Another great recipe from the Marcus at Home cookbook to give our new pasta machine a spin.
We recalled that a couple of years ago Philips introduced some all-in-one soup makers and pasta machines, but assumed a short-lived existence as we had never heard of them since. When I saw a new-and-improved Avance Collection pasta machine (HR2358/05) that comes with 8 different pasta moulds on sale for about EUR 220, I did some internet and YouTube searches and decided to get one as they were all pretty positive.
The concept the pasta machine is very intriguing – just fit the proper pasta mould, add flour to the pasta machine and this ones self-measures the right quantity of liquid (i.e. water and/or eggs). Just press the start button, add the liquid and watch to see it mix, knead and starting to extrude fresh pasta after 3 minutes. Just cut the pasta to the desired length and within 10 minutes you have a small (300g / 11oz) or large batch (600g / 22oz) of fresh pasta. It’s easy as that! Even cleaning is straight forward, especially if you let the leftovers in the machine dry out for half an hour or so, and most of the parts are dishwasher proof.
Most importantly, the pasta tastes amazing and beats generic store-bought fresh pasta hands down! So far, we have made over a couple of dozens of batches and have tried all of the available shapes: angel hair, spaghetti, thick spaghetti, fettuccine, tagliatelle and pappardelle, and the special 2-part mounds for lasagna/dumpling sheets and penne.
The only (minor) complaints that are often heard – and I can confirm – that the first and last 10cm/4″ of pasta are somewhat jagged as the machine is not able to exert its full 750kg / 1600lbs of force on the dough during the extrusion as long as the funnel isn’t properly filled. I don’t mind that as I just cut off the jagged first pasta and immediately toss it back in the machine. Furthermore, some of the moulds produce pasta that is somewhat thicker than the dried or fresh versions you would get at the supermarket. Still perfectly edible, but mainly noticeable when it comes to the angel hair pasta (almost regular spaghetti size) and the pappardelle and penne moulds.
Consequently, the tagliatelle, regular spaghetti and lasagna moulds are our favourites, but new moulds that will create slightly thinner and smaller pasta shapes – or metal instead of plastic dies for that matter – would be welcomed as accessories. Nevertheless, overall, we’re pretty stoked with our pasta machine.
Back to the actual food part of this blog. Again from his great Wareing at Home cookbook, this recipe is for the staple lasagna in the household of Marcus Wareing (a 2 Michelin-star chef), honed and refined over the years. It is a relatively classic one with béchamel sauce, so I made it as close to the original as possible (only used smoked instead of regular cheddar as I think that it enhances the flavour of the lasagna even more).
It turned out to be so tasty that it just may become a staple in our household too! The meat sauce is nice and herby with some kick from 2 typical British ingredients: Worcestershire sauce and brown sauce. Compared to my usual Bolognese sauces, it was relatively liquid and the mince was cooked down to small pieces (which is a great thing for building an even layered lasagna). The quantity is enough to make a big oven-dish with 5 layers of pasta (coincidentally, a full batch of lasagna sheets from the pasta machine). Again, like many of the Bolognese sauces, it’s not a quick dish to make, so it well worth it to double up and freeze half.
The recipe (serves 8)
For the meat sauce
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 1kg / 2¼ pound minced beef
- 1 large onion, chopped
- 2 garlic cloves, chopped
- 2 celery sticks, chopped
- 1 tsp flaked sea salt
- ½ tsp freshly ground black pepper
- ½ tsp cayenne pepper
- 300ml / 1¼ cup dry red wine
- 2 × 400g / 14oz tins chopped tomatoes
- 2 tbsp tomato ketchup
- 2 tbsp tomato paste
- 1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
- 1 tbsp brown sauce
- 500ml / 2 cups beef stock
- 3 bay leaves
- 2 sprigs thyme
- 2 sprigs rosemary
- a handful basil leaves, chopped
For the béchamel sauce
- 600ml / 2¼ cup whole milk
- 1 small onion, peeled but left whole
- 10 cloves
- 1 bay leaf
- 50g / 2oz butter
- 50g / 2oz plain flour
- sea salt
- freshly ground black pepper
To assemble the lasagna
- Lasagna sheets (dried or fresh egg pasta, depending on your size of your lasagna dish, approx. 12-16 sheets should suffice)
- 2 x 125g / 5oz balls of buffalo mozzarella, dried and thinly sliced
- 90g / 3oz smoked cheddar cheese, grated
- For the meat sauce, heat the olive oil in a large pan over high heat. Add the beef mince and fry to brown all over, breaking up any chunks with a wooden spoon.
- Stir in the onion, garlic and celery, and continue to fry until the onion softens. Season with the salt, black pepper and the cayenne pepper.
- Pour the wine into the pan and bring to the boil, allowing it to reduce completely.
- Stir in the tomatoes, ketchup, tomato puree, Worcestershire sauce, brown sauce, beef stock and all the herbs. Bring everything to a simmer, cover and cook gently for at least 1 hour.
- In the meantime make the béchamel sauce. Put the milk in a small saucepan. Stud the onion with the cloves and add it together with the bay leaf to the milk and gently bring to the boil over a medium-low heat. Then, remove from the heat and leave to infuse for 5-10 minutes before removing the bay leaf and onion.
- Melt the butter in a medium saucepan until foaming and add the flour, salt and pepper. Cook over low heat for about 1-2 minutes to get rid of the floury taste but avoid letting it brown.
- Add a ladle of the infused milk and stir to combine. Continue adding the milk a ladle at a time until you have a thick pouring sauce. Keep warm, over a low heat.
- Once the tomato sauce is done cooking, add a little more seasoning if you like and remove the bay leaves and thyme and rosemary sprigs.
- Pre-heat the oven to 180C/355F.
- To assemble the lasagna, put a layer of meat sauce in the base of a large oven-proof lasagna dish (mine was 37x32cm, 8cm deep / about 14½x12½”, 3″ deep). Sit a layer of pasta on top, pour over a layer of white sauce and dot with a few slices of mozzarella. Continue with the same process using 3 or 4 other layers of pasta and finishing with a layer of white sauce and mozzarella.
- Finally, scatter with the smoked cheddar and bake for about 40 minutes in the oven, until the top is bubbling and golden brown. Remove from the oven and let it stand for 5 minutes before serving.