chicken broth and tomato paste and let it simmer for 5 minutes more.

The white sauce is the part that needs more care to prevent sticking in the pan. I usually start by melting the butter in a saucepan over low heat until it begins to foam. Add the flour and mix well. This mixture forms a ball of flour in the pan. Then, slowly I whisk the milk in until all the flour is dissolved. From this point, I mix the sauce constantly until boiling. Add salt and pepper to taste.
The next step was assembling the lasagna but before that I turned on the oven to 200 degrees C.  Grease the baking dish with oil and start alternating layers of pasta and sauce. I started with a layer of pasta and chicken sauce. Next, a layer of pasta, white sauce and sliced mozzarella cheese.  I repeated the layers until close to the edge of the baking dish and finished up with a layer of white sauce and grated parmigiano reggiano cheese.

Bring the lasagna to the oven and let is cook for 30-40 minutes.

Chicken and White Sauce Lasagna Recipe

Homemade Pasta
300 g of wheat flour
3 eggs
1 teaspoon olive oil

Chicken Sauce
2 tablespoons canola oil
1 medium onion chopped into small pieces
2 ripe tomatoes, peeled and seeded, chopped
1 / 2 chopped green bell pepper (optional)
2 chicken breasts cooked and shredded
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 teaspoon oregano
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 / 2 teaspoon rosemary (optional)
2 cups chicken broth

White Sauce
2 cups milk
3 tablespoons flour
2 tablespoons butter or margarine
1 / 2 teaspoon salt
1 / 2 teaspoon ground black pepper

To assemble the lasagna
1 tablespoon oil
200g mozzarella cheese, sliced
Grated Parmiggiano Reggiano cheese

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