When I was a kid, I HATED lasagna. It’s funny how as you grow up your tastes change completely. I also hated onions and cottage cheese, and my favorite food was green beans. I don’t think there’s a food out there that I hate-won’t-touch-gag over like I used to do with lasagna, onions and cottage cheese. I do hate buffalo wings (weird, I know), but at least I can stand to watch my husband or brother eat them.
Anyway, so I’ve developed an adult-taste for lasagna, and actually enjoy trying new recipes for it. This dish was not a recipe, though. It was the best kind of dish–one that Italian cuisine often lends itself to–throwing a bunch of stuff together and baking it. The only thing I wish I’d done different was add more cheese. You can’t have too much cheese, as far as I’m concerned.
I made the pasta myself with eggs from Breezy Knoll Farm and flour from Reed’s Mill Flours (both from the Monroe Farm Market). The pasta sauce was canned by my mom last summer with mostly local ingredients, although I’m not totally sure what all she put in it. I know she used tomatoes given to her by a coworker and bell peppers, onion and garlic that I gave her from either my garden or the farmer’s market. The ricotta cheese was organic, but not local, and the parmesean was neither, sadly. The egg I added to the ricotta, was though, from Breezy Knoll Farm. Oh, and the meat was ground venison that Jeremy killed last fall. Not sure if the deer was killed in Clay County, where we’re from, or Marion County, since it all was mingled together in the freezer, but it’s all local. I also put a couple splashes of the syrah I opened to marinate the NY Strip Steaks in, with the meat and added 1/4 of a chopped onion from Spangler’s Greenhouse (Monroe Farm Market).
I’ve tried to make lasagna with ground venison before, and it’s not the best thing to use. This time, I cooked it with the syrah, onion, salt and pepper to compensate for the wild taste, but it still comes through a little bit. Also, because this lasagna used ground venison and very little cheese, it wasn’t greasy at all. To some that might be a good thing, but I kinda missed it.
When I was making the pasta Sunday evening, I was thinking about before I “really” started making an effort to eat local. I’d wanted the pasta maker attachment for my Kitchenaid mixer for a long time, but wasn’t sure how much I’d actually use it. I mean, c’mon. It’s hard to beat a box of fettucini for 99 cents at the store. It’s cheap and easy. I hadn’t really ever had GREAT homemade pasta. When I ordered it in restaurants a handful of times, something was always off: the texture or the taste. So, I figured all homemade pasta was just some way of being all fancy with food, that store-bought dry pasta was superior (and cheaper).
Last summer, the pasta making attachment was on sale on Kitchenaid’s website for 50% off, so I took the plunge. Then, Reed’s Mill Flours started selling flour at the farmer’s market right about the time I signed up for the Eat Local Challenge. I found that making my own pasta allowed me to expand the rotation of a month’s worth of totally local meals. And, you know what? Jeremy says he prefers homemade pasta to the store-bought stuff now. I do, too. All it took was finding a few tricks and getting the hang of working with the dough. I’ve come a long ways and learned a lot, mostly by trial and error. For instance, the dough freezes wonderfully. I make about 4 pounds at a time and freeze it into 1/2 pound portions. Frozen dough seems to be a little easier to work with, as it is a little drier. I saw someone (forgive me, I can’t remember who it was. Maybe Hippie Chick) on the Dark Days Challenge weekly wrap-up that suggested using an emtpy wrapping paper tube with a string through it to hang pasta to dry. That’s way better than laying it out on a clean dish towel like I was doing. And, there’s more to learn. I haven’t even attempted flavored pasta yet. Or any shape besides fettucini, lasagna or ravioli. I’ve been toying with an idea for a dessert-y pasta with coco powder and powdered sugar added into the dough. I might make chocolate raviolis stuffed with something rich and drizzeled with carmel. Hmmm. Maybe a future Dark Days submission is in the works!