Monday, October 18, 2010

The no-fail Spinach Lasagna

We thought about inviting some friends over on Friday night to enjoy our favorite lasagna, but then we decided we wanted it all for ourselves. Selfish, I know, but the first batch of the cold season just tastes so good!

I got this recipe back in 2003 from the Tri-City Herald's Recipe of the Week e-mail and have been making it since. I've even made it with fresh noodles, which was amazing, but this time I used the cookless noodles, which turned out fabulous and was so much easier to put together. The more even your spinach-ricotta cheese mixture it, the better the lasagna tastes, and it's just so much easier to spread it on those uncooked noodles.

Spinach Lasagna

3 T. extra-virgin olive oil
1 small yellow onion, minced
4 large garlic cloves, minced
1 lb. Italian sausage
2 28-oz. cans Italian plum tomatoes
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds
1 bay leaf
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
¼ cup grated Pecorino Romano cheese

Spinach filling:
2 10-oz. packages frozen chopped spinach, thawed
3/4 c. ricotta cheese
1/3 cup Parmesan cheese
2 large eggs
Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
Pinch of nutmeg

To finish:
16-oz. package lasagna noodles
8 oz. goat cheese
8-10 oz. Mozzarella cheese, grated
1/2 c. Parmesan cheese

For Sauce:
Cook onion and garlic in oil over medium-high heat for 3-4 minutes in a stock pot. Crumble sausage in skillet and cook until done. Pulse tomatoes in a food processor and add to pot, or add them whole and crush them using a wooden spoon. Grind together pepper flakes and fennel, then add with bay leaf, salt and pepper (I use about 1/2 t. salt and 1/4 t. pepper). Simmer for 45 minutes. When sauce loses its watery quality, stir in cheese. Correct seasonings; remove bay leaf and discard.

For Spinach Filling:
Squeeze spinach dry (cheesecloth works best). Add cheeses and eggs. Add salt, pepper (again, about 1/2 t. salt and 1/4 t. pepper) and nutmeg. Refrigerate until needed.

To finish:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease pan with olive oil, then begin layering, first with coating of sauce, then noodles, then spinach mixture, then dot with goat cheese. Sprinkle with 1/3 of mozzarella cheese. Repeat twice; top with a little more sauce and Parmesan cheese. Bake 25-30 minutes, or until hot and bubbly.

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